For me, the last day on a cruise can be very depressing. I know that I will once again have to return to my 9 – 5 workday, plan the meals for the week and say ‘goodbye’ to new friends. For Dale and I, this trip was full of positive experiences that can only be felt on a cruise. We had our last meal with our new friend Gilles and his partner Gord where we shared our many memories over a few bottles of wine. We both agreed that cruising is about the community we build on board and the new friendships that we make. Since our experiences were so similar, I asked Gilles if he would share his thoughts. I will soon be writing about our trip and posting it in ‘News & Expert Advice’.
by Gilles Marchildon*
To paraphrase Maya Angelou, people will forget what you say and what you do but never how you made them feel. Norwegian Cruise Line seems to have payed particular attention to Angelou’s words.
Travel provides opportunities to see incredible, breath-taking sights but there are only so many mountain ranges, ocean sunsets, church spires and castle dungeons one can absorb within a short period of time. These are often best revisited through pictures to prompt our recall.
It’s funny, though, that we don’t need pictures to recall the people or stories of a particular trip. For the vast majority of travelers, the bedrock foundation of a truly enjoyable and memorable trip are the people we encounter and the experiences we share. Humans are social animals and nowhere is this more obvious than on a cruise.
Cruises are often used to celebrate special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries. They’re also opportunities for people to cut loose during the many zany on-board game-shows as well as trivia and dance contests, not to mention make friends at the bars.
Our Barcelona to Venice cruise (with stops in Sicily, Croatia and Slovenia) was our “in-between-birthdays” trip. My spouse and I celebrate our respective birthdays in mid-April and early May so travel between these dates is our annual gift to each other. We find a trip so much more meaningful and fun instead of splurging on extravagant gifts for each other. No gift-wrapping required!
Prior to our trip, we had put in a special request for birthday cake at one of our dinners. Except we got caught up in their “free-style” approach, forgetting to book a specific night. So it was that on our second-last evening, we finally remembered our request. We were at a table of fellow gay men whom we’d met (thanks to Norwegian’s promotion of a nightly “Friends of Dorothy” LGBT meeting). Near the end of the meal, a tentative enquiry was made with our cute Indian waiter. We weren’t really expecting that a cake could be produced on such short notice and at this late hour. Indeed, our chatty group, aided by 3 different bottles of wine on the table, was practically the last one in the grand dining room.
Well, about as fast as Dorothy could click her heels together and be swept back to Kansas, our table was surrounded by close to a dozen staff singing “Happy Birthdays” (yes – plural) and a jumbo cake landed among the wine bottles and first round of desserts. We had foolishly ordered desserts from the menu, not thinking that a birthday cake was realistic. Round two of desserts. Such is the hardship. We did our best, particularly aided by the ferocious appetite of one of our sweet-toothed fairies. Complementary digestifs helped us wash it down.
See? Norwegian’s efforts ended up being just as memorable as the splendours of the Adriatic cities through which we’d walked during the previous two days. Maya Angelou would just smile knowingly.
* Gilles Marchildon is the former Executive Director of Egale Canada, the country’s main LGBT advocacy group. He was also director of Winnipeg’s Reel Pride gay and lesbian film festival and editor of the city’s monthly queer publication, Swerve