The Keys to Heaven

April 23, 2017 Paul Groves

Day 108 of 111. Atlantic Ocean

We are halfway through the seven day journey from Europe back to North America. Our Grand World Voyage is coming to an end and everyone is a little sad, a little nostalgic, and a little glad to get back home. I heard one person describe the feeling as, “It’s like we’ve been asked to give back the keys to heaven.” A lot is happening these last days. The crew onboard is largely Indonesian and Filipino. Each group put on a show on the main stage in the afternoon. The shows featured native dances, popular songs from their countries, skits, and featured soloists. The shows are at 3:00 p.m. and you have to get into the theater at least 30 minutes early to even get a seat. We staked out our seats at 1:30.

We had our final gala night. We wore our light-up bow ties (pretty classy, huh?). Everyone has medallions that we were expected to wear. Bronze, for those with 100 days at sea, Silver, for 300 total days at sea, Gold for 500 total days at sea (more than a year on ships!). There are also Platinum Level (700 days) and then President’s Club (1000 days or more)! There was a recognition event before dinner where they announced the newest inductees in each category and had them take a picture with the Captain and the officer in charge of the Hotel portion of the ship. When we first came on this amazing adventure, we considered it to be a once-in-a-lifetime event, but we soon met people who had been on 3, 7, or even 15 Grand World Voyages!

Others have been busy, too. There was a display of the 135 blankets that have been knit or crocheted during the cruise for charity. These will go to young cancer patients in hospitals as well as some sick children who are treated to a camping trip. Table after table were filled with these volunteer-made gifts. I have continued my watercolor and drawing workshops. I donated nine of my watercolors to a Silent Auction onboard that raised over $5,100 for an orphanage in our last port of call, Funchal. The fellow in the white suit is Ben Sack, our drawing teacher. He is the Artist in Residence who has been on the ship since Day 1 and has commemorated the 2017 Grand World Voyage with two huge pen-and-ink drawings showing all of the ports we have visited. If you have good internet, try searching for “Ben Sack artist” and look at some of his work. He is a very talented artist, a great teacher, and a friendly and unassuming person.

Finally, we took a group picture with our dining table buddies. We meet every night at 5:30 p.m. at Table 42 and laugh and joke and inform each other of our day’s activities. Ron and I joined this table after Hong Kong when our original table mates all disembarked. We knew Paul and Linda from a few excursions and breakfast and they invited us to their table to replace two of their table mates who also left the ship in Hong Kong. I remember back to the first day of the cruise when there was a big get together around the pool. Ron and I felt pretty awkward and alone but we saw all sorts of people greeting and hugging each other as old friends. I can certainly relate to those feelings now. If I ran into any of our table mates or some of the other special friends we have made on this trip, I would be hugging them warmly as well.

We have been setting our clocks back an hour each night lately, so we are now on East Coast time. Today we will begin our packing… clothes, a few souvenirs, and a ton of good memories.