My wife and I lead what we consider to be simple, unassuming lives.
We still live in the same modest house we bought over 30 years ago when we were in our mid-20s. That's a time in life when many couples buy their "starter" homes.
Fast forward 30 years and most starter homes in our area are far larger than the house we bought, Based on a couple of decades of conversations with young couples, I doubt the majority of them today would want to begin their lives together in a home that is a cracker box by modern standards.
We never up-sized when our family was growing and have no plans to downsize now that we are empty-nesters. In other words, our starter home is likely to be our "finisher" too.
If you were to look up the demographics of the suburban Bay Area of Houston, you would see many spacious, elegant homes owned by people much more affluent than a couple of teachers--one full-time and one a part-timer.
It was odd to me when our boys were growing up that their friends were much more likely to hang out our little place than host our sons in their often newer, more spacious houses. At the time I couldn't understand why our humble house served as a hub, but I now think that, to many kids, our simple abode felt more like home than the houses in which they lived.
As with our home, a pattern of modesty and simplicity covers many other areas of our lives. When we cruise we almost always book inside cabins, which allows us to cruise more frequently in cramped simplicity than once a year in relative luxury. Allthough I usually book small, windowless cabins, I try to book them on floors where they are across the hall from the high-end suites. This mimics the placement of our home where we live in one of the most modest areas of an affluent community.
In our home city we can expect a responsive government and dependable services. In the same way, we know the cruise lines are going to take good care of the people spending big bucks on the most desirable and expensive cabins. For us, bunking in proximity to some of the most opulent quarters on the ship means we will never have to worry about being assigned to an inexperienced or inattentive cabin steward.
With that type of planning it could be argued that we don't want to live as simply as we claim, and I would not have you believe that we lead lives of asceticism. In truth, we like some of the better things in life, but mostly as a change of pace. Like poor Cinderella who got to attend the ball in style before the clock struck midnight and it all went awry, we enjoy the little luxuries of cruising before returning to reality.
After watching the sun come up on day 2 of our cruise, we went back to our cabin and changed into fresh clothes before heading to the Crimson dining room on Deck 3 aft for one of our favorite amenities, the Carnival Sea Day Brunch.
Even though it is held in the same dining room as the breakfasts on port days, the brunch has a different feel to me. Perhaps it's because of the more eclectic menu that includes exotic sounding dishes like Pappardelle “Principe di Napoli” and Hen alla Diavola. We have never had any of the more exotic options, but their availability still impresses me.
This is our 13th cruise and on every one of them the dining room hostesses have tried to seat us with other people. While we have never taken advantage of that opportunity, on some ships the tables for two could only be closer together if we were seated in another person’s lap. In some ways, sitting at different tables and yet being only inches apart seems more awkward than if we were at the same table.
On the Dream, that was not an issue. For about half of our meals in the dining rooms we were given tables that could accommodate 4 people and even when seated at tables for 2, we had plenty of room and privacy.
We were seated quickly with coffee and water appearing a moment later, followed by delivery of the familiar double sided menu. A small tent card on the tabel gave the name of our head team waiter, team waiter and assistant team waiter. To my memory, this was the first time we have had 3 people dedicated to our service, which was flawless.
Long before boarding the ship on embarkation day, I had decided to have steak and eggs for our first sea day brunch. Looking at the brunch menu, I spotted my choice, but was surprised to see the steak offered was a filet mignon. The previous night at dinner in the Scarlet dining room I had enjoyed a tender and flavorful flat iron steak, and I hoped this morning’s offering would be just as good.
We always enjoy talking to the hard working crew on cruises and most of our conversations are with the staff in the various restaurants on the ship. We are always especially eager to talk to servers from the Philippines. Our daughter in law was born and raised on the southern island of Mindanao and over the years we have even met a few crew members who lived a short distance her family.
Without fail, we are always asked if we have visited the Philippines. We have to report that we have not yet, but we fully intend to go one day with my son, his wife and their two boys.
Before our daughter in law came into our lives about 9 years ago, we did not know much about the Philippines or the Filipino people. Since that time we have learned what a warm, friendly people Filipinos are. They are big hearted and love to cook and celebrate with family, something I think they share with Texans.
In addition to the steak and eggs I had ordered an appetizer of Carnival’s wonderful Flamin’ Tomato Soup, a rich, smoky concoction that puts to shame any other tomato soup. MInutes after ordering, a waiter appears at my shoulder and places a soup spoon on the table in anticipation of the soup’s delivery.
It had been 2 years since I last had this soup, and it did not disappoint. When you triple scrape the bowl after it’s empty, you know you have eaten something very special.
After the bowl and spoon are removed from the table, another waiter puts a steak knife down where the soup spoon had rested. The waiter, leaning in, said, “just in case the cow is stil alive.”
It’s so impressive how the servers take pride in doing their jobs well, making guests feel welcome, and with a genuine smile.
There is no shortage of fake people in the world. If you will allow me to paraphrase Grouch Marx, “the key to success in life is honesty and sincerety, and if you can fake those, you’ve got it made.”
When it comes to the overwhelming majority of cruise ship workers, I am convinced they exhibit the real thing. Considering the long work days they put it, I marvel at their attitudes.
When my steak and eggs arrived, the steak looked inviting and the fried eggs looked about as impressive as any fried egg can. I picked up my steak knife and it seemed to glide effortlessly through the filet. Cutting into the good flat iron steak I had the night before seemed like cutting into a catcher’s mitt by comparison.
I took the first bite of the filet and my conversation with my wife halted. Overcome by the first taste, I held up a hand to let her know I was going to need a moment. While I’m sure my wife’s omelet was tasty, she didn’t seem overcome by her first taste.
Once I regained my composure, I polished off the rest of the steak and the sad, pedestrian eggs that had become an afterthought.
When our breakfast over, we stood up, ready to find a quiet spot on deck where we would spend the morning, and knowing that we’d be very happy to return to our simple tastes. From my perspective, there was nothing wrong with Cinderella’s carriage becoming a pumpkin again. All that glamour could get old.
As for us, after the wonderful brunch we were looking forward to having Guy’s juicy burgers for lunch and wiping our mouths with his red shop rags.