It was the 2013 cruise that started it.

Our constant globetrotting companions – Chantal’s Netherlands-based cousin Chris, and Chris’ husband Filiep – were to mark their tenth wedding anniversary that December. Chantal and I had married the previous January, after several years in a common-law relationship. We hadn’t travelled together since our trans-Europe trek in 2011. So we jointly thought to celebrate our good fortune with a rare extravagance: two weeks aboard the Celebrity Infinity out of Miami, stopping first in Colombia (Cartagena), transiting westbound from Colón through the Panama Canal to Panama City, and then along the Pacific coast to Ecuador (Manta), Peru (Lima), and three stops in Chile (Arica, Coquimbo, and Valparaiso).

We would depart December 7 and return to Canada on the 24th. (The evening of which we had delusionally committed to a lavish Christmas party for family and friends. One half-day to decorate the house and wrap gifts wasn’t enough of a challenge, I guess.)

Chantal had already retired a LCol after 25 years in the RCAF, and was five years into a civilian gig at the Strategic Joint Staff. I was Director of Marketing and Communications at Chamberfest. Neither of us was seriously contemplating retirement. But we did have vague notions of life beyond work – preferably in some balmy, paradisiacal locale. The Panama cruise offered compelling opportunities for research.

I won’t bother with the specifics of our trip. This blog is about other things. Suffice to say we ate until our clothing surrendered, drank ourselves into a cirrhotic blur, and gamely participated in those riotous onboard activities that only cruise directors and Greek letter organizations appreciate. Ask Filiep about his Indiana Jones performance on Couples Night.

Instead, lets talk about first impressions. Cruises are only ever about first impressions.