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There are many deemed luxuries on cruise ships – the 5-star living, the facilities, the decor and the amazing variety of food, the 5-star service people and so on.
But to me the main attraction of such a luxury cruise, is the people that take such cruises!
The number of delightful, intellectual conversations that I have had with at least 2 dozen different people who are not only from various places but also from different professions and different stages of life and differing viewpoints far exceeds the conversations I would have in any one of my hometowns in a similar period.
Somerset Maugham left an indelible mark on me. He remained my favorite author for a whole decade and through his readings on travels through geographies and the minds of the people he observed, I formed a lot of my personality. His travels that offered the platform for his psychological observations, were set across South East Asia and sounded romantic and exotic.
I did not ever plan to follow in his footsteps so literally but it appears that I am doing so – exploring the region by boat.
In most of his books he mentions salons – hosted by some society gent or lady – to which artists & writers & intellectuals were invited and he describes many afternoons in which the rooms were potent with ideas and discussions.
These salons came to be the ideal way – a dream way to spend an afternoon.
However in real life I failed at both – finding such gatherings to attend or engineering such gatherings.
But on the cruise I experienced these – and my reality matched my imagination – at least in concept.
The travel was peppered with fun discussions with highly accomplished people all with the wealth of experience and education behind them – and all of this served in a platter of extreme western courtesies and politeness. The most inspiring were the senior ladies, who with a sparkling life behind them, were still feisty enough to take this journey across to the other side of their world, literally and metaphorically, and enjoy it all with a gentle embrace of acceptance & delight. It was through them that I learned the most – about perspectives, about attitudes and about spirit.
This feature is likely possible only on travel that lasts long enough for people to get to know each other, where people from all randomised quarters are thrown together i.e. a cruise. Of course it helped that as a speaker I became known to people and people did not hesitate to approach me for a discussion.
I would not mind the lack of luxury on a bumboat. However, if a luxury cruise ship is where such wonderful people & my dream salons may be found, then I am willing to exchange the adventure of sailing in a bumboat for the luxury of a cruise ship.
For, here I may partake not only literally of superb Cakes & Ale, but also of the magical stimulating aura described in the book by Maugham ‘Cakes & Ale”
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