By Sandra Dempsey Post
Author’s Note: ” Life changes with or without our permission,” I wrote in this article’s second paragraph. Little did I know when submitting it on February 27th for April’s publication how pertinent those words would be less than one month later. This article features reminiscing and some hard-earned wisdom. It seemed innocent when I wrote it, but the COVID-19 pandemic reminds us not to take for granted even the smallest of blessings. Remember to cherish loved ones and memories and life while there’s still time.
Vacations always included souvenir shopping when I was young. Years later when my three children were old enough to view various treasures for sale, they were even more enthused than their mother. Perhaps we all believed that in some charming unexplained way the joy of vacation would carry over if we had something tangible to recall all the fun. Sometimes that happened, even when I wasn’t so young, but typically the luster on the clothing and novelties began fading much sooner than the memories.
Older, and hopefully wiser, I now savor observations, conversations, and the awareness of human evolvement that happens from experiences, rarely things. Vacation preferences are many and varied. As a child, I thought amusement parks were the ultimate thrill. Later, shopping opportunities drew my attention, and lessened my savings account. When my children became part of the vacation fun, we spent more time in kid friendly places, and the sense of enjoyment traveled full circle and right back to amusement parks. Now I’ve become my mother, always looking for a bench to sit down after standing in lines that wind around much more than when I was a kid. Sometimes I barely recognize myself as I look for quiet charming places where fun isn’t costly or crowded, and quaint is still comfortable and affordable. My husband will even ask, “Do you want to go in there?” when we walk by shops that used to practically call my name. Life changes, with or without our permission.
About 16 years ago, two good friends introduced us to the pleasures of hopping a cruise ship for fun in that sun shining brightly in various ports. We have since cruised with our adult children, more friends, and sometimes just the two of us. The fun is there regardless how many travel or wherever the destinations. Choices are many with personal preferences possible. Breakfast, for example, typically begins around 7:30 a.m. and continues until 11:00. Food can be buffet style, served at the table, or room service at your door. Variety is key with choices throughout the day and evening.
As I’ve added more insights and memories since that inaugural cruise, my preferences and priorities have received some fine-tuning. Watching the sunrise each morning is an absolute pleasure for me, but I don’t need to see the midnight comedy show. Obviously, no one can do everything, but having options is terrific. On a recent cruise to the Caribbean, I reconfirmed my interest in talking to people, observing behaviors of families and adults of all ages, listening to music, and the ever popular and generous food portions always onboard. All cruises have certain things in common, and also their own unique features that on our ship included a rock and roll quartet that reached back into the ’50s for selections to entice people out of their chairs and onto the dance floor.
Watching people dance, particularly couples enjoying the fun of it, is pure entertainment for spectators. No contests, no trying to outdo others, just smiles and the easy to see feelings of contentment for couples comfortable with each other. One such couple, likely in their early ’60s, were the picture of fun as they danced their own special technique to all the fast songs. Considerate of others, they moved about the dance floor with smiles and enthusiasm. Seeing them and hearing the music was prime enjoyment.
All ages of participants with varied skills were moving about. Some had definitely taken lessons while others chose just to wing it. All were enjoying the movements and the beat. Two wonderful people to watch were an older man and woman with the man definitely leading the moves. He very gently and slowly twirled the woman around once, and they continued dancing content in each other’s embrace during the music. They carefully walked off the dance floor when the music ended and down the outer area of the ship. He slowed his pace to match hers as she moved along gingerly with a cane, holding tightly to his hand. I saw them the next morning walking along the ship’s deck, she still with a cane and he with his hand on top of hers. Details of such a caring love story would be beautiful to know.
Cruises are designed for entertainment, adventure, family reunions, honeymoons, congratulatory events, and people looking for a break from the sometimes monotony of daily living. Some folks, especially those living close to a city where cruise ships depart from such as Tampa or Miami, Florida; New Orleans; Baltimore; or many others, cruise multiple times a year. Others save their money for five years to take the trip of a lifetime. Cruise ships, like the people who travel on them, come in various sizes, designs, appearances, presentations, and entertainment options. Oh, and food choices that are amazing in their quantities and qualities.
Souvenirs can be purchased; day trips on islands and in cities can be arranged; slot machines can be played; and quiet areas can bring peace and comfort all within the confines of a large sailing vessel. And sometimes love can be rediscovered on the dance floor or gratefully renewed by the comfort of a helping hand and music memories. It’s in those special moments that fond memories are created outlasting most any souvenir.