Close call on the Raffaello

A lifetime of cruise ship adventures has given me plenty to reminisce and write about, nearly all resulting in highly satisfactory experiences. But there have been a few close calls, too.

My pregnant wife (Sara) and daughter (Christina) on board the Raffaello en route to Mallorca. (Majorca) August 31, 1968.

One suspenseful adventure occurred to myself and my family while our ship was still moored to the dock. It was the last day of August 1968 in New York City when we were preparing to move to Spain, potentially to live in Europe for the rest of our lives. Our household furniture, etc. was in the hold.

I had accepted a job as an assistant editor for Temple Fielding, the guidebook author, at his headquarters in Mallorca.

The ocean liner was the Italian Line’s flagship vessel, the Raffaello. Myself, my pregnant wife (Sara), one-year-old daughter (Christina), and one calico cat (Anzie) boarded earlier that day and found our third-class windowless stateroom down on A Deck.

The ship’s crew, however, had suddenly called an unscheduled strike over some disagreement, and so our departure was going to be temporarily delayed. The most immediate effect to our special situation was that Anzie could not be moved to the on-board animal quarters until the strike was over — whenever that might be.

It was around midnight when our personal crisis suddenly became apparent. With the pet quarters off limits, the cat had almost no food. Worse than that, she also lacked the most essential feline accessory of all, the poop box and kitty litter. The strike might continue into the following day. Or it might be over any minute before that, paving the way for the ship’s immediate departure.

At about 1 a.m., I told Sara that I would return to our just-vacated apartment on West 78th St. to pick up the cat box and kitty litter that I knew was there. Luckily I still had the keys to the place.

Sara implored me not to do that. There was the danger that she,  Christina, and Anzie would sail off to Europe without me before I could get back on board. There was to be no port call until four days later on the island of Madeira. And two days after that we were scheduled to disembark at our new home on Mallorca.

I assured Sara that I would be back in time with the needed equipment.

Actually I was not all that sure.

Luckily enough I found a lone cruising taxi at that early hour and explained the situation to the driver. On reaching our old address, he agreed to wait outside while I discovered that my keys to the door and to the apartment were still good. I quickly gathered up the kitty litter and pan and we returned to the dock.

The ship was still there. Anzie’s biological needs were temporarily met. And the next day we all sailed happily into the future.

This is adapted from my best-selling memoir, Fire Bone! A Maverick Guide to a Life in Journalism, available on Amazon and selected book stores.

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