Bored On Board? Not Us!

When I was younger, I never thought of taking a cruise. My preconceived notion was that there would be nothing to do and I’d be terribly bored. After my first cruise, I realized that I could make the cruise just like my regular life – busy and fun.

For this blog, I’ll give you a view of a typical day on board our cruise. This particular cruise is an interesting case study because it’s twenty-five days long and has only six port days. What do we do when we’re trapped on board all day long?

We get up very early because we discovered an older Chinese man that does Tai Chi every morning. He’s been doing it for forty years.1 He loves teaching it and by now has a small group of us meeting him on deck every morning at 8:00AM. Because this cruise goes from California to China and Japan, a big percentage onboard are Chinese. We noticed that there are also Xi Gong, Chinese dance and other Tai Chi groups in the morning.

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Sunrise from the aft deck of Sapphire Princess

We wake up before 7:00, have a small breakfast and coffee, and then spend the better part of an hour doing yoga stretches. Now that we’re below the twenty-third parallel, we practice outside. We put lounge cushions on the deck in the morning sea air and stretch until Thaang, our Tai Chi leader, arrives. He comes early and teaches us some warm-up exercises.

After that, we head to the gym for some strength training on the machines. At 9:30AM, there’s a terrific Zumba class. Today, however, and maybe for the rest of the cruise, I walked for an hour while Deena did Zumba. I’ve decided to learn a few basic phrases in Japanese, so I put the Pimsleur Japanese course on my iPod. I can’t believe how hard it is to learn a non-Latin language!

By the time we hit the sauna, the showers and change clothes, it’s time for lunch. Quite often, we meet people and exchange stories. Or we run into people that we’ve met and enjoy, and have a conversation.

Someone has put together an improvisation group. I love doing improv and try to make the meetings whenever they happen. I’ve even talked Deena into it and she (of course) is quick and funny. There’s some talk of actually having a show before the end of the cruise.

Deena and I have also found a ballroom dance class the occurs most afternoons. It’s something that we love to learn but hated the idea of buying lessons for an exorbitant price in Fort Lauderdale.

In the evening, there’s entertainment. Sometimes it’s a comedian, a singer or a magician. They also have music and dance productions. Some evenings, it’s hard to decide what to do with two great options. Usually, we have a chance to practice our ballroom with a big band. Okay, it’s only five or six musicians, but they call it big band so who are we to argue?

Most afternoons, I try to answer emails, get some work done and write this blog. To tell the truth, there’s hardly any time left after all those activities. Now you can see why our blog has been sparse since the cruise started. We’re too busy to write or get bored.

 

Water World

A cruise ship creates an interactive mini-world experience involving many different cultures. I would never have a fraction of the daily encounters that I enjoy on this 25-day cruise. It’s a result of having so many different people together in one boat, and everyone intermingling in group activities.

IMG_0470_01I am taken from the comfort of whatever my usual routine would be, and lead out to explore other peoples, other traditions and other points of view. I’m doing things I wouldn’t ever consider elsewhere. I eagerly jump into comic improvisation (which terrifies me), ask someone who appears to me to be a Tai Chi master to give me a few beginner tips, bring a dance instructor to help someone else when I really think they could use a helping hand or order something that I don’t see on the menu even though everything under the sun seems to be offered. I talk and joke with people from cultures far from my own whom I may never have met before, and even those that I may have harbored prejudice against in the past.

I make natural connections with everyone just by the common activities we share. I eat different foods and ask my neighbor to identify something on their plate that I’ve never tasted before. I’m learning Tai Chi that I’m sure will help me with my really stiff and sore knees. I’m taking Zumba even though the moves are too fast, complicated and the bouncing hurts my already stiff and sore knees. I’m enjoying newly met ‘friends’ laughing the loudest and staying the longest in the dining hall.IMG_20140411_070115

I see no frontiers but only common threads among us all. If I was even sure about a certain culture from what I’d read or heard, I begin to rethink what I was so sure about before. I’m sometimes even surprised that ‘facts’ about cultural stereotypes are so skewed.

I realize, as the Sufis say, “Knowledge that takes you not beyond yourself, is far worse than ignorance.” We become distant and removed, and sometimes elitist compared to people of other cultures. Most people are friendly, eager to be helpful and a majority have open hearts, ready to share and laugh with me.

I’ve always loved that video “Where in the world is Matt?” who travels to so many countries worldwide. He does his silly awkward dance and finds that everyone, everywhere, enjoys joining him. They all laugh, and happily offer their own version of the funny dance with Matt no matter where he visits worldwide. It’s so apparent that every one of us has similar life experiences, hopes for the future, aspirations for ourselves and our children no matter from which culture we come.

 

Whose Beach Is It Anyway?

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These sea-lions are on the endangered list and are helped by amazing volunteers. This particular mom had given birth to pups 900 miles away on another island. After nursing them, she swam back to Oahu because she really likes sunning herself on this particular beach. So we were told by the volunteer, Lee Anne, who had arrived to rope off the sea lion’s turf and make sure no one approached her.

Luckily for us, momma sea-lion had just returned to this beach the day before, so we had a rare close encounter. Lee Anne runs up and down the coast following the sea lions to help protect them. Since most of them are tagged, the volunteers know their personal history like a friend. The parents of this particular girl had been poached, and the litter was her very first.

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