Thoughts for Today
From the real world, sublime and challenging…
A continuing pilgrimage…
On Thursday 12<sup>th</sup> March we were four days sailing from Southampton. The port talk on La Coruna, Spain was a good whet of the appetite. Santiago is situated in north west Spain and is the capital of Galicia. The description of Santiago de Compostela, one of the three pilgrimage spiritual capitals of Christendom, (along with Jerusalem and Rome) was pretty awe-inspiring. The train ride from La Coruna port is forty minutes long and has been a place of pilgrimage from the 9<sup>th</sup> century as it is the resting place of St James the Apostle around which the magnificent Cathedral is built.
The Latin derivation of Compostela, Composita Tella means ‘burial ground’ constructed by the Romans in the 4<sup>th</sup> century. There are 9 official pilgrimage routes to Santiago varying in length between 120 km and 1,000km depending on where you start. Many walk or cycle part of it. You receive your ‘pilgrims certificate’ if you manage over 100 km. One of the most popular routes from the UK is the final leg of 100 km of the ‘Frances Camino’, which starts at Sarria and finishes at Santiago.
It wasn’t until the Friday morning that our Captain announced that Spain was closing its ports to cruise ships, because of the spread of the Corona Virus. Its borders were officially closed the following Monday. We were due in to La Coruna on the Saturday, no longer. It was understood that this was necessary and we could only imagine what lay ahead of us back home. It meant a more sedate cruising time to Southampton by the following Monday.
Our last Morning Prayer gathering in the round of the Observatory ‘chapel’ was an emotional occasion with the ‘Faithful 30’. It was a delight to share the worship, music and readings with fellow travellers and seekers of all backgrounds. Frederick our “Sound Man” through the voyage sorted out the microphones, connectivity with the music and the multimedia screens. Our journey was a pilgrimage of its own on the high seas. We were able to reflect upon moving and worshipping at the same time. From our vantage point at the top of the ship we could see the bow carving its way through the waves of the ocean. Whatever our stories and backgrounds we shared our various destinations around the world. Since returning we have shared the similar circumstances and privations of a pandemic. Santiago de Compostela will wait for the returning stream of pilgrims. Pilgrimage is defined as a trip, often a long one, made to a holy place for religious and spiritual reasons.
The cruise continued with displays of the Craft Fair and Art Exhibition showing all the diverse creativity of the onboard workshops. Gin Making to your own (under guidance) recipes provided another interest and seventy ukelele players gave us their final concert of the voyage. The professional performers gave us a very emotional Variety Concert .
Temperatures were lowering on our Saturday deck walk and provided an opportunity to start packing. A choral concert was performed by the 20 members of the Passenger Choir, and was followed by the Captain’s final Cocktail Party and Formal Evening personally hosted by Henrik Matson the Master and Captain. Together with all the senior officers of the crew he bade us a fond farewell. Behind the scenes we had had the pleasure of getting to know them. The evening was rounded off by the Crew Show which reflected the diversity of the nations on board. The Finale was the shared singing of ‘We are the World’.
The precautions to be careful were carried out and at the Communion we gave the sacrament in one kind. The theme for the day was ‘Gratitude’, for we had much to give thanks for our steps into the exotic and stimulating world of South America and the Caribbean.
The final Crew Mass offered up the uncertainty they were all facing. Many didn’t know how they would get home or what the future held. Large blessings were shared and prayers continue. The final farewell dinner saw us saying our au revoirs to our two waiters, Jo(achim) and Ronald, who cared for us throughout the voyage. They combined care and fun - a marvellous recipe for hospitality.
The Balmoral Show Company gave their final Variety Show. The team of 7 had been together for the previous nine months. Their duties had included the supervision of the daily high jinx of games and quizzes onboard, and above everything else their show was full of youthful talented exuberance. The audience saw them off with loud encores and applause.
This was our 70<sup>th</sup> night on board and an early start beckoned with a 6.30am disembarkation in a deserted Southampton. Our journey up the M40 was a surprisingly quiet experience. We stopped off at the deserted Warwick Services, but the shock reality set in when later that evening I found shelves in the local supermarket stripped bare – so the search for toilet rolls began. . . Home was so welcoming. This particular Pilgrimage was over and the new reality continued to set in before lockdown the following week.
Postscript to follow…
Edward and Jane