Aaaahhh…a week in the Caribbean sailing on the Celebrity Eclipse. It was the type of experience that totally lights up our souls. A full week of sunshine, reggae, gourmet meals, warm breezes, Caribbean vibe, fruity cocktails…and relaxation squared. Together, we loved every single moment of it.
However, we almost didn’t do it. While we’ve had a warm-weather getaway just about every winter since the beginning of our relationship (nearly 20 years!), this winter was the first time we didn’t have a vacation planned. A big chunk of money had recently gone toward business training expenses, so it didn’t feel practical. Or even doable.
But because these winter vacations are always such a spiritual experience for us and bring us tremendous joy, in early January we thought we better find a way to make it happen. Our favorite vacation is a cruise, so Bill’s idea was for us to visualize a cruise every morning – get in touch with what that type of vacation feels like for us, imagining being on the ship in detail and how it fills our hearts.
We’ve learned that the best way to create an experience in our life is to act as if it’s already there.
So…just a few days of that was all it took for us to “magically” pool together airline miles, birthday and Christmas money, and other gift money. And the icing on the cake was the change bank we forgot about downstairs! We immediately cashed in the big Corona plastic bottle…and everything came together.
After emptying the change bank, our cruise was booked. We could barely wait!
We’re getting to be such seasoned cruisers that we decided to do something different this time. We left our formalwear at home, in service of simplicity – no cute cocktail dresses for me to pack and no suits for Bill to squeeze into a suitcase. While we love the dress-up nights, we opted for ease and comfort on this sailing. After all, this was our 12th cruise – time to shake things up a bit!
Once on the ship, the second formal night of the cruise was the only evening where we didn’t have “plans.” Since formal attire was required in the dining room (and again – we didn’t have any), we talked about doing room service on our private balcony or having burgers on the top deck under the stars. Looking at all our options and wanting to play things by ear, Bill said: “No worries, the night will work itself out.”
Famous last words.
Unsuspecting party guests
The afternoon of formal night, we attended a party for repeat cruisers. What an extravagant party they throw! Big band orchestra, fancy appetizers, desserts, and a menu of complimentary drinks. We chatted up other past Celebrity guests and relished in the royal treatment.
Stuffed from treats and cosmopolitans, on our way out we heard a voice hurriedly rushing up behind us. “Wait! Did you enjoy the party?” It was a crew member neatly dressed in uniform and intentionally seeking us out. We thanked him for the great party and explained how appreciative we were of our experience with Celebrity. It was his next question that stopped us in our tracks.
“Would you like to dine with the Captain tonight? It would be our honor to have you at his table.”
Before we could reply, my mind went into overdrive. There was only one thing I really knew about the Captain’s table: The image of Captain Stubing on “The Love Boat” conversing with his esteemed personal guests, surrounding him in fancy attire. And now all of a sudden I had a real-life opportunity to be a part of this fantasy image I’ve held since I was a kid! Wow!
So, with big smiles we both said, “Yes, we’d be delighted!” And I swear, I’m sure we looked like little kids about to be magically escorted to the circus on an elephant.
“Fantastic!” the man said and was about to fill us in on the details.
But then reality set in. “Wait, we’d need formalwear for tonight, wouldn’t we?” Bill said.
Upon learning that yes, this was a formal affair and it did happen to be formal night, we felt completely dejected. How could we NOT have our fancy stuff with us? And even more importantly…how on earth could we turn down the most prestigious invitation a passenger could be offered?
“Wait,” I said. “Maybe we can make this happen.” We simply could not let this opportunity pass us by. I asked the nice man if we could have a few minutes to see if we could make it work and get back to him. He wrote his number down (and said to call him ASAP because he would have to find another couple if we couldn’t make it) and we were off.
Amazingly – and after a quick trip to the Guest Relations desk – we called our new friend back and said we could pull it off. He was delighted and said that an invitation would be hand-delivered to our room shortly. It was 3:15 and dinner with the Captain was at 6:00!
Mission Number-One: Tuxedo
Within 20 minutes, the ship’s tailor was up in our room measuring Bill for a tux. Normally, you have to reserve a tux at least 14 days before sailing.
Could we really make this work?
Thankfully, after a few different visits with various mishaps and ill-fitting pieces, Bill was the proud new owner of a tux rental for the evening! The jacket fit his broad shoulders, but the bottom of the jacket looked like he should have an additional hundred pounds on his gut. “Guess you’ll have to eat a bit more tonight,” our stateroom attendant commented. Not that that’s ever an issue on a cruise!
OMG, though – it was the pants that were killin’ me. You know how on “America’s Funniest Videos” there’s always some goofy guy on the wedding dance floor whose pants drop right down to his ankles? I was afraid this was going to happen to Bill. Whadda ya gonna do, though? If you want a tux ASAP, you gotta make a few concessions. He still looked pretty hot!
Mission Number-Two: Fancy Dress
I bolted and hit the ship’s elegant shopping area. I knew there were a ton of watches, jewelry pieces, perfumes, and accessories for sale…but I wasn’t fully sure what they carried in the way of evening wear.
Looking back, it’s funny that I was so confident we could make this event work out. How did I know there would be a dress that I even liked? Or one that would fit me? But with the help of two cute young sales associates, I had just the right dress for me within minutes. I actually had to make a quick decision between four amazing styles that fit perfectly – lucky me!
But, I didn’t have the right undergarments (ladies, think Spanx), and the only shoes I had were old slip-ons that I might wear to the beach. On top of that, the earrings I wear every day were gonna have to do and my only purse on the trip was the same one I brought to the State Fair last year. Oh well, this was not the time to be picky!
In under an hour, we had everything taken care of. Time to get ready! When I was in the shower, Bill had an epiphany and realized that he had no black socks, so this was the note I found on the bed:
The big night
As we frantically prepared ourselves and raced around our small cabin, bumping into each other with papers flying and things getting knocked over, Bill kept reminding me: “Don’t forget to breathe!”
All dressed up, without a second to spare! Not bad, huh?!
Out of 3,000+ passengers, there were five lucky random couples (although nothing is ever random). As instructed, we met up in the wine tasting room, promptly at 6:00 p.m. – everyone a bit nervous and unsure of what to expect. We naturally talked about “The Love Boat” and giggled a bit.
Then, the Captain walked in! He was the Staff Captain, second in command of our mega-ship. He politely went around the room and graciously shook our hands and gave each of us a big smile. We knew we were in for a fun night!
Our group was escorted to the main dining room, and I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a grand march at a high school prom, but that’s what it felt like. The Captain and we five couples paraded down the grand staircase from the upper level of the dining room to the lower level. Wow, did I ever feel special. I saw many people pause to look up from their tables and watch us with the Captain. Pretty cool!
We got to our table and experienced some of the best service on the planet and of course the food was incredible. It was fun to share in good conversation with the Captain about the ship, about the cruiseline, about his life in Greece, and about his thoughts on the recent ship sinking tragedy. What an honor to hear all this straight from the Captain!
I loved how before each course we all waited for the Captain to say “Bon Appetit!” before we dug in. It didn’t surprise me that Bill leaned over to me at dessert with a look of guilt and whispered, “Whoops, I already started.” Apparently he was on a mission to make those pants fit better.
After dessert, I passed around little window message cards for each person – the kind with a unique inspirational quote inside each one. Here’s the one I got:
What a great affirmation for me. It seems as though the whole evening was built on faith!
After a couple hours of amazing food and great conversation, each of the women received a beautiful red rose from the Captain (I don’t remember Captain Stubing doing that). And he came around again to each of us and very purposefully shook our hands and thanked us for dining with him.
What fun! Definitely a story to write home about (kind of like the nude beach escapade we experienced on our honeymoon cruise!).
The night was still young
Not that I wanted the evening to be over, but I will say it felt good to be “at ease” and let the hair down a little and hit the disco. Not much dancing for Bill, though, because his baggy pants would have ended up at his feet. So, we bar-hopped a bit (after all, if you’re gonna get all fancied up, you might as well stay up and enjoy it) and reflected on the serendipity of the evening.
We listened to a jazz quartet in our favorite lounge.
We enjoyed the string trio playing in another lounge.
And at the end of the night, I couldn’t resist capturing this shot of my guy in his tux doing what he does best…serving as a late-night pizza connoisseur. :)
My dear friend and business coach/mentor, Fabienne Fredrickson, says that you will never be presented an opportunity without also being given the means to make it happen.
After being invited to the dinner, we somehow were able to pull together the required formalwear in a remarkably short amount of time: A tux and brand new dress seemed to be just waiting for us. We just happened to be free for the evening. And though I could have never imagined it happening, I was able to experience a fantasy event I had watched repeatedly play out on TV when I was nine (when my mom let me stay up late enough to watch).
You may have read stories here on the blog about what happens when we follow our joy. For example, we go to a favorite concert and always come home with a great story – whether it involves front row seats, backstage fun, a surprising kiss (!), or other amazing experience. Something fun always happens when we’re together. We do a good job of setting our intention ahead of time while staying open to the possibilities of the experience – whatever they may be.
Of course it’s important to know what you want in life and create a plan. But I always tell my clients that at the same time – it’s just as important to be open to whatever it is that comes your way. Just like we found out on our last cruise. :)
Using joy as our guide
We’ve learned the lesson over and over of the importance of following the things that bring you joy. It’s where the richness of life resides and where the magic takes place. When we follow our joy, there’s always a type of “wink and a nod” from above that seems to affirm us and say: “Nicely done.”
As we boarded the ship at the beginning of the week, who would have ever thought that a few nights later we’d be dining at the Captain’s Table? Not us! But at the same time looking back – we’re not really surprised, since this is exactly the type of crazy thing that might happen when you follow your joy and stay open to the wonder of life.
Captain’s Table photo courtesy of Celebrity Cruises