What A Wonderful World

I’ve taken the liberty of writing my own verses to Louis Armstrong’s signature song. I don’t think ole Satchmo would mind.

Melody’s the same, only the lyrics have been changed. Let’s sing:

I see skies of blue, waters of teal
White sandy beaches, seagulls squawking for a meal
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

I see dolphins glide in the sapphire ocean
And surfacing sea turtles – what a commotion
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

The faces of people passing by on the deck
All wear such smiles, you wanna hug every neck
I see people shaking hands saying “how do you do?”
But my heart hears them saying, “I – like – you.”

I see bright skies by day that at night mystify
From the bow of the ship, shooting stars pass us by
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
The first week of August, we stepped out of our wonderful world here in East Grand Forks and into another realm – that of the Eastern Caribbean.

For years our family has talked about going together on a Caribbean cruise. The dream vacation finally came to pass when we, our sons, their wives, and four grandchildren spent a glorious seven days aboard Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas. Island stops were CocoCay in the Bahamas, St. Thomas and St. Maarten, all beautifully arranged by Bonnie Rygg Haley at Bon Voyage Travel Leaders in Grand Forks.

Every memory was made in heaven.

We flew to Orlando and sailed out of Port Canaveral. We 10 were among 3,600-some cruisers who were marvelously cared for by more than 1,300 crew members, three of whom I must tell you about.

We absolutely fell in love with our servers in Leonardo’s, the very elegant dining room on Deck 3 where we all gathered at the same oblong table each night at 8. At every meal, extra plates of a main course or a luscious dessert were placed before us to share with one another. The food couldn’t have been more tasty and its presentation was superb. Below is lobster.

Photo 1 Delectable Dinner 20160804_210410 rPhoto 2 Or Servers 20160806_213733 r


Jose (on the right) was our main server, assisted by Yelisa in the middle. Nemanja (left) was our wine steward. Very friendly, personable and beautiful people are they, inside and out.

Jose is from India. He and his wife have two young daughters, one of whom is named Naomi. Yelisa, from Indonesia, is just 19. She clung to me each time I hugged her and told me how much she misses her mother. Nemanja, from the small Balkan country of Montenegro, was positively delighted each night to serve Grandson Ethan, a yummy/juicy frothy ice cream/whipped cream kiddie cocktail.

Photo 3Ethan's Ice Cream Drink 20160801_201838r

Granddaughter Elyn thinks dinner was among her favorite things on the entire cruise. But, “not just the food,” said this pasta lover, “the people, too.”

We also enjoyed our breakfasts and lunches in the Windjammer, Deck 11’s fabulous buffet.

Deck 5 of this 13-deck vessel was like walking down an avenue in New York City. There were shops on each side and cafes and lounges that offered inside and outside seating. “You felt like you were on a street in some city,” Jim said.

And oh the islands! The beaches were breathtakingly beautiful, the water blue, green, azure, cobalt and indigo.

The island of St. Thomas welcomed people from the ship with music by its Rising Stars Youth Steel Orchestra. If only I could drum like that.

Drummers 20160803_113201r

On St. Thomas, our gang all went snorkeling except for Jim and me. We stayed on the catamaran because we felt they needed an audience and we were it.

The catamaran crew of three stopped in two beautifully serene bays. In the first one, the snorkelers explored a sunken ship. At the second one they swam amongst sea turtles and had small colorful fish bump into their masks. All four grandchildren together chimed “snorkeling,” when I later asked what the highlight of the trip had been for them.

Snorleers 20160803_151221r

We also enjoyed the beach on St. Maarten and browsed many of their interesting shops.

Freedom of the Seas has lovely and spacious staterooms. Every night from our balcony on Deck 7, I watched the crystals in the Atlantic below created by the ship forging through the waters.

Atalntic Crystals 20160806_110920r

There’s something to do every minute while on board. Our ship had a rink and we attended a spectacular performance on ice. We danced to the Rockport Band which did a bang up job on the songs of Elvis, Elton John, John Denver, and the Beatles.

One evening, while innocently passing by, we stopped at one lounge to sing-a-long with the fellow at the grand piano. Apparently Jarred Wood liked what he heard and wanted to send a microphone our way. We sent Granddaughter Grace to represent us. She knew almost every song Jarred played and with great confidence, proceeded to wow the audience.

Grace singing 20160805_231500r

Some days, some of us went to the Thriller Dance Class. We played bingo and Family Feud and the beautiful swimming pools and lounge chairs on Deck 11 always were a big draw.

We enjoyed a great performance by a family friendly comedian, a concert by the ship’s orchestra and Revoiced, an acapella group of five men that was just incredible. No instruments, just perfect harmony. The drum beat came directly from one of guys who has a very talented mouth.

One night after dinner, the 10 of us went ship strolling. We happened upon a corner where Karaoke was in progress. It was standing room only, so there we stood.

A young man took the stage and with microphone and raspy voice began to sing, “What a Wonderful World.” If you couldn’t see him or had closed your eyes, you’d have thought for all the world it was Satchmo himself.

Yes, here at home or in a faraway land, “What a Wonderful World” it truly is.

Until Soon

P.S. Please enjoy more photos below.

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