It all started innocently enough; I was to be the Study Leader for a group of 37 through the Panama Canal from New York to Los Angeles. The group of Road Scholars consisted of a wonderful multi-generational mix of travelers interested in learning. Love it! Everything was according to plan until little white swirls started to appear on the images taken by weather satellites high over the coast of Florida. As those swirls grew progressively larger the media had already dubbed it, “Frankenstorm!”
Coming up from Montevideo to New York was a twenty-seven hour flight. Like thousands of others I got delayed and rerouted avoiding the NYC area entirely.I was lucky I eventually flew to Charleston where the ship - Crystal Symphony - was now waiting. My fellow Road Scholars were not so lucky; many had already flown into New York and were stuck. The ship could not enter New York Harbor so it was directed to go to Charleston from Boston.The group in New York had to charter a bus and drive to Charleston. When they finally arrived I was waiting to greet them at the entrance of the Mills House; after flying 27 hours I was hoping for an early night - but as they trudged past me I could see that is exactly what they wanted as well! Miraculously everyone arrived in relatively good humor thanks in a large part to the buoyant spirit of Group Leader Valerie Hershfield.
The next day we boarded the Crystal Symphony along with all the other passengers who had been rerouted. I had the pleasure of touring the Symphony in Alaska last year during a book signing; I was impressed then and was again once back onboard. Cruising as a guest was an unexpected delight. I now can understand why people like this whole thing - it was pretty nice!
I gave one or two talks every sea day in addition to the host of formal lectures by other enrichment speakers onboard. Having never worked with Road Scholar before I was impressed by the interest level of the group which was multi-generational. Road Scholar - aka Elderhostel - is reaching beyond its prveious demographic to attract younger travelers with an ardent interest in travel as an educational experience. I think many were disappointed in the cruise aspect of the trip - not that the ship wasn’t exceptional - but the many independent options available onboard seemed to dilute some of the cohesiveness created on other trips. Nevertheless we had a great transit through the Canal which was the focus of the program.
Dining together as a group I had a chance to learn more about everyone and Road Scholar. Many within the group have taken upwards of 70 trips. Due to the educational aspect of the organization Road Scholar programs include some very interesting, non-traditional destinations like Cuba! I was fascinated to hear about week long trips that focused on a stately home or an art exhibit. Programs include land-based trips as well as cruises on large and small ships. For more information contact: www.roadscholar.org