How the Sullivans Spent Their Summer Vacation

Do you remember the essay you had to write in grade school? “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” was the dreaded back-to-school writing assignment because most of the time summer vacation wasn’t that exciting.

For West Chester residents Steve and Charmaine Sullivan, that essay can write itself. The adventurous couple are firm believers in the importance of vacations that make memories and enrich life experiences. They travel abroad whenever they can. Last summer, they had one of their best vacations ever. The Sullivans embarked on an eleven-night, five country cruise aboard the Royal Clipper, one of the largest, full-rigged sailing vessels in the world. Their adventure started with a two-night stay in Rome before sailing to ports of call that included Ponza, a little known chain of islands off the coast of Italy; Sorrento, where the nearby ruins of Pompeii can be seen; ports along the Adriatic coast; and concluded with a sunrise sail into Venice.

Chasing Dreams

John Lennon wrote, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” Cruise ship vacations are often centered around dreams. The Sullivans have found that different cruise lines appeal to specific clientele. “Some are noted for older passengers, some for partiers, some for families, and some for more well-traveled folks.” What are your dreams? A honeymoon? A festive celebration? A special anniversary? If you can dream it, you can sail to find it.

Dream chasers have to be planners. “Typically, Steve and I agree on some place that we would like to visit, for what length of time, and roughly what kinds of things we might like to do.” Then, Charmaine digs in and does research. She sketches out in more detail the things they would like to experience, and then decides how to best thread those experiences together. A slow driving trip allows soaking in the culture at a leisurely pace. High-speed trains allow for a quick seasoning to major cities.

When it comes to the cruise itself, smaller is better for the Sullivans. “We are not the type of folks who enjoy the larger ships. Our Royal Clipper ship had room for 230 people, but only had 173 passengers,” Charmaine says. “You get to know most of your fellow travelers. We really enjoyed getting to know people from all over the world. There were 13 countries represented on the cruise. Announcements were made in three languages.”

Expanding Horizons

Traveling to other countries can open a world of new experiences. The different cultures reveal different and unique ways of thinking and doing things. While traveling abroad presents many “bucket list” experiences like the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Coliseum in Rome, Charmaine notices that the things that “made the greatest impression and brought the most enjoyment during our travels are the off-the-beaten path experiences where you learn more about the people and local culture.”

Sailing Away

One of the reasons that the Sullivans enjoy traveling abroad is because of the slower pace of life.

“Life seems to be more balanced and slower in other countries, something we can learn from,” Charmaine shares. “Meals are not grabbed on the go as they are in the United States.” The meals are more focused, using high quality ingredients that are fresh and in-season. One is allowed to sit down and savor—both the flavors of the food and the flavors of relationships.

The Sullivans took several trips on smaller sailboats, before they “upgraded” to the Royal Clipper last summer. “On our very first Windjammer cruise, we were instructed to meet at a dock in St. Martin. At one end of the dock was a large tender that was heading out to a big cruise ship. At the other end was a dinky, little rowboat that was heading to the Windjammer ship. But as our ship left the dock under full sail, it was the cruise ship passengers that were flocked to one side to take pictures of us—a priceless moment.”

How will you spend your summer vacation? In the margins of their summer essay, the Sullivans are already making plans for their next adventure on the high seas.