Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

June 8, 2003


What fun it is to ride a floating hotel all the way to St. Thomas


            When I retired from pastoral ministry a year ago, my wife made me promise her that we would “go somewhere.” We kicked around the idea of going to several places before we finally agreed on one.

            My first suggestion was to go back to Loachapoka. We had been there once for the Syrup Sopping event, and we did not have to catch a plane in Atlanta to get there.

            “No way,” she said. “We stood in the hot sun for an hour and the biscuits were cold.”

            Then I proposed going to Talladega for a weekend. I have always wanted to meet Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart.

            “Our sons have been several times, and they say those NASCAR races are fun,” I told her. As I gazed into her steely green eyes, I knew we were not going to Talladega – ever.

            Remembering that she enjoyed visiting the Galleria in Birmingham one time, I tried to persuade her to go there. “We could stay at Motel 6 and walk through the shops at the Galleria during the day – wouldn’t that be fun?” I asked.

            “Yeah, I know you won’t spend the money to stay in a nice motel,” she replied, “but you seem to have forgotten that I don’t like to shop anywhere but the Dollar Store.” That killed that idea.

            We had already ruled out several other places. Dean has always wanted to see the Great Wall of China. After checking out the cost of such a trip, I bought her a video of the Great Wall of China. It is a good video. She liked it. That video saved me a lot of money. I like videos.

            Another trip we both wanted to take was a train ride. We wanted to ride in style, on board the American Orient Express from Salt Lake City to Seattle.

            Guess what? I could add a room on the house for what that trip would cost! I want to spend our children’s inheritance, but not on one train ride.

            My next proposal was a gamble but I thought she might go for it. Dean loves Mexican food. “Honey,” I said, “instead of wasting money on a trip somewhere, how about this – let me take you out to eat at a nice Mexican restaurant once a week for the rest of our lives?”

            Tears welled up in her eyes as she reached slowly for a hammer. I knew my goose was cooked. In my sweetest, most gentle voice, I acquiesced and said, “Alright, dear, what do you say we go on a cruise?” She put the hammer back down, and sweetly said, “That will work; make the reservations!”

            So, on Saturday, May 24, we drove to Miami and went aboard the “Navigator of the Seas,” one of several ships operated by the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. We learned that it is the largest cruise ship in the world.

            It was like a floating hotel, with 14 decks, or floors. One deck featured a promenade, with many shops where you could buy diamonds, drinks, T-shirts, and souvenirs.  No country boy was ever more surprised than I was to discover what facilities were on that ship.

            My first shock was the skating rink. Daily ice shows, featuring as many as 20 skaters, were available. Moreover, the skaters were quite professional. They were not amateurs.

            Each evening we enjoyed a major production by singers, dancers, comedians, and magicians – in a theater that must have seated 1500 people. There were 3200 passengers and about 1200 crewmembers.

            The excursions to the islands were fun. We had never been to St. Thomas or San Juan but found them both delightful places to shop and go sightseeing.

            My wife and I enjoyed sitting on the top deck near the swimming pool. The breeze, especially at night, was heavenly. In addition, it was fun watching people of all sizes going swimming. One dear woman moved a lot of water when she jumped in; she was as big as I am.

            There were several first class restaurants. We were assigned a table in the Nutcracker Dining Room, where a woman played a grand piano during the dinner hours.

            Cruise ships are famous for the food, and this one was surely one of the finest. We ate too much, too many times a day, but enjoyed every bite. Everyone had the same idea: go on a diet as soon as we return home!

            Some of the folks on board seemed happier than others.  I attributed that to the alcohol, but perhaps it was the chocolate. There was plenty of wine and chocolate available.

            As a teetotaler for 71 years, I remain convinced that I have not missed anything by choosing an alcohol-free lifestyle. After all, as the beer commercials remind us, somebody has to stay sober to drive the drunks home.

            The casino stayed busy night and day for the gamblers. That may be fun for some, but it has never seemed smart to me to give my money to a slot machine. As for playing cards, I much prefer Rook to Poker.

            There was an earlier time in my life when I might have been tempted to play strip poker, but not anymore. I don’t want anybody but my wife to have the honor of viewing my aging body in my birthday suit; the excitement might cause a heart attack.

            My wife and I enjoyed listening to a group from the Philippines that played beautiful string music. It is hard to beat two violins, a guitar, and a keyboard, especially when the musicians are playing easy listening music. If our knees had allowed it, we might have danced all night.

            The trip was made more enjoyable by the presence of our son Matt and his wife Tammy. The four of us had a ball, and we grew closer.

            By the time we arrived back in Miami a week later, none of us wanted the cruise to last another day. Seven days was enough. We were glad to be back and on our way home.

            My wife was pleased at last. We finally went “some place” on a trip. We enjoyed it immensely. We may go on another cruise some day.

            Still, I must confess, I long to go back to Loachapoka and sop a biscuit, a hot one, in some of that finger-licking syrup. Simple pleasures may be the best, after all. + + + +