BY EDOUARD GARCIA
After a week into the cruise, I was enjoying our suite more than ever. There was the 24 hour room service that could serve an American style club sandwich or a juicy steak in the comfort of my bed watching the frightening numbers of Covid-19 rising globally or the spacious and airy verandah looking at the grandeur of nature while listening to the splash of the waves meditating on God’s mercy and protection.
I met three other Filipinos onboard but the most entertaining was Paulino Hilay, a nurse working in downtown Manhattan, who faithfully follows Atlantis Events’ cruises annually with his fun group of single South Americans out to hook a spouse. Paulin, as we fondly call him, would introduce me to his daily “catch” that ranged from a jolly Russian millionaire to a portly distinguished gent from Florida, both looking for a lifetime partner. But most of all, he encouraged Pål and I to watch the fabulous floorshows, join in the bingo games, try the grilled burgers and hotdogs by the huge pool, and laugh our heads off at the campy cabarets onboard featuring “Miss Richfield 1981” with her all-new show Gender Fluids where she attempts to find non-binary answers to our increasingly complex world.
I enjoyed our stop in Hobart, taking a hop on-hop off tour bus without hopping off, shopping at the colourful and clean open air Salamanca Market, tasting different brews of beer and seafood (yes, Tasmanian oysters!) and just wandering through the peaceful Kelly Street near the port. We missed taking the camouflage painted speedboat going to MONA, often called the museum of sex and death but gave us more time to enjoy more oysters and champagne as we sat in a Portside restaurant watching the weekend crowd enjoy the nautical attractions.
Crossing the Tasmanian Sea was another experience! We had to hold onto the railings all night through as the waves crashed throwing several passengers off balance as we gingerly made our way to the main dining room. It was like riding a roller coaster as the MS Noordam bobbed up and down the 20+foot waves. The floor show that followed dinner was fascinating as the dancers outwitted the rocking stage to the tune of Broadway hits. We arrived the next day in Eden safely as the crew gamely told us we had the calmest crossing ever experienced by them!
Before we disembarked, the Captain addressed us on the ship’s speakers to be generous with our spending since Eden suffered one of the most horrific forest fires that month in Australia’s history. All the passengers gaily answered with a roaring “YES WE WILL” and quickly attacked the souvenir stalls that lined the port.
I couldn’t believe the volunteerism of the cruise members, who were lugging back bags and bags of shopping treasures while we were just making our way down the gangplank! Calling Negros Tourism Board and Bacolod Tourism Office, let’s get the cruises coming over here.
My prayer. For it is by His grace you are saved, through trusting Him; it is not your own doing. It is God’s gift, not a reward for work done. There is nothing for anyone to boast of. Ephesians 2:8-9, NEB*