Courtesy StarVista LIVE!
The tropical sun was high in the sky. In the distance, lazy waves lapped onto the sandy shore of St. Croix. On the cruise-ship sound system, the balmy Caribbean air was pierced by the unmistakable twang of Hank Williams.
You'll walk the floor
The way I do
Your cheatin' heart will tell on youuuuu …
I leaned back in a deck chair, pulled my straw cowboy hat over my eyes and smiled. If the music was more apropos of dirt back roads than palm-shaded beaches, it still seemed kind of perfect. This was just one of many appealingly dissonant moments to occur during the week my wife, Carolyn, and I spent aboard the Country Music Cruise, pickin' and grinnin' our way across the Caribbean with folks such as Charlie Pride, Martina McBride, the Oak Ridge Boys and the Gatlin Brothers. For the roughly 2,000 country music lovers from around the world aboard the Holland America cruise ship Eurodam, this was country music nirvana.
We were lucky to get a last-minute availability—the cruise sells out months in advance. And although a city boy like me might have felt more at home on something like the Flower Power Cruise (Herman's Hermits and the Turtles) or the Soul Train Cruise (Smokey Robinson and the O'Jays), vacations are about exploration, aren't they?
Courtesy StarVista LIVE!
So I stood and clapped along with the Oak Ridge Boys as they hurled themselves into "Elvira." I marveled at the Gatlins' harmonies on "All the Gold in California." And I held back a tear as Pride directed his classic "Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'" to his wife, Rozene. For many of the hard-core country fans aboard, the real fun was between concerts, as the singers mixed in with us regular folk. You were as likely to run into the guys from Asleep at the Wheel while chatting at the bar as you were to find them onstage. I once overheard Pride regaling guests with the story of his minor league baseball career.
Mealtimes always provided fascinating company. There was the country music–loving lobsterman who lived on an ice-choked island in Canada's Gulf of St. Lawrence. And the sisters, both in their mid-70s, who would follow Charlie Pride around the world if they could. Satisfied customers? Well, one of the longest lines on the ship was at the reservations desk for next year's cruise. As for me, as ol' Hank used to sing: "I saw the light."
Cruise Saver Tip:
Gather Your Pals. It’s the more the merrier (and cheaper) on many ships.
Holland America's Eurodam
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
7-night winter Caribbean cruise
From $1,975 per person, double