Wednesday, June 23, 2004

GONE CRUISING

The last holiday Daniel and I went on, we made Ross. Ross will be turning seven next month. By March this year, we were more than ready for a vacation. We decided to take Ross out of school for a week (the week before Spring Break) ~ they really did all look at us as if we were crazed foreigners ~ and indulged ourselves in the luxury of a cruise. Travel tip: much lower rates week before Spring Break.

I had wanted to go on a cruise for the longest time. For a physically challenged person, it is an ideal way to travel and I just knew it would be fantastic. Daniel pulled one of those “I’m not a cruise person” points of view. How do you know you are not a THAT kind of person until you have done THAT? Oddly enough I had a similar conversation with Ross earlier today. How do you know you don’t like this food item if you have NEVER tasted it in your whole entire life? You have an idea of what it tastes like and you think you won’t like that. How can you be so adamant THAT YOU DON’T LIKE IT?

It came as quite a surprise to me then, that in the time it took my physiotherapist to give me a back massage, he managed to achieve what I had been working on for years with Daniel. By the time we left his office, he had sold Daniel on a cruise based on the fantastic time he and his family had enjoyed at Thanksgiving the previous year. So great it was, that the first thing he did was book the exact same cruise again for Spring Break. Yes, he was leaving again in a couple of weeks.

Two days later, we were booked and were leaving in a few weeks. I love not having to wait a long time for exciting things that are planned in advance.

The crew was from all over the world. We got a wonderful surprise when we met our South African waitress in the main dining room. She was equally thrilled to be serving us and in the absurd way us English speaking South Africans do, we suddenly lapse into the [old] mother tongue of Afrikaans when we bump into each other abroad. It is too funny for words because believe me, in South Africa, I don’t think I had an Afrikaans conversation outside of a classroom. It really was fun.

A day in a Spa is quite a challenge for me. Let me put it this way ~ when I win the lottery, one of the many things I will do is have a spa designed for people who can’t ease their way into a mud bath, but want one. I will have a massage table designed for people who want to be on a massage bed but have difficulty lying flat. I will have a pedicure station designed for people who can’t climb into the existing ones but want something a little more luxuriating than a foot spa. Oh yes, the pedicure station I have designed will cater for people who can’t raise their legs and hold them there as well.

I was most fortunate therefore to be greeted by a whole bunch of very willing South African and Australian spa therapists. What a bevy of beauties they were. All young, vibrant, gorgeous, professionals, clearly there to give you the best treatment they could. It was really a treat.

When I regained consciousness from the totally incredible head, neck and shoulder massage I inhaled the Frangipani oil and prayed that I had not drooled through this heavenly experience. Once I could negotiate my tongue and voice at the same time, I booked a replay of this massage for the next day. So relaxed was I that they suggested I just go back to our suite in the gown and not even bother to dress.

The most amazing thing about a cruise is that the crew are willingly there to give you the best possible cruise experience and they make it known that they will do anything to enhance your stay on the ship. I have never experienced service like this anywhere before.

It was fantastic being at sea. I now know what is meant when people refer to “getting your sea legs”. Fortunately none of us had any kind of motion sickness, other than that of total over indulgence with food. You eat non-stop. There is no escaping it and it seems that it is expected to be that way. I noticed in the weeks leading up to our departure, when I told someone I was going on a cruise, there was a standard two possible responses I would get. The one was that they also wanted to go on a cruise so badly, or they had been on one or several, and loved it. I did not hear a single negative from anyone. Ultimately the conversation went to the food and eating. Ross ate so much shrimp one night that he threw up later in the bathroom and vowed the next morning he would never eat another piece of shrimp ever in his whole entire life. I came home and went straight to Jenny Craig.

We spent one entire day at sea. It was totally incredible. I sat on our balcony and the water joined the huge sky all around me. It was the most amazing sight. I really felt like I was the only person on the planet. I have never had such a sense of space, ever! It is really hard for me to articulate what this felt like. It is different to being in the air. On this ship I was still on the earth, but felt so distanced from my life. It was fantastic. That is what I had hoped to achieve, the proverbial getting away from it all. I sat for hours taking deep breaths, I slept in the breeze and the sky and the water seemed never ending. It was awesome.

Ross had a dream vacation. I was concerned that there would be a shortage of kids for him to play with given that we were traveling the week before the school break. There were 400 kids on board and they all participated in the Kids Club. He couldn’t wait to get there in the mornings. We spent afternoons with him and took all our meals together. For the rest though, he wanted to be partying with the kids. He makes friends very easily and other kids take to him with ease. I remember when I had his astrological chart done when he was born; this came up very strongly in the chart, the fact that other kids would like him. He was also a huge hit in the dining room with the crew.

There is a nautical tradition at the final dinner, referred to as the Baked Alaska parade. I had never seen a Baked Alaska and had no idea it had its own parade. It is an opportunity for the dining and kitchen staff to be applauded for their incredible efforts. They march through the two level 900 seater dining room carrying Baked Alaska’s in the air. The passengers shout and scream, twirl their napkins in the air and bang on the tables. It is one of those moments where adults are made to feel so secure that they behave like kids, even if it is fleetingly. The energy in the room was fantastic. The crew moves through the tables clapping their hands in the air and then all line up on the dramatic staircase and allow the audience to give them a most deserving round of huge applause. The dress code for the evening is formal.

The most phenomenal thing happened to Ross as he slid the tux jacket on. His back turned into concrete. Even sitting here writing I am giggling to myself remembering him that night. He loves dressing up like his Dad. The tux was the ultimate for him. It even had cuff links. If he polished the patent leather shoes once, he did it 500 times. I challenge anyone to show me a person with a straighter posture than Ross had that night. Needless to say, the fans among the staff awaiting his arrival in the dining room just swooned all over him. He was so proud of himself and he knew how gorgeous he looked. He was both gracious and humble about it.

As the Baked Alaska parade made its way past our table, the Sommelier scooped Ross up into her arms – not hard to do, he weighs 40lbs – and he was carried on various sets of shoulders to the stair case. Oh my God, I watched our child, in all his magnificent beauty get swept up and off, and he just went with the flow. There was not a moment’s hesitation on his part. His looking back at us was only to check that we were watching and seeing what was going on. There was Ross, smack bang center stage, clapping, cheering and having this incredible moment in his life that I know he will remember forever.

It was the perfect way to end what had been a week of celebrating food. It was a week of indulgence, of throwing caution to the wind in some ways, and it was about reaching an age and stage in our lives of being able to celebrate what we deserve.

I wish you a safe, happy and restful summer!

 
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