Conservatism Goes on a Cruise

Drummed out of Washington and fleeing Wall Street, conservatives are presently at sea.

And that's exactly where you'll find some of the Right's most influential thinkers in the coming months, leading a diverse array of starboard-friendly cruise groups. On these voyages, the best part of re-grouping and rethinking political strategy is that you're invited to participate!

Book now if you're interested in joining Newt Gingrich, Oliver North, Ed Meese, and Wayne LaPierre for ten days on the Baltic -- round-trip from Copenhagen -- departing June 12. There's only one cabin left on this Holland America cruise group sponsored by the Freedom Alliance and the NRA.

PJTV contributor and radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt sets sail out of London on July 3 for a two-week Celtic Kingdoms voyage. Holland America's Prinsendam will carry you to destinations including Edinburgh, Belfast, Dublin, Cardiff, and Guernsey. On board will be literature professor (at Annapolis!) and Shakespeare authority Dr. David Allen White, as well as the film critic who appears on Hugh's radio program every Friday -- Emmett of the Unblinking Eye. This juxtaposition of expert perspectives on classic and contemporary culture could spark some lively conversations around the dinner table.

Hugh Hewitt may be the smartest radio talk host of them all. He speaks with authority on topics including the law, Christianity, the blogosphere, and political races around the country. Ask him which battles are worth fighting as the Republican Party repairs itself electorally. My wife and I enjoyed a past "Hugh Cruise" and made a couple of lasting friendships within the group. Another plus: this is the only itinerary where you'll be able to speak with all the natives in English!

If you'd prefer a more exotic and dangerous journey this summer, consider SpyCruise 2009, sailing the Black Sea from July 11 through July 23. You'll start in Istanbul, then it's on to Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, and Greece. Retired CIA, KGB, and RCMP officers will brief you via lectures and social events. The expert guides will show you Kim Philby's base of operations in Istanbul, Stalin's secret dacha in Sochi, the czar's summer palace in Yalta, and the base of the Soviet submarine fleet in Balaklava. This sailing, on the Oceana Nautica, is sponsored through the Center for Counterintelligence and Security Studies -- a counterintelligence, counterterrorism, and security training center. We'd list the names of your expert hosts here, but then ... that information is classified.

There's no secret about the big names of conservatism aboard the National Review's voyage on Holland America's ms Noordam, from July 8 through July 18. While Major League Baseball's All-Stars are suiting up in St. Louis, your batting order on the Mediterranean and Adriatic will be John Bolton, Tony Blankley, Karl Rove, Dick Morris, George Gilder, Gov. Pete DuPont, Cal Thomas, Christina Hoff Sommers, and Michael Novak -- plus NR's impressive lineup of home team players led by editor Rich Lowry.

The itinerary includes plenty of panels, meals, and social gatherings, so expect opportunities to exchange ideas in small groups or on the spur of the moment. Even if a guest isn't on your list for the dinner rotation, have a question ready. If you wind up standing next to Karl Rove during the life boat drill, ask him about his new book. The next time your liberal friends start hammering you about the Bush Administration, you'll stop them in their tracks with "all I can tell you is what Karl Rove told me."

The NR group is large, but spending time with several hundred conservatives from all over the country should be uplifting at a time when the magazine racks are still aglow with smiling Obama covers. In the magazine's tradition, speakers like Michael Novak and Kate O'Beirne still make NR the cruise of choice among traditionalist Catholics. Writers like Jonah Goldberg and NRO editor Kathryn Lopez appeal to young, tech-savvy, forward thinkers from any background. Dick Morris contributes even more diversity of thought, since the former Clinton strategist is not really a self-identified conservative at all. On our NR cruise, we found he supplied the ballast of pragmatism to panels carrying an abundance of ideologically starboard weight.

Several intellectual heavyweights, including PJM's own Victor Davis Hanson, will cruise the Adriatic in style on the luxurious Crystal Serenity, as Hillsdale College explores the cradle of Western civilization (July 28 through August 9). The Venice to Athens itinerary includes exotic spots like Corfu and Mykonos.

Author and top Fox News star Bill Sammon is the most familiar face in the Hillsdale group. A well-known voice is economist Walter Williams, familiar to many as a substitute host for Rush Limbaugh. Hillsdale President Larry Arnn's onboard brain trust also includes: Presidential Medal of Freedom winner Paul Johnson; John Julius Norwich, an expert on Venice; and Andrew Mango, featured speaker in Istanbul. On Crystal you typically find an older, more prosperous group of travelers.

The Weekly Standard's ten-night Mediterranean cruise (August 7 through August 17) has perhaps the best itinerary of all, a round trip out of Rome circling the Mediterranean. First stop is gorgeous Tuscany, where an 8:00 PM departure leaves time for a bus ride to the museums of Florence. Then it's on to Monte Carlo, Barcelona, and Mallorca. Hopefully the deep thinkers of the conservative movement won't get too distracted by local displays of shameless Euro-hedonism at the height of bikini season.

During two days at sea, the seminars aboard Holland America's ms Noordam will be led by Bill Kristol, Fred Barnes, Terry Eastland, Richard Starr, and Andrew Ferguson, all of the Weekly Standard. European journalist Anne-Elisabeth Moutet will offer expert guidance on the political gyrations of Europe, while high-ranking Bush Administration veteran Elliott Abrams supplies top intelligence on global diplomatic and security matters.

On an earlier cruise my wife and I found the Standard's team especially cohesive and most friendly. The mood was informal, and despite the serious matters being discussed in the seminars, no one forgets that the purpose of a cruise is to have a really good time. The medium-sized group means you'll be eating with different people from the group every night, with time to get to know everyone.

Aboard three conservative cruises we've met farmers, judges, energy workers, a police chief from a college town, a cement salesman with a remarkable memory for funny stories, and an entrepreneur whose business was founding colleges. There's a lot of interaction, plenty of first-person expertise offered, and often the speakers and panelists become listeners. Much as politicians need to spend time "in the district" to reconnect with voters, pundits and authors must also connect with their constituents.

Informal new media like blogs, message board posts, and tweets all have their place in shaping the conservative conversation. Still, sometimes the most effective exchange of ideas takes place in that most traditional of settings -- across the dinner table, an after-dinner drink in hand, on "formal night."