“The Million Lies”

A world cruise can get pretty hectic at times, believe it or not. On days we are in port Nikki and I are up early to help out the shore ex people with stickering people for tours which is a challenge when you have 1500 folks to get off the ship and onto tour buses as quickly as possible. Then we are off on different tours as ship’s escorts, primarily to enjoy the tour, but also to help “herd” the group and keep track of stragglers, and, importantly, to report back to the ship on the quality of the tour and guides. In some ports, depending on arrival and departure times, I have sail-in or sail-away talks to prepare that are given live from the bridge. It’s fun to be one of the few folks, aside from deck officers, up on the bridge and watch the calm precision with which this giant vessel glides alongside the dock. To be up on the bridge going through the Panama or Suez Canals, and yesterday sailing into the giant volcanic caldera of Santorini, is a very special experience.

Additionally, I have my primary job which is as Port Lecturer. So I have about 40 lectures to do in advance of our ports of call, and days when we are at sea I have “desk hours” at a table in the atrium where I field questions from a line of guests. That is the most challenging part of my job because one minute you’re fielding questions about Rome, the next Barcelona, then Honolulu, then Greece . . . and there is a big line, and its rapid-fire bouncing around the world . . . and at the end I am ready for a drink!

I realize that I haven’t been keeping up, reporting on my adventures in Oman, Dubai, the Suez Canal, Turkey and Greece. My, time flies when you are busy and having fun on this “magic carpet” called DAWN PRINCESS! And today I’m doing lectures on Venice and Dubrovnik. As one lady told me yesterday on the tender coming back from Santorini, “Richard, on this cruise the hits just keep on coming!” And she is right! We have fantastic ports and really excellent tours. People can do their own thing, and a lot of them do, and I field lots of questions from folks who don’t want the ship tours, but for most people the ship tour is the best and most cost-efficient way of making use of their limited time in a port.

 In addition to my lectures, I pretty much “have” to attend the talks of the other guest lecturers on board, just to give them moral support. But we have had a “cast” of fantastic lecturers who’ve presented really interesting talks. Occasionally there is a little overlap, like this morning, when I’ll talk a little about Marco Polo [How can you talk about Venice without talking about Marco Polo?] and then the guest lecturer, a historian, will do an entire talk about Marco Polo. Interestingly the lectures or talks as I prefer to call them, on DAWN PRINCESS are the most popular activity on board. The Princess Theater seats around 700 people and is usually packed 15 minutes before the talk begins. Frequently there are folks standing and sitting in the aisles, which it fun for the speakers. Although the ship never shares any guest comments with me . . . dumb, I know . . . the feedback I get from guests is that they love the program and are writing comments to the ship and Princess telling them.

When our kids were growing up in Ventura County, California we had swimming pools and came to hate a kid’s pool game called “Marco Polo.” The idea was one kid was it, and with their eyes closed had the find and tag another kid. The kid who was it would yell “Marco” and the others had to reply “Polo.” The game could last for hours, much to the frustration of their parents who just wanted to sit by the pool in peace and quiet and read.

In spite of that experience, I am a big fan of Marco Polo. Marco and his brother were born in Venice and when Marco was 17 he made his first voyage with father and uncle. His journeys lasted 24 years and Marco became a gifted linguist and master of four languages. Marco became a favorite and confidant of the Kublai Khan and was given posts in the Kahn’s administration and sent on missions to China, Burma and India.

The Polos stayed in Khan’s court for 17 years, acquiring great wealth in jewels and gold. Then, fearing the Khan would die before they got their fortune out, they asked to leave and return home. Reluctantly the Khan agreed if they would escort a Mongol princess to marry to a Persian prince. Well it was the “cruise from hell” and the voyage home to Venice took two years and 600 of their princely retinue died en route.

Back in Venice, Marco Polo commands of a Venetian galley in a war against Genoa
and ends up captured and in prison. In prison he met a romance writer, Rustichello of Pisa” who, upon hearing Marco’s travel tales talks him into co-authoring a book with Rustichello. So in addition to being an explorer, Polo became the first great travel writer and produces the first “as told to” or ghosted book entitled “The Description of the World” or “The Travels of Marco Polo”.

The book became a runaway bestseller in medieval Europe, but while fascinated with Polo’s stories, Europeans found them unbelievable and the book quickly became know as
“Il Millione” or “The Million Lies”.

Mea culpa for not keeping up with the stories of my adventures. When I am caught in the TSA line at Boston immigration, and arrested for masturbating in line in order that my assets might be fully appreciated on the nude TSA body scan, I promise that I will blog all my adventures from prison, a’la Marco Polo. In the meantime, I will continue to do the best that I can . . . and folks, they aren’t all lies. It is a great and marvelous world, almost as impressive to travelers today, as it was to Marco Polo.

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