Here’s to All the Sasee Ladies

By Connie Barnard

Well loved by readers, Connie Barnard was one of the first to grace Sasee with her fascinating interviews and stories. This month, to our great delight, Connie agreed to return to us with an update on her life!

15 years – Wow! What an honor it is to have been associated with Sasee since its first issue when a pair of brave and adventurous sisters created a monthly magazine spotlighting area people and events. What a pleasure it was for me, an old English teacher, to hone my composition skills via my “Southern Snaps” column until I was sidelined by a scary combo of vision problems which reduced my writing efforts to an occasional piece. Several of these have centered on my crazy husband and our around-the-world adventures as passengers on freighter ships – yes, freighter ships! For this special edition of Sasee, I was encouraged to share memories of our most recent journey and to attempt to answer the questions: how, where, and most of all: why?

Traveling by freighter ship is not something I would ever have even considered; however, when you have been married for many years to your high school sweetheart turned fighter pilot turned retired fighter pilot, it is a bit easier to sort out . . . These guys view life a bit differently from the rest of us. Why vacation on a luxury cruise ship with hundreds of other happy folks when you can be one of a handful of those who get to spend weeks on a huge, flat boat with corrugated crates stacked high upon its back? You may have seen these ships docked in Charleston harbor or out on the ocean, bearing names like CMA-CGM or MSC proudly painted on their hulls. Somehow, from our Air Force days, I understood that they were responsible for our household goods showing up at distant ports where we were assigned, but gladly I had never given a thought to the process involved. He discovered, however, that a handful of regular folks could also book passage on some of these ships. And so it goes that we came to find ourselves among those lucky few.

We have now traveled via freighter ship, not once, not twice, but three times. And I must say that each of these has been the adventure of a lifetime – in a good kind of way. This most recent trip was our favorite so far, perhaps because the memory of it is still vivid. We boarded the German ship MSC Carouge at the Port of Miami and 35 days later disembarked in Fort Lauderdale after visiting 12 various ports in Italy, Spain and Portugal.

Accommodations on all three of the ships were both comfortable and reasonable, with an average charge of around $100 per person per day including meals. On our most recent trip we had a nicely furnished suite with ocean views, a private bath, refrigerator and daily cleaning service. The ship also had several lounges with televisions for viewing DVDs, a computer room for sending and receiving daily e-mails and news updates, and a small gym. Most days we spent several hours on the ship’s bridge watching the captain and crew navigate through the open seas. Please note: this type of travel is not for those who need to be entertained. We loaded our iPads with books and games, but what we actually enjoyed most was solitude and the rare opportunity to power down our lives.

Our time in each port varied, depending on how long it took to off-load and re-load the ship’s cargo, but in most stops we had at least 12 – 24 hours ashore to explore. At smaller ports we could just walk in to the local town. Others involved a taxi ride, often arranged by the ship’s local agent. On this particular trip, we got to experience Gibraltar, Pompeii, Naples, Barcelona, Valencia – and some special little spots I’d never heard of. In one of these, Gioia Tauro in Italy, our cab driver got his sister to open her restaurant in the middle of the afternoon to accommodate two crazy Americans who could not stay up late enough to dine with the locals at 9 pm.

As with most experiences in life, it is the people who make things memorable. Because there were just a few people on board the ship, we got to know most of them very well. This included two other passengers. One was a 60 year old German kindergarten teacher traveling to visit his sister who had married an American soldier and lived in a tiny town in Georgia. The other passenger was a 20 year old Israeli-American college student returning from a kibbutz. Immediately I adopted him as one of my own. We also became friends with the ship’s crew, particularly its Ukrainian captain who longed greatly for his family during the many months at sea. I will always treasure his words on our last day aboard ship when he shared that we had changed his view about Americans whom he had considered to be rich and rude. And, as always, we returned home changed in many ways as well.

About this writer

  • Connie Barnard

    Connie Barnard

    Connie Barnard was born and raised deep in the heart of Dixie – in the South Georgia town of Albany. While in college at the University of Georgia she married her high school sweetheart, Howard, and spent the next thirty years traveling the world as an Air Force wife. An English teacher by trade, Connie taught wherever they were stationed, the most exotic of which was a year at Leavenworth Prison – which she refers to as the ultimate gated community. While Howard was assigned to Myrtle Beach Air Force Base in the 1980s, the Barnards bought a shabby old beach house in Surfside which they re-did and moved into permanently upon his retirement from the Air Force in 1996. They have two adult children and five grandchildren, all of whom are blessed to live in South Carolina.

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One Response to “Here’s to All the Sasee Ladies”

  1. Linda O'Connell says:

    Connie, as a frequent cruiser, you have provided me withfood for thought. We have friends who do repositioning cruises. Your adventures sound interesting.

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