There are times when our family resembles the former British Empire. The sun was always shining on some part of it.
So with offspring residing in multiple time zones throughout the world, our extended family attempts to fashion some sort of a gathering at least every five years in order for siblings to become reacquainted and for cousins to meet each other. The first shaky effort came together in 1990 at the venerable family home in Tucson. Then we shifted to a semi-neutral site on Hawaii’s Big Island.
Perhaps infused with the spirit of the millennium, the family voted to step up the pace: Our site in 1999 would move at a steady 18 knots while we, in dreams at least, would enjoy the ink blue seas and sunny ports of the Caribbean. Thus began the Logbook of SS Ridge Reunion III. The culmination came with a rewarding seven days aboard an ocean liner named Enchanted Isle and its ports of call.
Most of the families, including several grandchildren, had been on the high seas at least once, so the input on choices was widespread. We settled on the Commodore Line’s Enchanted Isle, which made a seven-day circle out of New Orleans into the upper Caribbean. Our itinerary would include port stops to provide beach time and scuba diving in the 77-degree waters off Mexico’s island of Cozumel, the unique thrill of cuddling yard-wide aqua-disks at Sting Ray City on Grand Cayman Island and a never-to-be-forgotten climb up Dunn’s River Falls on Jamaica. The falls were voted most memorable moment of the reunion; the accompanying charter bus ride across the top of the island amid race-course traffic and the ensuing sprint to get back to the ship before sailing came in second.Those floating cities built today would dwarf the Enchanted Isle but are much too elephantine for our taste.
Three other days at sea were filled with individual liberties, dress-up balls and Broadway-caliber floor shows. Cousins roamed the Enchanted Isle from the top decks to staterooms. Ten-year-olds discovered that snails could be eaten and furthermore tasted rather pleasant and buttery.
Midnight would find family groups in the sky lounge exchanging memories. In the mornings our group would gather for breakfast at the same rendezvous on the promenade deck next to the ship’s pool. Aaron, 14, his feet dangling off the bow of a catamaran en route to scuba the Cozumel reef, had a flying fish sail between his legs. The 5-year-olds enjoyed the independence of finding their way back to their stateroom. Run of the ship becomes a labyrinthine adventure of passages and short cuts.
Our reunion T-shirts soon became recognized throughout. (When we were considering T-shirt designs, a parent suggested large letters on the back: “How are my manners? Call 1-800-Grandma. But we settled for a computer-generated pirate map.) The youngsters would stay up late to collect the ship’s newspaper published for their age group. We viewed the ship’s system of signed payment as an opportunity to introduce youngsters to that dangerous instrument known as a credit card. At its limit, souvenir-buying time was over.
We saw nothing but sunshine and and flat seas. But as experienced travelers we were ready to enjoy the indoor amenities if the clouds gathered.
Reunion III came about in 2004 when the grandparents marked their 50th anniversary in Austria.. The Empire was still intact, with members of the family living in Vienna, Paris and Heidelberg. No oceans had to be crossed for Reunion V, however, when the family, now 24 strong, gathered atop a mountain near Durango, Colo. to celebrate the 60th anniversary and take up the games of family trivia and charades where they had left off in 2004.