Here on our porch in South Georgia with birds singing and the nearest seashore more than two hours away, it’s hard to believe we actually sailed across the Caribbean last week. But memories are lingering of a wide blue sea that stretched to the sky with no shoreline in sight, no tall buildings, no sailboats, most of the time not even a bird. The night sky was black, pricked with stars. We were lulled to sleep by the gentle, yet constant roll and throb of the ship making its way across the undulating waves.
Our ship was the Miracle, a vessel of the Carnival line. We were traveling from Port Tampa Bay to Grand Cayman Island to Roatan Isle in Honduras’s Mahogany Bay to Belize and, finally, Cozumel Island on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. And then back to Tampa Bay!
Life on the ship was like no other experience. We had been on a couple of cruises before but each one is so different. With 2,300 passengers aboard, it seemed like a small town afloat. Nine hundred employees were constantly serving us in dining areas, in staterooms, on decks and giving us talented entertainment each night. We found ourselves in a fairyland. Everywhere we went these beautiful people from the Philippines, from India, from Indonesia and France and England knew our names and greeted us like well loved friends.
Our stateroom was very pleasant and comfortable and even had a balcony. We often sat there to read or just talk and watch the waves. One day, far out at sea, I saw a small white bird flying. I tried to point him out to Charles who convinced me it couldn’t be a bird. Okay, we both have cataracts so I suppose we can see things that aren’t there, as well as missing things that are. But then I spied the little bird again, flying close above the whitecaps. I was really worried about that bird. Where would it ever rest? Why was it all alone? Charles sized up the situation thus: “He’ll be a nice bite for some hungry fish.”
Whole days at sea were fun. There was a wonderful sea day brunch in the main dining room. There was time to visit the library, the chapel, the putt-putt golf course, walk the decks in a strong wind, warm up at the coffee shop, study pictures in the art gallery and still have time for sitting on the balcony and even taking a nap. We also enjoyed conversations with many people, some gospel conversations, as we call them. We had prayed ahead of time for opportunities to share news of our Savior, and God opened many windows.
The excursions we chose were not at all what our children and grandchildren would have gone for. We didn’t go snorkeling or scuba diving though Belize and Cozumel are famous for their beautiful coral reefs. We didn’t choose to swim with the dolphins. My granddaughter says, “What’s wrong with you? I would have loved that!” “I don’t swim that well,” I told her to which she said, “But the dolphins would carry you.” “Yes, but where?” I asked her. We didn’t go zip lining as we knew our son would do. In fact, a couple of ladies our age were going zip lining for the first time ever. But we chose activities that wouldn’t throw us into having back surgery. We did mind expanding treks through the forest and along the seashore, took opportunities to study plants of the islands and see the beautiful birds. And we did have adventures!
In Grand Cayman we climbed down into a semi-submarine to visit a coral reef. We could view coral like an undersea garden–fantastic formations in wonderful colors, tunnels, mountains, groves of soft and hard coral with fish enjoying every twist and turn. The fish came right to our windows. We saw two old shipwrecks also. Later, on Grand Cayman I held a plate-size young sea turtle at the turtle center.
Our bus waddled through a narrow street of one tiny village in Honduras where people in tattered clothes smiled expectantly only inches away. We wandered with our guide in the Cerambula Gardens smelling allspice and cinnamon leaves, identi-fying a royal palm, and tasting fresh fruit. Our bus climbed high on rough roads till we could see far out, the blue waters of the Caribbean framed by mahogany trees, flowering ginger and other lush growth. We arrived at a small chocolate factory where the delightful scents almost overpowered us.
In Belize we rode with four others on a high powered air boat. We skimmed across a shallow lake at a hair pulling high speed, then stopped suddenly in a tunnel of mysterious, non-negotiable swamp growth where our very funny guide helped us identify some of the birds.
We both have chosen our excursion to Mayan ruins outside of Cozumel as our favorite. We had an excellent guide who lectured us most interestingly on the forty minute ride from the city to the ruins, as well as throughout our discovery of this 1,000 year old religious compound. Jorge, our guide, is himself 50% Mayan, his mother being full Mayan, his father Mexican. He is passionate about letting visitors know all they can about his people. For instance, the ruins are called Tulum, so named by a man from New Jersey. Tulum, he said, means “stinky place.” But Jorge says the Mayans call it Zommer (hope I got that right, Jorge!) which means sunrise. This is the first place in Mexico to receive the sunrise each day.
We sat with the same folks each night in the formal dining room. It was fun getting to know Jay and Winnie Luckett from North Carolina and Edward and Madeline Noriega from Tampa. We all six enjoyed talking with our servers each night as we tried to choose the best appetizers and entrees–and desserts! The atmosphere was always charged with holiday spirit as we shared what we had done that day and what the next plan included. We shared pictures of our families on the last night and exchanged e-mails like happy campers.
The morning we approached Tampa coming back, I awoke to different sounds, ship whistles, a train in the distance, and, yes, water lapping the shore. Water lapping the shore was such a sweet and comfortable sound like Grandma sipping tea. I sat up quickly to look out. Sure enough, lights glistened on the shoreline. We stood on our balcony watching the drama of our ship’s docking.
Contemplations of the Caribbean–a thousand different shades of green and blue water, bright flowers, lovely dark faces, nimble fingers weaving palm fronds into baskets, sounds of music and dancing, throb and lull of the ship as it carried us safely through the nights, strangers who quickly became friends…..
My summary: God is good all the time and everywhere. In the words of Robert Louis Stevenson (but not as a requiem!) “Home is the sailor home from the sea, and the hunter home from the hill.”