Our earliest cruise was similar in some respects to our latest. – departing from New York, we cruised for two days on our way to Bermuda, where we docked for three days at Hamilton, before returning to New York.
Even in those days the ship, the Holland America Line Statendam, had stabilizers to help counteract pitch and roll. (This was the fourth ship to carry the Statendam name; the one now operating is the fifth.) Since the sea was calm, there was little need for the stabilizers' assistance. However, not long after departure something went awry and the ship tilted several degrees from vertical. Evidently the control system had an incorrect idea of which way was up, which the stabilizers assiduously maintained. Making our way down the corridors was like walking along the side of a hill. In the dining room the windows on one side showed only the sky, on the other the sea. Although it didn't bother us, some became queasy from what their inner ear was informing them. Fortunately the pause in Bermuda gave adequate time for repair and the return was without incident.
With the ship as our hotel, we rented mopeds and explored the island – driving on the left side of the road. Those who have experienced wrong-side-of-the-road motoring can recall the high anxiety of negotiating those first roundabouts. In addition to pink beaches, reefs, and caverns, we found a 28-pound cat residing in a country store, and a Soviet cruise liner in the port of St. George, a novelty in those Cold War days. At night we substituted island entertainment for that of the ship.
One night we went to a steel band show, and were surprised to see people surging towards the exit during the final number. After the conclusion, we began excusing our way through the crowd, until someone demanded, "Is that your taxi out there?" It hadn't registered that, since only Bermuda citizens could drive cars, the mob scene was the queue for the available taxis. When I announced that we had come by moped, the glowers turned to grins. Betty Lou hitched up her long gown, and I led the way down the road, but after a while, not seeing her headlight behind, stopped. Helpful taxigoers leaned out their windows, telling me that she had stopped down the road. She'd run out of gas! I had previously calculated how far we could travel on a full tank and was certain it was more than enough for our rental period.
Fortunately, coincidence saved the day – or rather, night. We had earlier cycled out to check out the nightclub before we purchased tickets and had stopped at a small roadside park along the way. We finished some sodas we'd brought and threw the cans in a trash receptacle. That park was now nearby and the cans were still there. I managed to lift and flip over my moped enough to pour some gasoline from it into a can, which I then transferred into her vehicle. Of course I got rather dirty in the process and was still irate the next morning when I confronted the rental agent. He was apologetic and removed a day's rental from our bill to reimburse the cost of dry cleaning.
Back at MITRE, I was recounting that we'd rented mopeds when a colleague said she'd done the same a few years before, but she'd heard that there were thieves who roamed the dock area and siphoned gas out of mopeds stationed there overnight!
The next night, refueled, we moped-ed our way across the island to see Frankie Avalon at the Southampton Princess Hotel. I recall that he staged a very impressive show, but the only details I remember of the evening are of his initial appearance onstage. After acknowledging the applause, he gravely announced, "I'm afraid I have some bad news for you – Elvis died today!" How many of you (who were around when that occurred) can recall where you were on that momentous day?