Saturday, September 10, 2011

10 Years Later: Remembering our 9/11 Cruise Experience

We Remember 9/11

 10 Years Later 
Where Were You
Source:  Irish Mirror front page September 13, 2001
On the occasion of an anniversary, as with many significant historical events, it is normal to reflect on that day and recall where you were at the time.  9/11 is a day that will go down in infamy just like Pearl Harbor, the Assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Challenger Crash, and many others.

Leading up to 9/11/2001

We departed the United States for Europe on Saturday, September 8, 2001, for a pre-cruise stay in London, England.   We spent two nights at the Thistle Marble Arch Hotel and got around the city by walking and taking The Tube.  Highlights of our London visit included the Changing of the Guard Ceremony at Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square London Eye, Houses of Parliament, London Aquarium, and Westminster Abbey.

We enjoyed our visit to London but were anticipating an even better experience, as we headed for Southampton, England to board the Norwegian Sun.  The Sun was setting sail September 10th on its maiden voyage.  The Trans-Atlantic voyage was titled "The Path of the Vikings".

We would be visiting several ports of call: LeHavre, France (Paris), Cobb, Ireland, Glascow, Scotland (Greenock), Reykjavik, Iceland, St. John's Newfoundland, and Halifax, Nova Scotia.   This Trans-Atlantic crossing was scheduled to return to New York on September 26th.   Little did we know that our final port of call would be changed to Boston, MA due to the closure of New York harbor following the terrorist attacks.

Our first night onboard Norwegian Sun was enjoyable.   The Sun was the first Norwegian Cruise Line ship exclusively built for Freestyle Dining.   The first night was disorganized, but we met a couple from New York while waiting in line for dinner, and hit it off.   We had dinner with them for the remainder of the cruise.

Tuesday 9/11/2001 - Dateline Paris

We arrived in LeHavre, France as scheduled on September 11th, where we boarded a bus for the long journey to Paris, France.   This was our 25th Wedding Anniversary, and what could be more romantic than being in Paris.  This was the primary reason for the selection of this particular cruise.

We booked the 11 hour PARIS HIGHLIGHTS AND RIVER SEINE CRUISE tour that brought us to the City of Lights. Our guide pointed out sights along the way. While it is impossible to see all of Paris in one day, this tour gave us a chance to see its most famous attractions.

We saw the Arc de Triomphe Champs Elysees, Place de la Concorde, Eiffel Tower, and the Cathedral de Notre Dame.  We boarded a bateaux mouche-style riverboat and enjoyed lunch as we glided down the River Seine and saw the historic attractions of this treasure-filled city from a whole new perspective.  While we passed this replica of the Statue of Liberty in Paris, the terror was starting to unfold back in New York.

Learning of the World Trade Center Attacks

Following lunch we had some free time to shop in Paris.  We headed back to our bus for the return trip to LeHavre.   The French bus driver was making a diving motion with his hands as we boarded the bus.   Most of the passengers didn't understand what he was trying to convey.

There were a few people that had heard bits and pieces of the news while they were in one of the stores.   The driver had a French news station on the radio which is where he had learned about the attacks.   Someone got him to keep switching the radio stations until he found one broadcasting in English.   That's when a pall fell over the entire bus, as we listened in horror to the events that had just begun unfolding back home.

Recall that our cruise's final destination was scheduled to be New York.   We don't know the exact numbers, but we'd say that at least 90% of the passengers were from the New York area.  Imagine the horror of being so far from home, unable to contact your friends and family to see if they were safe.

Back On Board Norwegian Sun

Even as we write this page, ten years after the attacks, we still feel sad about the events of that day. What was a day that we had long looked forward to, is now a day that we wish we could forget. Our tour guide comforted us on the long ride back to the ship. She was the first of many that would be consoling us as the rest of the cruise continued.

United We Stand
Back on board, we watched CNN, had dinner, and got in line to make a phone call back home. We did go to the casino that night, trying to put everything out of our minds, but our heart wasn't in it.

The captain and crew of Norwegian Sun will always be remembered.  They were among the many heroes that day.  No, they weren't rescuing people trapped in the rubble, or putting their lives at risk, but they served a critical need for so many people, from New York and elsewhere, that were far away from home feeling a sense of helplessness.

Unique Perspective

Another thing that will live with us forever is the way that the people of many nations greeted us during the remainder of our cruise.  There had been much anticipation in those port cities surrounding the arrival of the Norwegian Sun, on the occasion of its maiden call to the ports.   Some ceremonies proceeded as planned, but most were subdued from the original gala celebrations that had been anticipated.  Greetings were first expressions of sorrow and support and then welcome to the cities.  Flags were lowered in respect for the dead and injured.  Newspapers were filled with the gripping pictures.

We have posted a photo album  9/11 Reflections From Our Vantage Point that capture some of what we've expressed here in images.

Related Website and Blog Posts of our 9/11 Cruise

NCL Cruise ... Path of the Vikings (Our Cruise Vacation Website)

This weekend marks the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 - May we Never Forget!
Thank you to all the brave men and women who came to the aid of strangers during this time 

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