Archive | October, 2018

A Community Vigil Heals My Heart

29 Oct

I feel better now than I did a day ago.

On Saturday a madman attacked the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh killing 11 innocent souls.  I was so sad.  My sadness increased when a good friend called and say, “How are you?”  And added, “You will feel worse and then you will feel better.”  She then informed me that her nephew was one of the Rabbis there.  Her nephew who I have meet and had Thanksgiving dinner with years ago when he was young.  But he was physically fine.  He was not one of the many wounded or killed.   It did not matter, my eyes filled and my heart pounded.

“You are right,” I said.  “I feel so much worse and so much better simultaneously.”

Today I feel much better.  Today my congregation, Kehilath Israel,  was the host for The Kansas City Community Vigil organized by the Jewish Federation and JCRB. Another board member and I served as official greeters as thousands people came together to fight hatred and stand for goodness.

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The media worked to present what happened to our community.

We arrived early.  We were there when the police checked everything. We saw the work they put into keeping us safe.  Security was important.  But honestly the love and warmth of the people coming into our sanctuary removed the stress of needing police and security.  We saw the members of the media come with their cameras and note books.  We saw our synagogue’s staff preparing for the crowds.

Over and over we said: “Welcome.  Thank you so much for coming. Thank you for being here.”  And again and again, people responded with a hug, or a handshake, or a smile, or saying “thank you,” or “of course” or “We had to be here.” “We are here for you.”

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People from every Jewish congregation came. From many churches, who wore their church name tags.  People came with crosses and Jewish stars, turbans and the collars of minister and priests. There were Hindus, Budhists, every religion, every color, every community was there!  I saw members of the Sisterhood of Salaam/Shalom, of which I am a member. Members of Grandparents against Gun Violence came out in their orange sweatshirts.  The Muslim community was there.  An Indian couple I have not seen in a decade came, and both embraced me in a warm hug. Thank you!

People reached out with love and kindness.  So many times, my eyes filled with tears as I felt their love to me and the community.  And I knew that the world was really a better place than I imagined a few days ago.  We welcomed thousands of people.  The estimate is that 3000 people attended. Thank you Kansas City!

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Hundreds of notes were written.

Many wrote notes to go to the congregations in Pittsburgh where the horror occurred.  We in Kansas know of this as our world was shattered almost four years ago when the JCC and the Village Shalom were the sites of hate killings.  We returned the love that we felt when communities across the world reached out to us.  We know how important those notes can be.

When the speakers began their presentations, my heart soared.  I will not mention what the Rabbis said, although what they said was important, I will focus on the others. Because what the others said meant so much to our grieving hearts.

First was my old neighbor, Art, who spoke for the Muslim community.  His words touched because I knew him and I knew it was so.  ” I speak from my heart,” he said. “We are with you,” he said. “Hate is destined to fail.”  He spoke of how the Jewish and Muslim communities work together.

We had a representative of the Catholic Church speaking for Archbishop Joseph Naumann, who told us “God is Love. And there is NO room for hate. We, the Catholic community, stand with you.”

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Congressman Emanuel Cleaver gave a rousing and heart_pounding speech, quoting Martin Luther King, Jr. :  “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  And “Silence sounds like complicity.”   “In Ecclesiastics it says, ‘There is a time to be quiet,’ he announced, “But this is NOT it.”  “We are all Americans. This is America!” He added pointing to all of us in the room.”Besides Congressman Cleaver, Congressman Kevin Yoder attended as did candidate Sharice Davids. Kansas Governor Colyer was also in attendance. I am sure many others were there.

Rev. Adam Hamilton from the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection was there with hundreds of his congregants. THANK YOU!  I felt the love from them as I welcomed them to our congregation.  He told us that there was silence during the Shoah, but that “We refuse to let that happen here.”  “We need to have the courage to speak up when you know something is not right.”  “We need to stand up!”

The Rev. Doctor Rodney Williams, told us that although America was currently living in a season of evil and hate, we will work together.  We will together fight against White supremacy. We will come together, as we fight back together in our unity.

And the crowd of thousands people were united in the message that hate will not win in Kansas City.  Hate and anti-Semitism, and anti any group was not going to win.  We would win because we will not remain silent.  And we remembered others who died because of hatred: The two who were killed October 24 in the Kroger’s supermarket, just for bing Black.

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Community Rabbis lit candles in memory of those who perished.

There was silence though as the community’s Rabbis lit a candle for each of the 11 murdered and then lead us in Kaddish.  The voices of the congregation came together to chant the pray for those who perish.

“May the One who makes peace on high, make peace for us, for all Israel, and for all who dwell on earth. And Let us Say, Amen.”

May their names be a blessing:  Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax, Irving  Younger.    And Maurice Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones who died at Krogers.

(As an aside, many more people attempted to come to the vigil. Traffic was backed up, parking lots were filled all around, it was a true city wide response of love against hate.)

Finding My Heritage In Spain

28 Oct

Our trip to Spain and Portugal had a special purpose for besides wanting to see places I had not seen. I also wanted to see the bits and pieces left of the Sephardic Jewish imprint on Spain. I have written about my maternal grandfather and his family’s Spanish roots in an earlier blog (see below). Now I wanted to see what I could see.

I was on a mission that started in Barcelona. I had been to this lovely city before and heard the story about the Jewish cemetery destroyed and replaced with a Christian cemetery. Now the only Jewish aspect was the name of the hill: Montjuic. However, in Barcelona you can visit the site of the Major Synagogue. A small space that you must walk down to see, this tiny space reflects the rule that no religious site would be bigger than the smallest church. So it is small. But I was glad to see that it has been found and reclaimed. There is a guide on site who gives a 10 minute presentation about it. So I am glad we went. Most places do not even have that!

Our next stop with a bit of Jewish history was surprising to me. We went to the small city of Sagunt or Sagunto near Valencia. I was not expecting what I found. First they were having a festival to celebrate their Middle Ages history, and as we entered I saw a menorah symbol on banners. The town had its Jewish quarter still designated including one of the original arches, called the Blood Arch. The tour guide did not know why. I have my own ideas. You actually walked through the Jewish Quarter in order to get up to the Roman teacher.

The narrow, hilly streets are picturesque, and walking through the quarter you come to the top where a private house stands on the site of the original synagogue, with an iron Menorah window. We were also able to see the archeology site of where they think the mikveh was located.

I have since researched and learned that in ancient days this town was called Morviedro. Here the Jews were protected from massacres in 1391 and Jews from other areas took refuge there. When the 1492 decree was made, the Jewish residents arranged safe passage out about 500 people.

In fact almost every city we went to had some remains of its Jewish inhabitants. In Malaga, the birthplace of Picasso, we found it was also the birthplace of Yehudah Ben Gabriel, who revitalized Jewish literature. And we found the Jewish Quarter nit far from the Picasso Museum.

Gibraltar had a thriving Jewish community and still does. We saw people walking the streets wearing kippot. We walked to the old Flemish Synagogue and took a photo of the door to the walled area. Unfortunately we could not go in.

Only in Cadiz was all remnants of the Jewish community destroyed. Probably because of the 1755 earthquake and tsunami. But at one time there was a thriving community that had to escape due to the forced expulsion of the Jewish people. In fact 8000 Jews left Cadiz and traveled to North Africa.

A sign in Sintra

In Portugal we went to Sintra to see the Pena Palace. But while walking through the narrow streets of the city, I found a cork store where I purchased a purse. Then I noticed its address: Beco Judaea. The street of the Jews.

Church of Sao Domingos where Jewish citizens murdered in 1500s

The Jewish Quarter.

But it was in Lisbon that we had the most in-depth experience. Besides visiting some of the important sites like the palace of the inquisition and Rossi’s Plaza where the Crypto Jews were tortured, we visited the church, Sao Domingos, where the massacre of Jews began in the 1506, walked the Jewish Quarter, and learned how King Manuel I tricked the Jewish population and baptized them all without their permission. He wanted to marry the daughter of the king of Spain, but he also wanted to keep his Jewish citizens. This was his solution.

Finally we visited the Lisbon synagogue built in the early 1900s that still has services today. Portugal was a neutral country during the war, a Lisbon was a place of refuge. Today 2000 Jews live in Portugal.

Https://dis.bh.org.il murviedro-sagunto

Jeronimos Monastery and Manueline Designs

27 Oct

On our first day in Lisbon, we visited the Jeronimos Monastery, specifically the church section. We did not have a chance to visit the two museums that are also housed at the old monastery buildings. But the church was more than enough.

Here I was exposed to Manueline architecture, something I had not seen before, but now enjoy! King Manuel I of Portugal liked maritime designs in his buildings. So the architects, who designed for him, incorporated unique carvings like ropes, sea-life, and other maritime symbols in the structures, as well as nature items like leaves.

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Not the main entrance, but when we were there a bride and groom exited here.

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The surround of this window has some of the rope motif common in Manueline design.

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The ceiling was fantastic.

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These tall columns had many carvings of sea life/maritime symbols.

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Vasco da Gama’s tomb.
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People rub the hands.

The Jeronimos chapel is not filled with ornate gold and silver covered wooden structures, instead it is comprised of fantastically carved stone work that is breathtaking. The high chapel columns and arches are a tribute to the Manueline style. This structure was built in the early 16th Century during the reign of King Manuel I, who wanted to highlight the Portuguese maritime dominance and to emphasis the exploits of the explorer Vasco da Gama, who is buried here.

I think the pictures show why this style became so popular and why it became so associated with Portugal.

Belem Tower on the Tagus River.

The other Manueline structure we visited in Lisbon was the Belém Tower, which actually is located directly opposite the monastery on the banks of the Tagus River.

These two structures were built about the same time, during the reign of King Manuel I in what is now the Belém area of Lisbon. (I wrote about our visit to the tower in the blog linked below.)

Unfortunately, many of the structures built during the reign of King Manuel I were destroyed in the earthquake of 1755. This was a high Richter Scale earthquake and tsunami on the Iberian peninsula that caused major damage and changed the look of many cities in the region.

At the Pena Palace, an arch carved in Manueline style.

While in Lisbon, we spent a day in Sintra where we visited the Pena Palace. When it was built, in the late 1800s, the Pena Palace also incorporated some Manueline architecture within its quirky construction. It was fascinating to see a Moorish style building with a Manueline arch. But then this entire building is a fantastic blend of different design elements. (See link below.)

I understand that many other buildings incorporated this Manueline style in later years because of its Portuguese importance.

For me, the three structures I saw opened my mind to another form of art that I just like. I recommend anyone traveling to Portugal to learn about Manueline designs and enjoy these lovely structures.

https://zicharonot.com/2018/10/21/an-extraordinary-visit-to-the-belem-tower/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/10/20/sintra-and-the-palace-of-pena/

Do I Need A Thimble? I Guess So.

23 Oct

When I first started sewing and doing needle work like embroidery, my paternal grandmother gifted me two thimbles. One was hers and well worn, the other was brand new and silver. She told me that I needed a thimble because it would make sewing much easier and would protect my fingers from calluses and cuts.  She was probably right.

I still have these two thimbles, but to be honest, I actually hated using one.  I tried for the longest time to get comfortable having a metal hat on my finger.  I usually did not wear the thimble all the time, rather I just put it on for a moment when I had a tough, stubborn stitch to get through layers of fabric.

My paternal grandparents are the ones who nurtured my interest in the sewing/knitting/crocheting arts.  Grandma taught me how to knit and crochet.  Grandpa was a tailor who helped me with the intricate details of sewing like the best way to match plaids, especially around pockets.

He also taught me how to cut/design a pattern to fit a specific person.   This came in handy as my maternal grandmother had scoliosis, so when I made her dresses, I had to make one side of the dress two to three inches shorter than the other side without it looking weird. Thanks to my grandfather, I was able to accomplish these designs. I have written about my grandfather’s tailor shop on Delancey Street.  See blog below.)

The gifts of the two thimbles were part of that nurturing and encouragement.  I kept them close in my sewing basket for those times when I did need them.  But after a while, I put them in a safe place, because I did not want to lose them.

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My printer’s box and almost all my thimbles.

Eventually the two thimbles became the start of my thimble collection.  It is not large, about 60 thimbles in all.  Although I have not purchased a thimble in years, I still have them on display in my kitchen’s printer’s box – the perfect spot for tiny collections.

Printer’s boxes were popular about 35 years ago, when printers went from hot type to computer generated type.  As a journalism student, I actually learned to set type and had to memorize where the different letters and spacers and numbers were kept in this box.  I still remember some.  My first cousin gave me my printer’s box as a gift.  It was the perfect for me for my journalism background and for my thimbles.

Most of my thimbles came from places I visited.  They were the perfect item to remember a trip, as they did not cost too much and were convenient to carry.  I have thimbles with Disney characters; others showing famous sites like Golden Gate Bridge or the Alamo or Mount Vernon; some depict cities like New Orleans.  Most are from different states in the USA that I visited, but others come from other countries like Budapest, Hungary; Dominica; Spain.  I even have three thimbles from NASA! Two depict the space shuttle, and one shows an astronaut floating in Space.

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A close up of my printer’s box, you can see my three Nasa thimbles and the top left is my limoges one.

Some thimbles are so lovely with hand painted landscapes or designs.  One is made of cloisonné, another is from Limoges.  I actually have a little sewing machine from Limoges in my printer’s box. I am sure my Mom got them for me as they are pink and red.  I would have purchased blue!  But my Mom often got me items in the warm tones.

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The case holding my Spanish scissors and thimble.

I do have one other special thimble purchased for me by my parents.  It is housed in a red leather box with a pair of scissors. Inside the box is marked with the words, Artes De Toledo.  I believe my parents purchased this set for me when they went to Spain about 30 years ago. Toledo has a history of making both swords and damascene metal inlay.

My scissors and thimble are definitely Spanish!  They have the look of damascene metal inlaying, but with colored inlay.  I know that Toledo is famous for its steel work. But I  have never seen anything else like it, so I googled Spanish scissors and found scissors very similar to mine.  They were labeled “Toledo antique embroidery scissors”.  Makes sense, as I used my set for embroidering as well.  I will say that  mine is in much better shape than the ones shown on Pinterest!  There were even four cases with matching scissors and thimbles, similar to mine!  All from the 1920s and 1930s.  Which makes me wonder, where exactly this set came from!

I have not looked at my thimble collection for years.  I see them in the printer’s box, but I don’t really look at them and remember when I purchased them.  The special case from Toledo, I keep up in my sewing room, closed and put away.  Thus, I must say thank you to AtticSister and her blog post about a thimble case, which sparked my search for my red leather box and to look more closely at my thimbles.  You can read her blog here:  https://atticsister.wordpress.com/2018/10/12/antique-walnut-thimble-case/

Earlier blogs I wrote about sewing.

https://zicharonot.com/2015/10/10/12-delancey-street-and-my-family/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/01/29/my-birthday-sewing-machines/

https://zicharonot.com/2015/12/27/why-i-gave-away-a-bit-of-my-moms-memory/

 

An Extraordinary Visit to the Belem Tower

21 Oct

As part of our first tour in Lisbon, I was excited to go to the Belem Tower. I had seen it from our ship as we sailed into Lisbon so was curious to its history and to see it up close.

Belem Tower from our cruise ship.

The Belem Tower is located where the Atlantic Ocean ends and the Tagus River begins. This World Heritage monument has stood guard over the river since the early 1500s during the reign of King Manuel. When it was built it was farther from the shore on what looks like a little island. But over time the shore line has crept closer.

There is a lovely park on the land surrounding the Tower, also known as The Tower of St Vincent. You can walk along the shore, visit the outdoor tourist market, get a snack to eat.

But for us there was an unusual and special event. One that even made our tour guide speechless.

Before we realized what would happen I took this photo. You can see the naval ship coming closer.

Our first notice that something was up was that part of the walkway just passed the Belem Tower was closed off. Cannons and people in military uniforms were standing at attention.

Then, suddenly, we heard:

Boom boom boom!!!

The naval ship sailing into the river started shooting off its cannons when it was opposite the Tower! When it was done, the cannons located on shore then replied with equally loud and resounding booms.

People were stopped in their tracks. And then ran to the shoreline to see what was happening.

We were lucky enough to see the welcome home of a Portuguese naval vessel heading for the main naval base in Lisbon, specifically Almada, Portugal.

According to our guide, who was just about in tears, whenever a naval vessel returns from a mission, it is welcomed at the Tower of Belem in this way.

She had never seen it happen in all of her years as a tour guide. She was overcome with emotion, as were all those who saw and heard this impressive sight.

It was a welcome home I will never forget.

I thank my daughter who had the presence of mind to take several of these photos.

Sintra and the Palace of Pena

20 Oct
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The Palace of Pena and its quirky architecture.

High on a hill above Sintra, amidst gardens and above steep paths, sits the Palace of Pena. Conceived by the King of Portugal,  Don Fernando II, who lived from 1819-1895, The Palace of Pena was his dream home.  But he did not only plan the palace, he also planned for lovely gardens to surround it, bringing in plants and trees from around the world.  Creating a little world that has been named a World Heritage site.

He started building this, his summer home over the ruins of a 16th Century convent, the Convent of Our Lady of Pena, which he purchased in 1838.  It took about 15 years to complete his fairy tale home that combines German, Indian, Moorish and Portuguese styles.  A bit of the convent remains in the chapel.  The tile work and the Manueline style of decoration are definitely Portuguese.

 

You could spend days investigating this hillside extravaganza.  There are acres upon acres of gardens and kilometers of paths.  Besides the Pena Palace, there are the ruins of a Moorish castle.

As a lover of Disneyland and unusual architecture, I could not help but love the Palace of Pena.  The four modes of architecture come together in a romantic version of a palace.  Part of me wanted to ooh and aah over the building, and part of me wanted to giggle a bit and just enjoy Don Fernando’s view of the world through his enjoyable home.  But above all, I wanted to enjoy the sites and the joy of the gardens he and his second wife created on this hill.

 

When you enter the Palace area, you go over an area that was once a small draw bridge, through a tunnel that opens into a courtyard.  This side of the building is sunny and bright. No winds come through.  But when you walk through the arch in the Moorish style segment, you enter another world.  Our guide told us to zip our coats. And he was right.  With wonderful views of the Atlantic Ocean, the other courtyard also had  harsh winds!

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The guide held my hand as we walked along the narrow ledge on the windy Atlantic side of the Palace.

We walked along the  wall of the palace in a narrow pathway.  I do not like heights, so our guide held my hand along the way.  The view were worth it.

To be honest, it was not always easy walking up hill to the palace or around the palace grounds.  There are many steep area and steps.  Honestly, coming back down the hill was almost more difficult.  It had rained a bit and so the stones were slippery.  I will say my leg muscles got a good workout.  Our guide helped by letting me hold on to him. So be careful when you go to visit.  And you must go to visit!

After our time at the gardens and palace, we drove back down the hill to the picturesque town of Sintra.  We parked along a promenade and walked to the old part of town, past the official royal castle with its twin chimneys: the Sintra National Palace.  Now a museum, it once was the royal residence from the 15th to 19th centuries.

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The shopping area of old Sintra

We walked through town and its several narrow streets filled with shops.  It was the first time I actually got to shop during my vacation.  I purchased only items made in Portugal, mainly made of cork and/or tile.  I watched a woman hand painting tile in a small shop, where I found some gifts.  Then we meandered uphill to more shops and a pastry restaurant, where we purchased a treat.

There were many little restaurants and shops for the many tourists that were visiting the town.  At times, the narrow streets were almost too crowded.  But the cruise ships have discovered this town, about 25 kilometers from Lisbon, so it is a popular destination.   Our guide brought us to the Palace of Pena first thing to try to miss some of the crowding.  He was right, but the time we left more and more people were filing into the park.

After Sintra, we left town to travel to the beach and eat lunch at a restaurant, Mar do Guincho, located right on the beach.  The fresh seafood was delicious.  The waiter brings the whole fish to the table to tell you what is available.  I had a local fish caught that very morning.  While my husband and guide shared a two-person traditional seafood and rice stew.

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The ocean was very rough.

While we ate, we watched the very wild ocean hitting against the shore.  All the beaches were closed the few days we were in Lisbon due to the errant hurricane and tropical storm that arrived with us.

We were there along with Hurricane Leslie.  We actually did not experience any issues, except for some rain. But the country was not prepared for a category one hurricane.   There was storm damage along the coastal towns and in Lisbon.  Tiles were blown off roofs, causing leaks; trees and branches were down; the ocean waves were very high and strong; and there were some people injured. I am glad no one was badly injured.

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Cascais

After lunch we drove along the coast stopping once in a while to watch the waves.  The we went to the city of Cascais where we walked along the beach promenade in town. We had a good time looking at all the expensive homes along the way and seeing the lovely marina area.  I imagine that this town of the wealthy would be a good place for a holiday.  But for us it was a quick visit and then back to Lisbon to rest for our next day’s adventure.

Dancing on a Cruise Ship

12 Oct

After 11 years of ballroom dance lessons, my husband and I stopped taking lessons when our instructor moved. We keep saying we need to find someone else or find another dance studio closer to home. But that has not happened.

We miss dancing once a week. But I do not have the patience right now to investigate and find another place.

In the meantime we watch “Dancing With The Stars”. We critique the dances and determine if there really was any part of the true dance in these routines. Sometimes I agree with Len that the dance they danced was not at all the cha cha or fox trot it was supposed to be. But we enjoy it.

However, once or twice a year, we take a cruise and then our dancing shoes come out. Some cruise lines do have wonderful dance floors and bands. And we enjoy evenings of exercise as we practice our dances. Each evening we get better since we remember additional moves the more we dance.

However, some cruises do not cater to the ballroom dancers. On a recent cruise around Hawaii, the dance floor was MARBLE and the only one who played any dance music was a pianist. Although he was great and accommodating to the dancers. But a marble dance floor is A horrible idea. Also there were only 4-5 couples who were there dancing each day.

Even still, after a few days, the dancing couples start to recognize each other. It is a friendly bond.

Dancers On the Serenity dance floor.

Recently we were on another cruise ship, the Serenity, which has a great wooden dance floor. A true band. And even ambassadors to dance with single women.

Each evening my husband and I joined with others on the 12th floor to dance our favorites: Fox trot, rumba, cha cha, waltz, tango and swing.

We sit out the salsa and jive. But enjoy watching those who dance to the faster beats.

Over the week we started visiting with other dancers on site-seeing tours and in other lounges. Those who hang out by the dance floor began to recognize each other. And those that do not dance, seem to enjoy watching. Or getting on the dance floor just swaying to the music.

We befriended one of the ambassadors, as he went on several tours that we were on. In the evenings between sets, he talked to us. Each of the ambassadors have other careers, but are all dancers who get free cruises for dancing in the evenings. I believe Crystal Cruises is one of only two that still offers ambassadors.

We danced every day. And it was fantastic! A great way to meet people, get some exercise, practice our dance moves, and joy the cruising experience.