Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Last Night of Our Christmas Cruise

It has become a yearly tradition, instead of purchasing Christmas gifts for her dd and son-in-law [my Mom & Dad], grandchildren and great-grandmother, my Nana treats us to a Christmas cruise instead. This has occurred the past 4 years. Dh and I missed the first one, my brother and his kids missed the third one.

Once a few years back when the subject of our Christmas cruise had come up I suggested Aruba instead. Nana quickly countered that a Caribbean island like Aruba would never feel like Christmas. Ships feel like Christmas. Period, she had made her mind up.

Who was I to argue the point with a 93 year old woman that tourists in Aruba rent cars to drive through Savaneta to view houses decorated in beautiful Christmas lights, the Arubans celebrated Christmas AND Boxing Day and even the arrival of Sinterklaas. Nevermind the hotels and their decorations. Besides she is just not a beach person and has no love for Aruba like my parents or dh, dd and myself. I let it drop and never brought it up again.

Cruising is nice and we all enjoy it. Last Christmas we flew to San Juan from Newark, Atlanta and Miami. Once again we were together, the ten of us. My 93 year old grandmother, my Mom and Dad, myself, dh, dd and my brother and his 3 kids, nephew age 12 and nieces 13 and 17. We spent 11 nights sailing the Caribbean aboard the Celebrity Galaxy. Everyone is free to do whatever they wish during the day. We planned some tours as a group, one day my brother went his own way and did SNUBA in St. Martin and all the kids hung out with us. Dinners though everyone eats together. We only get to spend this one time each year together so wish to make the most of it.

This cruise was even more special since we had a stop in Aruba which allowed us to spend New Year's Eve day lounging on Palm Beach. My brother's kids had been in Aruba once before on a cruise and once again loved everything Palm Beach had to offer. We parked ourselves on the beach near De Palm Pier and thus the Radisson.

The Radisson's Christmas decorations were like something out of a fantasy! Maybe, a little over the top, but I made sure I took plenty of pictures. Suddenly there was a determination inside of me to prove to my grandmother that on this one point she was wrong.

Each year we cruised and the decorations on the ships became less and less. I was bound to show her that Aruba KNEW how to do Christmas. The port and the cruise terminal were also decorated with Christmas lights and a few other decorations. They were the first thing I noticed from our balcony as the Galaxy was pulling into port that morning in the pre-dawn hours. As the ship was departing that same night I went to my grandmother's cabin and asked her out onto the balcony. "See" I said, "Aruba does know how to do Christmas". I began pointing here and there, to this decoration and the next. Not coincidentally it was New Year's Eve. New Year's Eve in Aruba is celebrated on a scale that puts our 4th of July to shame. Arubans begin with firecrackers in the morning and the momentum builds as the day continues. By nightfall, which we were now at, the fireworks were bursting in the air all around the island. Nana nodded and acknowledged and did not say much.

Now, towards the end of each cruise, we all begin whispering about our hopes and dreams for the following Christmas. My Mom and I banter. Dh and I exchange some pillow talk. This year, the buzz was mostly the kids telling me "Aruba".

Sure enough the subject came up at dinner on the very last night of the cruise. My nephew who is by no means shy and would never think twice about listing "One-Thousand Dollar Bill" on his birthday list, proclaimed that IF (we never assume it is a given since it is a gift) Great-Nana were going to take us away next Christmas he would like it to be Aruba. His 13 year old sister quickly chimed in she would like to do that also. I believe her bags were already packed. Dd jumped right on that band wagon, she didn't even need the horse to drive that train! As normal, Great-Nana smiled and said nothing. I knew full well that she did not like Aruba. She prefers cruising.

To continue along a pleasant dinner conversation, I added that it was a nice suggestion. Arguing the fact that the kids would have plenty of things to keep them busy while on the island, there was of course nice weather and I knew the Tamarijn with it's beachside, oceanfront rooms, would be perfect resort where my grandmother could sit in her room or out on her patio and watch the kids out having fun on the beach. She has a little bit of trouble walking. She uses a cane and is too stubborn to resort to a walker. That would make her look "old".

While cruising, during the day except for meals, she spends most if not all of her time on her balcony reading, doing crossword puzzles and probably some dozing. ARUBA would be a great opportunity for her. End of conversation.

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