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Cruise Director Saved My Life!

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Big Thanks to Cruise Director, JC and staff!

            I was a passenger on the Emerald Princess, December 3, 2022 Panama Canal cruise.  I am also a recent cancer survivor thanks in no small part to your staff, specifically the entertainment staff. My name is Madilyn and your cruise director, JC, and his team quite literally saved my life.  This is my story.

            I was diagnosed with breast cancer about a week before we set sail. I was understandably upset but I also didn’t want my diagnoses to affect the upcoming Christmas holiday or impact our dream cruise.  I was in a bit of a mood after traveling all day and by the time we embarked I was feeling pretty low and defeated.  I was just about to tell my husband I had changed my mind and wanted to go home when I was met by the Manuel, one of the cruise director’s crew. His openness and positive attitude put a smile on my face and I felt immediately better.  We remained on the ship and I am so glad we did as I have never laughed or smiled or been so uplifted and filled with this much joy as I did on this cruise.

            We have cruised about 10 times in the past with various lines and I enjoyed every trip, especially the ports, but this time was different.  This time we found ourselves looking forward more to the evenings spent with JC and his staff in the Explorer’s lounge than anything on land. I swear we went to every trivia game, game show, Liar’s Club etc offered.  And we were not the only ones.  Our little trivia groups started out with a few tables of folks and blossomed into a standing room only event with people actually waiting in the halls to get a seat.  Word spread quickly among the passengers that the Explore’s Lounge was the place to be. On shore excursions, dinner, shopping and waiting in lines on the ship I could hear the other passengers buzzing about what a grand time they had at the Explore’s the night before and how very special JC and his staff were. They spoke not only about how funny the shows were but also of  the energy, sense of community and pure elation the staff brought to every performance.  Soon even the craft sessions, hosted by Georgia and Pictionary games and charades hosted by Manuel were crowded with both men and women recounting all of the hilarious moments from the night before. 

I have never experienced such positivity and intimacy from any other cruise director staff on any cruise line.  Somehow JC managed to make all of the passengers feel welcome, entertained and valued as human beings.  That is very rare in a world where we have to worry if our kids will make it home safely without getting shot in math class. Maybe it was Shel’s incredible humor, Georgia’s comedic timing, Manuel’s openness, or JC’s reactions and incredible improv skills that made this group special.  JC seemed be genuinely enjoying himself as he spoke with passengers on board ship and on stage.  My hubby and I were contestants on the Marriage Game show where JC dubbed my husband “Windmill.” For the rest of the cruise we kept hearing people shouting “Windmill” everywhere we went.  In the halls and elevators I heard “whip cream,” “there go the pizza ladies” and “Cleveland” being bantered about in reference to events that took place during one of the many shows etc.  It was as if JC and his team created this “family dynamic” complete with inside jokes. Everyone wanted to show unity by shouting these shared jokes at each other. I have never experienced anything like this , let alone on a ship filled with thousands of people!

            Before the cruise, I was incredibly depressed and wasn’t sure I even wanted to begin the suggested life saving cancer treatment. I was kind of ready to just “call it a day” until something JC said during the very last show.  In a very moving intro to the special lip sync show, JC thanked US (the passengers)! He spoke about how the positivity from the passengers changed the vibe on the ship. He also said that he tells passengers every cruise that their enjoyment depends totally on their attitude and he encourages folks to give themselves permission to have fun.  (I have attached a small portion of his heartfelt message in this email.)

            As I stated, throughout the cruise, JC and staff were incredibly welcoming and giving of themselves during every show which really served to bring all of the passengers together. I have seen funny comedians, happy performers and heartfelt dance performances but I have always felt very much like an audience member.  Now I felt like a true participant, both on the cruise and in my own life. JC advised us not to “let the cruise happen around you” but instead be “fully present.” It was at that moment that I decided to follow JC’s advice and not just sit and wait for the cancer to take me.  

            Since the cruise, I have had several surgeries, have started meds and had radiation therapy.  Instead of feeling depression and dread, I remember just how powerful a positive attitude can be. I figure if positivity, joy, and humor can turn thousands of strangers into friends and partners in fun and mayhem, (even if just for a short while) then maybe, a positive attitude can conquer cancer.  

            I am happy to report that JC was correct! My doctor’s assure me that both surgeries successfully removed the cancerous cells from my body. I made a pact with myself to try to be positive and give myself permission to have fun by letting joy and humor and kindness into my life. 

            I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to take that life changing (and life saving) cruise aboard the Emerald Princess last December. I will be forever grateful to JC and staff for making that experience truly special! Thanks, JC and team! 

Madilyn XXXXXXX (Windmill’s wife)

Emerald Princess passenger, December 3, 2022 Panama Canal

PS I want to apologize for not mentioning another member of the cruise director team, a young Black woman from St. Lucia.  She was also a delight and I truly enjoyed her performances but I totally blanked out on her name.  Sorry!

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@Catmamma This story had me tearing up! I love this cruise review. I want to meet this cruise director and be on this ship now. I'm so happy to read your positive health report and for your newfound mindset. You can't be wrong with living each day to the fullest. Every day is a gift and you are an inspiration! I hope this mindset never changes, and you continue to cruise on knowing that life is a blessing. Thanks for sharing your story with us. This goes to show that cruising is so much more than a vacation. It's an unforgettable experience, and with the right people by your side, it can be so impactful! 

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  • 3 weeks later...

@FJB Aren't they all life-changing though? I always feel so relaxed and revitalized after a cruise. It makes me appreciate life so much more, and there is no better way to unwind. Although my husband always feels a bit differently after cruising. He never wants to leave the ship and gets anxious about going back to reality. I just appreciate the opportunity to cruise! It's a privilege not many people get. I took my first cruise at 10 years old and have been on so many since. I took my in-laws on their first cruise in their very late 50's. If it wasn't for me, I don't think they would have ever cruised in their lifetime! 

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