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Friday, March 2, 2012

JOY on the Journey Cruise

JOY on the Journey Cruise

Hey, everyone! I'm WAY behind in blog posts, but hope to get back on track with regular posts soon. It seems like life's been on "fast forward" since December! (Thanks to those of you who have asked  about my blog! I still plan to do some updates on recent events asap!) In the meantime, here's a brief recap of the "JOY on the Journey" Bahamas Cruise Retreat I led the third week in February.

Our group of fifteen traveled from Georgia via different routes, and converged at my Mother's home in Fernandina Beach, FL, where I grew up. That gave us an opportunity to get better acquainted, and enjoy some light snacks before our seafood supper at the Marina Restaurant.

We spent the night in Jacksonville, and arrived at the port in time to meet for lunch on the ship. Betty and George Burger arranged the trip, organized some of our excursions, and accompanied the group as "full service" travel agents! The "Bon Voyage" gifts below, compliments of George and Betty, were in each cabin when we arrived, along with a coupon for a free photo, and a $25.00 credit to our shipboard account! 

Nylon Carnival tote bag, Sparkling Cider, Chocolate covered strawberries
with assorted candies, and gift certificates. 
Our "JOY on the Journey" Cruise was multi-purposed. Our goals, in no particular order: 
  1. To refresh body, soul, & spirit. (Matthew 11:28-29 The Message "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me--watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." 
  2. To build relationships inside and outside of our group, as we "loved our neighbors as ourselves." Mark 12:31. (Matt 5:14-16 The Message Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.
  3. To enjoy focused Bible study and prayer. (Matthew 4:4 NIV Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'  I Thessalonians 5:17 KJV Pray without ceasing.) 
  4. To prepare to fulfill our God-given purposes with renewed passion.(Acts 3:20 NLT Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah.)  
After breakfast, we began each day with stretching, and light cardio, to praise music. Our location, usually in the Library, just outside the dining room, attracted new participants each day, who were drawn by our music and enthusiasm. (Not everyone rose early enough to attend this optional event!)

Stretching and toning to Praise Music!
Devotional time focusing on Biblical lessons relating to God's Creation and other insights gleaned from cruising. One resource I used was Every Breath a Prayer, by Kimberli Ayers. (We also followed the February church-wide devotion guide from our church.) Each day's session included a token "surprise gift" to serve as an object lesson or reminder of Biblical truths relating to the day's subject matter.

Daily "prayer challenges" encouraged everyone to try new ways to enrich our prayer lives. Topics included praying for strangers, Scripture-based prayers, praying for ourselves, journaling, and "Praying in Color" (based on creative ideas for using colored pens and drawing or "doodling" while praying, as discussed in Sybil MacBeth's book Praying in Color.)

Getting ready for morning devotions and prayer time.

In anticipation of reaching out to others in friendship, each person in our group brought a variety of ice cream toppings on board. On our first afternoon at sea, we set up a "toppings buffet" near the ice cream machines, and invited everyone in the vicinity to join us. We met lots of nice people! Click HERE for the photo gallery from the Sundae Party! 

We had just set up our ice cream topping buffet.

Passengers enjoying our Ice Cream Sundae party. 
One evening, after a long day in port, we had a "Pajama Party" to discuss our adventures.  We enjoyed hot chocolate, herbal tea, and hot cider, during our prayer and Bible Study time. (We always welcomed fellow cruisers, who expressed interest, to enjoy our sessions with us.)
"Pajama Party" devotion time.

Food and mealtimes were an integral part of the cruise! Pizzas, ice cream, and sandwiches were available 24/7 on the Lido Deck, as was "Room Service" dining, delivered to your cabin. The group enjoyed some breakfasts and lunches together, and dinners together most evenings. My roommate, Diane, and I enjoyed "breakfast in bed" in our cabin each day, then lunch in various places on the ship. We also enjoyed several "room service" snacks!

The Carnival food was WONDERFUL. The menus were varied and creative, and each evening featured an exotic item to try. Escargot and alligator were two of the featured items. (Here is a link to a separate "Food Photo Gallery" from the trip. NO, I did not eat all of this food! These are a sampling of dishes enjoyed by members of our group!) With all the exercising, walking, and other activities, I was pleased to have only gained 2 pounds during my week of travel, especially since I had dessert at least once a day, usually twice!

For lunch one day, I had this German Chocolate Cake,
along with an order of Low-calorie Lemon Mousse. (Yes, TWO desserts!) 
Our Amazing Headwaiter, Chandana, followed by Betty Burger,
in the Conga line moving through the dining room. (I was right behind Betty!) 
During the trip, everyone had plenty of time to pursue their individual interests. Onboard activities included everything from Bingo to Spa appointments! Each day, we had organized devotions and a group meeting time. We also scheduled optional group activities for those who wanted to participate.

In the evenings, we enjoyed Broadway style entertainment, a passenger talent show, karaoke, and strolling the decks. I was excited to be able to do some "Dancing on the Journey!" when I participated in a Country and Western group line dance lesson! In case you can't tell, in this photo I'm wearing cowgirl boots and twirling a pretend lasso!

Grand Bahama Island was our first port of call. Ten of us took a shopping tour, which included The Perfume Factory. It was interesting seeing how fragrances are combined. A couple of people in our group designed their own signature scents, which they named and registered!

The Perfume Factory
Four of us had a parasailing adventure on Grand Bahama. Reflecting on her first parasailing experience, Kathy Malone said, "Now I know how the angels must feel flying above the earth and looking down!" I agree with her.
Parasailing at Our Lucaya Resort

In Nassau, I was able to renew my acquaintance with Bahamian friend, Dr. Marlene Huyler, whom I met over ten years ago in Atlanta. She and her sister founded the New Providence Classical School in Nassau, where she serves as Dean and Counselor. 

Marlene treated six of us to a Bahamas feast, complete with conch fritters made by her father, at her Aunt Brenda's home. 

Marlene gave us a V.I.P. tour around the island of Nassau. She introduced us to a number of members of her family, and we learned about the historical influence of Marlene's relatives in various venues of the Bahamas.  

We went to The Historic Clifton Heritage National Park and visited "The Sacred Space." This area commemorates the history of the bluff as the place where ships landed bringing cargoes of slaves and indentured servants. The location also has a history of pirates, and battles that left cannon ball scars in the cliffs. 
Sign on top of the Bluff
In the Sacred Space
Female figures carved by artist Antonius Roberts from Casuarina Trees. 

Close-up of Carvings

One of our tour highlights was visiting the Junkanoo museum, and learning about the celebration that is similar to Mardi Gras, in costuming and parades. We tried on some of the headdresses, made from cardboard that is painstakingly and meticulously painted and decorated.The competition to win is fierce best individual costume and best group, among the local groups! 

We went places most tourists never visit, and had a wonderful time!
Thanks for everything, Marlene!

Trying on Junkanoo headdresses, made from painted and embellished cardboard.

Our 6 day cruise flew by! Excellent, friendly service, "beyond the call of duty," was the norm for most of the employees with whom we dealt. Our servers and stewards knew our names and offered numerous personal touches that went the extra mile toward making our Carnival Cruise an excellent experience.
Jamie with Steward Extraordinaire: Issara Chaipila

The photo below shows our group at dinner on our next to the last night. As you can see, we were having a good time! We're looking into doing another "JOY on the Journey" Cruise next year. In the meantime, I would love to lead your group in a prayer, or other themed, retreat--on land or at sea! Contact me at:

"Wait, we aren't ready for our cruise to end!"

This book, mentioned above, which I introduced on the "Joy on the Journey" cruise, inspired me to start "drawing" my prayers in color!

This Book inspired me in preparing Daily Devotions for the Cruise

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