September 30, 2023

The day following our trip to the Vatican City and Rome, we had the whole time on the ship as it cruised over the deep blue waters on a sun shiny day towards the port of Palma de Mallorca. So many activities were arranged for the cruisers from sunrise to past midnight which included physical exercises, dance lessons, swimming pool sports, yoga, musical games, aerobics, theater shows, evening dance parties on two decks, midnight shopping, lotto draws, among many others.
As mentioned at the beginning of this cruise story, the ship had a total of 1,413 crew members of different nationalities – Chinese, Indians, Indonesians, Italians, Brazilians, French, Turkish, and Filipinos who, according to Allan, composed almost 10 percent of the crew component.
Allan, who is a Cebuano, was the assistant chief of the bars and cocktail lounge personnel. We met him at the Sunset Bar during our first day on the ship and we became friends. He treated us to beers and almond snacks and he introduced me to his “boss” as his uncle.
During the entire cruise, Allan would treat us to drinks at the sports bar and cocktail lounges where we would bump into each other.
Another kababayan was Naomi from Davao City, whom we also met on the first day of the cruise. She oversaw the buffet and dinner personnel, and did not seem to sleep, as she was always up and about at the different restaurants on three decks each time we would be there, very early in the morning and dinner time. Like Allan, Naomi would compliment us with drinks, especially during fine dining, and she would instruct the assigned waitress and waiter to attend to our needs.
We also met during our excursion to Rome and The Vatican City, Marietta, from Quezon, who oversaw the cabin personnel. She was going on-leave to the Philippines at the end of the cruise, after being on the sea for 10 straight months. She provided us with extra pillows and toiletries.
We would always bump into Filipinos in most decks that we would go to. The casino personnel, mostly Filipinos as were those in the bars and in the restaurants, had ready smiles for us, their kababayans. They provided us with what we would request from the kitchen. The lead singers at the theater were also Filipinos and they performed so well nightly with their Tina Turner and Abba songs, among others.
We learned from their individual accounts to us that their employment in a cruise ship changed their lives and that of their families, the beneficiaries of their sacrifices. Allan, for one, was able to save for a ham distribution business which he started with a half a million pesos investment that has grown into a multi-million business, managed by his wife.
The presence of our kababayans made our cruise a very comfortable and memorable one. Their presence alone made us feel at home on the ship among the multi-national passengers from Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Now, we enjoyed the same hospitality that my brother and sisters and friends, who had previously gone on a cruise, had experienced and why they advised us: “Whenever you go on an international leisure cruise, always look for your kababayans among the crew members and you will get a taste and warmth of Filipino conviviality on the high seas.”
The ship docked at Palma de Mallorca early in the morning. After breakfast, we boarded a shuttle bus that took us to the city center, close to the famous Catedral-Basilica de Santa Maria de Mallorca, more popularly called “La Seu.”
We learned that this Catholic gothic church was built on the foundations of an ancient mosque and the Roman walls that protected the city, under the orders of King Jaime I, as a fulfillment of his promise to the Blessed Virgin Mary on the high seas when he was shipwrecked and saved on its way to conquer Mallorca.
The bell tower houses nine bells, the largest of which weighs 4,500 kilos. The Cathedral has the largest rose window in the world out of all the cathedrals of this style. Thus, it became known as the “Eye of the Gothic.” As I was viewing the very large rose window, it reminded me of the rose window at our Baguio Cathedral, and how I marveled at its magnificence as viewed from the eyes of a teenage acolyte then.
I came to know that the “Eye of the Gothic” measured 13 meters in diameter and has 1,236 sheets of glass that create a wonderful display of colors. The cathedral is beautifully decorated inside with the chapels on its sides. It has a very high ceiling and the light pouring in through the stained-glass windows reflected its multi-colors on the Bishop’s throne and the Chapel of the Holy Trinity.
In front of the Cathedral is Parc de la Mar, an artificial lake that shows beautiful reflections of the church. By the side of the Cathedral one can have a spectacular view of the Mediterranean.
Beside the Cathedral is the Royal Palace of La Almudaina, the official residence of the King and Queen of Spain, in Mallorca, which is the capital of the Balearic Islands. Inside the Palace, one learns about the artistic styles that have succeeded each other throughout the history of the island.
There are many places to see in the island and again, one day is not enough to enjoy and tour the other places of interest like the beaches and the city’s bustling modern and cosmopolitan style, including Rafael Nadal’s Tennis Academy. But we made it a point to taste its traditional and famous “sobrasada”, “butifarron” and “tumbet”, and washed them down with San Miguel beer on a sidewalk restaurant. Then our remaining hours were used in discovering the arts and culture of the people and the place, in the various local stores lined along the “narrow streets of cobblestones”
Back in the ship, the captain, and some crew personnel, appeared and bade farewell and thanks to the passengers over a sit-down dinner. Truly, this has been an unforgettable experience that will remain forever etched in our fading ageing mind. We shall look forward to our next cruise, to see another part of this world, while we can and we could. I still remember that “the world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
Here is looking forward to opening another page and to reach our goal of passing on in this world with memories, not dreams.