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Robert W. Bone is a writer, author, editor and photographer. Since 1957, he has lived in a half dozen different countries and traveled to nearly 100. (All content is copyrighted.)
Far left: Odysseus’ dilemma crossing the Strait of Messina. Left: Cruisers on the Nieuw Amsterdam in the strait take it all in stride.
Friends know that Sara and I often travel on and write about cruise ships, and occasionally we’re asked if we are at all nervous while doing this job.
For three days on the Queen Elizabeth 2 in the fall of 1986, we probably should have been concerned. Instead, we rolled with the punches as that mighty vessel fought through a gale and heavy seas with a broken stabilizer. That’s another story — and probably a good one for a later edition of BoneVoyage.us (this blog).
Last year, I might have been a little apprehensive as my ship, the 86,000-ton Nieuw Amsterdam aproached the Strait of Messina. That’s the narrow strip of water between the toe of Italy’s boot and the large Mafia-legendary island of Sicily.
That narrow gap was where Odysseus, that ancient mariner of the Mediterranean, was forced to navigate carefully between Scylla and Charybdis. If you remember your Odyssey, Scylla was a six-headed creature who occupied a cliff on one side of the two-mile-wide channel and Charybdis was a monstrous whirlpool stirring up trouble along the opposite bank.
According to Homer, Odysseus’ ship managed to skirt Charybdis and then scoot through the channel intact. Never mind that he lost a half-dozen members of his crew in the process — one sailor each to feed the six mouths of Scylla.
Our own passage through the strait was smooth and uneventful. No monster appeared, and although there is indeed a large whirlpool still indicated on modern sea charts, the stately flagship of the Holland-America Line was up to the task.
All of our 2000 passengers and 1000 crew members, and the beautiful, black-hulled ship itself, survived intact.