The alarm went off and I peeked out my stateroom window with a sigh of relief. The sun wasn’t up yet. Hurrying through my morning routine, I made my way to the Lido Deck as quickly as my sea legs could take me. There, at the back of the ship I walked through the sliding glass doors out to the back deck. Grey clouds hung in the sky, but through a tiny opening the sun peeked through as it ascended into the sky. After snapping many photographs, I pulled up a chair and just sat watching the glory unfold. It wasn’t the glorious pink and orange sunrise I had envisioned – the clouds kind of kept that from happening – but it was still beautiful in its own way. The contrast between the dark clouds and the bright rays of sunlight were amazing! As the sun reached a higher altitude, beams of light surged from behind the clouds onto the water. The shining beams of light glistened on the sea and I’m telling you, instead of the deep blue of the previous morning, the water almost looked gold. I can’t help but think how that sunrise mirrors our lives in a way. There may be clouds on our horizon, but when Jesus shines His light through it all, it’s beautiful. May not be what we would choose for ourselves, but that’s okay, He can turn any circumstance into something that will glorify the Father. Satisfied, I re-entered the Paris Restaurant for some breakfast…
Grand Cayman is owned by the UK and also goes by the name of “The British West Indies.” As the first port of call on this trip, I was itching to walk on international soil. This may explain why I was sitting by the pool stage at eight o’clock waiting for the crew to begin handing out tender tickets though we didn’t actually arrive in Grand Cayman until nine. The Cayman Islands are made up of three landmasses; Little Cayman, Cayman Brac and Grand Cayman. We would be visiting the island of Grand Cayman, obviously the largest of the three. Even though it was the largest, the water next to shore would still be too shallow for a cruise ship to dock in, leaving the ship to anchor in the deeper waters and passengers to ride tender boats ashore. (We also did this last year at Half Moon Kay.) If you wanted to go ashore right away, you were required to obtain a tender ticket. These tickets had numbers on them that the cruise director would call out over the PA system and when your number was called, you made your way toward the gangway on Deck 3. After all the numbers were called, any passenger could leave the ship without a ticket. After standing in line and chatting with some ladies from Tennessee, I received my tickets – Group No. 1. Mission accomplished!
Georgetown is known for their high end jewelry and watch stores. Insomuch that I even noticed a flowerbed with what one would automatically think would be a lamp post in the center, but not so! It was a lamp post “bottom” with Rolex clock on top! LOL! There was also a fountain at the entrance of the shopping mall that had sting-ray figurines as the centerpiece. Our time in George Town was spent walking around on the hunt for the perfect souvenir – which for me was a mini pirate ship with “Grand Cayman” plated on the stand and a collectable spoon. While walking around the shops we even ran into a pirate! But that wasn’t the only thing we found while shopping…did you know the Colonel resided in the Caymans as well?
The last tender back to The Paradise was at 3:15pm, but long before that the grey clouds that added such depth and beauty to the sunrise gathered once again and released her heavy rains. Thankfully, we were having lunch at a pizza shop and didn’t experience the worst of the rain, but some folks who were on the beach didn’t fare so well. (I heard their stories while standing in line for the tender boat.) So, we didn’t make it to the beach that afternoon, but I wasn’t going to let a little rain ruin my day! After all, you can’t control the weather!
Once our ship left port, we made our way to the Normandie Lounge where the Kingsmen Reunion would begin at four o’clock. This was the talk of the week on board and would continue to be the rest of the trip. Needless to say, the lounge was packed and finding a seat was difficult! As each person prepared to begin, all of the Kingsmen members (past and present) milled around near the stage. Altogether, there was Ray Reese, Squire Parsons, Mark Trammell, Ernie Philips, Jerry Kelso, Bryan Hutson, Arthur Rise, (present day members) Bob Sellers, Chris Jenkins, Randy Crawford and band members Brandon Reese, Andrew Ishee and one non-Kingsmen playing bass guitar – Austin Whisnant!
Soon, they all took the platform as Mark Bishop introduced the Kingsmen Reunion. Mark began by connecting the history of Singing at Sea with the Kingsmen and how it was Foxy who called Maurice Templeton and said that folks wanted to go on a cruise, and how he thought that was a great idea. Forty-one years later, here we are! Then Bishop exclaimed, “The Kingsmen!” With Ernie singing tenor, Mark lead, Squire baritone and Ray bass, the program kicked off with the up-beat Traveling Home. When That Lovely Name I Hear and When They Call My Name immediately followed. Mark Trammell took up the mic to emcee and began by giving the audience a glimpse into how much Ernie, Squire and Ray meant to him during the time he was with the Kingsmen. “These three men helped formulate whatever it is that God allowed me to become. I was 19 years old when I went there, these men educated me, protected me, they loved me and my family, they knew when to tell me, ‘Mark, you really don’t need to do that,’ or, ‘Mark, you ought to try that.’” Pointing to Ernie, he continued, “This one encouraged me to try out for the Cathedral Quartet. Big Jim didn’t like that and Eldridge paid for my plane ticket…” (That made the audience giggle.) “That’s the honest truth!” Mark laughed, then went on to say that we weren’t there to hear him talk, but to sing like The Kingsmen. So he introduced the Little Giant instead, “We Do Not Die is the name of the song and it’s a reality of life, listen.”
With that introduction, Ernie was featured on We Do Not Die. Squire stepped up afterwards and said, “What an honor, I am so excited about this afternoon. Folks, I lost my hearing on my right side…then I realized that Jim Hammil stood on that side.” LOL He continued by pointing out that they couldn’t do a Kingsmen Reunion without paying tribute to Big Jim, and the person to do that was none other than Mark Trammell. Andrew slid into a Black Gospel intro, but instead of singing, Mark grinned real big and said, “Do that again!” So Andrew repeated the intro and then Mark sang Love Lifted Me. This was one of my favorite moments from the concert! It was so powerful, and at the end Mark invited the audience to sing a chorus with them.
After that they went right into Glory Road, where today’s line-up of the Kingsmen joined them at the mics on the second round. It was neat seeing the “then and now” vantage this gave those in the audience. “We older folks need to get a breather,” said Mark to the band, “Could you play something for us?” The band launched into a rousing rendition of Keep on the Firing Line and happily entertained us while the “old folks caught their breath.” Everyone had stepped back to allow the musicians the spotlight, but when it came time to sing another song, Mark teased Ray, “You’re going to have to come back out here!” He also called up Chris, Arthur and Randy to sing a song that became popular after Chattanooga Live was recorded – Where the Hungry Are Fed. This is one of those where Arthur takes one note and holds it for a very, very long time. (That always gets the crowd going!) When the tune ended, Mark hollered, “Brag on the Lord a little and do some more of that!” So Arthur talked about how the Kingsmen were influential in their time and then he sang another verse. Afterwards, Mark ushered Bryan Hutson up to the mic and they went into Beautiful Home. When they ended, Mark teased, “Now, if Hammil were here, he would have thrown his coat over a chair and said that was the mediocre-ist singing he’s ever heard.” As an encore began, he admonished them to sing like men, not boys. LOL So they did another chorus and then Jerry was featured on a song that has blessed many people through the years – Look For Me at Jesus’ Feet.
Here, Mark took a moment and asked each member to give the year they started with the Kingsmen. Each man echoed the date and when they went through the band, Austin Whisnant teased, “2015!” LOL! The afternoon ended with everyone singing The Old Ship of Zion. How appropriate it was that one of the Kingsmen’s most loved ballads was about a ship, sung on a ship!
After dinner, we saw the Browns sing in the Atrium, here is a clip from their set…Enjoy!