Since the 1970s, my husband, Steve, and I have been eclipse junkies. We’ve driven across multiple state lines and boarded cruise ships in our quest to see a total eclipse of the sun, to experience that unique moment that crosses the ages–a phenomenon prehistoric man also held in wonder.
The goal of every eclipse junkie is to reach the line of totality, where the alignment is such that the moon completely obscures the sun, turning day to dusk, leaving visible only a dazzling circumference of corona.
With 30-plus years of eclipse-chasing experience, we’ve come to realize that weather can be fickle. On land, cloud cover can be so widespread you can’t drive around it in time to see a phenomenon as fleeting as an eclipse.
We’ve discovered the most reliable way to see a solar eclipse is aboard a cruise ship. There are no guarantees about the weather, of course, but nothing beats a dedicated ship captain with the latest in weather technologies to spot and avoid cloud banks.
Steve and I came about our hobby early in our marriage. Steve is a chemist and we have always shared an interest in science. While living on the East Coast in 1970, I remember hearing about a solar eclipse. We weren’t in the line of totality, but we saw the pictures and heard the stories about what an amazing experience it was. We had to see one, too.
Our chance came in 1979. By then living in Denver, we packed our 8- and 5-year-olds in the car and drove the 12 hours to northern Montana, to reach the line of totality. The children still tease us about this unusual family vacation, but I’ll never forget that chilly February day and the eerie, yet wonderful moment when our humble moon eclipsed the mighty sun.
We were hooked. Our next opportunity was 1991. Steve and I traveled to Mazatlan, specifically to be in the optimum position to view the total eclipse. From our perch on land, the clouds rolled in just at the moment of totality, totally blocking the sun. In the distance, we heard the sounds of luckier eclipse watchers, starting their boats to go out to sea beyond the clouds.
We learned a lesson…perhaps chances were better at sea than on land. Come 1998, a total eclipse was set for Aruba and environs. We booked a southern Caribbean cruise aboard Dawn Princess with eight other eclipse chaser friends and cruised from lush port to port, relaxing on our balcony and having superb adventures en route to Aruba. We weren’t the only such group, the cruise ship was an eclipse special, filled with fellow junkies from around the world. Princess Cruises had even booked astronaut Buzz Aldrin as a guest speaker to educate and inform.
When eclipse day dawned to clouds and sprinkles of rain, we worried that once again we’d miss the big moment. But the wonderful captain of Dawn Princess guided us to clear skies and a flawless viewing of the total eclipse.
An unexpected grace note came shortly before totality when a pod of dolphins came up to check out what was happening with the sun! They, like us, seemed to be awestruck.
We humans stood in silence on deck as the earth and moon shifted, the skies darkened and the full eclipse emerged. There was a gasp, as we shared this unforgettable event, this basic human experience that had thrilled and frightened since the beginning of mankind.
It’s moments like this that we eclipse junkies live for.
This November, Steve and I have booked a balcony room on Dawn Princess again, this time on a cruise to Australia for the next total eclipse of the sun.
We know that if there are clear skies to be found, that the captain will find them for us and we will again witness the awe-inspiring experience of seeing the moon eclipse the sun. Dolphins, don’t forget to come check it out!
Joan lives in Grand Lake, Colo. and has enjoyed two Princess cruises with a third cruise booked for November.