• GirlWellTravelled

What Happens on a Cruise, Stays on the Cruise - Part 1

She picked up the inimitably crispy strip of streaky bacon, so smothered in maple syrup it cascaded off the bacon as she plumped it into her mouth.

'They certainly know how to do bacon here' Lemara thought as she looked out the window from her table in the restaurant. It was approaching 10:30 in the morning, and the hotel's guests all seem to have set their alarm clocks for the same wake-up time. Seeing they all turned up that minute for breakfast like only London's buses can. The restaurant, now charged with that excitable American accent.

At one table, a young lady was enamoured with her girlfriends' matching glittery sandals. And when she too was gifted the same sparkly pair, the entire restaurant almost became hearing impaired. 'She's a pizazzy one!' Lemara surmised.

Lemara herself had only made it to breakfast some five minutes earlier and was like a 'dog with two tails' to find a vacant window seat. The restaurant, on the second floor of the hotel, overlooked the runway at Fort Lauderdale International airport. Coffee, bacon, Floridian sunshine and a bit of plane spotting. It was a little halcyon moment after a gunshot decision saw her booking a last-minute cruise and flight just over twenty-four hours prior. A storm, perusing the northeastern coast of the Caribbean towards Florida in a fit of ill-temper, caused their plane to divert to Philadelphia where they spent most of the night in the airport.

Making her way around the tables more akin to a town crier, a chirpy waitress announced breakfast would be closing shortly. Those cries were sure to have the remainder of the last-minute breakfast attendees out of their beds and down to the restaurant. Still, on approaching Lemara's table, she maintained her breakfast closing cry only this time adding, Is there was anything else we can get you?

'Another pot of coffee and milk, please.' Although not sure why as she was languorously nursing the first cup. And she should definitely only ever have one cup of any hotel's coffee. She had, on numerous occasions, pondered on the intentions of a hotel's brew, as it was like no other. The penetrating aroma, sufficient to send her cannonballing off any wall. Do all hotels purchase their coffee from the same coffee farm? Or was there some dirty secret employed when making their coffee? She wondered.

Just then, another aircraft took to the sky. Lemara herself had landed only some hours before. In all essence, she should be in England to attend her university graduation the following week but the lure of a cruise around the western Caribbean - much more arresting.

The second pot of coffee had since arrived. And as she poured herself a fresh cup, a figure materialised in the corner of her left eye. She took a sip, and as she did, glanced in the direction of the figure.

Sat, two tables away was a Thom Browne clad guest keeping his cup of coffee company. A coy smile emanated across her face as her eyes surveyed him. Like an adhesive, his gaze held her attention, but it was insufficient to avert her interest in the Boeing whose wheels were now courting the runway outside. Satisfied the pilots had satisfactorily romanced the landing, she glanced back at her secondary interest. Her view now blocked by the waiter at his table. Lemara chose this moment to make her exit.

In a deliberate attempt to evade the queues at check-in, she boarded the cruise ship just inside closing time.

She had made her way to Fort Lauderdale cruise port, checked in, boarded the cruise ship and was making her way to the lifts, when a voice from behind, greeted, 'I see we've crossed paths again!'

Thinking there was no way the address veiled in the American accent could be aimed at her, Lemara continued walking. Nonetheless, she took an inconsequential glance backwards and found herself halting dead in her tracks. It was none other than her Thom Browne clad character from breakfast. Inexplicable, but once more, a smile emanated from her face as if she was glad to see him. And she was, she just wasn't sure why. Now upright he stood about five feet, eleven inches, his hair wavy, dark (he at least ticked two boxes). Not overly gorgeous but neither was he bad looking. Enough to entice her interest, gosh he even made arm candy status.

'It must be fate,' A smile enveloping his face as he caught up with her.

'Is that so?' Raising an eyebrow as they stood opposite each other outside the lifts.

'There I was desperately scribbling a message to pass to you in the restaurant. Then I looked up and discover you had left.'

'Maybe you shouldn't be scribbling messages to strangers in a restaurant.' She teased.

'Maybe so, but here we are now, on the same cruise.' As they exchanged sentences with ease.

'By the way, I am Harry, I am from Maine!' as he extended his right arm to her. (Lemara would soon come to realise it was customary on cruises that country of origin was as crucial as her name when introducing one's self to others. It was some badge of honour, and the further away you came from, the better. Further, someone with a semblance of an English accent like herself with a ship decked out with mostly Americans garnered much interest.) 'I couldn't help noticing you in the restaurant this morning.' He continued.

Let me guess, was it the way I drank the coffee? She joked.

No, it was the way you held the coffee cup! He mocked.

They both burst out laughing, continuing their tête-à-tête blissfully unaware of the congregation now gathered around them for the elevators. It was the blaring announcement that came over the ship's intercom reminding guests to attend the muster drill in thirty minutes, that drew their attention.

'Should we take the stairs?' Taking a glance around her and noticing just how congested the area around the lifts had become.

'If this gives me more one on one time with you, then yes. Extending his arm, ushering her towards the stairs.

This time he got a side tilt of the head and a slightly raised eyebrow.

Another two floors up and very easy banter, they were on deck seven.

'This is me!'Looking up and down the aisle for the direction of her room.

'This is me!' She pointed out as they came to room 7007 towards the derriere of the ship.

'I'm above you on deck nine in room 9088, pointing upwards with his key card in his hand in a decidedly evocative manner.

'Have a safe journey!' Lemara jested as he turned to leave.

Harry gave a little wave and walked on.

As if by intuition, Harry stopped and turned around the exact moment Lemara stopped fumbling with the key card to look back at him.

'Listen!' he quipped as he came swaggering back to her side. 'If you don't already have dinner plans, would you like to join me?'

'I may well do' she bantered, in her devil-may-care mood.

'So that is dinner at eight, I will come and collect you' he declared.

Lemara raised an eyebrow and smiled - she liked how he had just called all the shots.

He turned to leave but not before chivalrously aiding Lemara with her luggage into her room, and their hands brushed against each other as he did so.

Those hands have definitely not shucked any oysters or potted any lobsters, Lemara mused.

As she closed the door behind her, her eyes journeyed directly to the large porthole ahead flooding the stateroom of Floridian sunshine. The bathroom and a wardrobe lined the left-hand side of the room. A queen-sized bed, its pillows embroidered with a single letter of the alphabet indulged in reminiscence of the cruise line's origins. A desk, a chair and a window to oversee it all.

A ship's horn sounded as she walked towards the window, followed by another and then another. By the time Lemara got to the window, the horns of four cruise ships were partying in the port outside.

Lemara walked back to the bed and splashed herself face down across it, contemplating what to wear to dinner with Harry.

The multicoloured, skater girl dress was her first thought, but then she digressed. Is that dress saying too much? And if she thought that dress was saying too much so was the deep v-neck, fitted red dress. She settled on a pair of black trousers, black heels, crocheted three quarter length beige top and a gold scarf around her neck. Satisfied the ensemble was comfortable but sufficiently sassy for the first night on board the ship. But more so the unexpected and now highly anticipated date with a guy she only glanced eyes on hours before in a hotel's restaurant.

It was nearly twenty hours since she last slept. Jet lagged, she closed her eyes, thinking, she would rest them for a bit.


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