Friday, August 10, 2012

Cruise Trip Ending in Rome Where It All Began

Perhaps it was the influence of Islam and the ancient Byzantine culture; perhaps the religious separation of the nations from the Latin Church; perhaps the region's isolation geographically from western Europe - whatever the reason, the shroud of mystique covering the Turkey and Greece region tickled my curiosity and imagination as I stood with Josephine on the ocean-view outdoor deck of Celebrity Equinox. Leaning against the waist-high railing, we admired the golden hues of the setting sun on the distant horizon of the Aegean Sea.

As the ship headed west toward the coasts of southern Italy, we entered into the last 3 days of the itinerary of the cruise: 1 more day at sea, 1 more in Naples, and the last day in Rome where the passengers would disembark. With all passengers on board, the ship was noticeably more crowded, but not so much as to cause any discomfort or inconvenience. Ever
so organized and attentive to the needs of the passengers, management of the crew took the opportunity to offer Dessert Extravaganza on the evening before the at-sea day, and then a formal dinner at the magnificent and luxurious Silhouette Dinning Room the following evening.

The at-sea day also meant we had more time to explore the various venues and amenities offered by the ship. By this time of the journey, I had already adopted a certain "daily routine", part of which was
waking up early in the morning to exercise on deck of the Lawn Club - a freshly manicured lawn on the highest deck of Equinox with a decidedly country club atmosphere that was just fantastic for outdoor activities. The Oceanview Cafe and Bar was only one deck below, which was where I went for breakfast following morning exercise. I would find a table good for 4 people, open up the book that I had brought specifically for reading during this trip, and wait patiently for the rest of my family to join me. Sometimes they never did. If any family members ever showed up, it would be Jason who was more disciplined and predictable, followed by Josephine. Michelle? Well, it appeared her body clock always mistook lunch for breakfast....

At the port of Naples, we were picked up by Antonio, our driver and tour guide whose slender build, elongated face, slightly protruded teeth and seemingly mindless laughter reminded me of a good childhood friend named Hong Gor. It was simmering hot in Naples. There was not a cloud in the sky. Whatever remnants that remained from the morning haze were quickly burnt off by the rising sun that continued to pick up strength as the day progressed. Antonio, the Italian version of Hong Gor, was a cheerful young man who had just got married, and was extremely proud to be able to work for his new wife who was now his office manager. Driving us up and down the incredibly treacherous roads in the mountainous region of southern Italy, Antonio brought us safely to the scenic Amalfi Coast. While the ocean views of Amalfi were eye-catching and the beauty of its beaches stunning, what really took our breath away was something very humble and unnoticeable that sat in a quiet corner of the town.

Hidden in a curved corner in downtown Amalfi, the Cathedral of Amalfi looked small and was hardly detectable amongst a multitude of tourist shops jockeying for business and people's attention. But as soon as we had climbed its long stairway to reach the front door, we realized that it was anything but small. Standing there at the doorway to
greet every visitor was a sign that said, "Welcome to the Cathedral of Amalfi and the crypt with St. Andrew's tomb". St. Andrew? One of the twelve apostles? Indeed he was!! Having visited the house of Mary in Ephesus, venerated the burial place of St. John, and then traced the footsteps of St. Paul in Athens and Corinth, little did I know that our cruise trip would take us to the tomb of St. Andrew
- Simon Peter's brother who took Simon to see Jesus, the Messiah he had just found (cf. John 1:40-42). Without him, the first Pope of the Church could have been a different person! With my heart filled with thankfulness and my head overcome by incredulity, I did the only thing that was right: kneeling down at the crypt to thank God and St. Andrew for the blessings....

If there's anything I didn't like about Celebrity Equinox, it was their very strong but tasteless coffee, which forced me to let go of coffee for several days. As a result, I was overjoyed when I found a good cup of "American coffee" at a coffee shop in Positano - another beautiful coastal town situated to the east of Amalfi.
People say that in ancient Europe all roads began and ended in Rome. So it was with our journey. From Positano Antonio drove us to his home town Sorrento, and from there we took a hydrofoil to return to Naples and our ship Equinox.

By the time we disembarked to Rome, we had already had very blessed encounters with Our Lady and three apostles (St. John, St. Paul, and St. Andrew). On this second visit of Rome - the first one was in 2008 - we paid tribute to Scavi, the catacomb underneath St. Peter's Basilica, where we admired the sacred bones of St. Peter, placed in a crypt no more than 20 feet away from where we knelt. That brought the total number of apostolic encounters to 4! Adding to our blessings were a Sunday morning Mass at Pope John Paul II's new altar and Angelus at noon with the Holy Father, whose books, Jesus of Nazareth I & II, I had just read.

A cruise trip like this for four people was not cheap obviously. But no money can buy the family time that we spent together; and nothing can compare to the blessings that God graciously bestowed on our family during the 15 days in which we as family members got to know one another a little better. At this stage of my life, knowing where I am spiritually
and where I once was; upholding a renewed understanding of the true meaning of life and its values; and doing what I've always loved to do - spreading the Good News of Christ; a trip like this really enabled me to come to realize "the breadth and length and height and depth" of the love of Christ (Eph 3:18), who has always been merciful, faithful, and steadfast in leading and guiding me in all these years. With a heart filled with thankfulness, contentment, and great joy, I conclude this sharing at our last stop in Rome, where it all began....


  1. You are not only a good storyteller and also a very good narrator bringing the scenes alive. Rome in Europe indeed acts as the center bearing of Catholic religion which has taken thousands of years in history to be built; layers and layers on top of one another. Every single stone used in the Vatican has its only significance including the pebbles which numb ones feet while walking on. St. Peter's Basilica, the Papal Audience, the collection of artifacts in Vatican Museum, the ancient sculling oar of Egypt display at the bottom floor of its main entrance, all these memory of images still have my passion captive as much as the Bible unfolds the truth before my eyes. One just has to be there to appreciate the glory of our God and savor the feeling of tranquility of being there, to be there at HOME.

  2. Hello! Does the rate of your posting depend on specific issues or you write articles when you have an inspiration or write blog posts in case you have sufficient time for that? Thank you so much in advance for your reply.

    1. Thank you for visiting my blog. I write for pleasure and receive no fees for my posts. Also, I write only when I have time.