The following story was written by Beatrice Wyllie and shared as part of the Memory Project.
How can I forget my first cruise? The ship, the Morris Sigmund, was a Liberty ship which transported “materiel” from the U.S. to Europe. In December 24, 1945, my mother, my brother and I sailed from Constaza, Romania to Novorosisk, Russia, which is where I spent New Year’s Eve. We found out that the entire ship population had voted on whether to allow us on the ship.
Our cabin was the infirmary. My ten-year-old brother, who had never before seen bunk beds, was elated. Of course, he wanted the top bunk. Luckily, we had two separate bunk beds, so we were both happy.
We were served our meals in another cabin, one that the crew had given up for us. Our group consisted of three women and six children, all American citizens, with the exception of two of these women (one of whom was my mother), who were accompanying their young children the U.S.
On August 26, Liz and I arrived in Istanbul after three very long plane rides and boarded the M.S Noordam . Our cabin was much larger than some others I have seen; we had two beds, a desk, a T.V. on its own stand, a sofa, one chair, and a table that could be made to stand higher. The closets were large enough to accommodate all our clothes. And, of course, the light switches were next to the door, both in the cabin and on our bedposts. Until we learned which buttons to push, we had what I called a Festival of Lights. We also had a veranda, and either before I went to bed or–if I couldn’t sleep–in the middle of the night, I would sit on the veranda and watch the pitch-black sky loaded with lots of stars. I saw the Big Dipper while listening to the waves hitting the ship. To me, it was better than meditation; it gave me peace. I loved those moments.
The crew was very helpful–at our cafeteria-style breakfast, for example–which made my life easier. After choosing what I wanted, handling both the plate and my cane was a problem, but one of the staff would notice and help me. Because all the illness that could and did happen on ships, someone would stand at the entrance of the restaurants holding a container of Purel to make sure that our hands were cleaned.
Carlos was in charge of entertainment. Each day he would announce over the activities for the day over the P.A. and would end with, “Remember: wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands.” Then he would repeat it in Spanish.
In our first full day in Istanbul, a bus took us from the ship to the city. I got off the bus at the Grand Bazaar and walked around the bazaar, which has over four hundred stores. I asked a man something, and he offered to show me some stores that his family owned. I truly believe that all salesmen are related; they all said that they would give me a good price since I was accompanied by Muhammed, their brother, cousin, or nephew. Muhammed and I went to a leather store, a rug store, and, of course, to lots of souvenir shops. He carried my packages. Finally, it was lunchtime, and we sat down and had lunch. Muhammed told me that he was thirty-two years old and had three children; he had gotten married at sixteen. After lunch, we separated, and, naturally, I got lost looking for the bus that would take me to the ship. That was when my wanderings became especially interesting. It was a hot day, and I was carrying the packages and walking very slowly. I asked a man if he knew where the bus for Noordam stopped. He replied, “Come, Yaya” [Grandmother], took my packages, and gave his arm to me to hold.
We walked for a while; then, he introduced me to another man who took my packages and offered his arm to me and said, “Come, Yaya,” and we started to walk until, once again, a different man took me by the arm and yet another man went to look for my bus. He returned with the driver of my bus who took me to the ship. I was very happy to get to my ship after such an interesting day in Istanbul.
Because of political unrest, the Holland America decided to skip Israel. I was disappointed, since I had a dinner date in Jerusalem. CNNTV reported that they were passing gas masks to the population in Israel, and, when I called my friends to tell them that I couldn’t meet them for dinner, I asked them if it was true that they the government was passing gas masks. My friend Cindy said, “We always have them in the house.” What a way to live.
Instead of entering Israel we visited more islands, both in Turkey and Greece. Liz and I took a tender to Kusadasi and looked around and shopped. Life on the ship continued to be great. The next day, we took a tender and visited Nephatali. We walked around the square and finally ate lunch at a restaurant–we sat outside protected from the sun, with the breeze coming from the sea. It was picturesque!
We arrived in Athens and started our return journey to reality. I wish I was rich instead of beautiful; then, I would continue to sail around the world. Imagine your home cleaned every day, the bed made in the morning and then turned down in the evening with a chocolate on the pillow, someone cooking your meals and snacks, your dishes washed, no grocery-shopping for food. That is life on a cruise. And I loved every moment of being pampered.