What’s so awesome about a Star Trek cruise?

The best part of a Star Trek-themed cruise is being surrounded by other fans and being in close contact with stars from the show.

Star Trek isn’t just another science fiction show. Gene Roddenberry, the creator, had an optimistic vision of the future which underpinned everything that happened in the TV shows. He foresaw a future where humans learned to settle their differences peacefully, and work together as one species. In co-operation with dozens of other species across the galaxy, humans formed the United Federation of Planets.

Growing up, Star Trek: The Next Generation taught me to be kind. It taught me to reserve judgement, and to give people the benefit of the doubt. To see the best in people. These are things I strive to embody every day, and I give credit to Next Gen and the Captain Picard character, played by Patrick Stewart, who demonstrated these values in everything he did.

So it was actually fitting that we kicked off our trip with two nights at the Copper Door B&B in downtown Miami. We originally chose this place based on price and proximity to the port. The accommodations were simple but comfortable. What really stood out, however, was the personal touch of staying at a B&B. The host was incredibly kind and welcoming — and a great cook, too.

The Copper Door used to be a hotel, so there’s two dozen or so rooms. In the lobby is a dinner table that seats 10. We sat down the first morning for breakfast with a handful of other guests, and all ate together as one. Complete strangers sharing breakfast, finding ways to connect.

The Cruise Kicks Off

If you’ve never been on a cruise ship before, it’s like a giant floating hotel. The Norwegian Jade is a modest ship, with 13 dining options — ranging from a complimentary buffet to a Brazilian steakhouse with some of the most mouth-watering all-you-can-eat steak — and another dozen bars. There’s a full-on casino on board, two saltwater pools, hot tubs, a full-service spa, and a gym, among other amenities I’m sure I’m forgetting.

That’s just the ship itself. The programming of the Star Trek cruise packs your day. There’s so many different things to do: Q&As, panels, interactive events, entertainment performed by the Star Trek talent.

The kick-off show began with the raising of the United Federation of Planets flag, followed by introductions of the entire cast. This year’s line-up included actors from all of the Star Trek series’ aside from TOS, including four new faces from Star Trek: Discovery. Harry Potter fans will also note the presence of Jason Isaacs, who played Lucius Malfoy in the movies.

Nightly Entertainment

One of the cool things of the cruise is that every evening there’s a show performed in the main theater by some of the talent.  The first night’s show started off with a bang. At least, for a Star Trek fan!

We grabbed seats in the front row. One of the strangest feelings I can think of is sitting in a giant three-story theater, and feeling the entire room rocking back and forth. When you’re inside, it’s easy to forget you’re on a boat. Then the whole room starts moving.

The cruise director, JT, came out on stage to welcome everyone and make a few announcements.

The lights flickered and the video screen behind him flashed to static and back.

“Riker to the Stardust Theatre, Ensign JT, you’re needed on the bridge! It’s the Borg!” an urgent voice sounded over the speakers, cutting JT off.

JT paused a moment, then tried to continue.

“Ensign JT, did you hear me? It’s the Borg!” The lights went off and JT ran off stage.

If you’re not familiar with Star Trek, the Borg are a race of cybernetic drones, who roam the galaxy assimilating other species into their collective. What makes the Borg so special, to me, is that they’re completely counter to the ideals of Star Trek and the Federation. You can’t reason with them. You can’t negotiate with them. They don’t waver in their mission. You can’t even appeal to their emotions, because they have none. They’re also one of the most powerful and adaptable races in Star Trek.

So when green lasers flickered in a pattern across the theater, I got chills. The ominous, droning chorus of the Borg collective voice came over the speakers. A video played on the big screen, showing the inside of a Borg ship, and our cruise ship on one of the Borg screens. They had spotted us!

“We are the Borg. Resistance is futile. Your technological distinctiveness will be added to our own,” the Borg voices said.

6 Borg drones began coming down the steps from the back of the theater, and made their way to the stage. The costumes were elaborate, with wires and hoses coming out of various spots all over the black metal armor they wore. Red and green lights flicked on and off on their bodies. A large red light sat over top of their eyes.

Unfortunately, photos were restricted in the theater, so I only have this photo of the Borg.

Jonathan Frakes (Cmdr. Riker) and Michael Dorn (Lt. Worf) entered the stage, kicking the Borg out of the theater.  No exciting battle scenes tonight.

As a Star Trek fan, It was a hell of a way to kick off the cruise!

The Rest of the Week

The week flew by so quickly. I was sad when it was over, despite knowing that I wasn’t going home. We focused more on spending time with friends than pressuring ourselves to check out as many panels and events as we could. We took it easy, and I’m glad we did.

Among some of the highlights for me were Jeopardy, the amazing cosplay, a 2-on-1 tennis match pitting Jason Isaacs against both Kenneth Mitchell and Michael Dorn, and listening to Wil Wheaton.

I have to say that Jason Isaacs is absolutely hilarious in person. He’s incredibly witty and always has a smart-ass remark. So when he was up against Wil Wheaton and Robert Picardo in Jeopardy, the laughter was near non-stop.

 

The Borg made an appearance during the 60s theme night!
60s theme night costumes.

It was even more apparent in the tennis match, where all players were hooked up to headsets so we could hear what they were saying during the match. I’m not a fan of tennis and have never really watched it, but we had a blast watching these guys battle it out.

Jason Isaacs playing tennis.

Positive Psychology Lessons

What I found most inspiring was having a quick chat with Wil Wheaton at our first port of call, and then listening to his Q&A later in the week on the last day of the cruise.

Our first port of call was a private island owned by Norwegian in the Bahamas called Great Stirrup Cay. This day was essentially a beach day, with an all-inclusive lunch buffet and several bars. There were some excursions, but they weren’t particularly appealing to us, so we chose to just hang out at the beach for the day.

During lunch, we headed over to refill our drinks and ran into Wil. During the kick-off party, he had said something that really resonated with me: that he was a fan of Star Trek. He grew up watching it, and like me, learned from it how to be kind. He was excited, he said, to create a slice of the Star Trek universe for 6 days aboard the cruise, where everyone can be kind and welcoming to each other.

I told him I appreciated his comments.

“But I get really disappointed when people are judgmental and mean-spirited towards one another,” I said.

He told me that the one thing I have to understand is that, most of the time, people’s behavior is more about them and their fears than it is about you. People have a lifetime of experiences which shape the lens through which they see the world, and you have no control over that. What you can control is your own behavior and how you react to and treat other people. He excused himself and returned to lunch with his wife.

It was a quick 5 minute conversation, but I took a lot away from it.

On the final day of the cruise, there was a Q&A with Wil in the morning. He talked about a wide range of things – tabletop gaming, his books, his experiences as a child actor, his battle with depression and generalized anxiety.

What stood out most to me was a comment he made about self-talk. Self-talk is a psychology concept for your inner monologue: the way you talk to yourself in your head. He talked about having a negative, critical voice inside his head, constantly telling him he’s not good enough, he can’t do anything right, etc – even despite awards that he has won and the audience that he has. So he tries to make a habit to change the inner monologue, to talk to himself the way he would talk to his dog: good boy! You’re so awesome!

It sounds kind of cheesy, but I loved the concept and the essence of what he was trying to say: that you need to very intentionally replace the critical bullying voice with a voice that builds you up, encourages you, and loves you unconditionally.

Later the last day, as the sun was setting, I was standing on the upper deck. I looked out over the pool deck which was  mostly empty: I imagined most people had left for dinner or were packing to disembark the next day. And down below, I saw Wil and his wife playing Tribble Toss with a couple of other guests.

And this summed up the cruise experience for me: fans and stars mingling together on a ship, enjoying the experience and creating a little sliver of the utopia that Star Trek suggests can be a reality.

Stay tuned for my next article which will cover our experiences in the ports of Grand Cayman and Falmouth, Jamaica!

 


Thank you so much for taking the time to read about my travels! What did you like about this post? What didn’t you like? I’d love to hear from you. Shoot me an e-mail, hit me up on Twitter, or drop a line in the comments below and let me know what you think!

A Rough Start

On New Years Day, we finished packing up our Honda Accord with all of our luggage – two large suitcases, two small carry-on suitcases, my stuffed backpack and my wife’s stuffed purse – plus my daughter’s belongings she had brought home for the holidays, her Christmas gifts, her cats, and a bunch of other stuff we were bringing north for her. This past summer, she had moved north to Sault Ste Marie for college. It was a 7 hour drive on a good day, without traffic and without stopping. This would be our first stop. It had barely snowed in Toronto this winter — hell, it had barely been below freezing — and heading north meant colder and more snow.

We definitely couldn’t pack any more.

The drive up took about 9 hours, and was mostly uneventful. Once we got out of the city, the landscape was very grey. Trees stood lifeless along the sides of the road, their leaves having been shed months ago. As we got further north, the ground was gradually covered with more and more snow. Eventually I realized, despite not liking the winter, that the scenery was beautiful. The trees were no longer lifeless, but covered by snow that looked like sugary frosting that would taste delicious.

The trees were actually quite pretty.

We arrived at my daughter’s place after dark. We quickly unloaded her stuff and settled in to her apartment, pulling out a rollaway bed we had purchased in the summer. After dinner, I pulled out my laptop and started the online check-in process. I selected our seats, entered our names and citizenship info, then landed on the page where you have to enter your passport number for entry to the US. I dug into my backpack and pulled out a pouch that we take with us on every trip to keep our travel documents, passports, booking confirmations, etc. I unzipped the pouch where I put the passports.

It was empty.

Oh, shit.

Why wouldn’t they be there? I asked myself. I always keep them there. I have no reason to take them out!

I frantically pulled everything out of my backpack: an array of cables, chargers and power adapters, my external portable monitor, my bag containing my scuba regulators. I dug into every pocket and crevice.

No passports.

I couldn’t remember putting them anywhere else. What if I left them at home? Home was at least 7 hours away, and it was dark now. I looked at the clock on the microwave, trying to judge if I had enough time to drive back to Toronto to grab them. It would be at least a 14 hour round trip in the middle of the night. It was 8pm. Our flight was at 6:40am. Yeah, not even enough time for that. My insides twisted like a sopping cloth being drained of excess liquid. Thankfully, my insides didn’t drain so quickly. Small miracles, right?

I grabbed the car keys and headed downstairs to the car. Maybe by some random act of universal amazingness, I had just packed them in one of our suitcases and totally forgot. I popped the trunk, pulled out the suitcases, and dug through them like a hungry bear searching for a scrap of food.

But there was no food.

Not in any of the pockets, and not in any of the suitcases.

Wow, I just fucked up our vacation, and the beginning of our nomad trip, and we haven’t even started yet! I went back upstairs, and my wife was smirking.
“What did you forget?” she asked.
My stomach dropped. “The passports,” I replied.

I called my mother, who had taken over the lease to our apartment. Maybe she could check for the passports. No answer. So I called my brother-in-law, who was also living in our old apartment. No answer. Back and forth, I called my mother and brother-in-law, and nobody was answering. I called my son, who lives in the building next door. Finally, I got a hold of my brother-in-law. He checked the night table next to my bed.

They were there. You can’t board a flight to the US without a passport. My wife and I talked a bit. How do we get out of this one? I ran through the options. Maybe someone could drive up and we could meet half-way. Then it would only be a 7 hour round trip. That’s a lot to ask someone though – to drive 7 hours in the middle of the night. Leaving at 8:30, that means they wouldn’t get home until at least 3:30am.

“Maybe we can get to Toronto without our passports, and have someone meet us there,” my wife suggested. Brilliant. You don’t need a passport for domestic flights within Canada — just government-issued photo ID. I called Air Canada just to confirm that plan would work, and they verified. Yes, you don’t need your passport for domestic travel.

Before we went to sleep that night, we had arranged for my son to meet us at the Toronto airport with our passports. I managed to sleep a little bit, knowing that this wasn’t a fool-proof plan and that I wouldn’t be comfortable with it until we were actually on the plane to Toronto.

We woke at 4:30am, groggy and sluggish after a night of half-assed sleep. We climbed into the car, which struggled to start in the cold temperatures of the early morning. I had left my winter jacket at my daugher’s place, knowing I had no use for it on our trip. I started shivering, my teeth chattering, while we waited for the car to warm up.

We got to the airport quickly. It was a small, one-storey building. Inside, a handful of air transport security officers were chatting with one of the check-in agents. A lone traveller with a large suitcase sat in chairs. Aside from them, the tiny airport was empty. The Air Canada desk wasn’t open yet, so we sat and waited.

Once the Air Canada agent opened the desk, we walked up and presented the boarding passes we had printed out the night before.
“Can I see your passports, please,” she said.
I exhaled loudly. This is what I was waiting for: some complication that would ruin our plan. I explained the situation, and that I had talked to someone at the airline the night before, and they had confirmed that we could get to Toronto without passports. She tapped a bunch of keys on her computer.
“I’m going to have to off-load you from the Fort Lauderdale flight, and treat this as a flight to Toronto only,” she said. That was fine with me – getting to Toronto was step 1, and if we could get that far, we could figure out the rest.

She continued tapping on the keyboard. Tap tap tap. A frown. Tap tap tap. Sigh. Luggage tags came out of her printer, and she tossed them directly in the garbage bin.
“It keeps sending you to Fort Lauderdale,” she said. What if, since this was an international connecting flight, we couldn’t do this? We were stranded, I was sure. We would have to drive all the way back to Toronto, get our passports, and re-schedule our flight to the next day. The only silver lining was that we had booked our flight two days before the cruise, so we wouldn’t miss the cruise in case of a winter storm. Or a major fuck-up by me.

Several minutes went by. The airline agent got progressively irritated. She asked her colleague for help. Did you try offloading them? Yes. Still not working. My heart sank to my gut. This was not how I wanted to start our trip. The agent asked her colleague to try it on his machine.

He pulled up our booking. Hit a few keys. How much would it cost to change our flight? Plus the gas back to Toronto. Ugh. Next time, I’ll make sure I have everything.

“There it is,” the other agent said, as the luggage tags to Toronto printed out. They told us that our luggage would not automatically transfer to the Fort Lauderdale flight. We would have to pick it up at baggage claim, then check-in from the very beginning in Toronto. I exhaled, the tension releasing like the hiss of the pneumatics on a train.

Aside from a 5 hour delay in Toronto due to several maintenance issues, the rest of the trip went surprisingly well. We got to Toronto on time. We grabbed our passports from our son. We checked in to our next flight, got through US customs pre-clearance and security, and to our gate with plenty of time to spare. By the time we arrived in Fort Lauderdale, it was almost 7 and we were wiped. I fell asleep in a comfy bed, relieved that we made it.

A New Adventure Awaits

The smell of the ocean tagged along with a warm breeze. Macaws called out in the distance. From a balcony overlooking a group of houses and a dirt road, my wife Angie and I basked in the sunlight and reflected on the moment.

We were heading home to Canada. Our 4-week working vacation in Costa Rica had turned into a 2-month taste of living abroad. We were hooked. We dreamed of returning and living there longer, but the time just wasn’t right. We had teenage kids at home who we missed dearly, and who I’m sure (I hope?) missed us.

Fast forward almost 3 years. It’s now September 2018. My son has moved out with his girlfriend, and my daughter has moved almost 700 km away to go to college. Our roles have changed: there’s no day-to-day parenting, no keeping house. It’s just Angie and I and a big empty apartment. It was (and still is) a big lifestyle shift. Your role as a parent changes to something akin to a guidance counselor, providing advice, encouragement and support along the way.

We dreamed of living like nomads, traveling from place to place, with no fixed address. So, we decided, maybe it was time to make that dream a reality.

Today, we’re embarking on a new adventure. As the calendar rolls over to 2019, so too does a new chapter begin in our lives.

Our adventure starts in Miami, Florida, where we’ll be boarding Star Trek: The Cruise for 6 nights, visiting Falmouth, Jamaica, Great Stirrup Cay, and Grand Cayman.

Upon our return, we’re off to Fort-de-France, Martinique for a night, before catching a ferry to Roseau, Dominica, where we’ll live for at least a month.

I’ll be blogging about our adventures here. Join us and follow along!