How many Hoboken natives can say they have travelled to 142 countries? Bill Miller, who grew up near 12th and Garden streets in Hoboken, is known in the cruise ship community as “Mr. Ocean Liner.”
The former Hoboken social studies teacher now travels the world as a lecturer, curator and sometimes reviewer of cruise ships. His fascination with life at sea began in the Mile Square City.
“It was a combination of things,” Miller said. “Growing up in Hoboken in the ‘50s, and being inspired by school teachers, who were mostly women, who would travel off in the summer on great trips and would tell me about it.”
So Miller followed in the footsteps of those who had inspired him.
“When we pass by, I always mention Hoboken and my connection.” – Bill Miller
Sharing with the children of Hoboken
When Miller began teaching in 1970, he spent his summers and breaks cruising the world, usually on his own dime. When he returned, he would share his stories with the children of Hoboken. He began lecturing in the late 1970s.
“I used to show slideshows of my journeys,” Miller said. “The children always wanted to know about two things: the Titanic and the future of ships.”
Miller’s travels have taken him to such far-flung places as the Balkans, Antarctica, Asia, and Moscow. His favorite destination is England, because of the “scenery blended with the great history.”
While one aspect of cruising may keep some away, Miller has had the good fortune of never becoming seasick.
“I haven’t been seasick in my life,” Miller said. “The worst seas I ever had was in Norway in the winter. I had to crawl across the floor, and hold onto the bed when I was sleeping. It was a small mail boat. I was hired by the Norwegian tourism bureau.”
All types of ships
Miller also used to travel on cargo ships.
“Cargo ships are interesting because there are only 10 passengers,” Miller said. “I went on a banana boat to South America, and that was for 42 days.”
Now, his experiences are much more pleasant.
“Mostly, I’m on these five star ships where they chew the meat for you,” Miller joked.
He said the best part of cruise ships is “the food and the service.”
Peter Ising, another former Hoboken public school teacher, has travelled on cruises with Miller.
“I’ve been to some snarky hotels,” Ising said. “But these places make your bed twice a day.”
Miller also serves as a curator at the South Street Seaport, as well as speaker on cruise lines. He is home only 165 days a year, and fills his Secaucus condo with items that remind him of the seas, including 1,200 ship models.
Bayonne: The gateway to the world
Miller has also written 77 books thus far, and is contracted to write nine more.
He has sailed from all over the world, and that includes Bayonne.
“I sailed from Bayonne when the port first opened in 2005,” Miller said. Although Miller never imagined Bayonne as a cruise terminal destination, he gives the port a positive review.
“It’s extremely efficient, user friendly, and very easy for people who live in North Jersey,” Miller said.
Miller sailed from Bayonne to Bermuda. He also once sailed from Spain and ended up in Bayonne. But in 1992, in what was certain to be a rare passage, Miller rode on a cargo ship from Brazil to Newark.
On Nov. 21 at 3 p.m., aboard the Yankee ship near the 13th Street slip, a documentary about Bill Miller’s life will be presented to the Hoboken community. Completed by a friend of Miller’s, it features 26 interviews with different people talking about him and his passion for ships.
“It tells the story of me growing up in Hoboken, and teaching,” Miller said. “But it’s mostly about having a passion for something.”
If you look to your right…
Miller also narrates over the loudspeaker when he sails on even the fanciest ships from New York City. He always remembers his roots and shares that association with those on board.
“When we pass by, I always mention Hoboken and my connection,” Miller said.
So the next time a cruise ship passes, and when everyone is seemingly looking at the skyline of New York, if “Mr. Ocean Liner” Bill Miller is on the microphone, for at least a brief moment, the attention of the ship will be directed west, toward the Mile Square City.