STAGE was planning his first cruise and wanted to know why I picked that particular package. I said, "That's easy, we booked so late, it was the only one that could accommodate three people and our schedule."
So, if everything was better on Norwegian then why was Carnival still great? I can answer that in one word, "We had a bigger cabin." Oops that five words. That's right, two years ago, our stateroom or should I say closet with beds...had no windows. This time, our room was twice as big. Plus, we not only had a window but a decent sized terrace/balcony too.
I couldn't get back to sleep, my snooze bubble was burst. I turned on the TV and was disgusted by the sight of World Cup Soccer highlights. I switched to my favorite station, Turner Movie Classics (TMC). The ship's version of TMC offered a different programming format. They had old TV shows in the afternoon. Plus Robert Osborne, the host who introduces the films, was never included in their lineup. Luckily the movies at night were commercial free because the day-time fare was chock-full-of them. What was funny was that these advertisements were in Spanish and for oddball products...like shoe risers for short people.
Despite this high level of entertainment, my headache was as bad as ever. That's when I tried something completely different. I went out on the balcony. I positioned the chairs in the shade, put my feet up and stared off into the ship's wake. This my friends was priceless! Leading the "Life of Riley," safe from the sun, shielded from wind and totally relaxed, I fell back into never-never land. When I woke up, I felt great. I raced out of the room to share my epiphany with my family.THE TERRACE BECAME ANDREW'S SANCTUARY AWAY FROM QUESTIONING PARENTS. HE GOT TREMENDOUS JOY COMMUNING WITH NATURE, LISTENING TO HIS iPOD, CALLING FRIENDS BACK HOME, TEXTING, PLAYING VIDEO GAMES AND WHATEVER ELSE KIDS DO THESE DAYS WITH THEIR HAND-HELD ELECTRONIC DEVICES. PLEASE NOTE...THIS CANDID SHOT THROUGH THE SLIDER WAS NECESSARY BECAUSE...DUE TO "PRIVACY" ISSUES, WE WEREN'T PERMITTED TO DISTURB THESE MEDITATIONS WHILE HE WAS TRANSCENDING UNIVERSES.
One night at 1:00AM, Sue and I sat on the balcony while waiting for Andrew to return from his nightly debauchery. It was so calm. The moonlight danced upon the puffy clouds and made the Caribbean shimmer. I smiled at my wife as the lithe aura of romance gently filled the air. To my surprise she yawned, "I'm bored!" Seconds later, I was alone. I stood up and leaned over the ledge. I marveled at the vastness of the sea and took a deep breath to suck in as much as possible. Simultaneously, my eyes glanced up at the sparkly heavens. Suddenly, in a two-second impulse, a shooting star sizzled across the sky and faded away. I went inside to share the news but my wife was asleep.
The sky became my focus for quite some time but the splendor did not repeat itself. Instead, I sat back down and recalled my past shooting star sightings.
The best time happened when I went cross-country in 1976. That summer, I slept most nights in my tent or in my sleeping bag under the stars. But in Boulder Colorado, I got word from other travelers that the University of Colorado had a top-notch Youth Hostel.I WAS FULL OF BUFFALO PRIDE UNTIL I SAW THE $10 FEE WAS BEYOND MY BUDGET.
At the entrance, a hippie back-packer named Bill had the same reaction to the price-gouging. He said that he spent the night before at a great place on a mountain side, overlooking a lake.
BILL'S FREE SPOT WASN'T THIS NICE BUT WAS STILL PRETTY GOOD.
We shared food, listened to my transistor radio and had a long conversation. In the morning he said if I was going through Oregon, I should look him up. I said I might and we went our separate ways. Weeks later, after leaving San Francisco, I headed to Vancouver Canada. Along the way, I found myself outside his town, Roseburg Oregon.
I called Bill and was welcomed with open arms. He lived with his sister and brother-in-law, in an old beat-up house. There was even a hole in the living room wall. They made no attempt to seal this gap that was big enough for a small dog to squeeze through the exposed wires. I slept in the attic and in the morning, I woke up with a stray cat on my chest with its nose a fraction of an inch from mine.
These folks and all their friends worked in lumber-related jobs. But it was a depressed time for the logging industry and an acutely bad year for its employees. They were all out of work and on welfare. Nevertheless, they (friends too), were the most gracious people I ever met. Every night someone had a barbecue or some sort of party. When they had no cash or food stamps, the local market let them run a tab. To show my appreciation for their hospitality and generosity, I went to that store and brought back a bag of essentials for them...they were insulted.
One night, Bill and three of his buddies showed me one of their traditions since childhood. We rolled up our pant legs and forged a river to avoid paying to get into the Umpqua County Fair.
Another day, we went inner-tubing down the South Umpqua River.
GOING THROUGH RAPIDS, I THOUGHT I BROKE MY BIG TOE ON A GIGANTIC ROCK. THEN I REALIZED, GUYS LIKE ME DON'T BREAK TOES, WE GET EATEN BY GRIZZLIES.
My favorite destination was with a group of about twenty people. It was an hour drive. Along the way there was a huge sign on the highway that read: A CIGARETTE DID THIS DAMAGE ! Then for as far as the eye could see, the remnants of a devastating forest fire was all I could see.
They parked our convoy of cars, including a VW Microbus in a deserted field. Then we took a three-mile hike up a mountain. At the pinnacle, there was a sign-in book. It was so remote up there that the people before us, signed-in eleven days earlier. I felt like I was on top of the world but to them, it was simple small-town fun at its finest. We frolicked in the woods, threw a Frisbee in a big clearing and admired the view. At night, we spread blankets and stared up at the most intense meteor shower you could imagine.
So when you first-timers go on a cruise, you'll know how crucial it is to splurge on an exterior room with a balcony...preferably on the back end of the ship.
You probably won't see a shooting star or whales or dolphins. But the contrast is especially awe inspiring after a few days at sea when you wake-up and come out on the balcony to see land, up close for the first time. You could only image the excitement of Columbus's crew or the anticipation of the desperate European refugees coming to America.
For a million reasons of your own, you'll find time spend on the terrace. You'll go out of your way to have your morning coffee, enjoy snacks, sun-bathe, read or appreciate the sunsets.
DID YOU KNOW THAT THE OCEAN WATER REALLY IS BLUE? COUPLED WITH THE COLORFUL SKY AND SHARP RAYS OF THE SETTING SUN, YOU'LL WANT TO EXPERIENCE THE MAGNIFICENCE EVERY NIGHT.
C'mon, what's holding you back? Sea sickness? Forget it, take Dramamine...excuses are for saps. Trust me, go on cruise, you'll never want to vacation any other way. So forget the expense, its memories to last a lifetime...and you can't put a price tag on that. They have something for everyone, every day and every night. You'll get world class service, diverse entertainment and delicious meals. Best of all, you visit (and shop), the most exotic, historical and interesting places on the planet...or just relax.
So when someone like PCSHMEE asks whats the best cruise line? You'll know in your heart that they're all great. And if you're really fortunate, they'll throw in a shooting star for free.