All through breakfast I tried not to be rude, but my eyes kept wondering to the windows on my right hand side where I could snatch glimpses of the sea. There would be plenty of time to gaze at the endless ocean afterwards. My two breakfast companions, Bev and her friend, had been telling me about the various cruises they had been on. We sat on the Lido deck at a round table that comfortably sat three. Being one of the upper decks, we had the open sky above us and a pool in the center with plenty of places to lounge and soak up the sun, but the sides were enclosed by windows to give you the feel that you were inside. You could still see the sea though.
After breakfast Bev took me up on the top decks to view the ocean. That first day was windy. Not many people were up on the top deck and I don’t really blame them. My hand kept reaching up to secure my hat, making sure it stayed on my head! LOL As we walked around from the back of the ship to the front I observed the deep blue ripple of the waves as it stretched forever from one direction to the other. Off the portside of the ship Bev pointed out that you could faintly see some of the islands. Funny, if you didn’t know they were there, you would have easily missed them. But there they were. A while later Bev decided to retrieve her camera from her cabin and take some photos around the ship. I stayed on the top deck for a bit and enjoyed the endless expanse of water and selected a chair right by the rail at the back of the ship. From my view, the ship left a path of ripples right through the sea marking where it had been moments ago. The powerful engines underneath churned up a lighter shade of blue and added white caps to the waves it caused. Though the scenery never changed, I was quite content.
I left the deck to hear Pastor Larry Brown speak in the lounge called “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” His message was on the Cedar trees of Lebanon. (In particularly, the ones that the Temple was built out of in the Old Testament.) When he went to Israel he found a booklet telling about the different kind of Cedar trees and so I’ll share some of his points with you because I found them deeply interesting!
- There are “Little Cedars” – these are the deformed, crooked limbs that are cut off from the trunk. They take these little cedars and put them on a cart and as the cart jostles these limbs get hung up together and the more they jostle, the less likely they are to fall off the cart. They hold each other on… How many little people are there in the house of God who hold each other together? Little people have built great things – and little people work hard for God.
- Then there are “Fire Cedars” – they have a quality that causes them to be highly flammable. Where are the people in the church who burn easy? Whose hearts and spirits burn so hot that you can tell when you’re by them because they’re different?
- Lastly there’s the “Tall Cedars” – if you saw how tall they were from the soil up, that’s how much “tree” there was underground. These trees were grounded. They didn’t blow over. There are many folks who would never turn their back on God, but they will get blown away. In order for this not to happen, they need to have a firm support underground like the tall cedar. When Pastor Brown ended his message, he said this, “Why do most people fall? Because they get tired of standing up.” May this remind us to stand tall!
From the Ritz it was time for lunch, which my sister and I enjoyed in the Sensation Dining Room. As we were being served, The Fascination docked at Freeport. We were officially in the Bahamas! After some German lentil soup and Idaho Rainbow Trout (and of course desert!) we rode the elevator down to the Main deck where we walked off the ship and onto the island. We didn’t actually go into Freeport (which would have required a taxi drive inland) but walked around some of the shops close to the ship. The establishment close to the shore, Senor Frogs, was popular for photos. You could pick between getting your picture taken in the arms of a giant green frog or climb up the lifeguard chair for a photo in a seat that was three times your size! There were also various photo opportunities if you wanted your picture in front of the Freeport Harbor sign or “Freeport Bahamas 2014.” (Disclaimer: we didn’t do any shore excursions at this port!)
After dinner we walked down to the Palace where the Perrys were going to sing that evening. Though the sets on the cruise were short, it didn’t take long for the Spirit to fill the theater during their session. Songs like I’ve Got a Hold of God This Morning, The Potter Knows the Clay and He Will Hide Me, a duet featuring Bryan Walker and David Regan opened their set. When Bryan introduced Libbi as a woman who’s lived her vows and faith, the audience stood and applauded. Then Bryan said, “As a group, we are so proud of Libbi Stuffle.” He wanted the audience to know that they were supportive of Libbi as she devotes her time to taking care of Tracy. Jared, Libbi and Tracy’s son, also wanted to show his support by singing the bass part. At that time he had been with them four weekends. Jared was featured next on a song that he had been working on with Gene McDonald, I Am Living a Life of Love. After Jared sang, Libbi took a moment and spoke to the crowd and then asked everyone to sing Tis So Sweet with her. During this impromptu hymn a few guys helped carry Tracy’s wheelchair up on stage, where he joined the singing. It was a powerful moment when Tracy closed the set by singing I Rest My Case at the Cross!
From there we went to the pool stage where Brian Free and Assurance were scheduled to sing. It was challenging to find a seat that wasn’t obscured by either a fake tree or the stage’s safety rail. I snagged a seat on the end of a row so I could slip out and snap a picture if I wanted to. I had to smile when I heard the line of their first song, “Everybody knows that a man can’t walk on water…” (What a song to sing on a cruise!…and on the outdoor deck! LOL) Fans of BFA will recognize that song, If the Lord Says Do It featuring their bass singer. Before they went any further, Brian informed the crowd that their lead singer, Bill Shivers, stayed home that week because his wife, Michelle, is expecting their third child! So Bryan Walker (from the Perry’s) was filling in for them that night. One of the great things with Walker was he knew all of BFA’s songs, so their set wasn’t limited in any way! One of those songs that Walker knew featured the lead spot and was next, Anything Is Possible. After Remind Me of the Cross and Praying Man, Brian said, “He (Bryan Walker) just walked off the stage from singing with the Perrys and then he stepped on stage with us, so he’s tired.” Next, he introduced everyone else quickly and then they sang Revival and I Will Be Praying. All this while, the wind on that deck was vicious! The string of lights that hung from the back of the ship to the middle constantly swayed back and forth and the wind cut through so hard it was almost cold out there! It was no surprise then, when Brian told the crowd, “A few moments ago our sheet (that had the list of songs on it) flew off our machine so we have no idea what’s next!” Walking to the 360 and hovering over it for a moment, Brian mumbled, “Let’s do this one…” They closed their program with Jesus Will Pick You Up.
Even though the wind was seriously challenging my choice of hair style that night, we stayed near the pool stage to hear the next artist sing, Karen Peck and New River. The emcee for that stage, Mark Bishop, introduced them like this, “Hold onto your seats in more ways than one! Karen Peck and New River!” KPNR began their set with their popular ballad Hold Me While I Cry. Afterwards, Karen encouraged the crowd to look at the bright side of things, “It’s a little windy out here but this time last week (at their home in Georgia) we had snow, so we can handle some wind! How many days do we get to sing out under the stars in the Bahamas?!!!” It just so happened, that it was Susan’s birthday! Karen had everyone sing Happy Birthday to her. Then they went into I Can See Clearly and Sustaining Grace. They packed the rest of their time on stage with songs like Revival, On the Banks of the Promised Land and I’ll Fly Away. Karen mentioned that they were the last group to sing on that stage and so they were told that they could close any way they wanted. Karen wanted to close by reciting the Lord’s Prayer.
The rest of the evening was not one that could be spent on the deck! But the Coconut Lounge did have that ice cream machine and many folks could be found in that general area! The thing about the ice cream and pizza bar was; it never shut down. They were open 24/7. If you starved, it was your own fault!