We have been cruising on and off for the passed 5 years and every time we do I get so excited. Sure it’s fun to be going on a holiday and especially to be taken across the vast oceans to new and fascinating lands, but the excitement also comes from something far more profound and leaves me truly inspired.
Every cruise begins with the safety exercise. We are all given a station or a place to gather. It could be the main entertainment theatre or a bar or a restaurant. We meet and find somewhere to sit. We become one very large group of people all of whom have never been together before, who do not know each other, who look and sound different, and who originate from many different cultures, holding wide ranging and sometimes hugely opposing beliefs and values. And here we all are. Together. Some smiling, some not, most are filled with anticipation and some with relief that they actually made it, given all that they had to do to make this trip a reality.
And so we all learn what the ship’s horn sounds like and what 5 horn blasts mean. We all learn what to do and no matter who you are or where you came from or where you are situated on the ship, we hear the Captain talking to us and we become one community, for at least the length of the voyage.
One community living on a floating hotel that becomes our own little world.
I say world because our crew came from China, Philippines, Africa, India, Japan, Nigeria, Germany, USA, Canada, France, Australia and New Zealand and I’m sure I’ve missed a few. The passengers exceeded that and we met people from almost every country in Europe, Russia, Great Britain, Middle East, South America, North America and the USA. Not to mention a fair few from down under. We represent every continent in the world and many many countries. And here we all are. Living together.
Holidays are a great opportunity to learn about different peoples lives but, we are still who we are, and if we look at our world, there are many hotspots represented on the ship. In all our interactions, conversations, debates and differing opinions of a couple of thousand people it seemed to me at least, that acceptance, appreciation, curiosity comes fairly naturally for nearly everyone. I can’t remember hearing a racial slur, a loud argument, or a rude word said to a passenger in all the years we have sailed. And yes, occasionally there maybe an upset or two but it never goes very far. I find that very curious. If a few thousand people we can live homogeneously in relatively close quarters, it certainly gives me hope for the future of our world.
The Crew hold the bar high. They lead the way and model politeness, cheerfulness and kindness. Yes, I know it’s also their job but the effect ripples though this tiny floating utopia. Their morning smile evokes our morning smile. They live and work on board and their intention is to serve, respect and certainly do no harm to anyone. Their role is to make every person they meet feel respected, seen and heard. Their aim is to leave each person feeling they matter. And that kind of behaviour is contagious. How easy it can be to emulate that way of being in our everyday lives.
We had many conversations with people who hold varying views on religion, politics and spirituality and yet, I marvelled at each person’s trust in sharing their thoughts and opinions without fear of conflict or dissension. The mass consciousness of the ship is one of adventure, exploration and fun. You feel it. Every day presents opportunities to meet, share, laugh and grow together through our passion for seeing and appreciating our world.
I know, if you are reading this some of you will say, well everyone is in a good mood when they are on holiday and in a way you are right ,however we take ourselves on every journey in life, we take our problems, our neuroses, our fears and our judgments and yet for a short time we seem to be able to put that to the side. We have Choice. We either seek out further connection those with whom we have conversed or we wish them well and choose to agree to disagree and allow each one to be who they are. There is an energy on ships that regardless of how many people on that ship, you seem to bump into the same people over and over again. And it so doing friendships are made. Some of them long lasting.
What a wonderful way to live. Allowing friendships to form organically and challenges to come and go like the rise and fall of the tide.
The waiters in one of the large restaurants knew our names from day two. Every morning we were welcomed by name. Every morning we watched as a few hundred people besides ourselves were welcomed by name. How do they do that? They do it because they are present. Fully and completely present. Week after week passengers disembark and new passengers arrive and week after week the crew welcomes you by name.
Practicing being present means listening, dismissing distractions, focusing on what is in front of you right now. Every trip I take gives me hope for humanity. Every trip leaves me inspired to embody the values of the crew so that I too can leave this floating blue planet a little better than when I first embarked on my journey.