ALLURED BY SAILING...

Monday, March 30, 2015

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Despite being invited for the Seder at the home of friends, the cleaning must go on and it's relentless.

I'm going through closets and drawers, making piles of things to give away, things to keep but put in storage, scrub and wash dishes that will go into the upper kitchen shelves and taped down until the end of Passover.

My fingers are getting raw from work, the days are grey and drizzly, and Matilda (the fastest dog on earth), keeps stealing all the tempting things I take out of the closets. Oh what fun! I spend half my time retrieving pencils and brushes, adaptors and whatnot, telling her to 'drop it'. Obviously it's a good game for a bored puppy, but doesn't do much for much for my frustrated self. I try everything: play music to lift my spirits, take little breaks to play with my white fluff ball of a dog, do a (mercifully) private performance of Aretha Franklin's 'Respect', but still, the enormous amount of busy-work win the battle, and I'm not a happy camper.

So I make myself a cup of tea, hug the grateful little pup who showers me with kisses, and we sit in the middle of huge piles of stuff that need tending to.

I recall my very recent blog, 'Passover Memories', and think how different this house-cleaning thing can be, when one adds 'team work' and laughter, plus a sprinkling of sacred intention to sweeten the mix.

There were some missing ingredients, some of which I couldn't get hold of, at least not right away.

So I had an idea: distract myself with thinking of something that made me happy. This never fails to work wonders on my (thankfully) rarely sagging spirits. So here is what I came up with:

It's been just slightly over a year ago when I went sailing on the largest, most beautiful ocean liner in the world, the Allure of the Seas. I don't really know why, but despite the enormity of the experience, I failed to write about it.

I thought that the mere 'time out' I'll grant myself to dream of the loveliness of it all, will do the trick of lifting my spirits. Oh, and if I'll put it down in words, it will surely take me out of my housefrau induced funk.

So here goes:

It was a warm Sunday in Fort Lauderdale, FL, at the end of December 2013. I stood, with a crowd of around 8,000 people, all waiting patiently to go through passport control and board a behemoth of an ocean liner, called the Allure of the Seas.  Granted, it was a hairless behemoth, looking sleek and elegant. Yet the ship was so large, most of us have never seen it's like. The Allure was said to be the largest ocean liner ever, and a marvel to behold.

It took its maiden voyage in 2010, and was considered the jewel in the crown of the Royal Caribbean Cruise ships.

I don't think many of us knew what to expect as we stood waiting to check in, but the excitement was palpable. As we entered the gangway, we were told to meet for pre-sail directions at 'Central Park' on level Five.. We were met with overwhelming beauty: Plants and restaurants, the first and only 'Starbucks' at sea, beauty wherever one looked. The enormous space felt like a small floating city, and that was before I got to explore the ship. The central open drop, was surrounded by 18 floors of corridors leading to 2,706 staterooms, 24 elevators, 16 decks, umpteen theatres, some as large and stunning as the ones on Broadway, beautiful dining rooms, casinos, shops, gyms and zip lines, wall climbing areas and pools, a spa with a menu beat most spas in NYC.  The 1,180 feet tall central drop (178 feet taller than the Eiffel tower), had a breath taking decoration of stunningly beautiful gowns made of electro magnetic stones, shining off skeletons of hard sculpting wire. It was art and fashion in one, absolutely brilliant.

The Kosherica group met at the allocated space in the Glatt Kosher dining room, and a spread of the most delicious salads, fresh veggies and fruits, cheeses, freshly baked breads, pastries and a variety of deserts (gorgeously displayed), welcomed us. We got our instructions, accompanied by treats fit for royalty, plus, were informed that block reservations to the most popular shows have been pre-made on our behalf. Then it was time to go meet our luggage in our staterooms, and my heart skipped a beat.

My stateroom faced the ports, with a balcony and comfy bed, fresh linens, decorated daily by a sweetly helpful attendant, with towels folded to make creative and adorable animals. I especially loved the monkey, who hung from a clothes hanger above my fluffy white bed, had black eyes and a smile. I asked for permission to take him home and did, but the poor monkey turned back into two humble, crisp hand towels within weeks. He was supposed to turn into a prince, but, lo and behold, not his destiny.

I dined, of course, with the Kosherica group, adoring the food, the company and the comfort of being able to enjoy gourmet delicacies, plus freshly baked bread, without concern.

We saw some mind-boggling shows, starting with a production of the musical 'Chicago' and finally an indescribable show of water acrobatics, named 'Ocean Aria'. It was truly the best and most impressive show I have ever seen, with talent that exceeds mere mortal capacity. The show has an air of mystery, the most brilliant athletes, cohesively working together, although the artists hail from all over the globe. 'Ocean Aria' is a theatrical production of world-class quality and it takes your breath away.

With everything abundantly provided on board the ship it was tempting to stay aboard at the ports of call.

I succumbed to temptation, and chose instead to explore this self-contained, floating city.   I got off for a real exploration only in Saint Thomas and walked around in the side streets, where the tourists don't go.  I met many local residents, talked with many, and got a real feel of the place.

The last day was spent at sea and I was happy, connecting with my fellow Jewish travellers, enjoying cholent for Shabbat, and having great conversations, while looking out at the sparling water.

Ok, I'm ready to go back to my chores. Wish me luck!





Disclaimer: Cruise Kosher suggests the top Kosher Cruise Agents and is not responsible for bookings made with those companies.

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