Gold Medal Tourists

Back in 1999 we took my mother on a Mediterranean cruise on Norwegian America’s Vistafjord, part of the Cunard group.   Before Pop died, they had cruised a few times on Norwegian American and mom was invited to a ceremony where she was given Cunard’s “50 Night” pin.

The Cruise Director told mom “That is quite an accomplishment.”  Mom beamed. Suzi and I smiled.  It reminded us of the Cub Scout court of honor that our son attended, except this one was for grannies. 

Suzi wondered that anyone would spend 50 nights with one cruise line even though in 25 years we had spent more nights than that on the Alaska Marine Highway, the State ferry.

We did not cruise again until 2015 after reading an American Express promotion.  We had a lot of credit card loyalty points having used the card for more than 20 years as USAID contractors.  At one point, when the banking system in Albania was not functioning, we ran a whole program off our AMEX card.  We had a LOT of points and AMEX wanted them off their books.

AMEX convinced us to take the Holand America Grand South America and Antarctica cruise.  It hit things we had wanted to do since we were kids.  Suzi wanted to go up the Amazon, as her aunt and uncle had done when she was a girl.  She also wanted to go to Antarctica, where one of her mom’s friends, Larry Gould, had been an explorer, geologist, and dog wrangler for the Byrd expedition.  Admiral Byrd flew to the South Pole, but someone had to take cans of aviation fuel and supplies to an intermediate point between McMurdo and the pole for the plane to make it round trip.  Dog teams did that. 

And I had always wanted to go to Rio for Carnival.  So, we spent all of our points and a bunch of extra money to go on this 68-day cruise.  In one fell swoop we would top Mom’s 50 nights.

Everyone else at our assigned dining table was a 5-star mariner in the Holland America loyalty program. We didn’t even have one star.  One of our table mates was invited to a reception where he was awarded his gold medal for 500 nights.  Suzi and could not imagine spending more than a year on one shipping line.  As he got the medal, the Hotel Manager whispered to him, “This is the most expensive piece of faux gold bling you will ever buy.”   We all got a good laugh out of that.

Well, this week it was our turn. We are the grannies and grampas now.  We got our bit of faux gold bling at a ceremony with the captain.  But in a way, I feel like a fraud.  While the medal is supposed to be for actual nights spent on the ship, we had not spent nearly that many nights.  In 2020 the world cruise was aborted after 77 days.  But we got credit for the full 128 days, 51 days more than we were actually onboard.  Plus, we got a 50% refund and future cruise credits worth another 50%.  In effect our 77 days were free.

Further, we had three different cruises that we had booked cancelled between 2020 and 2022. While we got full refunds, we also got future cruise credits as compensation.  (Twice they sold the ship out from under our cruise and the third time they used it to house Ukrainian refugees, a far better use than pampering us.)

We used all those credits to mostly pay for the 2023 Grand World Cruise.  But I got sick and was put ashore in Mauritius on Day 57.  While the whole 128 days were paid for and credited to our account, we got an insurance settlement for the 61 days we were not on the ship.  Further we both had COVID while on that cruise and were give future cruise credits for the days we were confined to quarters.  We used those credits to pay for a portion of this cruise.

I think we must have the cheapest gold medals ever issued by Holland America.  We were only onboard for 388 days.  We paid for fewer days than that considering the future cruise credits, insurance refunds, and AMEX points.  We got our gold medal for half price!  Still an expensive piece of faux gold bling but…   Shaking the captain’s hand as folks applauded, I felt like kind of a fraud. 

But I smiled, took the medal, and enjoyed the ‘free’ mimosa and peanuts they offered me. 

2 thoughts on “Gold Medal Tourists

  1. Me thinks you deserve the award just for being able to keep the accounting straight. IMHO.

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