Couple cruises to visit far-flung destinations

| January 31, 2019 | 0 Comments
OWEN AND REATHA SMITH view the terracotta warriors in Shaanxi province, China.

Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council (GWNC) President and Brookside resident Owen Smith and his wife, Reatha, have seen the world. Over the past decades, they visited Russia, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Thailand, Hong Kong, China, Japan, South America, Hungary, France, Canada, Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, Greece, the Falkland Islands, Germany, Austria, Italy… I could go on, but I would run out of space. How did they get to visit so many exotic places? Cruise ships, both large and small.

“We always try to take at least one cruise per year,” says Owen, “but sometimes we do three or four.”

The Smiths were introduced to cruising through their friend Jim Wolf, chairman of the Park Mile Design Review Board, vice president of the GWNC, and immediate past president of the Hancock Park Home Owners Association.

When Owen and Reatha’s children were younger, the Smiths would take the family on cruises to destinations such as Hawaii, but then would send the young ones home and continue on to more distant destinations such as Japan.

They’ve embarked on about 40 different large and small ocean and river cruise ships, including Tauck, Viking, Renaissance, Holland America, Norwegian and Crystal cruise lines. Their current favorite is Crystal Cruises.

“We enjoy Crystal the most because they don’t seem to nickel and dime you for everything,” says Owen. “They have good cabins and decks to sit on, and they have a great wine selection with each course. I always eat too much. I gained 15 pounds on the last trip!”

When Owen and Reatha were younger, they enjoyed many of the smaller cruise lines, but now that they are older, they find that the larger cruise ships serve their needs better.

“The smaller lines seem to involve a lot of walking,” says Owen. “As we’ve grown older, we find it easier to take the larger cruise ships and then to hire a car when we get into the ports.”

One of Owen’s favorite memories is of a visit to Prague in the Czech Republic.

“We rented a street car for approximately two hours,” remembers Owen. “We asked where we were going and the conductor said, ‘Wherever the tracks go!’ We had a conductor, a brakeman and an accordion player. As we went around town, people tried to board, but they were shooed away. They couldn’t figure out this streetcar with so few people on board with music … that they couldn’t board!”

Since Owen and Reatha have been cruising for so long, they’ve also been able to experience the changing political winds of the United States as viewed by residents of foreign countries.

“When Kennedy was president, people loved America,” remembers Owen. “When George W. Bush was president, people in Austria and Holland were apprehensive of Bush. I think it had to do with the Iraq War and they seemed afraid they’d get pulled into it. Things were good again under Obama, and not very good under our current president.”

Owen and Reatha have used their time cruising to see everything from the world’s most famous waterfalls to the glaciers of Lake Louise to the Yangtze River, and they even viewed Falkland Island penguins in their natural habitat.

Does Owen have any regrets about his vast travels?

“I bought a large rug in Hong Kong and had to roll it up, pay the duty and deal with the complications of sending it home,” laughs the avid traveler. “When I got back to L.A., I realized I could have gone down to Chinatown and bought the same rug for half the price!”

After exploring so much of the planet, where will Owen and Reatha go next?

“New Zealand and Australia,” says Owen. “We’ve never been there, and we want to see the animals that are unique to that area and spend time in the museums. Every place is different,” he continues. “Every place is special.”

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Category: People

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