This is another in our series of Travelogues covering our travel adventures. On this trip, Patricia and I took another Weekly Standard Cruise with our friends Barry and Marsha Lacy of Atlanta and Palm Beach Gardens. We met Barry and Marsha on our first Weekly Standard Cruise to the Caribbean two years ago. We’ve become very good friends in a short period of time. This just shows one of the great benefits of “Theme Cruises,” you meet like minded people, it’s amazing how that contributes to friendship.
This “Theme Cruise” is sponsored by the Weekly Standard Magazine, and features famous Conservative speakers including Bill Kristol and Fred Barnes, who both appear regularly on Fox News. We realize not everyone who enjoys our travelogues shares our political views, so this document will be divided with the first part featuring our Ports of Call including travel tips for each stop. The last part will feature the speakers and programs presented on the ship by the Weekly Standard folks.
You will find other travelogues including many of the ports we visited on this trip on my website www.frankhall.com. Most particularly one about our previous cruise to the Maritimes entitled “Fall Color Cruise - 2003” and several that describe our adventures in Boston including our “Massachusetts” travelogue of 2008 and New York in our numerous “Big Apple” adventures. So as not to bore our readers we will talk only about things we discovered on this trip and not repeat old jokes. Well, maybe just a few.
The Itinerary included Boston where we boarded the ship; Bar Harbor in Maine; Two ports in Nova Scotia: Halifax and Sydney; Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island, Quebec City and Montreal where we disembarked and flew to New York for four days before returning home.
Our ship was Holland America Line’s “Maarsdam,” a ship we will henceforth avoid, but, more about that later.
PORTS OF CALL
BOSTON: We signed up for the two night “Pre-cruise Package” at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel. The hotel is beautiful and situated centrally near of some of Boston’s finest shopping. The Copley Plaza Shopping Center across the street from the hotel has most of the high end shops you’ll find on 5th Avenue in New York and of course the prices are the same as New York, too - expensive.
Our first night we had cocktails in the Oak Bar at the Fairmont before going to dinner. It’s lovely, but the service was a little slow. We ate at “Legal Seafood” in the shopping center across the street. Legal is a chain well known in the Boston area which brags that their Clam Chowder has been served at every Presidential Inauguration since Ronald Reagan’s in 1981. I tried some and thought it was very good as were the Crab Cakes, but, the meal wasn’t the best seafood we had on the trip.
On our second day we grabbed coffee and a muffin at the nearby Starbucks and stood at the bus stop to catch the trolley tour. This tour, which starts at the Aquarium, filled most of its seats by the time it reached Copley Square, so we had to wait for several trolleys to pass before one with enough seats for us came along.
All the Trolley drivers have their own version of Boston History, always entertaining. By the time you’re finished with the tour your brain will be chock full of interesting, but often useless facts such as where Ho Chi Minh worked when he lived in Boston or the names of Paul Revere’s 18 children (nine each by two wives). But, you’ll also learn some of the fascinating history of this most historic of American cities. It’s a “must do” in Boston, this was our third time. Since there are some 16 possible places to get off and explore, you just get off at different stops each time you take the trolley to keep it interesting. I admit that most of the historic spots can also be covered nicely by walking the “Freedom Trail,” but when you get to be our age the trolley has more appeal.
One stop we always make is Quincy Market in the Faneuil Hall Market place. While there we always lunch at the Black Rose, the famous Irish Pub where John Kennedy announced his intention to seek the nomination for the Presidency in 1960. No, we weren’t present for the announcement; we were introduced to the Black Rose in 1986 by our friend Jack Donovan, who has since passed away. We always toast Jack with a Guinness at the Black Rose when we’re in Boston.
This trip’s new trolley “hop off” spot was the berth of the U.S.S. Constitution, known to all as “Old Ironsides.”
It’s the oldest ship in the Navy, still commissioned and manned by U. S. Navy personnel who gladly and proudly escort you on a free tour of the ship and the nearby museum. Constructed initially in 1794 and launched 3 years later, the Constitution was one of 6 “iron clads” constructed to confront the Barbary Pirates who harassed our shipping after we became a nation. Named by George Washington himself, the Constitution earned its nickname by destroying five English warships during the war of 1812. The crew also captured numerous merchant ships and became the heroes of that War.
She was our major warship until 1850 and made numerous world tours during the previous decade. By the Civil War she had become a training ship at the Naval Academy. She was so beloved by the public, that every suggestion that she be decommissioned was squashed. She took her last sea voyage in 1997, the two hundredth anniversary of her launching.
She looks sea worthy today as a crew of 60 American Sailors keep her spotless to inspire today’s young people and us old folks, too.
That evening we wanted to go to the North End for Italian food and the hotel Concierge recommended “Prezza,” at 24 Fleet Street. It was wonderful. I had Tagliatelle with Lobster that was “to die for.” For dessert we had cannolis and real spumoni ice cream. Too good!!
After dinner, about 10 PM, we found the streets of the North End mobbed with young people – young to us anyway, 35 and under we’d estimate. Many were dressed in their business clothes, enjoying the warm evening and the great food. One local custom we found interesting is the large number of Italian pastry shops scattered throughout the North End. “Mikes,” had a line of people out the door and down the block waiting patiently for a pastry at 10 P. M.. A few miles south young people are lined up on the streets of New York trying to squeeze into an “In” Club. It’s a matter of priorities.
The following morning after a lovely breakfast in the Oak Room of the Fairmont, we were taken by bus to board the Maarsdam.
THE SHIP - HOLLAND AMERICA LINES MAARSDAM: Holland America is not our favorite cruise line for several reasons – some large, some small. The biggest problem is the dining. The grand dining room is OK, although the food falls short of other premier cruise lines. The Buffet on Lido Deck is awful. You have to go to different stations to get your salad, entrée, dessert and beverage. By the time you wait in 4 lines, your cold food is warm and your hot food is cold. There are Mexican Stations, Chinese Stations, Italian Stations and Sandwich Stations. But, don’t try to get a turkey sandwich or simple spaghetti with Marinara sauce. Lots of choices, but nothing you really want to eat.
We found the best food in the Pinnacle Grill Restaurant, always better than the dining room on all Holland America Ships. Unfortunately you can only eat there once on short cruises and twice on longer cruises. We found ourselves eating ashore whenever we could.
The Maarsdam, if not the oldest ship in their fleet, is certainly the shabbiest. It needed refurbishment badly, frayed rugs, bathtubs shedding their caulking etc. We were told it was do for “refitting” the following month, a lot of good that did us.
The Exercise Room is too small for a ship of this size with only two recumbent exercise bikes and no upright ones. Even at 6 in the morning, I had to wait for a piece of equipment. The Casino is smaller than those on larger ships, but, the library and computer facilities are sizeable and usually available.
Here is a warning: Never ever send anything to be dry cleaned on a Holland America Ship. We sent 3 items for dry cleaning. Even though the order slip clearly showed “dry cleaning,” they were washed – in hot water – ruining several hundred dollars worth of garments. Patricia complained – loud enough to get a reimbursement, via shipboard credits. Our friends the Lacys had a similar experience a year ago destroying more than $1,000 worth of garments. Don’t risk it.
However, the thing that irritated us the most is the lack of any “diversity” in their on-board entertainment. No Fox News, nothing except CNN and other Turner operated channels on the in-room TV. Luckily, we spent little time in the cabin.
PORTS OF CALL
BAR HARBOR, MAINE: If you take this cruise, Bar Harbor will be your last American Port. So if you need American dollars, take your ATM card ashore with you. It’s a great little tourist town, perfect for a day off the cruise ship.
Bar Harbor was founded in the 18th Century and was known as “Eden” until 1912 when the name was changed to Bar Harbor, after the landmark Sandbar in the Harbor. The first Summer Estate was built here about 1868 and by 1880 nearly every “Person of Wealth” who wasn’t summering in Newport, could be found here. The Rockefellers helped give it “Cache,” the future Vice President, Nelson Rockefeller, was born in Eden in 1908. A fire after World War II destroyed many of the old estates, but the town was spared and the historic downtown district is a short walk from the pier where your Tender will dock.
Located on Maine’s largest Island, Mount Desert Island, which is also Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor now has around 5,000 year round residents. Over the course of a “season” they will be visited by nearly a hundred cruise ships, so they’re glad to see you and have many delightful places to shop and eat.
The last time we were in Bar Harbor (see Fall Color Cruise 2003) we took the ship’s excursion which offered a tour of the Acadia National Park and a “Lobster Bake.” The tour was interesting, but, the lobster bake baffled us because we were served a full size lobster, still in the shell, on a plate with a nut cracker and a little pick. We didn’t have a clue how to eat one, so we had bowl of clam chowder instead. A couple of years ago our friend Allie Donovan, of the Marblehead Donovans, showed us how and now we’re ready for just about anything lobster related.
This time we decided to stay in town and have a “Lobster Roll” for lunch. We all enjoyed shopping. Barry and I each purchased a shirt, and at each shop we sought a recommendation for the best Lobster Roll. Several different natives suggested “The Fish House Grill” located right on the dock where the tenders land. It was terrific, one of the best meals we had on the trip. Barry and I had Lobster Rolls while Marsha and Patricia had Lobster Salads, unequaled anywhere, and not expensive. They also have the best Oyster Bar in Bar Harbor.
A TIP FOR CRUISE PASSENGERS: Never ever get back to the ship after the embarking time. A couple was late getting back to the dock and missed the last tender from Bar Harbor to the ship. The Ship left without them and they had to be brought out to the ship at sea in a Pilot Boat. When they arrived at the ship, the Captain made an announcement and invited all on Board to watch the late and very embarrassed passengers transfer from the Pilot Boat back on to the ship.
HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA: Our second stop was Halifax, Nova Scotia, one of the four Canadian Provinces known as the Maritimes. The others are New Brunswick (Eastern most Province on the Canadian mainland) and the Islands of Prince Edward and Newfoundland. Halifax, the Capitol of Nova Scotia, has a very distinct Scottish flavor. The city was nearly destroyed by a fire in 1917, and among the first to arrive to help with the rescue effort were the people of Boston, Massachusetts and the American Navy. Halifax has a close relationship with Boston to this day.
On our first visit we took the downtown walking tour and strolled the waterfront. There is a “Hop on and Hop Off Bus” you can take to see most of the important points of interest, so if you want to see the city I don’t think an expensive “excursion” is necessary.
Having “done” Halifax on our first visit we selected a tour that included a visit to Peggy’s Cove, home of a very picturesque lighthouse, and a visit to the graveyard where a large number of victims of the Titanic’s sinking are buried. Halifax was the closest port to the site of the disaster and the rescue operations were headquartered there.
Peggy’s Cove is about an hour’s drive from Halifax on a very rocky coastline, which is why they needed the aforementioned lighthouse. There is a small village there, although why anyone would want to live in a place where the wind blows at gale force most of the time and summer temperatures never exceed 60 degrees Fahrenheit is beyond me. There is a restaurant where the Lacys, on a different tour, had lunch. They said the seafood was very good, but our tour only visited the gift shop. We bought an ice cream, which shows how desperate we were for anything edible.
The cemetery was interesting and our tour guide gave us complete details of the tragedy and its aftermath, perhaps a few more details than were really necessary. We did learn some interesting things. Most of the people buried in the cemetery were crew members and 3rd class passengers, of which many were children. Most of the women and children in First and Second Class were able to get into lifeboats along with a few men who would go through life branded as cowards for having survived at all.
“Those were the days,” said my wife, “when men were men.”
“Harrumph,” said I. Many husbands would have a snappy retort to this insult to the modern guy’s manhood. Not me, I wouldn’t dare.
The hero of the Titanic story, as far as I’m concerned, is Victor Robbins age 42. Robbins was the Valet to John Jacob Astor IV, richest passenger on the Titanic. Astor, age 47, and his new bride Madeleine Force Astor, age 18, had been touring Europe when they discovered that Madeleine was pregnant. They cut short their trip and booked passage on the Titanic. Astor, of course, famously went down with the ship, but so did Robbins. I have this vision of Victor Robbins standing by and helping Mrs. Astor, her maid and her unborn child’s nurse into Lifeboat #4, thinking all the while, “Where in the script does it call for the Valet to go down with the ship?”
The cemetery we visited was the Protestant cemetery. Jewish and Catholic passengers and crew were buried in cemeteries of their particular faith. There was one grave for an “Unknown Child,” of which, it seems, there were many in 3rd class. Thanks to DNA evidence, they’ve identified the child in the “unknown” grave as one of many passengers from Sweden. No one living had ever seen this child, but, his family members three generations removed and a thousand miles away, were pleased to know where he was buried and some have visited the grave.
SYDNEY, NOVA SCOTIA: We were also in Sydney once before and made the mistake of passing up the excursion trip to Ft. Louisbourg (the Williamsburg of Canada) to wander the streets of Sydney. It was a mistake; there is absolutely nothing worth seeing in Sydney except the shopping barn on the dock next to the ship’s dock.
This time we corrected the mistake and took the offered excursion to Ft. Louisbourg, the reconstruction of an early 18th Century French settlement. At the conclusion of Queen Anne’s War (one of the many disagreements between the English and the French), Cape Breton Island was deeded to the French who built the fort and town of Louisbourg in 1713. When the British and then Canadian Governments took over administration of Nova Scotia, Louisbourg had long been abandoned and Cape Breton Island had become part of the Province of Nova Scotia.
Sydney, the largest nearby town, was the center of a major coal mining area. When in 1966 the “Green Movement” succeeded in convincing the Canadian Government to shut down their coal mines, the economy of Cape Breton Island was devastated. The government, in true progressive fashion, sought a project to employ all of those unemployed Coal Miners and settled on the restoration of the old fort as the answer. Using Williamsburg as a model, the Coal Miners were taught the construction trade and employed by the Government to rebuild the fort and the town. They have done a really beautiful job of restoration and now the project is open to the public fully staffed by folks who portray Villagers and Soldiers of the early 18th Century French Army. Farmers and Craftsmen conduct themselves in the same manner as they would have in 1715 and are happy to explain to Tourists what they’re doing and why it was done in just this way.
Williamsburg is a non-profit organization founded in 1923 and funded originally by John D Rockefeller and other American philanthropists. Today it is totally supported by contributions and profits from the many for-profit businesses that surround it. The workforce consists of hundreds of volunteers and students from the College of William and Mary nearby.
Louisbourg on the other hand is a government owned and operated project. All of the villagers and soldiers are employees of the Federal Government of Canada, as are all the tour guides and bus drivers, (necessary because Louisbourg is about an hour’s drive outside of Sydney in a very isolated location). It would be interesting to know the annual cost to the Canadian Taxpayer.
The ship offered a number of excursions to Louisbourg, most of them all day visits which included actual hands on experience in such things as soldiering or food preparation. We elected the short 4 hour tour, which gave us plenty of time to tour the facilities and observe many of the activities underway. We thought it odd that in mid-August, when the weather is as good as it will ever get (it was beautiful, cool and sunny), except for the huge group of us from the ship, there were very few other tourists.
One of the highlights for us was a chance to have a cup of coffee with Philip Terzian, the Culture section Editor of the Weekly Standard who was sharing our bus, a very smart and interesting guy. His book, “Architects of Power: Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and the American Century,” was the subject of the talk he gave later in the week. It’s about the best book on the Eisenhower presidency you’ll find.
We recommend the visit to Louisbourg, especially if you have visited Williamsburg. You’ll learn a lot about Canadian history and French Customs and get a lesson in American Capitalism versus Canadian Socialism.
CHARLOTTETOWN, PRICE EDWARD ISLAND (Hereinafter referred to as PEI): PEI is the smallest and least populated of Canadian Provinces. Located west of Cape Breton Island it comprises about 2,000 square miles with population hovering around 140,000. Most of the ancestors of the natives are Scottish, English or Irish. The island is known for its slow pace of life and pastoral scenery.
L. M. Montgomery, the most famous PEI native, wrote her classic children’s book, “Anne of the Green Gables” about the Island in 1908. She wrote numerous sequels with the same title character all now captured on film and DVD. Nearly all American girls of the early and mid-20th Century read at least one book about Anne. In central Charlottetown “The Anne of Green Gables” store, a must stop for tourists, has all the merchandise you could possibly want on the Anne theme.
One of the most popular excursions appeared to be a bike ride in the countryside. Others offered rides in horse drawn vehicles or a trip to L. M. Montgomery’s home. We elected to stay in Charlottetown and explore. We had lunch at a place called “Lobster on the Wharf” where Barry enjoyed the legendary PEI Mussels. But, give yourself plenty of time as the wait staff takes the “slow pace of life on PEI” seriously.
We were told in Sydney that the temperature of the ocean in PEI is warmer than on Cape Breton Island, and Nova Scotians often go there to enjoy the beach. It was pretty cool when we were there and we didn’t see anyone sunbathing or swimming in the harbor.
The soil in PEI is a reddish color, about which the locals are very proud. You can buy a t-shirt died in PEI dirt a sort of rusty color. You can also buy little jars of PEI soil in most gift shops. We didn’t find it difficult to pass up this souvenir.
QUEBEC CITY, QUEBEC: We’ve visited Quebec numerous times and have written about it often in other travelogues. One of the most beautiful and historic cities in North America, there’s plenty to see and there’s no such thing as a bad meal in Quebec, except perhaps at Burger King.
Located on a spot where the St. Lawrence River narrows on its way to the sea, Quebec has always held an important strategic location during hostilities. It is notable that the canons on the cliff are pointed south, at the USA where the greatest threat has lain. During the French and Indian War, the British attacked from the South and even during the American Revolution Quebec had its share of battle. Today American Tourists are welcomed with open arms and the vast majority of citizens will forgive you if you don’t speak French.
There are some terrific excursions available if you come by Cruise Ship, but we’ve done most of them, so we elected to stroll around in old town. The historic city of Quebec is actually on two levels, the lower level is a short walk from the Cruise Ship dock. The upper level is atop a cliff and is reachable by a long walk up a stair case or by a funicular which picks you up in the center of lower old town and deposits you in the center of upper old town. The major attraction in upper old town is the world famous Chateau Frontenac hotel which dominates the skyline.
It happened that they were celebrating a “Military Tattoo,” festival featuring Military drum and bugle corps from far and wide. There were Highland Pipers, An Italian Army band and an American Colonial Drum and Bugle Corps. They were marching through the streets of old town, and playing on the steps of churches and public buildings. It was very thrilling and noisy.
We found dozens of shops that interested the ladies, and lots of photo worthy subjects to occupy Barry and me. We had lunch in an excellent restaurant, Le Cochon Dingue (translation: The Crazy Pig). We enjoyed our first decent meal off the ship since we left Bar Harbor. I had Seafood Lasagna which was very rich, but, wonderful.
MONTREAL: We were in Montreal only long enough to catch a flight to New York’s LaGuardia Airport. We learned that our “United” flight, was actually on an airline called “Jazz Air.” The name made us nervous, but, it turned out to be a very modern small plane, patterned after Jet Blue. Big comfortable leather seats, lots of leg room and plenty of entertainment made it a terrific flight, and it was a very quiet jet.
NEW YORK: We love New York. We’ve been there many times and if you want to see our recommendations for restaurants and attractions in New York, you may want to review some of the other travelogues on my website. Several of them have “Big Apple” in the title and others include “Fall Color Cruise” and “Planes, Train and Automobile.” I won’t review some of our favorite restaurants we visited again this time such as San Martin, Patsy’s, and the Union Square Café.
I’m sad to report that one of our favorite New York restaurants Giambelli’s on 50th near Park has closed. We first went to Giambelli’s 12 years ago. The food was, of course, Italian – among the best in New York. For most of our visits Mr. Giambelli himself presided from a booth in the back. A few years ago his wife died and last year when we were there his Head Waiter told us he too had passed away. He was a “Gentleman” in every definition of that word, no female customer left his restaurant without a long stem red rose, presented by him personally. Priests visiting St. Patrick’s Cathedral a block away could always count on a free meal at Giambelli’s, a special booth was set aside just for them.
He did insist that all of his servers be Italian men and most had been with him since they arrived in New York. After 9/11 he kept all his staff on full salary until business picked up again. For a while he had pickets, forlorn women carrying the dumbest picket signs I ever saw. “Giambelli’s unfair to female waitpersons.” He told us, once, that he planned to leave the Restaurant to his employees when he died. I wonder if he did.
Now the site is under construction. Maybe a new Giambelli’s will rise on the spot. I hope so.
I had one other disappointment, the Starbucks I have frequented for years at 50th and Lexington has stopped selling “Filtered” coffee. All you can get there now is Espresso. Now there’s a trend I hope dies quickly.
PLACES TO EAT IN NEW YORK
LE BERNADINE: Patricia and I arrived at La Guardia at 2:40 P.M. on Saturday and were at our hotel the San Carlos in Midtown by 3:30. We just had time to comb our hair and meet the Lacys for dinner at Le Bernadine at 155 W 51st St. near Broadway. One of the top rated restaurants in Manhattan, it deserves its reputation. The meal is divided in thirds; I had Oysters, Crab and a Lamb Rack all small portions. The Oyster appetizer consisted of four oysters, one each from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Maine and Oregon – the most famous oyster beds in North America. They were incredible.
ROCKEFELLER CENTER CAFÉ: Everyone is familiar with the famous Ice Rink at the base of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree; it’s been featured in nearly every movie ever made about winter in New York. There is a restaurant that surrounds the rink where we have eaten once or twice; it is convenient to Radio City Music Hall. The rest of the year, the Ice Rink is converted to an outdoor section of the restaurant.
As is our custom, we attended St. Patrick’s Cathedral for Mass on Sunday and were looking for a place to have Brunch before going to the Broadway Show for which we had matinee tickets. We settled on the Rockefeller Center Café and we weren’t disappointed as the Brunch turned out better than expected.
DANIEL: The Restaurant Daniel at 60 W. 65th Street is considered one of the finest in the world. Coats and ties are a must for men and reservations far in advance are required. The Lacys had arranged for us to have our farewell meal here and it was certainly worth the effort. As with Le Bernadine, small portions are the rule, so 3 courses are necessary to satisfy even the most modest appetite. Patricia and I had steaks and asparagus, which were excellent. I had sorbet for dessert – small portions of several flavors, but the best I ever tasted. The service, as you might expect , was impeccable. The staff, all in formal wear, never allow your glass to get more than half empty.
As always, one of the main attractions of a visit to New York is attending a Broadway Show. We’ve seen lots of Musicals and Plays in lots of places, but, there is absolutely no substitute for seeing a show on Broadway. This visit we saw:
THE ADDAMS FAMILY: Based on the wildly popular Addams Family Cartoons and the equally successful TV sit-com, The Addams Family makes a surprisingly excellent musical. I have to admit I was a little apprehensive about it, thinking it might have a slapstick “Spamalot” sort of theme. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It has a great musical score, is riotously funny and an old fashioned love story, to boot.
Nathan Lane opened the show as father, “Gomez,” but left the show just a few days before we saw it. His replacement, Roger Reese, is of equal quality and has a better voice. Bebe Neuwirth stars as Morticia and all the characters are played perfectly. Uncle Fester, Grandma, Lurch are all here, as are the ghosts from the Addams Family Cemetery. Our favorite, though, was Krysta Rodriguez who played Wednesday Addams, whose first love affair is the focus of the show. She has a beautiful voice and a gift for comedy.
If you are in New York don’t miss it, I suspect it will have a long run.
MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET: In December of 1956 four legends of Rock and Roll gathered at Sun Records in Memphis for an impromptu Jam Session. It happened once, and never again, that Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins sang together. This show is a recreation of that Jam Session and contains some of the greatest hits of all the legends.
In order to get 4 seats together, we had to sit in the first row. We were nervous that we wouldn’t be able to see because of the angle, but they turned out to be terrific seats. We were able to see 3 of the stars of the show on that day: Lance Guest as Johnny Cash, Levi Kreis as Jerry Lee Lewis and Robert Lyons as Carl Perkins. Eddie Clendening, Elvis, was taking the day off. We all agreed it was a fabulous show and that we’d love to see it again. If you like early Rock and Roll, this is the show for you.
WEEKLY STANDARD SEMINARS ON BOARD
The Agenda for the Weekly Standard portion of the cruise includes several receptions which allow you get to know the celebrity speakers and your fellow “cruisers.” There’s always a “Welcome Aboard” party on the first night and a Farewell party the last night. During the cruise, all Weekly Standard Cruisers are seated together in the Dining Room and rotate among the tables of various speakers. You can usually count on sitting with a celebrity on at least two evenings during the cruise.
The Weekly Standard staff members on this cruise were Bill Kristol and Fred Barnes, of course, the magazine’s Publisher Terry Eastland, Opinion Editor Matt Continenti, Managing Editor Claudia Anderson, and Literary Editor Philip Terzian. Guest Celebrities included Mary Katharine Ham, who writes for the magazine and appears regularly on the O’Reilly Factor on Fox News and Byron York, Political Editor of the Washington Examiner, who is also frequently seen on Fox News and occasionally on other media outlets when a Conservative “Talking Head” is needed.
As a special guest, Philip Anschutz, the owner of the magazine and number 34 on the Forbes “400” List of wealthiest Americans and his wife joined us in Halifax. Among his many investments are the L.A. Galaxy Soccer team, the Los Angeles Lakers and Kings, the Staples Center and Home Depot Center plus a lot of other stuff.
By coincidence, we were sitting at the table of Publisher Terry Eastland on the night Mr. & Mrs. Anschutz were on board and we were assigned to their table. What a treat that was for us. They are a very gracious couple and were extremely friendly to all the table guests. They thanked us profusely for reading the Weekly Standard and being on the Cruise. They weren’t at all stuffy or acting superior as you might expect extremely wealthy people to be. The next day, the Anschutz party left the ship in Sydney to fly back to the States by private jet.
OUR DINNER CELEBRITIES: Terry Eastland, the magazine’s Publisher, and our friend Barry Lacy became fast friends because, at least in part, they share the same passion – the Atlanta Braves. Whether on land or sea, Barry and Terry could be found comparing batting averages and more obscure statistics of various Brave players. At the time of the voyage, the Braves were in first place in their Division and even money to make it to the World Series. Ultimately they failed to make it, but the results of the election a few weeks later cheered up both men. We thought Terry was the best of the celebrity table hosts because he threw out questions and invited all at the table to comment.
Bill Kristol was our dinner partner for the second straight year. He appears regularly on Fox news and writes numerous articles that can be found in the Weekly Standard and elsewhere. He taught a class in politics at Harvard, perhaps his most unique accomplishment. He may have been the only Conservative to ever set foot in the Faculty Dining Room.
A nicer man you’ll never meet. Quiet spoken and brilliant, Bill responded willingly to questions about his career, the then current electoral campaign, the political culture in Washington and just about any other topic anyone posed. Unlike Terry Eastland who asked questions of us, Bill was peppered with questions from the minute he sat down. It’s a wonder he managed to eat his dinner. Last year his wife was also on the cruise and was able to field at least some of the personal questions. This year, Bill was on his own and handled it very well, as always.
On our first night, we were pleasantly surprised to find Byron York and his wife Marty at our table. Byron, a native of Alabama and Crimson Tide alumni, was a cameraman at CNN in Atlanta when he met Marty, “and the rest,” according to Mrs. York, “is history.” Byron worked his way up to being an Editor at CNN Headline News, before moving on to Washington. His book, “The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy” was a best seller and his articles and editorials appear not only in the Washington Examiner but on Townhall.com as well as in the Weekly Standard. He is also a regular at Fox News. The Yorks were a great couple, very funny, warm and friendly. He was most interested in how people in California were reacting to Meg Whitman and Carli Fiorina. I’m afraid we were sadly mistaken when we said they would both win handily.
PANEL DISCUSSIONS: Whenever the ship is at sea, individual presentations and panel discussions were planned featuring the Weekly Standard staff and celebrity guests. The presentations on this trip included: “The Obama Presidency” with Fred Barnes; “The GOP Comeback” with Bill Kristol; “The Republican Party and the Tea Party” featuring a panel including Mary Katharine Ham, Matt Continentti and Phi Terzian; a session on Mary Katharine’s trip a month before to Iraq; and one featuring Christian Lowe, founder of Military.Com, on the current situation in Afganistan; A Panel on “Terrorism Today” featuring Bill Kristol, Mary Katharine and Christian; and finally a panel on “The Elections in 2010 & 2012 and the “Outlook for Limited government” moderated by Fred Barnes.
OBSERVATIONS BY THE WEEKLY STANDARD GUESTS: Keep in mind that these comments were made in August of 2010, three months before the Election. It’s interesting to see how their outlook on the election materialized.
FRED BARNES “OBAMA’S TEN BIGGEST MISTAKES:” Here are the ten mistakes that Fred thought turned the President’s public support numbers around in just two short years: 1) The Stimulus Bill and the promise to keep unemployment under 8%; 2) “The Apology Tour” of the world when the President blamed America for the world’s ills; 3) The Justice Department has become an ACLU chapter; with the worst decision to sue Arizona over its illegal Alien Bill; 4) Obama cancelled the Missile Defense System promised to Eastern Europe; 5) He went to Copenhagen to get the Olympics for Chicago and failed; 6) Proposed a “Settlement Free West Bank” which destroyed the Middle East Peace Talks; 7) Set a July 20th deadline for withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan; 8) Intervened in the “Ground Zero Mosque controversy; 9) Obama was on T.V. too often, overcome by vanity and 10) He failed to act when public opinion began to change against his policies and insisted on pursuing lost causes.
BILL KRISTOL PREDICTS: Bill predicted that Republicans would pick up 60 seats in the House, they actually won 63 seats, but, Bill was way ahead of the rest of the pundits. Some thought it possible that the Republicans would also take the Senate, but, Bill said that would be much more difficult and a pick-up of 6 or 7 seats was more likely. Right On!!
He thought that Obama’s eventual reelection could rest on what he did about the Bush Tax Cuts. The President, turned around and supported them in the Lame Duck Session. Maybe he’s listening to Bill Kristol. Bill feels the most important Republican at the moment is Congressman Paul Ryan, who now chairs the Budget Committee. He feels he could be presidential material.
As to the Republican nominee to face Obama, he is very concerned that “the party will do what it has always done and nominate whoever finished 2nd the last time. He felt that either Romney, Huckabee, Palin or Gingrich would get the nomination if Republican history is any indication. But, he feels that there is tons of talent and dozens of new faces, one of whom could come “out of nowhere” to win the nomination making the election “wide open.”
MARY KATHARINE ON THE TEA PARTY: Mary Katharine Ham covered the Tea Party for Fox News. She attended more than 200 Tea Party Rallies, large and small. She said the many untruths perpetrated by the main stream media did little to diminish the enthusiasm of the participants.
Nancy Pelosi said that the Tea Parties were violent, full of hatred, people with signs sporting swastikas. All untrue. At the 200 events she attended there were exactly 11 reports of “violence” mostly of the “He knocked down my sign” variety. Of those 11 incidents, 7 were perpetrated by those protesting against the Tea Parties – Liberal students, mostly. There were no reports of trash left by the Tea Partiers, the largest rally held in Washington required no clean up by the City Sanitation workers, except for the areas occupied by anti-Tea Party protestors.
Mary Katharine spent much time mingling with the Tea Partiers. In Washington, she met a teacher from a suburban Virginia School District. She told Mary Katharine that she had always kept her Conservative leanings to herself at school, thinking she was in a small minority. But, one day she told a friend on the faculty that she was thinking of going to the Tea Party in Washington. The friend told her that she, too, was a “closet Conservative” and they began to speak to the other teachers about it. She proudly proclaimed that there were 17 Conservative teachers from her school who were participating that day and had become active in their local Tea Party organization. In the closet no more!!
MATT CONTINENTI: “The Three Horsemen of the Democrats Apocalypse” are 1) Stimulus, 2) Health Care, and 3) Cap and Trade.
BYRON YORK: On the Vast Left Wing Conspiracy (his book written in 2005 is excellent and even more relevant today than when it was written). Among the conspirators: Moveon.org, Media Matters, George Soros, and the Center for American Progress.
FRED BARNES ON THE UPCOMING ELECTION: A big wave brings in the big fish and some bottom dwellers as well.
STRAW POLL: Toward the end of the cruise, a straw poll was conducted among the Cruisers to determine their choice for President. The clear winner was Congressman Paul Ryan, 2nd was Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana, 3rd Mitt Romney and 4th Newt Gingrich.
WE HAD A WONDERFUL TIME ON THE WEEKLY STANDARD CRUISE We’ll be joining Fred and Bill and the rest of the Weekly Standard gang again in May of 2011. We hope you’ll be on Board, too.