The plane touchdown at 11:45 a.m., a good 2.5 hours flight from Detroit. We took a taxi-van, not a taxicab because our luggage would not fit in a small car on our way to the Port of Miami. After about 15 minutes slithering through the unfamiliar city streets, the van reached the seaport and we found Benjo and Aimee excitedly waiting for us. My son handed me a rayban as a birthday gift on an occasion that was two weeks past, while others were locked in tight embrace and hug and enthusiastic kiss. My son had embraced me tight, though not as tight as when he embraced her mom and two sisters.
While we arrived at the port from the airport at around 12:15 p.m. and boarded it about one hour later and sailed to the Bahamas at 5:00 p.m., you do not feel any need to rush because the excitement has yet to die down, and inside the ship itself, was a total fun.
Passengers were being processed at the port before they are allowed to board the ship. The security was tight as the airport security; every bag and container were being scanned and every passenger has a snapshot taken at the gate. This has caused some snag, but it makes you feel safe. You have to trade off your yearning for convenience with a feeling of security because you want your trip to be pleasurable as it is, and not one that is very nightmarish.
The cruise ship is named “Carnival Fascination”, registered in the Bahamas, and which according to its literature, has an international crew of 920, (you would be amazed to find that majority of the crew are Filipinos, others are Jamaicans, Indonesians, Tahitians, Americans, Germans, and Europeans). The ship has an Italian ship captain; it can accommodate 2,657 passengers, weighs 70,367 tons, length, 855 feet, width, 104, eleven decks, or about the height of a 12 story building; 3 outdoor pools, 2 restaurants, shops, 6 jacuzzis, fitness center, spa, beauty salon, casino, bars, library, 58 elevators, 28 suites, 58 verandah cabins, 14 powered life boats with 15 passengers capacity each perched alongside the sundeck, colored life jackets for everyone complete with whistle and beckon lights, satellite radios, communications equipment and a fire department.
Though you find an initial fun and excitement as you settled down inside the ship and were required to attend a 15-minute crash course on how to put on a life vest and familiarize yourself with the evacuation routine before the ship sails away, your mind brings you back to the realities of the ill-fated MV Princess of the Stars with 864 passengers that sank off Sibuyan island on June 21 as a result of neglect and failure in regulation.
Before we sail to the Bahamas we have eaten our lunch at the sundeck where the pools are. The passengers is a mini United Nations, composed of nationalities from different nations. Young and old, thin and obese, fair skinned and dark skinned, beautiful people and less beautiful, but all seem to work in one symmetry and balance that this cruise would be a wonderful one which they could remember and relive.
At the sundeck food stable, we have fish and chicken, fruits and drinks. You can go back in line to satisfy all your cravings. Your social conscience had ached a little bit again because while I have encouraged my children to finish the food on their plates just as I told them when they were much younger, you can see chunks of leftovers on most plates and they have to be discarded and must go to waste. Some passengers would not care much of this wastage. The passengers already paid good money for the food and the trip. But as you think of your own people who have no food on their table that day, your sadness sinks back in.
It is at the fine dining area where we met Bernice and his supervisor, Anthony, a Jamaican who speaks halting Tagalog. Bernice is in his late twenties with wife and a son in Valenezuela, Metro Manila and works on a $1000 monthly salary and shares in the tip, which could run another $1000 more. He goes home every six months.
We also met Sarah a receptionist in one of the shopping areas near the elevator, whom we were not able to know where she is from and Rafael, the photographer from Pangasinan, who also receive $1000 monthly salary plus commission if he makes a quota on the number of shots he had taken.
Other crew we just happen to know to be Filipinos because they would greet us in crisp and unadulterated Tagalog. Life in the ship is enjoyable even if you are not there as a guest. You do not sweat much because it has a centralized air-conditioning and with the food already paid for by the guest, I could venture that they must eat the same food as the guests.
We went to the front deck where the captain has the full vision of the ocean to navigate the ship. We were on top of the captain’s cabin holding on the railings that surround the ship and the warmth atmosphere was replaced with the gentle sea breeze caressing your face, people were excited, grinning and jostling on the limited space facing the wide expanse of the Atlantic.
The strong wind would blow a lady’s skirt and exposed her underwear but she was oblivious of this innocent exposure and the intrusion on her person because like everyone else, the focus was on the wide expanse of the Atlantic and the serenity of the ocean despite its dangerous possibilities. Or one could guess that the lady would not bring her up skirts down so she can bare the contour of her behind, or she had her hands tied up protecting her hair from being disheveled by the ruckus wind.
But this is a cruise ship where girls would bathe under the sun or in a pool with skimpy bikinis. This few square inch of clothing either highlights the contour of your body in a magnificent way or distorts it. If you have hundred summers gone by, your body would not do justice to your bikini because it is remarkably easy to distinguish if the pleat is that of the skin or the fabric. If hundred summers had not passed you by you may consider passing it up too if you are slightly overweight. This lady is neither, so she would not mind the exposure at all.
While you think that bikinis are objectionable only on those two situations, you find it still objectionable at all times when worn by your daughters. While you see some beauty of this scanty clothing in someone else’s daughter, you see outright porn in yours. It is a double-standard of perceiving things.
But you have to accept the fact that your daughters have grown, and have to live with that fact.
Those little girls you use to hold with your arms and toss them on the air giggling with reckless abandon as you catch them with your bare hands as they descend were gone. Time flies and you yearn for those innocent days of your kids, how’d your wish you can hold the time still.
As the ship throttles in full speed ahead, the horn atop blew hard several times that almost shatter our eardrums, and the vibration could almost knock you down, but people simply covered their ears and still managed to laugh. No one was upset, a good sign enough that the trip could really be really that fun.
We tarried a little while at the deck. In this place of the world at summer time, the sun was still up at 7:00 p.m., but we were hungry. So we went back to our cabin, and dressed up formally for a dinner.
After dinner we went to a Karaoke Bar. Loren and Aimee sang beautifully in front of these mini-United Nations “delegation”. Loren had learned to sing and to play the piano because she was tutored to these two disciplines. She was the lead actress in the musical “Guys in Dolls” in Divine Child high school, an almost all white school, this year and many of her classmates and friends were asking her to audition for the American Idol. I would settle for a slot in the Philippine Idol.
I asked her to sing “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston. The African American guests in the bar went on their feet shouting and applauding after they found out that she can hit the high notes of the song with such an ease and flamboyance. They also sang with her on their seats but a mother have to hush her noisy kids so she can feel the flavor of Ms. Houston’s piece in an Asian female vocalist.
While I have long known that Loren can sing, I did not know that my son Benjo can also sing. He belted a song the title and lyrics of which I do not know but it turned out good and exciting that even the male audience in the crowd ended up singing and imagining they have guitars in hands strumming them with fancy string combination and notes as Benjo would slide from one side of the stage to another side pretending that he has the same guitar in hand strumming it with the notes that accompanies the song.
My daughter Kaycee, is normally silent and bashful. She could not compete in this stage of accolade and admiration, but she has her own talent which every parent can admire. She is still single, handles her finances pretty well and at age 27, she has her own house, a car and the magnanimity to gift her younger sister with a used red BMW that costs about $10,000. Though the cruise expense was Loren’s high school graduation gift from her brother, Benjo.
Now, I am getting to know my kids again.
We went back to our cabin to sleep, but tarried awhile at the Casino poker table to try our luck. I was unlucky but Benjo and TJ were luckier. But it was fun playing at a computerized casino table with opponents as real persons, and the only computer input was the card shuffling, dealing, winning cards selection and bets computation.
Day one was over, but it was worth reliving.
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