If you’re tired of hearing about the cruise, I promise that this is it for me. But I promised that I would tell my side of the story – Here are the highlights (and the lowlights) of my Cruise to Jamaica and Grand Cayman…
- RDU on Monday morning was CRAZY!!! Who would’ve ever thought that place would be that busy at 5:40? The SkyHops were so helpful (note: sarcasm) to make sure we were on our way. Their Non-helpfulness almost put us making our 7:15 am flight in jeopardy. We did, however, FINALLY get our boarding passes and through security in time to make our flight. As they said in Jamaica, "NO PROBLEMS, MON".
- Seeing my friends who had not flown (Norma, Autumn, Faith and Deanna) was worth the price of admission, especially when the first flight was the bumpiest i had ever experienced! The made it – Hooray!
- Seeing the boat for the first time was exciting – it was HUGE!
- Mealtime every nite was definitely a highlight. Besides the excellent food presented every night, the service was tremendous and the fellowship with our friends made you want to be there. We were reminded how blessed we were by the testimony of our waiter, Ruslan (from the Ukraine) who said he worked 6 months at a time, 10 hours a day, 7 days a week because "I’m not FROM America – we don’t have the opportunities that you have."
- Spending lots of uninterrupted time with my wife was a highlight. Keyna and I had the opportunity to enjoy one another’s presence last week and It really was great. Have I mentioned lately how much I love my wife? It’s not easy being married to me. Period. End of comment. Thanks for loving me, hon.
- Just being able to be me was a highlight. It seems that I am always in "leadership mode". On this trip I just chilled – I sat back and at times just watched. I didn’t feel the need to talk, entertain or anything else. I think my brain (and my mouth) needed a little breather so I gave it a break.
- My friends MADE ME sing karaoke! (not a highlight, by the way!). The hardest part was finding something to sing that wasn’t going to make me look foolish! I opted for "Fire and Rain" by James Taylor (too safe) – Keyna was wanting me to kick some Journey and although I would’ve loved to sing "Don’t Stop Believin’" I truly felt like my vocal range was not to the level I would need to sing Steve Perry (one of my singing "heroes") – especially without a trial run! The person in charge of karaoke asked me to come back on Wednesday to audition to play ELVIS in the Legends program on Friday night. "Yeah right", I thought, "like I’m gonna give my friends the opportunity to get THAT on video and pictures – RIGHT!" Needless to say, I was a karaoke "no-show" on Weds…
- On Monday we all ended up at the front of the ship, kind of like on the movie "Titanic" – we were literally as close to the front as they allowed us to get. It was beautiful – made even better by the presence of people that you love. We just about had a party right there (you know it’s a party EVERYWHERE that mike p goes!)
- Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica was an awesome excursion. I couldn’t believe that we got Norma to actually do that. We had to literally climb up a waterfall, holding hands and helping the person behind us up the slippery rock we just climbed, all while the waterfall keeps coming. Really cool (literally cool as it was mountain water coming down).
- Jamaica, on the other hand, was a real reality check about how blessed we are in America. I was amazed that it appeared that many people literally lived in a lean-to consisting of a couple of planks of wood draped with a cloth cover for a roof. I saw this everywhere we went. No wonder that a hurricane literally destroys so many lives on this island. The people of Jamaica were great, though, laidback and fun! They really seemed to live out their motto of "No Problems".
Now here’s the story of the scooters…
Some of us rode a boat into the Grand Cayman islands for a day excursion on Wednesday. It was the desire of some of the men to go scuba diving but it was unfortunately booked up. As soon as we got onto main street the ladies immediately headed for the first jewelry store they saw across the street (apparently, Grand Cayman is known as a great place to buy jewelry – whoopie! ). Anyway, as they were going in there, right next to the store something caught my eye – a cool-looking red scooter.
"mike p" it seemed to say, "wouldn’t you love to explore this beautiful island with ME?"
"yeah, that would be awesome" I thought. Next thing you know, Ray Britt, OW Ivey, Buddy Stephens, Linwood Locklear and myself are on these scooters, getting ready for adventure.
Our trip started out just riding around, seeing the close area. After making a circle and exploring downtown, we decided to venture beyond the 4 mile "circle" near the downtown. We began exploring and saw some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It was unbelievable – Buddy and I had to take off our shoes and walk in that water to see if it felt as great as it looked (it did).
We then explored a place they call "Hell" which is a bunch of volcanic rock formation that will remind you of something out of Dante’s Inferno. After taking some pictures we ventured on towards the end of that part of the island. We returned to downtown looking for the ladies. After not seeing any of them we stopped for a drink and some really great "island nachos" on the waterfront.
After lunch we decided to explore the far side of the island thinking to ourselves that it must be about 15 miles out… boy were we wrong. We rode and rode… and rode. It became apparent to me that the fellas were planning to go all the way around the island, hopefully ending up back where we started. I honestly was getting a bad feeling as the roads got worse and worse. Then…
…as we came up on a curve Linwood didn’t quite slow down enough and lost control of his bike; when he hit some gravel that was it – he slid his bike. I was behind him and saw the whole thing, Praying, "Lord, protect him, please don’t let him get really hurt." We barely lay there for 30 secs. He got right up, bleeding some from his arm and began to brush himself off. "thank You, Lord" I said out loud.
I wish this was the part of the story that said we turned around and headed back to the boat. "You think we should turn around now?" I asked an unnamed participant. "No – let’s ride just a piece more." "Ok" I said, hoping that we were close to completing our tour.
Unfortunately, about 20 minutes later we found out that the road ends at the end of North Cayman (we began in West Cayman). A local told us we would have to go back the way we came – approximately 65 miles – and it was about 2 o’clock. We were supposed to board by 3 pm.
We barely made it back! Buddy was the first back to the dock and told the crew to keep the boat because we were behind him and one of us was hurt – i guess that playing the hurt person card probably did the trick. (for the record, Linwood was hurt and besides the grace of God it could’ve been worse). Here’s the way it could’ve read…
When we got to the dock we saw our ship, still in the bay but billowing smoke, blowing the horn, pulling up the anchor and the gangways – WE WERE BEING LEFT! "What are we gonna do?" we asked; and then we saw a boat. "it’s our only hope fellas, come on!" We ran towards a boat, which consequently was loaded down with high dollar liquor. As the boat was pulling off we ran towards it and with a HUGE LEAP barely jumped on the boat. "Catch that Ship" we hollar at the driver pointing at the MS Imagination; and catch the ship he did. He made his way toward the large ship which was preparing to pull off. When they saw us they waited and we barely made it on the boat! (this is not EXACTLY how it happened, but it sounds cool, doesn’t it?)
I know that this is like, the longest post of all time, but you gotta tell it all. And You know, as i think about it this doesn’t read as fun (or funny) but it WAS and will be something that I remember until the day I meet Jesus face to face. If you ever have the opportunity to do something like this, do it – it’s a great way to explore the places you visit! Cruise stories are over for me. I’ll probably share some more pictures as they come my way. Next week we return to WholeHearted Ministry talk. Later.