PORT OF GALVESTON, Texas — We have just had the experience of a lifetime on a Royal Caribbean cruise with thousands of total strangers — a mix of attractive guests and a carefully selected, talented international crew.
We never bumped into anyone who wasn’t a fascinating storyteller.
My first glimpse of the ship came as it broke through a fading mist, dwarfing the terminal and triggering memories of a haunting melody by Texan Christopher Cross. Sailing takes me away to where I’ve always heard it could be. … Just a dream and the wind to carry me and soon I will be free. … Believe me.
How long has it been since you have spent an entire week being nothing but happy? Or secretly wiping away tears of pure joy? Cruising is a stabilizer for the soul. We’re all in this together, but who thinks of life that way these days and tries to make it better for everyone around them? Cruisers and crew do.
The newly refurbished and improved Navigator of the Seas, all 138,279 tons of it, can hold 3,114 guests and a staff and crew of 1,213. Scheduled for its second maiden voyage, this time to introduce major improvements and updates, it was blocked Feb. 9 from port much of the day by dense fog. Nobody seemed to mind the wait as the hours dragged.
We rank this Navigator of the Seas voyage No. 1 in all of our vacation experiences. It feels like a rebirth, seeing life anew, being refreshed, the two of us starting out together for a second time. We made promises to each other we intend to keep.
My assignment was to review the cruise for The Oklahoman and NewsOK.com. Before I could begin writing, I became frozen in time, longing to return to those magnificent moments when life was truly blessed with the feeling of peace on earth and goodwill.
I found this condition best-described by Harrison Liu, Royal Caribbean’s manager of brand communications, who had guided us through every experience at sea and on shore. His words helped me understand this odd feeling of disconnection from normal daily life at home:
“It was only a matter of four hours after disembarking our lovely temporary home away from home when I started to feel the twinge of ‘cruise withdrawal.’ I missed the food that was delivered to my fork’s reach, a perfectly made bed every time I entered my stateroom, the delicious wine poured over great conversations, and most importantly, the wonderful people — each and every one — with whom I shared a most memorable week — laughing, sharing, learning and growing.”
A cruise can deliver happiness so completely that it’s routine to keep returning for more — 20, 50 or 70 times more. One woman who lost count said she is sure she has experienced more than 100 cruises.
So, finally, with one cruise under our expanded belts, I can begin to put stories on paper and eventually write about the options onboard and off that keep everyone on the move, except for those who prefer quiet time on their own.
Oklahoma was well-represented onboard by the extended family of Wes McFarland, who retired in 2009 after 25 years as Superintendent of Agra Public Schools in Lincoln County; his wife retired after 42 years of teaching. In the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings, Agra High School, with 98 students and 9 teachers, was awarded a national bronze medal, placing it among the very best.
With thousands of people milling about, it was unlikely that we would see the McFarlands a second time, but we kept bumping into them, much to our pleasure.
“Jean and I love cruising and have visited many great destinations but the most important reason we enjoy cruising so much is the wonderful, brilliant people we meet. In June we visit the Baltics with three other couples we have met as we cruise the world. One couple lives in Aberdeen, Scotland, one in Bath, England, and one in Ontario, Canada.”
The couple are “regular cruisers and the Navigator trip was our 25th. We take a family cruise every January with Jean’s family. We had to change to February this year as the Navigator was in dry dock being revamped,” McFarland said.
Along with the McFarlands, there were seven others from Jean’s family on this cruise, including Joe and Alice Harris, Leon and Edith Harris, Kelley and Alice Harris, and Theresa Harris.
“We took an excursion from the ship in Belize that took us up the New River for the Maya Experience at Lamanai, which was the trip we enjoyed the most as all of us went. It was a nice safari with a spectacular rainforest. Lamanai was once the largest ceremonial site in Mesoamerica and was occupied as early as 1500 B.C.,” McFarland said.
They all enjoyed the piano man, Phil Anderson. They attended all shows and loved the two production shows. They agreed the best entertainment was the ice dancing.
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