"It was amazing," he recalled during an interview a few weeks ago. "It was everything I ever imagined."
His previous effort to make the trip had ended when inclement weather forced the cruise ship line to divert its route. This time he managed to witness the dramatic world first hand, hobnob with scientists and to bring home a memory he will cherish for the rest of his life.
This year he won't have to travel so many thousands of miles to accomplish something he has never done before. He only has to make the trip to the southern most point of Hudson County where he will sail from the former Military Ocean Terminal for this first time, taking advantage of the opening of port.
Miller is the author of over 60 books on ocean liners present and past and frequently takes cruises lecturing other passengers about the history and future of the cruise ship industry. Some of his books have been translated into other languages. He is frequently consulted as an expert by news media.
Most recently, he made appearance on ABC and NBC when a cruise ship was overcome by rough weather. He said the box-like designs of modern cruise ships make them more susceptible to such problems than the sleeker ships of the past.
On May 22, he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award from the United States Maritime Conservancy at Philadelphia's Union League Club. On May 28, he will receive the Silver Riband Award from the Ocean Liner Council at the South Street Seaport Museum, where he serves as adjunct curator of the Ocean Liner Council collection.
Miller, moved to Secaucus in the early 1990s, has taught nearly 40 years in the Hoboken school system, and when he wasn't teaching, he was off on a trip on a cruise ship, putting his experience as well as tidbits of other people's memories into his books.
These volumes deal with nearly every aspect of modern and historic cruise ships. Over the year, he has appeared on television program and lecture halls, talking about adventures on the high seas. He once served as the historical for the American Merchant Marine Academy Museum, the executive director of the Port of New York branch of the World Ship Society and the executive director of New York's annual Harbor Festival.
Miller saw the end of the golden age
For most of his life, Miller has had to squeeze his trips into his school calendar, scheduling his trips for summer and winter vacations - or during those rare breaks when he got more than a weekend off from teaching. Since retiring from teaching, however, Miller has spent most of his time at sea, and often managing to sail on the best ships in the industry.
"Since its maiden voyage, I've sailed on the Queen Mary Two 12 times," he said.
In June, he said he will take his first cruise out of Bayonne's Port Liberty, testing the facilities as to how they handle things. He said New York City's west side has long become a burden for the cruise ship passenger, because of the difficulty of getting in and out of the site. Cruise ships, he said, have to unload, then reload within a very short period of time. This means handling disembarking passengers and luggage, loading supplies, then taking on the passengers embarking for the next cruise. With the largest ships this means 12,000 getting off and another 12,000 getting on over the course of a day.
"It is very congested on the West Side," he said. "It may be that the days of sailing out of Manhattan may be over."
He predicted places like Bayonne and Brooklyn Heights may become the new centers of cruise traveling in the Metropolitan area.
Going to Bayonne may seem a little odd, since Miller grew up at a time when Cruise ships still sailed from Hoboken and Bayonne was known for its Military Ocean Terminal, not for cruises.
A new golden age of cruise travel?Miller saw many of the great cruise ships as a boy, wandering down from his Hoboken home to the piers where they were docked. He said he could never get enough of watching the ships sailing in and out. He got to see ships like The Imperator, The Constitution, The Independence, The Mauritania, The New Amsterdam, The Leviathan and the host of other ships that used Hoboken as their port.
Yet even as he viewed these ships back then, Miller knew he was witnessing the end of an era, that the flood of freight into Hoboken and the great cruise ships would soon begin to vanish. The golden age was over and he was lucky just to get a brief glimpse of it before it went.
But a new golden age seems to be on the rise, and Miller has witnessed the rebirth of the cruise ship industry, as new and amazing ships take to the water. What these new ships lack in the sense of style the old ships had, they make up for in modern comforts. In fact, the modern revival has already surpassed the past in sheer numbers he said with 16 million people traveling by cruise ships last year.
"This is the greatest number in history," he said.
Miller said his seven-day trip to Bermuda out of Bayonne in June will be among 15 cruises he will take this year.
He said he will be writing about the operations in Bayonne, how easy it is to get on and off, comparing the feeling to how it is to travel out of New York City - although he already believes that Bayonne's proximity to roadways and an international airport give it an edge to facilities elsewhere.