It was in every respect a delightful experience — plying the blue Caribbean to the extent of 3,000 miles, touching ports of call in Haiti, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica and Grand Cayman, even the surprise of meeting grandchildren and two great grandchildren at the Grand Cayman stop, and sharing daily with our traveling friends.
But the highlight for me was the ship itself, Jewel of the Seas. I’ll tell you as much as I can in the few words this blog allows. Then next week I’ll share some reflections.
Jewel of the Seas was a massive, white vessel that sat majestically on the waters, designed as though it were moving forward. From a distance it was like a dream floating. Inside and out every square foot was scrubbed and decorated to please the senses.
Massive? The Tides dining room on Deck Four accommodated 1,200 at a sitting. There were 2,400 passengers on board, with between 800 and 1,000 crew members to care for the innumerable details on this floating wonder.
Another dining room on Deck Eleven, the Windjammer, was equally large, but set up as a smorgasbord. You could choose your time to eat and move from one decorative serving center to another, selecting whatever morsel appealed. I confess with only a touch of shame that seconds on some desserts were irresistible. I have already reversed the effect they had on me.
It is impossible for me to detail all the interesting things on the thirteen decks of this floating hotel. Three swimming pools; three Jacuzzis, one for children; a walking or jogging track; a large fully equipped exercise room; facilities for massages or other health treatments; shops aplenty; a solarium; at least one huge theater, and I could go on and on.
And then there was the casino where adults, often sucking on cigarettes, hunched over an array of machines, feeding the slots and pulling the levers. As I walked through I heard no shouts of jubilation at someone’s big win. I saw only patrons seemingly alone and staring glassy-eyed at the greedy machines.
The area aboard that fascinated me most was the atrium. It was a huge cavity, located approximately mid-ship, that drew the eye upward to the height of a ten-story building. A master decorator’s delight, it rose to a star-studded blue ceiling that made me think at night of the open skies.
Along one side of the atrium, six glass-enclosed elevators glided silently up and down carrying passengers. On the forward side of the atrium, decorative balconies curved outward layer after layer, protruding into the open space. Passengers could stand there looking down on the tiny figures moving about below.
Each evening at five, passengers began to gather in and around the atrium, ready for dinner. Some visited the bar located below the balconies. Others chatted or sat quietly enjoying a musical ensemble (pianist, two classical guitars, and a drummer) or a viola soloist accompanied by a master at the grand piano.
On one occasion Kathleen and I took a seat in the curve of a balcony above the atrium floor to enjoy the music rising from below. Even then, I could not keep from looking upward to the beauty of the lofty space. Its decor was a feast for the eyes. When lighted after dark its subdued glow fascinated me. Every inch of this towering eye-piece had its attraction; every space had been touched by a skillful artist.
This ship made me think of the first words Samuel Morse tapped out on the telegraph, “What hath God wrought?” Today, feeling overwhelmingly the wonders of “The Jewel of the Sea” — the hugeness, the technology, the engineering, the craftsmanship — our more secular minds may prompt us to say, “What hath man wrought?”
But then, anything man can do is courtesy of his Creator. Every gift of man is first a gift from God — nothing excepted. He is the giver of every good and every perfect gift. He gives the technicians their skill and the craftsmen their facility with tools and the engineers their know-how and the artists their eyes for lines and colors.
That’s why on each of two Sundays, cruise director, Dick Zinck, procured a quiet room on the ship where the thirty-two of us worshiped the God of beauty as well as the God of truth.
Click here to read part 2 in this series.