Morning coffee…the very words can bring on a multitude of feelings. Bliss, relief, gratitude, feeling wrapped in luxury. That feeling that no matter what else is wrong in your world, you can handle it as long as you’ve got your morning coffee.

Silhouette of a hand holding a cup and saucer with the open sea in the background.

There is nothing quite like that first cup of coffee on a morning at sea on a relaxing cruise. Photo: Quincy Alivio.

The world is full of stories about coffee. And of stories about travel. And there are so many wonderful stories to be told about coffee and travel. Since my own love affair with both travel and the hot brown liquid gold goes back a long—a very long—time, I want to share some of those stories with you. And since I can’t drink ALL the coffee, in ALL the places, I’ve invited other travel bloggers to bring some of them our way to share with you as well.

This page is where you’ll find the links to those coffee-fueled travel tales. They might be about a favorite café in Madrid, or the ins and outs of coffee culture in Guatemala. Perhaps we’ll have a tale about the favorite cafes of famous writers, or a heart-warming story of a chance encounter with a unique person while traveling and the bonds that chatting over a cup of Sunday morning coffee can create. I’ve queued up one about fika in Stockholm, what it is and why you should definitely indulge in it yourself. Or maybe you’ll read the simple story of how coffee helps a solo woman traveler negotiate through her days while on the road.

We’ll even include some stories about—forgive me, coffee—tea and hot chocolate. And iced coffee. And coffee not drunk in the morning but at any time of day. Maybe even some tips about how to make the perfect cup in a hotel room, or about brewing camp coffee.

Eten & Drinken, a blue-walled cafe in Antwerp, with four chairs on the sidewalk, a place to sit and relax with your morning coffee.

A charming little cafe encountered in the Wolstraat in Antwerp, Belgium. Doesn’t it make you want to just sit awhile, sip a cup, pull out your travel journal or just watch the world go by? Photo: Kristaps Grundsteins

To start this new series, which I’m calling simply “Morning Coffee,” I’ll start with my own most recent tale of coffee and travel. The scene is a giant cruise ship, but also the land of long-ago memory….


My Morning Coffee–in NYC Long Ago and At Sea Today

A long time ago, when I was married and living in New York City, I had to get up every morning and go to an office job. I am not, by any stretch of whatever imagination you might have, a morning person. My husband, on the other hand, was. He would happily roll out of bed at 5 am and go for an early morning walk about the mostly still-sleeping Greenwich Village, our wonderful New York neighborhood. And since he worked from home, he had control of his time, which I did not.

One of the most thoughtful things he did for me on those mornings was to stop at the corner newsstand to buy a copy of the New York Times then go to the Greek deli around the corner and pick up a cup of fresh coffee (extra milk). He would then come home and very gently wake me with a couple of loving pats.

The iconic blue, white and orange go-cup of New York City, with its design of Greek figures dancing around it and the words "We are happy to serve you" printed into a million New Yorkers&#039 memories.

This go-cup design has been an icon of New York City as long as I can remember. So much a symbol of the city has it become that it’s now sold in a ceramic version in some of the city’s museum gift shops. It is inextricably linked with my memories of rule of coffee first in NY.

“Here’s your coffee,” he would say softly. “Here’s your newspaper.” And then he would leave our very tiny apartment, knowing I was not yet up to conversation of any kind. The next 45 minutes or so was my private bliss as I sipped my coffee (extra milk) from the blue-and-white paper cup with the Greek figure dancing forever around it. That cup design was an absolute icon of New York City. I hope it still is.

I spread my New York Times open on the bed—which would soon be folded back into a sofa to create space to move through the room. (Did I mention this apartment was TINY?) I sipped my brown nectar of the gods in the morning quiet and scanned the news of the day until I was awake enough to finally pull myself out of bed and roll into the shower before moving on to face a day of work, people, subway crowds, conversations. I was never sure I could have faced any of it without that solitary cup of morning coffee.

There would be other cups of coffee during the day, even some from a blue-and-white paper cup with a Greek figure dancing around it. But none of them was ever as important as that first one. I used to think that coffee was the glue that held all those Manhattan skyscrapers together. I know, as fact, that it was mine, as well as a husband who knew me well enough to help glue me together each morning to face a day at a job I didn’t want.

Things Change…and Stay the Same

As I write this, many years—nay, decades—later, I am sitting on the miniature balcony of a stateroom on the “Norwegian Joy,” a mammoth Norwegian Cruise Line ship carrying thousands of passengers. At 1,142 feet in length, it’s like one of those 100+-floor New York skyscrapers laid on its side. We are plowing gracefully beyond the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Washington, headed for the Inside Passage of southeast Alaska. Beside me is my beloved sister. Our cabin steward just brought us our morning coffee, accompanied by orange juice and a couple of cinnamon rolls. I find him a worthy successor to the husband who one day, after 25 years, no longer loved me enough to bring me coffee in the morning, much less to stay by my side. It was a hard knock, that, but we survive. And grow. And finally thrive.

I sip my coffee and look beyond the balcony railing. Just yards away and several stories below, the sea rolls away to the horizon as the sun rises brilliant gold over my shoulder. On this “At Sea” day, there is nothing to be seen beyond the balcony but rippling blue water, blue sky, and that stripe of golden sun painting itself across the Pacific Ocean. The ship rocks ever-so-gently as she chugs through the sea, making my balcony chair into a cradle. That small, regular movement is a heartbeat, uplifting, reassuring. As reassuring as the rich smell of the coffee warming my hand in its ceramic cup and the fact an entire pot sits on the counter a few feet away, available for instant refills as necessary.

Our petite balcony on the Norwegian Joy cruise ship, with an armchair, a tiny table with coffee and pastries, and the open sea beyond. Morning Coffee.

Morning coffee on a petite balcony on the Norwegian Joy cruise ship, at sea en route to the Inside Passage of southeast Alaska. How to have a perfect morning.

We scan the pages of the “Freestyle Daily,” the ship’s bulletin that outlines the many activities available to us today on this huge and beehive-busy cruise ship. It’s not the New York Times, but it is perfect for our needs at this moment. We have not yet decided how to spend the day. For sure, we will eat. And eat. And then eat some more. Perhaps we will watch the auction of some really bad art. Or stroll along the promenade deck. We might watch the kids and their dads roaring around the go-kart racing track on the top deck. Maybe we will play a cut-throat game of Scrabble in the game room. Or there is always the excitement of the casino.

Or perhaps, just perhaps, I will spend the bulk of the day right where I am, just sitting on this balcony, sipping hot coffee and watching the Pacific roll gently by. Yes, that sounds like an excellent idea.


Join the Conversation–YOUR Morning Coffee

A lidded go-cup and a pile of colorful French macarons.

Morning coffee and French macarons… what could be better, in Paris or wherever you find them? Photo: Rui Sameshima.

I have several stories of coffee and travel to share with you already. But I’d love to have more of these “Morning Coffee Tales” to publish on the blog with links from this page. Do you have one to tell?

Do you have a coffee story about how a cup of joe saved your trip, or taught you a lesson, or introduced you to an aspect of a foreign culture you would otherwise have missed? Do you have a favorite hidden-away café in a foreign city you’re willing to share, letting us in on the secret of what makes it so great? Do you know where to get the best coffee to go with a colorful collection of perfect French macarons in Montmartre or Montreal? Or a narrative of how a chance encounter over coffee made you a new friend? Let me know!

Contact NomadWomen with your coffee stories and ideas through the contact form below. I can’t use them all, but I will use the best and most intriguing. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can, probably with a cup of coffee in my hand.