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
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
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
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.
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