Thursday, November 13, 2014

Two weeks at sea: Booze, babes and a spiritual epiphany

After a rough few days, the sea grew inexplicably calm.
I was lost in a world created by John Grisham, deep into his latest novel and paying little attention to my last day at sea. The always lovely Miss Wendy and I were nestled comfortably in a cozy corner of the Brilliance of the Seas, enjoying the final leg of a two-week journey that started in Boston and would end the next day in Tampa.

Our little holiday swept us -- and a few thousand other passengers from around the world -- along the eastern coast of the U.S., into the warm and quiet waters of the Caribbean. We spent restful days sailing around a dozen or so islands just north of South America, stopping briefly at ports in St. Kitts and St. Lucia, Barbados, Curaçao and Aruba.

I did mention there was booze, right? And babes! Okay, truth to tell, most of the ship's passengers -- including the babes -- were born when Truman was in the White House, Frank Sinatra was atop all the musical charts, the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn and the "Cold War" was warming up!

Let's just agree it was a "mature" crowd that was out and about and enjoying the sun and tropical breezes, maneuvering our way around the massive ship filled with twists and turns and decks of steps. The getting from here to there was almost always worth the effort, even for folks using canes, walkers or motorized scooters!

I did mention there was booze, right?

On deck 11 of the Brilliance was a massive buffet, the Windjammer, that magically morphed from breakfast to lunch to dinner each day, the cherry on our holiday sundae. Below decks there were additional restaurants and specialty cafes; bars and bistros; spas, pools, hot tubs and comfy nooks for sunning; a fitness center and exercise rooms.

A seven-floor atrium was centrally located in the belly of the beast, often filled with music, dancing and a wide assortment of entertainment; surrounded by additional bars, cafes and a mini-shopping mall stocked with high-end jewelry, low-end tchotchkes and, wait for it, duty-free booze!

On decks five and six near the front of the ship, the Pacifica Theatre opened its door each evening for shows featuring the Brilliance of the Seas Orchestra and a gaggle of the most entertaining performers -- Bruce Smirnoff, Greg London, Zoe Tyler -- whose mugs you might spot if you ever google "B" list talent.

That said, I need to add they were a special group, entertainers doing their schtick -- comics, singers, a vintriloquist and juggler. They were, without exception, consummate professionals offering up a perfect way to end each perfect day. I did mention the booze thing, right?

So there I was on my last full day of cruising, the very definition of chilled out -- rested and relaxed and working my way through yet another novel, the third in less than two weeks. I happened to look off in the distance and spotted the sun dipping behind a cloud, then noticed that the Caribbean had gone still.

I was so taken by the moment, that I wandered over to a nearby railing and felt a gentle breeze whipping about the ship. The sea was inexplicably calm, a pristine expanse of water reaching out to the horizon that was preternaturally smooth, rays of golden sunshine mirrored in the quiet deep.

The world, at least for an instant, had become a place of aching beauty, a bit of truth and poetry that, frankly, touched my heart. I'm not a particularly religious sort of guy, but the 23rd Psalm popped into my noggin.

He leads me beside still waters; He restores my soul.

A moment later life took hold yet again, filled with the sounds of folks at play, enjoying the day and one another. I returned to my lounge chair, Miss Wendy and Mr. Grisham. And I couldn't help but smile when I realized my biggest decision on this afternoon was deciding whether to order a Margarita or a Piña Colada.

I solved the problem by ordering both!

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