The theater audience aboard the Norwegian Jewel cruise ship erupted in cheers and applause as Stephanie Pope, a dynamic entertainer, took the stage. This late April cruise marked a significant milestone for all on board – the survival of a pandemic that had affected the world for several years. It was a feeling of relief and excitement to be cruising again, especially for my husband Carl and me, who had embarked on our sixth cruise since October 2021. Over the past 25 years, we had taken a total of 30 cruises, but this one was particularly special as we were joined by five other couples who were longtime friends. Our eight-night journey would take us from San Diego to Vancouver, with stops in Astoria, Oregon; Seattle; and Ketchikan, Alaska.
Among the group were Karen and Kenzo Takizawa from Tokyo, who were experiencing their first cruise. Karen, my friend since fourth grade who had been living in Japan since 1973, had originally planned an Alaskan cruise in May 2020. However, like many others, their plans were disrupted by the pandemic. When Karen mentioned their visit to California in April, I saw it as the perfect opportunity to introduce them to the Norwegian Jewel cruise we had just booked.
To our surprise, the other couples had also booked the same cruise, unaware that Carl and I would be joining them among the 2,000 passengers. It was a delightful surprise to reconnect with old friends and catch up on each other’s lives over meals at O’Sheehan’s Irish Pub, drinks at the Bliss Ultra Lounge, and dinners at various restaurants on board. The crew, who had been idle for months due to the pandemic shutdown, were equally thrilled to be back at work. We marveled at how the staff, hailing from different countries, managed to work together harmoniously. It made us ponder the possibility of world leaders achieving the same level of collaboration.
Usually, Carl and I would sign up for several shore excursions during our cruises. However, since this cruise followed a similar route to ones we had previously taken, we decided to explore the piers on our own or indulge in spa treatments, including massages. Carl even took the opportunity to have a haircut, one of his favorite onboard activities, which he relished while enjoying the mesmerizing ocean view.
In contrast, Karen and Kenzo were determined to make the most of their inaugural cruise experience. They eagerly joined various shore excursions, one of which focused on the history of World War II in the Pacific. They visited Fort Stevens in Astoria, which had been subjected to a Japanese submarine bombardment on June 21, 1942. Despite the minimal physical damage caused by the attack, its psychological impact led to the internment of Japanese Americans and Japanese Canadians throughout the war. These stories resonated deeply with Karen and Kenzo, prompting them to reflect on the immense challenges faced by these communities during that tumultuous time.
Another eye-opening experience awaited them in Ketchikan – a nature tour and crab feast excursion. During the tour, their bus driver shared the story of a Japanese American family who ran a grocery store in the town from 1916 to 2020. The family had spent World War II in internment camps but, upon their return, were overwhelmed by the townspeople who presented them with the proceeds from their grocery sales saved up during their absence. The display of love and support from their neighbors was truly heartwarming.
Throughout the cruise, we noticed a constant line of passengers outside Chin Chin, one of the ship’s restaurants. Intrigued by their enthusiasm, we decided to dine there one evening and were not disappointed. The Asian cuisine was delectable, and the service was impeccable. The cruise also offered several specialty restaurants, including Italian, Brazilian, Japanese, and French cuisine at Le Bistro, which quickly became our favorite spot. The ambience, food, and staff created an atmosphere reminiscent of being in Paris.
Kenzo summed up his experience by stating that a cruise ship is a special and joyful world where good people gather and behave well. He reflected on the cooperation among crew members from different nations, which ensured the smooth operation of the ship. As a traveler from Japan, he viewed this as a reminder of the necessity for cooperation among nations on the ship called Earth.
As the cruise came to an end, we raised a toast to the successful survival of a global pandemic. It was a challenging period that had tested our resilience and reminded us of the importance of cherishing moments with loved ones. The Norwegian Jewel cruise provided us with a renewed sense of hope, connection, and gratitude for the simple joys in life.
For those interested in embarking on a similar adventure, Norwegian Cruise Line offers a range of options and itineraries. Their website, www.ncl.com, provides all the necessary information to plan an unforgettable journey.
In conclusion, our cruise experience aboard the Norwegian Jewel was a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of collective cooperation. It was a chance to appreciate the beauty of the world, meet new friends, and reconnect with old ones. As we disembarked from the ship, we carried with us cherished memories and a renewed sense of optimism for the future.