The curling wave of brass and steel rose high above a pool of rocks where water splashed from three small fountains. Bronze sea gulls followed the arc of this sculpture called "Spindrift," the dramatic centerpiece of a two-level atrium on the cruise ship Royal Princess.
This is a spacious circle of plush chairs, lacy Ficus trees and live piano music. It also is a splendid place for netting some of the flotsam and jetsam of shipboard conversations that drift by during days at sea.
I was seated near the sculpture, open book in hand, when a self-confessed worldly woman took the arm of a junior officer and said: "Believe me, you can handle New York, if you don't let it handle you."
The merry lines rolled on from spa to dance floor, from room-service breakfasts to midnight buffets.
Sigh of Cake Envy
On Mardi Gras evening in the Continental Dining Room, a cake with candles was delivered to the table next to mine. A Southern lady, who repeated daily that her birthday had gone unnoticed, watched it go by and then sighed to her husband: "How sweet. Somebody remembered something. "
In a quiet corridor on the Aloha Deck one night, I came upon an elderly Scot who was swatting at the carpet with his cane. "It's a beastie," he cried, as he struck the hairy thing. A British steward reached him before I did and cautiously peered down.
"My compliments, sir," he said. "You have just killed a toupee."
As I leaned against the rail of the sun deck on a day so smooth that the Caribbean breeze barely ruffled my hair, two fellows of, perhaps, 80 were sipping rum punch and guessing the age of females by the pool.
"I'd say that woman's 60," opined one, as he squinted through bifocals. "Sixty in the shade," growled his companion.
My favorite exchange took place at the Royal Princess boutique after a determined woman stuffed her ample handbag between the wall and the sliding glass door, which was being shut as we approached the port of Balboa.
"I need some medicine," she said urgently, pushing past the astonished clerk, who locked the door behind her. The woman strode across the shop to a sundries counter where cough drops, sinus sprays and aspirin were displayed.
By the time the clerk arrived, the woman had selected a large Cadbury's milk-chocolate bar with fruit and almonds.
"That is not medicine," said the shopkeeper with a patient smile.
"I know," admitted the wily passenger as she signed the charge, "but my daughter won't let me buy candy."
I swear that this tale is true because the culprit is my mother, and I caught her red-faced and red-handed.