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Ships in the Night

On a Saturday night, as our Caribbean cruise was ending, I sat on our stateroom balcony surrounded by the blackness of the night as we sailed back to Galveston. A cruise ship on the horizon, aglow with thousands of lights, like a bright distant star, headed to where we came from.

We again spent a memorable vacation week, this time on the Navigator of the Seas, and met interesting people on board; but they were also like passing ships in the night, most likely never to be seen again. And that’s understandable, because the Navigator, with more than 3,500 guests on board and a crew of almost 1,200, is a virtual floating city in itself.

The ship’s crew, from more than 100 different countries, was like a miniature United Nations. Our stateroom attendant (yes, they used to be called cabins but as cruise ships got bigger, fancier and more luxurious, some savvy marketing type, no doubt, dubbed them staterooms) was from Nicaragua. Our waiter in the three-level Sapphire dining room came from a small island off the coast of Madagascar, the assistant waiter was from Mauritius and the bar attendant at the Two Poets Pub, who patiently taught my wife Marge the proper pronunciation of Clos duBois (her favorite Cabarnet Sauvignon) until her tongue rolled just right, said he was from Philly. As it turned out though, it wasn’t Philadelphia but the Philippines.

All hard workers, saving their earning for a better tomorrow back home. They sign a seven-month contract with Royal Caribbean, and at the end of the contract many take a month or two off and then re-sign and are back on this or another ship sailing for another seven months.

I often think of the young girl from Nicaragua who was our waitress on our cruise three years ago. Both she and her husband worked on the ship and were two years away from saving enough money to buy a little home back in Nicaragua. I hope that by now their dream has come true.

As many of you may know, Marge and I are ardent Purdue fans. As we boarded the shuttle in Galveston to take us back to the parking lot to retrieve our car, the driver shouted “Boilermakers,” spotting our Purdue sweatshirts. Since Purdue isn’t exactly a household name in South Texas I asked him how he was familiar with the Boilermakers. Well, it certainly was an interesting and unusual story. In his senior year in high school, just before graduation, (and here I would guess it was at least a decade ago) he and his best friends made a pact to pick sports teams that they would follow forever. For him, it was the Miami Dolphins for football, Pittsburgh Pirates for baseball and the unlikely choice of Purdue Boilermakers. And yes, he still faithfully follows his teams.