Town hall in Hamilton Bermuda

DAY 5—I wake up on board Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas ( still thinking about the first-rate dinner we enjoyed last night at Portofino’s, the ship’s “specialty” restaurant. We paid a $20 premium for dining here in a small well appointed room but it was worth every penny.

First, the food was excellent-I guess that’s the difference between cooking for 120 people a night and 3,600, the difference between a dining room that seats 76 and one that seats 1800. We feasted on cold tomato soup, tomato and mozzarella, smoked duck, a variety of breads with olive oil, gorgonzola salad, tender filet mignon, skewers of lobster and scallops, grilled Tiger shrimp, more pasta and sea food and then delectable deserts-chocolate covered strawberries, tiramisu, flourless chocolate cake, and a sampling of Italian cheeses. They were worth every calorie.

But more important was the ambiance. There’s nothing wrong with the dining room, of course, in fact seven of the 11 in our family group opted not to pay the extra freight and our attentive waiter Darryl seemed disappointed we simply stopped by and weren’t staying for dinner. But I liked the intimate atmosphere as much as the food. I liked the quiet and the attentive service. It was fun!

So this is our last day on a five day cruise from Cape Liberty, NJ to Bermuda and back. What started as a trip to celebrate my “second mom’s “ 85th birthday—I grew up two houses away and her daughters are my closest friends—became something different when one of my friends’ husbands died unexpectedly. He was supposed to be on the trip; instead, I am his widow’s roommate and we’ve been crying as well as laughing. I’m glad, though, that the family made the collective decision to come. They are all together and in years to come this trip will be a memory of a time when a life stopped and another struggled to continue, of a time when family rallied together.

I meet another family from Pennsylvania who had scheduled this trip to celebrate the grandparents’ 50th anniversary. When illness kept the grandparents from traveling, they insisted their daughter and son and law and three grandchildren make the trip anyway and they were glad they did, Sherry Monteleone told me, but the kids were so disappointed and her parents so insistent that they decided to come.  Their 12 year old son Gabriel is relishing-literally-the fancy meals, tasting escargots and steaks, while seven year old Maria loves the ice skating (yes, there is a rink on board) and seventeen year old Katie is just happy for the activities (a seminar on hair styling, another on making towel animals).

“You can’t go wrong for the money you spend,” said Sherry Monteleone, adding she will make it up to her parents. 

We see another family celebrating a wedding held in Bermuda; others celebrating birthdays, anniversaries —more than 100 of them. Seeing my friend’s pain, I’m convinced we all must celebrate while we can and not miss an opportunity for good times with those you love most. “You never know what is going to happen tomorrow,” she reminds me.

We walk around the ship together this last day—the weather too windy and rainy for any sun on the deck. Instead we opt for an early afternoon drink in one of the bars-with-a-view and then lunch at the buffet with others in our group- should it be vegetarian wraps, salads, curry or sushi, tomato or egg drop soup, ribs or burgs…the list goes on and one, dozens of choices, and those around us certainly are indulging. At least we’ve all made an effort to hit the well-appointed gym most days.

Another family I meet is cruising with six children under 11. “It’s so easy with kids here,” says Betsy Sachs, who is from Connecticut. “There’s so much for them to do.”

At our last dinner-lobster tail served by our waiter Darryl D’Silva from Mumbai who confides he hopes to make it home for Christmas to see his two year old son– his first visit in seven months—I chat up the bride and groom at the next table.

They are traveling with 21 relatives, including her 11 year old daughter and their one year old son. They were married yesterday on the ship while in Bermuda “We laughed, we drank we ate and relaxed. It was a vacation for everyone—not just traveling four hours to the wedding,” added her husband Richard.

Even better, with the Adventure Ocean program on board and in-cabin babysitting, the newlyweds got some adult time too every evening. The family gathered from New Jersey, Florida, Las Vegas and New York. “It was a great opportunity to be together with family,” said the bride’s uncle Gene Paradiso from Tampa, Florida.

“Marriage is about families coming together ,” said the bride, Jean-Anne Saldano, a hospital administrator from Brooklyn. “And we got to spend five days with our family.”

At our last dinner, we toasted family too—those who are here and those no longer with us. IWe toasted trips to come.  I promise to make them happen. 

We have a final drink at a bar called the Nineteenth Hole on the 14th floor . The Wedding party are having a farewell cocktail party next door. We toast my friend’s husband—my high school classmate.

Life is too short to waste a minute, I think.