Ahoy, Matey: Watching the Tall Ships Sail Into Town

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Here's something you may not know about me: I'm terrified of boats. I mean, looking at boats is fine, but being on the water is difficult for me. It's not so much that I'm afraid of water (I can swim!) so much as I'm afraid of what's in the water, including everything from fish to jellyfish to sharks.

Of course, there are no jelllyfish or sharks in Lake Erie, so my fear of river water is slightly less aggressive than my fear of the ocean (which is a significant, anxiety-producing fear). I did, however, have a panic attack while boating on the Potomac River, & I once vomited over the side of the ferry on the way to Put-In-Bay Island.

I am very fun, I know.

But like I said, I am not afraid of boats themselves, per se - & in fact, I'm fascinated by them, perhaps precisely because I'm afraid to be on them. (This was a quirky little fear to have when I was dating a Coast Guardsman, by the way, given that my then-boyfriend spent months at sea.)

This year, I entered an Instagram giveaway & was the lucky winner of four VIP tickets to the CLE Tall Ships Festival's Parade of Sail Captains' Reception, plus an overnight stay at the Hilton Cleveland Downtown. So cool, right?!

I've been wanting to check out the Tall Ships festival for years now, but it only comes to town every so often, & the event is supposedly packed full of people - so we jumped on the opportunity to attend a smaller preview event that would allow us to see the ship up close without having to also be up close to thousands of other attendees.

Mike & I invited my mom & her friend Jen to join us at the festival/reception, & we watched together as the ships paraded sailed by, one by one, & were introduced to the crowds.

These 11 ships - some replicas & others restored - had come from the U.S., Canada, & even New Zealand; Oliver Hazard Perry's U.S. Brig was even there, the "Don't give up the ship!" ship from the Battle of Lake Erie. Some were (wo)manned by adult crews & others, like the Denis Sullivan from Canada, were educational ships partially crewed by teens & young adults.

Needless to say, it was very cool - & the perfect day for it.

We didn't get to go on any of the ships - that was reserved for ticket-holders during the festival itself & for a select, lucky few who attended the VIP event as part of a sponsorship party - but we did get up close & personal with them after they'd docked, exploring a few ship-related exhibits & even posing with the ship that appears on the Canadian dime!

Mayor Frank Jackson spoke, as did a few others, & we ate & drank while checking out the ships, enjoying the sunset view, & watching a few dudes dressed as pirates interact with the crowd. Because ships, right?

Afterward, Mike & I cooled off with cocktails from Bar 32 on the top floor of the hotel before heading down to the hotel room we'd won for the evening. There were two queen-sized beds, & as much as we love each other, you'd better believe we each took one of them!

He works downtown, so he was gone by the time I woke up in the morning, off to his office just down the street. It was incredibly luxurious to wake up in a hotel on a work day, & I spent the rest of my day working from the hotel lobby, which was cool & air-conditioned, with relatively inexpensive coffee & breakfast options.

On my way out, I came across a piece of artwork in the hotel that depicts the Cleveland city skyline, made up of tiny, square photos submitted by residents. I submitted a few photos for it looooong ago, when they were first building this hotel to open in time for the 2016 Republican National Convention - & there I am, right up front!

I snagged a kind hotel staffer & asked him to take my picture in front of my picture. Afterward, I spent some time look for other familiar faces & found plenty of them, including fellow bloggers Alicia of Always Alicia & Shibani of Bombay Taxi Boutique. So fun, right?

I don't often win Instagram giveaways, but if you're gonna win only every once in while, go big & win a really great one. I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to do be a tourist in my own city this way, & I can't thank the Hilton Cleveland Downtown enough for hosting such a fun giveaway.

Disclosure: I was not asked or required to write about these experiences as a condition of winning. I simply entered an Instagram giveaway like a regular human & decided I wanted to write about it here. That said, the entire experience was comped. Because that's how winning works. 

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