This week I passed the halfway mark in my contract; definitely a milestone. At 5 and 1/2 months this is my longest time at sea with the exception of a World Cruise I worked as a singer a few years back.
The splendor and difficulty of a world cruise is that every day is different for months on end. Every day you wake up somewhere new in the world, with a different language, culture, history, and mode of transportation. Some ports are modern and relatively safe while others are rustic and quite dangerous; as opposed to this contract, where I have spent almost 3 months going back and forth from Fort Lauderdale and San Diego via the Panama Canal, making various stops along the way in the Caribbean, Mexico, South and Central America, respectively.
It’s been brilliant I would never say I’m ‘sick’ of it, but I am thrilled that Panama season is over! This cruise marks the beginning of repositioning the ship for the summer run from New England to Canada. For the next two weeks we will cruise the French West Indies and Lesser Antilles before heading north up the east coast. New adventures and stories are sure to follow.
But wait! There are rumblings…scribblings of tales untold! I had better spit them out on this page before they evaporate from the cocktail napkin of my consciousness. Where to start? Start here:
This last 2-week cruise involved lots of ‘goodbyes.’- goodbyes to people and to places, if only for now. Beloved colleagues have completed their contract and left for vacation or moved on for good. It is also difficult at times to bid farewell ports of call. These great old cities – Antigua Guatemala and Cartagena Colombia, are like beloved great grandparents whose mere existence commands gratitude, humility and respect from their visitors.
I’ve attached some of my favorite photos from my visits to Cartagena. I had a particularly memorable shore excursion there, which was a walking tour of Cartagena’s Historic Walled City. Spellbound by the grandiosity of this place, I listened intently to our guide, snapping photos left and right, as we passed fortresses, monasteries, museums and gardens. We had just entered the back streets the old city, which are mainly pedestrian zones, when our guide announced we would be making a scheduled stop to use the restroom. I didn’t feel the need for a bathroom break, but when you’re escorting 40 people in a 3rd world country, you pee in unison or not at all. As it turned out our rest stop was conveniently scheduled at the tour guide’s friend’s jewelry store. She selflessly offered us her facilities and encouraged us to browse her shop while we waited our turn to use the bathroom. Well, it certainly was nice to escape the sub-tropical heat and humidity, if only for a few minutes.
I must say, her shop was elegant and boasted some of the most unique designs I’d seen. It needs to be mentioned here that more gold and precious stones have been mined in Colombia than anywhere else in Central and South America. Cartagena remains to this day the emerald capital of the world…not that I was looking to buy. I guess you know where I’m going with this. Completely immersed in the beauty and romance of my surroundings I made an impulse purchase – a fabulous emerald ring in an 18K gold setting.
The ring needed sizing, which I was told would take 20 minutes. In the mean time my tour group was getting ready to move on. No problem, the shop owner promised to escort me back to my tour group herself (I didn’t mind missing out on the Torture Museum and the Inquisition Palace). I started getting antsy after about 25 minutes. The shop owner called her brother, who was sizing the ring and asked him to hurry. Apparently he was working somewhere off sight, I missed that part.
Five minutes later, this gorgeous man burst through the door, drenched in sweat from running in the midday heat. The shop owner was short and rather squat. I was expecting her brother to be a male incarnation with a similar physique. This man looked like Jesus in the movies – tall and lean, with long, dark hair – his brown eyes smoldering volcanic pools. His name was Christian. Christian was adorned with emerald jewelry he had designed himself. He slid the ring onto my finger to make sure it fit properly…it gets a bit blurry after that…oh yes, Christian boxed my ring for me and, arm in arm, we walked the backstreets of Old Cartagena together, until I rejoined my group at Bolivar Square.