Restoring Our Sanity

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Our CruiseMates "Test Your Sanity" group cruise on the Carnival Triumph was, of course, planned months in advance to coordinate with the schedule of John Heald, Triumph's popular cruise director.

During our planning, no one could have imagined the horrific events of September 11 in New York City, Washington D.C and Pennsylvania. In the aftermath, there was much uncertainty as to whether this Sept. 22 cruise would be possible, and some discussion as to whether it should be canceled. Many ships sailed on Sept. 15 with greatly reduced passenger loads. Once the decision was made to continue with our group cruise, I wondered if the same thing would follow on our sailing.

During our pre-cruise stay in Miami, the city was much quieter than normal. The citizens were obviously, and understandably, affected and depressed at the terrorist attack. When we went to the pier to meet the Triumph, it seemed the docks at Dodge Island were more somber than I had ever seen them before. The normal excited buzz we're used to hearing at the embarkation terminal was lacking.

However, once I was on board the Triumph, I sensed a different energy from our fellow passengers. There seemed to be a sense of calm excitement in the air as the ship pulled away from the pier. The first night of the cruise I attended the customary "Welcome Aboard" show in the Rome Lounge, hosted by John Heald.

I believe John too could feel the change in attitude of the passengers compared to the previous week's cruise. He seemed to sense that this cruise was different from many other cruises he'd worked before. And he reacted as the true gentleman and professional that he is. In the real John Heald tradition, he had people rolling in the aisles with laughter, and this continued at every event John hosted during the cruise.

American flags flew, with pride, from many of the balconies onboard. "God Bless America" T-shirts were visible everywhere. Everyone applauded when it was announced that close to 3,000 passengers were our cruise mates this week.

While no one could forget the tragic events of Sept. 11, this cruise seemed to take on a new meaning, led by our cruise director. He made clear what I think everyone knew, but was perhaps afraid to act on: Enjoying and celebrating life does nothing to disparage those lives lost, or to lessen one's empathy for the many families affected.

I think everyone on the ship experienced the same renewed feeling of community that is spreading across the globe.

It seemed fitting that this cruise was on a ship called the Triumph. For with people as humane and as charitable as John Heald, and the spirit I witnessed from most everyone on the ship, there leaves little doubt that civilization and freedom will indeed triumph.

With our sanity severely tested before the cruise, this cruise was perhaps the first small step for many of us in returning our sanity.

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