I went on the Sail to Success cruise in 2015. It was a great experience, I learned a lot, and I got to sit at the front in an instructor’s chair for a couple of sessions to give my take on self-publishing. I really wasn’t planning on coming back this year, though I was thinking about returning to the beautiful Bahamas. Then, in February, Shahid Mahmud, the publisher of Arc Manor and the organizer of the cruise, made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. The entire cruise and workshop for a significant discount, and all I had to do was sit at the front of the class and wax poetic on the joys of self-publishing. I couldn’t turn that down, and I immediately got some ideas to promote myself on the trip. More on that later.
The ship, the Norwegian Sky, was large, if not the largest of the cruise ships sailing the Caribbean and Atlantic. At over 78,000 tons, it is actually larger than the Titanic (52,000 tons). Some of these monsters of the sea tip in at over 225,000 tons, twice the displacement of a nuclear powered supercarrier. Still, Norwegian Sky was large enough. They quote the capacity of the ship at 2,004 guests with double occupancy, but some staterooms might have one occupant (like mine) while others had whole families crammed into them. So I would say well over two thousand passengers, probably closer to twenty-five hundred. The ship sailed from Miami at 5:00 PM on Monday, December 5th, 2016. I checked in at 11:00 AM, after spending the night in Miami. I was using a cane to help me get around, and I didn’t ask for any special accommodations, but someone noticed my cane and I was whisked through the boarding procedure and was on the ship in fifteen minutes. Later I came to determine that I did need special accommodations, since I didn’t seem to be as mobile as last year.
Cabins were available at 1:30 PM, and I had planned to take a nap, but since my luggage didn’t arrive until about 3:30, I was not able to get in my nap. And then we had the lifeboat drill, which was totally FUBAR, with just about everyone violating the rules of the drill, talking loudly, laughing, texting. In fact, I was not marked down as having attended, and received several nasty notes about having to attend a makeup the next day. A phone call from my cabin cleared that up. So I was in my stateroom. Last year I had about five outlets in the room, and only one bottle of water, along with multiple bottles of liquor. I don’t drink, and I was often dehydrated at night with no way to get drinkable water. So I brought along six one liter bottles of water. This year I had two outlets total, and there were six bottles of water in the fridge, along with daily replenishment. Unfortunately, I was only able to plug in my white noise generator and my CPAP, and not my alarm clock. No problem, leaving my curtain open meant I woke up with the sun, which worked perfectly.
So that evening we met to meet and greet the faculty, which was basically the same as last year. Eleanor Wood of Spectrum Literary Agency; multiple award winners Nancy Kress and Mike Resnick, best seller Eric Flint; short story specialist Jack Skillingshead; and Baen editor Jim Minz. The only workshop I have ever been to that has a lineup in this range of quality is Superstars, Kevin J Anderson’s conference in Colorado Springs.
After introductions they plunged right into two sessions, Publishing Business 101 with Eric Flint and Eleanor Wood, followed by The Importance of Character Building with Nancy Kress. These were basically repeats of last year’s presentations, still, every time a topic is presented the instructors can’t help but make them a little different, and I did learn from these presentations. Then we were through for the night, and it was back to my stateroom to work on a novel. This year I had a porthole stateroom on the eighth deck, instead of the balcony room on deck nine. A little smaller, but still comfortable in a ‘I can’t take more than three steps without running into a wall’ way.
I hadn’t signed up for any shore excursions last year, though I did snag a tour on Nassau. This year I signed up for two, on Wednesday and Thursday, but Tuesday was free. I stepped ashore at Freeport harbor, and caught a taxi to the city. But I never really got to the city. The taxi van went from the group of tourist trap buildings to another group of tourist trap buildings that looked almost the same. I never really saw the city of Freeport. I did get to see some of the island, which reminded me of where I grew up in Florida. Pines, palms and palmettos, a lot of exposed sand, and flat terrain. Some hurricane damage here and there, lots of roundabouts and cars driving on the wrong side of the road. The architecture was similar to Florida as well, along with Burger King, Dominoes, and other icons of the States. That was what I wanted to see, not the tourist traps. Still, found an awesome hand carved cane in one of the hole in the wall shops, and bought a coffee mug at a drug store, and my shopping for this trip was done. Then it was back to the ship for my meeting with the agent. Continued in part 2.