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Islands in the sun

Mel Wilde shares his tropical experiences while cruising the high seas.

Just off the coast of South America are three beautiful islands.  Discovered by Europeans around 1499 the islands were first called Use-Less Islands or Lesser Antilles.
The soil is rocky and lacks nutrients which was probably why the first oranges grown there were so bitter  These bitter oranges were accidentally fermented and today curacao  is the basis for that wonderful tropical cocktail, the margarita.
These islands are reminiscent of Holland and that flavor of the old world makes these islands enchanting.  Picture the rows of Amsterdam buildings and then paint them bright happy Caribbean colors.  Add the Dutch language and generous hospitality and you have arrived in this wonderful place.
English is widely spoken so us hicks from way up north have no problems enjoying life to it’s fullest. Shopping is another great pastime in these islands.  My wife bought two beautiful Battenburg lace tablecloths for $30, napkins included.
We saw colonies of wild flamingos and scores of scuba divers diving in the most fantastic coral reefs.  Our favorite part was the swimming. The water is warm, inviting and we enjoyed a display of pelicans diving for fish all around us.
Last year saw these islanders choose their relationship with Holland.  The independent relationship of the Netherland Antilles was dissolved, while the people of Bonaire chose to be a municipality of Holland. Some still refer to Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao as the ABC Islands while folks like us simply call them paradise. 
A few hundred years ago the islands in the sun were all involved in disputes between, Britain, France, Spain and Holland.  That European heritage remains and provides a positive influence toward today’s cultural mosaic throughout the Caribbean. 
The cruise ships of Holland America are perfect examples of extremely positive multiculturalism.  It’s a joy to see peoples from around the world working together in true harmony.  I’ve seen no evidence of people bringing old hatreds along with them on board these ships.  
The cultures of Indonesia, the Philippines, India, Britain, the USA and Canada are on display for everyone to enjoy.  Holland America has positive arrangements for all people to worship their religions and the common motive is respect.
Canada would do well to examine the norms and standards of behavior of the Holland America cruise line to see how we could learn from their positive experience with multicultural issues.
We have spent over a year of our lives cruising the seven seas. To watch the captains and crews of these ships respond to their duties is a case study worthy of any University management program.  How they stay focused on their mission is something every organization could learn from.
This is a small ship by today’s standards and yet they serve over six thousand meals a day.  They have a formal dinning room along with a four star Pinnacle Grill. Add to that an Italian restaurant and a huge casual buffet.  If you want to grab a hamburger and beer or, a taco and salsa that’s available as well.
My favorite is the exotic barbeque and ethnic food arrangement.  Our friends liked the room service, but the truth is there is something for everyone.  Yesterday the Indonesian waiters put on a spectacular lunch and today we had a Mongolian barbeque by the pool. We also had birthday parties for the kids with the most wonderful birthday cakes I have ever seen.
The same excellence applies to entertainment.  One can choose any kind of entertainment genre and be pleased.  From country to classical and big Broadway productions, one is never bored.  Our only problem was choosing between two or more venues playing at the same time.
I would remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the communication skills of Captain James Russell-Dunford who kept us informed about our location, times and special events. Supporting the Captain was Linda the cruise director who had everything organized to keep everyone happy.   
For my wife and I, this is once again two cruises or journeys in one. The first is the fabulous cruise on board the MS Maasdam managed by Holland America lines. The second is our journey of the heart. That relation-ship has been traveling for more than fifty-two years and with God as our travel agent, life has been good.