When my wife and I took a cruise last month, I had one of those smile moments on board that did not fully explain itself until much later.  You see, the cruise was a tour around the Baltic Sea, where you wake up in a different port each morning and spend each day off the ship exploring the cities.  Translation: the only cruising you do is at night while you are sleeping.

17 - extraordinary 1

But that’s not entirely truthful.  Fact: if you travel on the Baltic Sea from Tallinn, Estonia to St. Petersburg, Russia, it takes a full day to get from one to the other.  Which means you actually do get a “day at sea”.  Ours was a Sunday.  And Sunday includes a Sunday afternoon.  So on that Sunday (smile moment), I found myself humming the tune made famous by Marvin Gaye:

“Cruisin…’ on a Sunday afternoon.  Really… couldn’t get away too soon…”

For those of you in the know, I found out well after the cruise that I need to work on my Marvin Gaye lyrics.  It’s actually “Groovin’… on a Sunday afternoon”.  Well okay, maybe I was crusin’ AND groovin’ on a Sunday afternoon.  I’m just glad I wasn’t singing out loud.

I want to share a few details about this cruise; the jaw-dropping experiences that add the “extra” to “ordinary”.  “Ordinary” my wife and I have already experienced, several years ago on the only other cruise we’ve taken.  “Extraordinary” arrived last month in the form of the cruise ship Marina, a 1,200-passenger stunner that is the newest member of the Oceania fleet.

Here’s an example of extraordinary.  When we arrived at our cabin door after boarding Marina, we were greeted almost immediately by our room steward; a lovely woman from the Philippines named Remy (another smile moment, as we have a dog by the same name).  Remy gave us the full “tour” of our cabin and insisted we call on her day or night for anything we needed.  Then she disappeared almost as soon as she arrived.  But we saw her several more times in the hallways, and she always greeted us by name.  “Good morning Mr. and Mrs. Wilson”.  “Good evening Mr. and Mrs. Wilson”.  How does she do that?  I know she was room steward for a dozen other cabins and there’s no way I would remember all those names after a single, brief introduction.  Extraordinary.

Here’s another example.  When my wife and I returned to Marina from our daily “land excursions”, the crew arranged afternoon tea in a beautiful ballroom near the stern.  Dozens of small tables for two or four, with comfy chairs, tablecloths and steaming teapots (we always chose the peppermint).  A black-tied four-piece string quartet would entertain us.  A waiter materialized with a choice of sandwiches (with the crusts cut off no less) and several scrumptious desserts.  It was that feeling of being under-dressed but over-pampered.  It was also the feeling – apparently – of English royalty.  Extraordinary.

Final example.  Our cruise line offered on-board culinary classes, so we just had to bite (ha).  We donned our chef whites for three blissful hours one afternoon, preparing and tasting delicious pasta dishes and sauces.  It was a scene right out of the Food Channel.  You had your master chef at the front of the room, behind her spotless and stainless kitchen counter, with the requisite mirror overhead to make it easier to watch.  Then you had her several assistant chefs scurrying around the room to help you, making sure your prep station was cleaned up for the next step; ingredients perfectly measured.  All you had to do was watch and prepare, cook and consume.  I could get used to that.  Extraordinary.

17 - extraordinary 2

Take a cruise sometime and see if it doesn’t get you groovin’ too.  I also find it extraordinary that my brain still remembers the lyrics from a song written in 1967.  Well, I remember the lyrics incorrectly (which is a great topic for another blog) but you get the idea.