I recently changed the picture on my desktop to a picture of my wife and I during a cruise nearly eight years ago.
There aren’t any of the white whiskers that now populate corners of my beard. There are fewer lines around my eyes and maybe a bit more hair on my head.
I’m in a blue suit with a green shirt and no tie. My wife, beautiful on our wedding day and beautiful when I went home for lunch today, is beautiful in a dark dress.
She’s on my left, with her right hand reaching across her body and resting on my chest.
The backdrop is a stylized artist’s rendering of the massive cruise ship we sailed on.
The occasion was my 40th birthday.
She had celebrated hers earlier in the year so we decided to mark the occasion with the biggest holiday of our lives.
We narrowed down the potential destinations to New York, San Francisco or a Caribbean cruise. In the end, we settled on the cruise.
My wife was a little nervous about the time on the ship because of the chance of seasickness. I had travelled on the ferries back and forth to P.E.I. on the ferries when I lived there -- at the time there was no bridge -- so I was reasonably confident that I wouldn’t be laid out.
We packed bracelets for our wrists just in case. Apparently there is a spot on the wrist that can help with nausea if it has pressure on it.
As it turned out, my lovely wife would be fine, which, considering the circumstances, was a minor miracle.
But more on that later.
We flew down to Miami a couple of days before the cruise and did a couple of touristy things. But we were waiting for that big moment when we stepped on the ship.
That morning, we took a shuttle to where our ship was moored, just behind American Airlines Arena where the Miami Heat of the NBA play. There was a moment where you pull around a corner and then suddenly the cruise ship is there in its massive glory. It dwarfs the stadium.
It takes a while for 3,100 people to clear the security and ticket lines.
Our tiny stateroom was on the second of 14 floors. We would have a lot of stairs to climb during the week on the boat, which was an unexpected bonus because we would also have a lot of food to eat.
A lot of food.
In the formal dining room that night, we met our table mates, a couple from Italy who spoke no English, and a couple from England who spoke no Italian. (We communicated with them via smiles and hand signals.)
The first bit of drama came on our second day. Our trip to Puerto Rico was cancelled because the ship had to turn back to Miami the night before.
Apparently a 19-year-old woman had taken ill and the ship had to meet a helicopter to get her back to hospital. I never shook the image of a poor, frightened teen being taken from what was likely a dream holiday after just a handful of hours on the ship. To their credit, the ship later told passengers that she was fine.
Sometime during that week I developed a fascination with grits, the southern breakfast dish. It’s probably for the best that I don’t know where to buy them here.
We finally got off the ship for the first time three days into our trip when we stopped at St. Maarten, a Dutch and French island that clearly does a good business with its visiting ship tourists.
We did a tour, which provided an unusual highlight. The tour guide pointed out a brothel as we drove by, noting that prostitution is legal in that nation. Just at that moment, a car pulled up and a door opened.
Forty sets of eyes waited to get a look at the poor guy getting out. I still chuckle thinking about it.
If you’re a hurricane buff, you might remember that 2005 was the year that had an unusually high number. And even though we embarked in November, which is late for hurricane season, a big storm hit a few hundred miles away. The resulting waves rose to more than 30 feet, although the big ship handled the choppy seas well. Still, there was lots of side-to-side pitching and there were a couple of nights where fewer than half the seats were filled in the formal dining room in the evening.
I was a little green a couple times but it never slowed my wife down.
When we visited St. Thomas, another beautiful tropical island, we booked a submarine ride, descending to about 90 feet below the ocean’s surface to get a unique look at sharks, barracudas and other kinds of fish.
The next day I turned 40.
I had my beloved grits for breakfast and sat in a chair to read for a while in the afternoon. We shared a beautiful meal that night and spent some time on deck that night watching the ocean.
The waves had diminished in their ferocity and it was warm. The lights of another ship twinkled in the distance.
If there has been a perfect moment in my life, it was standing there on that boat with the person that I need the most, sharing something beautiful.
We stopped in Nassau, Bahamas on our final full day on the ship. We enjoyed every minute of it but by that point there was also the bittersweet knowledge that our holiday was nearly over.
A couple of days later we were back in Brandon. There was snow on the ground and it was cold.
But I understood after that excursion why people take winter holidays. It’s not just to get out of the bitter cold for a week, even though that’s nice.
If you go somewhere warm, you bring a little of it back with you. All I had to do was look at a picture of Magen’s Bay Beach in St. Thomas to escape for a few moments.
The best holidays are the ones that stay with you long after they end.
Perry Bergson is the Daily Herald’s managing editor. You can reach him at 765-1302 or by email at email@example.com