Hendrixes share stories of cruising the world in a small ship

Like a lot of retirees, Valerie and Tom Hendrix like to travel, but they have fallen in love with a different kind of travel - small ship cruising.

“We started going on small ship cruises, and we’ve found them to be very educational,” Valerie Hendrix explained. “We like to learn about the local environment, and it’s an easy way to travel.”

The Hendrixes will be sharing their small ship cruising experiences during a travelogue presentation at the Blount County Library on Monday, Nov. 16 at 7 p.m.

“We wanted to share what we’ve done and thought it might be fun for other people,” Valerie said.

The small ship cruises have as few as 15 passengers or as many as 200 passengers. As one can imagine with those numbers, travelers get to know their fellow passengers during a week-long excursion. On one trip, the Hendrixes got to know the man who drove the Zodiac boat through Antarctica. They discovered that he had a PhD in marine biology, was an underwater photographer and worked for the Discovery Channel.

The Hendrixes began traveling when Tom retired from Alcoa in 1992. They went on a big cruise ship to Alaska.

“When most people think of cruising, they think of the really large ships,” Valerie said. Tom added that when they think of the large cruises, they think of the casinos, dressing for dinner and shows that feature the song, “New York, New York.”

It was on a large cruise ship where they heard from fellow travelers about small ship cruising.

“It’s a wonderful industry because there’s something for everyone,” Valerie explained. Relaxation, shopping, educational information are all things that travelers can get from cruising. She said retired people usually have a different focus of traveling.

When raising a family, relaxation is one of the primary goals of a vacation, Valerie said. She said retired people like to see the world and many have a natural curiosity.

During the travelogue presentation, the Hendrix will share some of their adventures on eight different ships they have been on -- three sailing ships, three riverboats and two ocean-going vessels.

“The crew and people on board have vast experience with the area,” Valerie said.

One of their favorite small ship cruising memories is their trip to Antarctica. She said they were touring the area looking at penguins and seals on an inflatable Zodiac boat. It was cold and snowing. As they were coming around an iceberg, they saw a sign that said, “Hot Dogs.” The crew from the cruise had put together a picnic lunch of warm food and hot chocolate and brought it out to them.

“The food is just as good as the big cruises,” Tom said. Valerie explained that while the passengers are in port, the chef goes to a local market to pick up the freshest ingredients.

“We’re always pleasantly surprised,” Valerie said of the food. She recalled some of the freshly prepared meals, including the best mushroom soup she said she has ever tasted.

Valerie explained the advantages with small ship cruises compared to car trips. With cruising, the worries about driving in a foreign country, finding a place to stay or a locating a good restaurant are eliminated.

She also points out that small ship cruises are more eco-friendly than large cruises. She said small ships have access to ports that bigger cruise ships do not have. In Greenland, Tom said they got to tour the school, church and market. In a fishing village in Iceland, they got to meet the local residents.

To find out more about small ship cruising, come to the Hendrixes’ presentation at the Blount County Library on Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. The Hendrixes will be showing pictures, sharing brochures and answering questions about small ship cruising and their destinations.

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