The long awaited cruise is over and we've arrived in the United States to visit with family.
Yes, the ship was amazing, the food was delicious, the atmosphere restful.
But what I enjoy most about cruising is meeting some very special people from all over the world. For me, at least, what stays with me when we disembark are the conversations with fellow travelers.
I remember the recent widow who is quick to share about previous travels with her late husband. Her eyes shine and her animation conveys how much she misses him, though she carefully hides it behind a funny anecdote from their final cruise together. Later, she sees me on the promenade and says, "Thanks so much for listening to my stories about Jack."
I think about the English couple who've made the transatlantic crossing many times over to visit their married children and grandchildren who live in the US. They tell me proudly about their son's latest career promotion and how they look forward every Sunday to a SKYPE call from their grandchildren. They can hardly wait to reach New York, they tell me. There's a new baby - a girl. "I can't wait to cuddle her," Grandma says with eyes brimming. "They named her Victoria after my Mum," she adds with visible pride.
And then there's the 92 year old widower who never uses the elevator and works out in the state of the art onboard Fitness Center every morning. He's loved the sea and ships since he was a child and now that he's alone, he spends most of his time onboard. It's his seventh transatlantic crossing in a year.
Every morning I see the young couple with a wheelchair bound child. The little boy - about 8 years old - smiles at everyone but doesn't talk. He can't. His parents make sure he has a front row position for the Dreamworks' Characters' parade on the promenade. He claps his hand with glee as the characters dance back and forth in front of him. His mother smiles at his happiness. I hear her say to another passenger, "Every child has special needs. Tommy's are just a little different."
I return to my cabin, thanking God for the abundance of blessings He has poured out on my life. The American holiday of Thanksgiving is approaching. The opportunity to meet and listen to those I've described - as well as many others on the ship - serves to remind me that of all the blessings we may experience in life, people are the greatest. Family and friends are the treasures of life.
Don't wait for Thanksgiving Day - tell someone today how much you appreciate them in your life.