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Friday, Aug 01, 2014
Steve Otto

Otto:Tampa missing the boat with cruise tourists

Published:

The aurora borealis was not one of those things on my bucket list, but when the captain of the Eurodam said there was a good chance of seeing the northern lights I got pretty excited. After a week or so of pulling into Canadian ports and meandering through souvenir shops packed with maple syrup and sweaters made in India, this was something different.

Unfortunately, he said the best time to be on deck was between midnight and 2 a.m. We were somewhere at sea between Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia and it was cold.

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At midnight, while we stood on the 11th and top deck of the ship, the wind was more than a little stiff and the Frau, who was missing the floor show to hang in there with me, looked at the black sky and said she didn’t see anything and was ready to get a drink.

And it was black ... and cold. There were no northern lights or lights of any kind to see.

We were scheduled to land in Nova Scotia, where one of the excursions offered on the cruise was a trip to the cemetery where many of those lost with the sinking of the Titanic are buried. We decided to skip that tour and go find a lobster shack, but standing on the deck in bitterly cold wind you couldn’t help but imagine what it must have been like on that night not so far away.

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We’ve been making our way on Holland-America’s Eurodam for more than a week after leaving Quebec City and will dock in Fort Lauderdale a week from today.

There are apparently a lot of Floridians among the 2,000 or so passengers, including four happy souls we met at dinner whose connection is they all went to Hillsborough High School.

You meet a lot of people on these ships, mostly at one of the half-dozen meals or high teas you go to. The conversations begin with telling the others where you are from, but for the past week they’ve been built around the government’s roller coaster rides with our lives.

I’m writing this from our dockside berth at Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island — and quickly, at 75 cents a minute to access the Internet.

The most important thing — other than the smoked salmon — I’ve discovered is that Tampa is missing the boat.

We have pulled into one-horse ports where the only other thing going on is mining or logging. We sailed into one village the other day where the entire town must have been on the docks selling local crafts or dressed as Indians and Vikings to pose for pictures.

I’m thinking we’re missing a bet with all the cruise ships coming into our town. This last stop only had one tour and was to a mall 15 miles out of town where the anchor store was a Wal-Mart.

I mean, we have this Channelside complex next to the cruise ships that could be converted into a giant gift shop selling rare natives jewelry and guava turnovers.

I know most people on these ships don’t know squat about Tampa. The guidebook on board talks about Guavaween as some kind of “Latin-Halloween festival.” I’ll bet they’ve never heard of Mama Guava.

Anyhow, we are about to pull out of port, and there is a bagpipe band gathering on the dock. See you soon.

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