The murky water below churned as the ms Paradise glided through the dark waves. Along the horizon, the sky and water only had one color. Black. It was just after six o’clock in the morning and I was determined to see that orange ball pop over the horizon on Tuesday. Being early in the week, my excitement kept me awake at such an early hour and to make sure I didn’t miss a thing, my sister and I worked at setting up the GoPro (a small camera that takes excellent video and time lapses) to catch the rising sun. Out on deck, I pulled a chair up to a table, slipped my Bible out of my tote bag and settled in for a quiet devotion to start the day right.
Then I heard the thunder.
A streak of lightning shot across the sky off the port side of the ship. Oh, great, I thought, I woke up early for nothing! For the next hour, I read a few chapters in the Gospel of John, listened to the rumble in the grey clouds above and tried not to be too disappointed when the sun rose behind those grey puffs that hugged both the waterline and the sky. On the other hand, I was surprised that the storm could be so close to our ship without the waves rocking us more than it was. Whether our captain steered the vessel around the spot of ugly weather or we happened to slide past it by luck, our ship felt unaffected by the sporadic flashes of light and dark, menacing clouds. Looking back, I wonder if the Lord wanted me to learn something from that storm off in the distance. Every day, I get out of bed and expect to see the sun rise, bright and cheery; but sometimes life isn’t like that, sometimes, we wake up to dark clouds and unpleasant gloominess. But as a child of God our view on life’s rough spots are different from the world’s. Instead of being tossed to and fro, we, like the cruise ship, keep sailing on, seemingly unaffected by the rain and thunder around us. Circumstances may make the present look dark, but what happens around us does not have to effect what goes on inside of us.
I turned the GoPro off, unhooked the clip and placed it in my tote bag. Though I’d only been up for a few hours, it felt much longer…and the day had barely begun! At 8 am I walked into the pool area towards the rear of the ship where I was to meet our friends, Ruth and Sharon, for breakfast. If you’ve never been on a cruise, I’ll mention that there are four options for breakfast: room service, the dining room, the Paris Restaurant (buffet style) or the buffet on deck (same options as the Paris Restaurant buffet) and the Omelet Station (on deck). Our morning trio went through the buffet line on deck and enjoyed fellowship over a bite to eat before heading off to our first concert.
One deck below the Paris Restaurant is the Queen Mary Lounge. The three of us spent the whole morning there listening to Gospel Music and preaching. Squire Parsons was the first artist on stage. As I listened to his thirty minute set I was impressed by his sincerity and the ease with which he communicated with the crowd. Instead of feeling like a concert, I felt like we were all at home somewhere sharing a cup of coffee in the kitchen. He sang the first few songs with his soundtracks and then he sat down at the keyboard and sang a few with just his own accompaniment. For as many times as I’ve heard Beulah Land, I have never appreciated it so much as that morning in the lounge of the cruise ship. Why? I can’t say I know for certain, but there was such a sweet spirit in the room that the music and lyrics reached a place that only that atmosphere could facilitate.
Scheduled for the next slot in the Queen Mary Lounge was Wilburn & Wilburn. At that time, Jonathan’s son, Jordan was at home with his wife awaiting the arrival of their coming baby, so Jonathan performed the concerts on the cruise as a soloist. He sure didn’t have trouble keeping the energy moving on stage! Jonathan’s set was filled with songs like “I’m Rich,” “Midnight Cry” and other favorites that can easily be considered his signature songs. It made for a great set, especially in the morning; no one was going to fall asleep when he was on stage! The last person we saw in the Queen Mary Lounge Tuesday morning was one of the preachers, Dr. Larry Brown. Pastor Brown is one of my personal favorites on the cruise and he preached a fiery message.
Believe it or not, after we left the Queen Mary it was almost time for lunch! We each went back to our staterooms to freshen up and then met again to have our first lunch in the dining room. There was no wait and we were seated right away; a few minutes later, others were seated at our table and it just so happened to be a family that our friends knew back home! You really never know who you’ll run into on a Gospel Music Cruise! LOL Our server handed us each a menu and I began considering my options, remembering my promise to try new things. What to order for a starter? California Roll…Caribbean Pepper Pot…Chilled Avocado Soup or a salad. As much as I hated breaking my own rules, the Caribbean Pepper Pot was my choice. I’m not much of an “egg roll” person, salad was too ordinary for a cruise and I found out on my first cruise that I didn’t care for cold soups. The “Pepper Pot” wasn’t spicy, but described as “an island soup with yams, okra, pepper, coconut and cilantro.” Yep, you would be ordering it too! For my main dish I ordered Vegetable Fajitas – for a wrap, they were very good and I would recommend them to anyone going on a Carnival Cruise. My choice of dessert was Chocolate Gateau (French for cake).
During the afternoon it rained, temporarily closing some of the outside decks. What do you do when it rains on a cruise? Well, on this one you head up to the Paris Restaurant, fellowship with folks and enjoy hanging out…and that’s exactly what we did! We stayed up there until it was time to change and head to the dining room. I hate to make this post all about food, but, we were on a cruise ship! The “new” thing I tried during the evening meal was the Deep Sea Bass – very juicy fish served with rice and approximately two broccoli florets!
In the evening we slipped into the piano bar for a while. This was the cruise version of the “hymn sing” – each night a pianist would sit at the piano and folks would call out requests and everyone sang along. Tuesday night it was Jeff Stice’s turn at the keys and we enjoyed hearing him play as well as joining in with our voices. The room we were in was located just off the Atrium and featured a grand piano on an elevated platform, built into a bar counter, surrounded by stools. The counter was circular in shape and painted to look like piano keys. It was a cozy place to sing hymns!
Conclusion: Sea days are far from boring…even when it rains! Combine the concerts, fellowship and food together and you have a full day! The morning hours are just a small example of the amount of singing and preaching you can listen to in one day. In fact, you could hear folks sing all day long if you wanted to and never leave the theater you’re in. I personally enjoyed the addition of the hymn sing in the piano bar this year. It was one of those informal settings where you can connect with the artist and just enjoy singing along with your favorite hymns and inspirational songs.