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Holistic Holiday at Sea, Part 4 March 12, 2012

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Lino Stancich instructs passengers on the art of self-massage for healing on the top deck of the MSC Poesia.

THIRTY THOUSAND FEET OVER THE GULF OF MEXICO – It’s hard to believe it was just a week ago that I made this journey in reverse, catching my pre-dawn flight in Guadalajara, deplaning in Miami to find my Dad relaxed and rosy from the sun at the wheel of a rental car. A week since we found our way to Cruise Terminal 4 in Fort Lauderdale, to the 16-story MSC Poesia, to the Holistic Holiday at Sea, a colorful new community of people joyfully embracing a lifestyle that until now, I’d never contemplated adopting for myself.

I’d given up meat for my Dad, and even dairy for a few weeks – and giving up all animal products on a long-term basis seemed right and proper for my father, who is fighting a grim mesothelioma diagnosis with a self-healing approach. For me, however, it seemed unnecessary and extreme.

But that was before – and this is after.

Holistic Holiday at Sea, Part 3 March 8, 2012

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When Dr. Martha Cottrell turned 50, she was a mess. She suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and severe allergies. She didn’t think it could get much worse – but one day, it did. She was diagnosed with a pre-cancerous lesion of the cervix.

“I was doing everything I had been taught,” she told the audience, an attentive theater full of more than 1,200 vegans and macrobiotics. She had healed thousands in her career as a family practice physician, but she didn’t have a clue what she was doing wrong in terms of her own health.


Healing on the High Seas – Part 2 March 4, 2012

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Sunday dawned somewhere over the high seas, and we emerged poolside to find the yoga instructor cheerily calling out over a stiff ocean breeze: “Remember, surrender all resistance; we’re in battlefield conditions. This will strengthen your practice!”

A hundred pairs of arms reached for the sky as the last shades of pink faded away, and another brisk troupe circled the track overhead. “Just go to the edge of your comfort zone – remember, it’s vacation yoga!”

It’s morning workout time on the MSC Poesia, the chartered cruise line for the Holistic Holiday at Sea, and poolside chats are at a minimum – 1,200 cruise passengers are here with a mission, and I’m no exception.

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I’m here with my parents – Dad, who has recently made the switch from meat-and-potatoes guy to hardcore macrobiotic in an attempt to beat back a terminal cancer diagnosis, and it didn’t take long to find we’re surrounded by kindred spirits. For them, it’s not just a cruise; it’s a matter of life or death.

Healing on the High Seas March 3, 2012

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Freelance writer Tracy Barnett is reporting from the Caribbean from the Holistic Holiday at Sea, She will be documenting the holistic cruise over the next week through a series of blog entries. Stay tuned!


Gary Brunk, recently diagnosed with mesothelioma, is fighting for his life with a holistic health regimen, accompanied by his wife Judy (left) and daughter Tracy L. Barnett, a travel writer. The trio set sail this week with the Holistic Holiday at Sea, a macrobiotic healing cruise.


AIRBORNE OVER MEXICO – Six months ago, when my father was first diagnosed with terminal cancer, my friend Michelle responded right away.

“You should take him on the holistic health cruise,” she said. I dismissed the idea at once – in the first place, I don’t like the idea of cruises anyway – a floating hotel at sea, I’ve always imagined them. I’m an independent traveler who chafes at the cumbersomeness of groups of more than two. Besides, on my Dad’s rapidly dwindling retired factory worker budget, and my freelance budget, who was going to pay for it?

“Nonsense,” said Michelle. “You’re a travel writer. Pitch this to some magazines. You can do it.”

She was talking about Holistic Holiday at Sea, a cruise dedicated to macrobiotic eating, yoga, meditation and a whole regimen of wellness strategies. I contacted Sandy Pukel, the cruise organizer, hoping he’d give us a discount that would work with our budgets. He was reluctant. His cruises always sell out, he pointed out, and there’s already been plenty of publicity. But he left the door open, and I began pitching the story to magazines.

Meanwhile, Dad was struggling with the decision of a lifetime. He had paid a visit to the state’s best cancer center, where they had given him a grim prognosis, delivered by a cheery doctor named Maria in a rapid-fire technobabble: Mesothelioma, nearly always fatal within a year of diagnosis. With chemotherapy, he might hope to live a few more months. It was already probably too advanced for surgery, and radiation for the lining of the lungs was not advised.