Oh no… We had already left ‘at sea’ behind us and were arriving back in the port of San Juan by the time I got out on to the deck (again) to watch the sunrise over the horizon, out at sea. I’d set my alarm for 5.45am and made it in time – this time – but. After pouring myself a coffee at the all-night coffee shop, I took paper towel to wipe the heavy dew off a deck chair and sat – alone in the quiet – on one of the decks. I had this amazing feeling of being very close to, sharing atoms with nature? It was so close, all around me. The clouds were hanging so low I felt part of the sky above. My feet and the ship’s deck connected me to the ocean and fish and other sea life. For a moment I completely felt just part of the universe rather than a separate being.
A church bell rang out as the Sunday sky started to slowly brighten and the first rooster crowed good morning. I sat quietly and listened as the birdsong started with a solo chirp and rose to a chorus of thousands of birds singing ‘glad to be alive’. I experienced an almost holy moment – and remembered it was Sunday…
Puerto Rican customs and port officials raced around the ship on sea-doos and motorboats, yelling to each other in Spanish. It was exciting to see this and I hoped it was just part of the routine to clear customs while the ship slept. The deck was dripping wet with dew and easily warm and humid enough for my tee-shirt. I put my wooly poncho back in my bag as the breath of early morning breeze vanished with the first sun.
By 6.45am the world started to stretch – perhaps nursing a hangover after the Saturday night partying. The towns woke too. Several passengers hovered, anxious to make their early flight back to Philadelphia. I’d met other guests from Massachusetts, Toronto, Niagara, Chicago, North Carolina, Florida, Iowa, Germany, France, Vancouver, Victoria, Korea and California – doubtless there were hundreds of others. It had been an amazing week and a wave of sadness rippled through me: it was over.
Last night as I danced with a new ‘good friend’ from New York, I was reminded that all we ever have is that brief moment, the present, made richer by daring to hold each other – strangers – tight, dance and experience a fleeting magic. So simple. How sweet life would be if I could share that precious trust, gained over a lifetime, with my children and grandchildren?
Its almost 8am and it’s life as usual for bustling San Juan. A US presidential candidate is here, campaigning, a small plane is flying over the beaches advertising to the new tourists and it feels both sad and empty to be yesterday’s tourist; leaving behind new friends, daily dancing, my holiday and the partying. We were no longer treated like royalty and it took a long 4 hours of milling around, waiting, to get all of us ‘spent’ holidaymakers ashore, warehoused in the belly of the ship: the ice rink while the new cruisers were welcomed aboard, looking like deer caught in headlights. US customs was held up with the politicians.
The delay provided me with the transition I needed to leave behind ‘5 star cruise’ mode and adapt to ordinary life again. However, there’s a comfort that wasn’t there before for me in San Juan where I’m lucky to be staying for a day: I know what to expect and how much the cab fare will be and where to eat lunch. I obviously appreciate a little routine and samesness more than I thought?! I’m looking forward to getting out on to sandy Condado beach, playing in the huge waves and snoozing under an umbrella. It’s been a long day already.
I was delighted to hear from other friends who turned out to be staying at the same hotel and I had a wonderful dinner with a friend I’d met last week at a bus-stop, after which we wandered in search of dancing to the big hotel next door and danced the night away. We all unanimously agreed that we’d all had the most fun week of our lives.