Monday, September 20, 2010

A NEIGHBORLY VACATION


ABOARD THE NORWEGIAN DAWN (Sept. 12-19) – I’ve cruised seven days as a tourist in calm waters, though in truth I would rather have been on a high seas adventure as correspondent during trying times.  I saw clear to the horizon, literally and otherwise, no other vessels near, the Norwegian Cruise Line ship, its ballasts and stabilizers set for a senior citizen-comfort ride, pushing along at 13 knots, bound for Halifax, St. John, Bar Harbor, Boston, Newport and then back to New York City.

Security was tight shore-wise, ship-wise. It is the price we pay these scary days – 99 percent of the people showing photo ID, facing deep scrutiny by eye, computer and X-ray detector against the 1 percent who might do harm. This puts a damper on fun activities, especially when the rare official is overzealous, but not so much that what you pay for doesn't deliver on a cruise. If you are a casino aficionado, a shuffleboard player, a Las Vegas-type show lover; if you like to eat, to socialize, to relax on deck lounges, a cruise is custom-made; if you like to get off the ship in varied ports (not all do), this is the way to travel.

For me, a cruise is a way to people watch, to observe humanity, to overhear accents - from England, the American Midwest, Canada, France, all over the world, 70 nations represented on my trip alone. It’s been an opportunity to have conversations – so many people were friendly, so many were interesting. Some were endearing. Living as most of us do in a microcosm, interacting with the same neighbors, workers, family and friends every day, immersed as we are in whatever region in which we live, we get used to the habits – the politeness, the impoliteness, the yin/yang – of our particular little world – the moaning and groaning, the good deeds, the annoyances.

I can report that getting out of our cubicles and meeting new people makes you feel optimistic about humanity. You are reassured once again that while we have always been troubled by greed, hate, wars, the better nature of us all is still a good bet for the long run.

As I cruised along, my sense of pioneering, the security blanket of independent spirit that I have carried since birth still wrapped tightly, I was reassured that this nation, this world must never be looked at through the eyes of the self-annointed suspicious, through the greedy, through those who profit by hardship and who would have us live in fear, but through the hearts, minds and values of the corn farmers I met on this trip, and of the English couple bent simply “on a holiday, you see,” and of the Filipino staff most courteous, and of the American westerners with wonderful, disarming manners, and of the older lady looking at an immigrant baby who saw only promise in a nation that once gave her Polish grandfather a shot at a dream.

If only the world we live in – the one determined by our governments – was as neighborly as this cruise has been.

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