18 Bahamas 2010
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Bahamas 2010

September 5 - 12, 2010

Three Days at Sea

with Stops in

Nassau (Bahamas),
Freeport (Bahamas)
 and Key West

The SSQQ 2010 Bahamas Trip
Written by Rick Archer

A Note from Rick regarding the Names of our Passengers

Starting on our 2009 Barcelona Trip, a certain schizophrenia began to develop about posting complete names on our cruise website.  Some people had concerns that having their full names published let the whole world know when they would be gone.  This created the worry that their home could be targeted while they were away. 

One person was going through a messy divorce and did not want her whereabouts posted, particularly since she was heading off to sea with a new paramour. 

Another person was taking a break from their job, but didn't particularly want their boss to know what he was up to. 

Still others preferred to use pseudonyms for Google reasons.  They wanted to suck toes in the hot tub, but had second thoughts about showing prospective employers what they did with their spare time.  It is one thing to have fun on a cruise, but another thing to have pictures come back and bite you in the butt when it is time to become respectable. 

In other words, as Google continues to thrust its tentacles into our personal lives via our Internet footprints, all sorts of privacy issues have begun to surface.   For that reason, I will stick to first names much of the time.



Any story about the Bahamas 2010 Trip has to begin with the staggering number of people Marla and I took to the Bahamas.  Our final total of 190 was pretty remarkable.  This total broke a record that had stood for 14 straight cruises!   Furthermore, we didn’t just “break” the previous record, we obliterated it!

What is odd about this year’s 190 total is that it came out of nowhere.  We certainly didn't expect these numbers.  For example, last year we took only 90 people.  In other words, our 2010 total exceeded our 2009 total by 100 people!  In most businesses, you look for that pleasant 10% increase, but this was 110%.

Over the years, the totals for our summer dance cruises have risen and fallen like the Dow-Jones average.  Some years we had 140, some years we had 90.  Up and down, up and down.

A Review of Attendance on past SSQQ Summer Dance Cruises

2003 – The Poseidon Adventure

We set our original record of 144 passengers on the very first trip that Marla ever organized back in 2003. 

Jubilee 2003 was a short trip over the July 4th weekend that was ridiculously under-priced.  Marla had no idea why the trip was so cheap on the most important cruise holiday of the year, but she wasn't going to miss an opportunity like this.  The combination of the attractive date and the low price was too good to resist.  Marla was right about one thing - that price tag guaranteed this trip would sell.  Our group numbers jumped from 85 in 2002 to 144 in 2003.  Wow!  An increase of 60 people in just one year!

I was really proud of Marla for the success of her first trip.  However, like a couple of rookies, we never anticipated that this trip would mysteriously backfire on us.   Throughout the trip we saw the warning signs, but neither of us knew how to react to them. 

Unfortunately, there was an angry reaction the moment people discovered the ship we were on was so bad it literally had one foot in the grave.  For starters, the air-conditioners didn’t work in our dance room.  Our group suffered terribly and the dancing wasn’t any fun at all.  The ship was dirty and unattractive. 

Then one night the ship mysteriously listed to the right during dinner.  To our horror, the ship didn’t immediately right itself.  It stayed stuck in the tilted position for over a minute while all of us tried to figure out where the nearest lifeboat was situated.  The water in my glass was at a 30% angle.  This didn't look good.  Apparently the ship's stabilizers had gotten stuck and someone had to manually override them to get the ship back on an even keel... while we sat there crooked for five minutes wondering if we should panic.

Finally one of the ship’s personnel whispered the awful truth to me - this would be the final voyage of the Jubilee before being sent to Davy Jones locker. No one was very happy with this ship, not us and not the crew either.  Noah's Ark was probably in better shape than this tub.

2004 – The Wedding Cruise

People have a funny way of sending a message.  In 2004, Marla was mystified when practically no one was signing up for her next trip.  It is pretty tough to go from 144 to zero in just one year unless of course you axe murder a few of your guests and people hear about it.  At the time, neither Marla nor I had any idea why our next trip was getting the cold shoulder.  Unfortunately people were too polite to explain they would rather switch to the more expensive cruise line than take any chance of sailing on another tub like the Jubilee.

Unfortunately Marla worries about everything and she had assumed she had done something wrong.  Marla was despondent.  Finally someone quietly whispered the truth.  Marla was actually relieved to find out what was wrong.  Once she realized it wasn't something horrible she had done, Marla sighed with relief, then bounced into action.  Marla quickly canceled our summer trip on one cruise line and switched to the other cruise line for a late September sailing date.  Good move.  Our numbers rebounded immediately.  People began to sign up in steady fashion.  As it turned out, not only did we take 125 on the trip, this late sailing date allowed Marla and I to get married on the ship. 

All’s well that ends well.

2005 – Rita Rhapsody

For the next several years, our numbers continued to go up and down.  Houston’s near-miss with Hurricane Rita in 2005 literally forced our ship to stay out to sea an extra three days because there was no one in Galveston to service a turnaround.  This meant our group lost three full days at sea.  We only had half a trip!

Thanks to the hurricane threat, 10 people
canceled completely.  We ended up only taking 85 people that year. 


2006 – Rhapsody Reloaded

Fortunately we rebounded well in 2006 with 136 passengers. 

Since last year’s trip had been reduced from 7 days down to 4 days, many of us felt cheated out of our vacation.  So our group attacked the 2006 trip with a vengeance.  We partied long and hard into each night. 

This was a pretty wild cruise.  The hot tub antics were without a doubt the craziest we had ever seen.  In addition, we had one lady who was completely out of control.  In retrospect, what I should have done was said nothing about her and not posted any pictures.  Instead, I posted her pictures.  I think that was a mistake on my part.  I was sending out the wrong message about what our trips were about.  As you will see, I would eventually pay for this mistake.

Meanwhile, the group had a blast.  We had so much fun that the energy heading into 2007 guaranteed we would have another great trip.  The only sad part was this would be the last of our 5 cruises on our beloved Rhapsody.


2007 – The Perfect Trip

Once the Rhapsody left the Houston market in 2007, Marla had no choice but to book us onto the Conquest.  Fortunately this ship turned out to be far superior to the tubs we had been on before.  Our numbers stayed strong with 125. 

As it turned out, Conquest 2007 was without a doubt the best cruise we had ever been on to this date.  Everyone had a marvelous time.  This was the trip where Marla and I felt our group was turning into a real community.  In the old days, table-hopping during dinner was fashionable.  Now people had formed so many friendships that they were actually happier sticking with the same people every night.  Marla and I were quietly thrilled to see so many people having so much fun.

And yes, there was more hot tub mischief.  However, judging from a comparison of the pictures, it is obvious to me that 2006 had been much wilder.  Nevertheless, I continued to write about the “hot tub excesses”. 

However, this time I believe my hype backfired on me.  I would pay a price the following year.


2008 – Crude and Rude

Back in the Eighties, I took a trip to Club Med.  I was fairly amazed at the consistent level of risqué behavior displayed on a daily basis.  In fact, I concluded I was far too much of a prude to thrive in this situation.  I never returned to Club Med again.

Although I was uncomfortable with the constant drinking and the party games at Club Med, at the time I concluded I was in the minority.  It seemed to me that most people actually enjoyed this environment.  Of course, looking back, the only people voting were the people at Club Med.  I guess it was no accident the approval ratings were so high.  However, this didn't occur to me, so I went home assuming the whole world enjoyed getting plastered and playing naughty games for an entire week.

When I saw similar behavior on our cruise trips, I gave it the spotlight thinking it would help draw more people.  In a way I was right, but I think my hype attracted a few people who were not a good fit for our group.

In the past, whenever I have written about the Magic Bus Trip, the hot tub activities and the Cozumel drinking sprees, obviously much of what I said was tongue in cheek.  Anyone who had actually been on our trips knew full well that most of what went on was pure silliness that rarely crossed any lines. 

Everybody likes to tease me about my tendency to ‘embellish’ in my cruise writeups. And why shouldn’t they?  After all, I say some pretty outrageous things at times.   However, I assume most can tell when I am stretching things and when I am being straightforward.  For example, when I talk about a man being reduced to a Human Blob by hot tub chemicals, I think most adults can tell I am kidding.

Thanks to a combination of word of mouth as well as my exaggerations about the wild antics on our trips, our numbers swelled to 144 in 2008.  It had taken Marla 8 tries, but she had finally tied her 2003 record.  We expected 2008 would be our best cruise ever… only to discover this would be our toughest cruise ever.

Actually, our 2008 passengers had a great time.  The only people who hated that trip were Marla and myself. Behind the scenes, Marla and I were miserable the entire trip thanks to a litany of rude and thoughtless behavior on the part of 6 new passengers and one very conspicuous volunteer.  

Marla and I could not help but notice every one of the problems were caused by people we had never seen before in our life.  Where did these guys come from? 

It is just speculation on my part, but I think some outside people read my hype about our wild trips and actually believed we were the reincarnation of Club Med at sea.  Again, let me say this is just a guess on my part.  Whatever the reason, the wrong people showed up on the 2008 Trip.

So what exactly did these people do?  One man deliberately molested a woman who is a personal friend of mine in the hot tub.  One woman was an alcoholic who screamed at the ship’s personnel to hurry up and bring her more free booze.  Two women got drunk and started firing champagne corks at other passengers and TV screens.  One man raced ahead of a blind girl to steal the last remaining seat at the table.  There were several other incidents as well.  And I won’t even tell you the worst thing that happened.

I was angry.  Actually, I was beyond angry.  I was ashamed of the way these people had behaved.  Although I had no control over how these people acted, I took it personally because I felt their actions reflected on our group.  What on earth did the Conquest staff think of our group?   Would they shudder the next time they saw the four letters SSQQ?  

I felt exactly like a high school principal who finds out his students have senselessly vandalized the mascot at another school during a football game – ashamed and embarrassed at the behavior, guilt by association.

When I got back to Houston, I wrote in detail about every single lousy incident on that trip.  In retrospect, I suppose I should have swallowed my anger and pretended the trip was wonderful.  After all, the trip was indeed wonderful for the vast majority of our passengers.  It was only Marla and me who were bent out of shape.

Oddly enough, I was roundly criticized for being too negative.  That stung too. 

Be that as it may, unfortunately it is not my style to sweep things under the carpet.  Nor is it Marla’s style either.  We tell it like it is.  When we have a good trip, we will tell you why it was a good trip.  When something goes wrong, we will tell you what went wrong and why.  We don’t claim to be perfect, but at least we aren’t sneaky.  We don’t have secrets in this family.  We believe our passengers have a right to know what to expect on every cruise.  Our word is important… even if it costs us some business at times. 


2009 – The Silent Majority Speaks Up

In 2009, a combination of the bad vibes from the 2008 trip and a shaky economy drove our numbers down from 144 to 90.  As it turned out, Marla and I could have cared less about taking 54 fewer people on the trip than the previous year.  All we cared about was the troublemakers from the last cruise had disappeared. 

Nevertheless, as we boarded the ship, both of us were wary.  Would there be someone new to watch out for?  Where would the knife in the back come from this time?  We realized we still felt bruised and beaten from the year before.  As it turned out, there was nothing to worry about.  Much to our surprise, the 2009 Trip became the most pleasant summer dance cruise we had ever taken. 

Although the Wild Bunch had deserted us, fortunately the Silent Majority stayed with us. We discovered to our delight the group was just as happy without the insanity that had characterized the previous three years. 

Marla and I learned something in the process.  Even though things were a lot tamer, this trip turned out to be more fun than it had ever been.  Our group had finally found its true identity.  We had become a Family of Friends.

But would the Family Spirit carry over to 2010? 

2010 - Our Record-Setting Cruise

When Marla said we were headed to the Bahamas this year, I didn't give it much thought.  But Marla predicted the change in venue from the usual Jamaica-Cayman-Cozumel Triangle would be a shot in the arm.  As it turned out, Marla knew exactly what she was talking about. 

As our passenger total began to climb off the charts for the Bahamas Trip, Marla and I didn’t know whether to be thrilled or panic-stricken.  In the two previous years when we had experienced a huge rise in attendance, both trips had turned out to be complete disasters. 

Did large numbers always guarantee problems?  Would lighting strike a third time in 2010?

After all, there were 74 newcomers to our group in 2010.  That meant 40% of our group was brand new.  2008 marked the last time we had seen so many newcomers.  That was the trip where we had been badly burned by the behavior of several of the new people.  Would history repeat itself?

We got our first clue at the Westwind Pre-Cruise Party two weeks before the trip.  Marla and I held our breath all day long with worry.  To our relief, everyone had a blast at the party.  As the group danced the night away, there were smiles everywhere.  The energy was so positive! 

That’s when we knew things would go just fine.  At this point, the Silent Majority was in firm control.  There were so many returning cruisers now that they set the tone.  Our Veterans took the lead, the Newcomers followed.  It worked like a charm.  Despite a record total of passengers and a record total of newcomers, there was not one single negative incident on this entire trip. 

Don’t get me wrong.  The SSQQ Travel group will never be mistaken for a church groupWe do misbehave.  That is what vacations are for.  However the murky lines that separate silliness from lewdness seem to be clearer now.  On this trip at least, no one crossed the line at all.  As far as I was concerned, the entire cruise was one never-ending Balmy Day at the Beach and Blissful Night at the Disco.  

Marla Marvelous

I would like to salute my talented wife Marla on the success of her Bahamas 2010 Trip. 

It has been fun watching Marla acquire her travel organizations skills over the past eight years.  I cannot help but be impressed at how much she has accomplished.

Until I met Marla, I had taken two trips outside the country in my life.  One was a cruise I hated and the other was a cruise I hated.  I am clearly not a "born cruiser".  If I had continued to be in charge, I think it is safe to say our program wouldn't haven't gotten very far.  So, yes, I give my talented wife all the credit for developing this travel program. 

Do you know why I like our cruises now?  Besides having my wife along for company, I like the cruises because I get to see my friends.  Does that sound familiar?  Yes, I come along on these cruises for the same reason as the rest of the group.  This trip literally gives me a chance to have fun with the entire group.

For a man who loves geography and history, meeting Marla is the best thing to ever happen to me.  Thanks to Marla, I have seen Greece, Italy, Turkey, Spain, Alaska, New England, Hawaii, France, Scotland, Ireland, Norway, and New Orleans (that's a foreign country, isn't it?).  Pretty soon I will see Egypt as well.  Marla has opened up the entire world for me. 

Besides just the incredible places I have seen, Marla has brought me out of my shell in ways you cannot imagine.  When I first met Marla, I hid in my cabin every spare moment of the trip.  Today I spend as little time as possible because I would rather be out chatting with all the friends I have made.  

I know many of you appreciate her just as much as I do.  We are all fortunate to have Marla as our fearless leader. 

Thank you, Marla, for creating this marvelous program for all of us to enjoy.   RA

Karl and Deborah

Tracy and Ed

Kristi Fuzzball and Ann Catch Me if You Can

Matthew and Casey

Velma, Queen of the What the Hell Club

Phyllis and Alan

Lisa and Tim

Ann, Rick, Iqbal, and Marla

Larry, Joan, Mona, Ed

Pat and the Queen's Staircase in Nassau

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