The time is five thirty pm and at the dock in Manila the cruise liner lay in readiness to depart, all the and crew were aboard and the paraphernalia from the dockside, carpets, ships plaque, tent cover of a ships stay now all stowed away and the gangplanks were being withdrawn into the ship.
The loudspeakers throughout the ship burst into life with the Captain’s announcement that in fifteen minutes the ship would be sailing away and he invited all available crew up on deck to wave goodbye to their family and friends that were gathered on the dock.
With more than 80% of the crew coming from the Philippines, and it being the ships first visit there, plus the normal contract for a crew member is 10 months you could imagine that the ship suddenly became alive with activity. Men and women running up to the promenade deck outside, their faces full of happy expectation they all smiled as they came across friends running too. This was all new; the Captain had never done this before.
Up on deck it was crowded to overflowing with excited passengers and crew jockeying for position on the rails, there were passengers thoughtlessly standing and talking to each other, taking places on the rails that the crew needed to wave good-bye to their families. All the waiters, waitresses, engineers, engine room staff, officers were four deep in places all straining to see the groups of people on the quayside.
The group of fifty or sixty women, girls, babies and older people we all gathered on the dock making a colourful line five deep. Waving madly at the ship, babies being held high. All wiping their eyes with the back of their hands, still smiling for their loved ones on the big white vessel about to depart.
Onboard there were girls hugging girls, boys hugging girls and boys hugging boys all with smiles on their faces then, then the ships horn sounded to signify we had cast off and were pulling away from the doc. The deck suddenly went quiet and everyone everywhere looked towards the quay and started waving madly, passengers and crew alike. Many of the crew had tears streaming down their faces, still showing a smile, they waved frantically, sending all their love in that silent signal, prolonging their time together not wanting that magic moment to stop, some of the men were biting their lips, their eyes red from the strain of the emotion they were going through. Cameras were flashing in all directions everyone taking photos of everyone, a special moment that all wanted to capture.
Throughout the ship the Loudspeakers cracked into life and the opening notes of “Time to Say Goodbye” drifted into the air adding an intolerable strain to the emotion. Many of the passengers who were merely bystanders, had tears rolling down their cheeks sharing the pain of the men leaving their Wives and new born babies, the young girls leaving their Husbands or boyfriends, others waving to their parents or friends. Many on the quayside had travelled for many, many hours some for two days just to spend a few precious hours in some cases just a few short minutes in the arms of their loved ones.
The atmosphere on the open deck felt like hot clear fog, pregnant with the emotion of the moment, in the unnatural quiet of the deck you could almost hear their hearts breaking as the ship pulled slowly away from the dock, every inch the ship moved, it tore their hearts further apart their waving getting more frantic the further the ship moved away. As the ship moved forwards out of the dock the crew moved to the back of the ship to see better, waving wildly, their loved ones on the dock getting smaller every minute it moved away, the multicoloured group on the dock getting smaller and becoming smaller blurs of colour.
As the ship got to the end of the dock, only one or two arms were in the air. Not waving now just held aloft as a marker for their loved ones to see. As the dock got smaller the colour blurs even more they are the Wives, Children, Mothers, Fathers and friends, the focus of so much intense love hope, passion and expectation now fading into a small dot in the distance. The crew turned away not wanting their breaking hearts to show on their faces, some of the girls hugging each other, their faces buried in each other’s necks, some of the men, hands on each other’s shoulders to signify their mutual understanding and feelings. Other’s not having close support near to them walk away from the rails and turn their faces way, heading back to their duties as quickly as possible.
Women passenger’s with hankies in their hands wipe their eyes and smile bravely at the crew who walk past on their way back to their cabins, their hearts full of understanding and sympathy for the young people they see in pain. Slowly the promenade deck empties of crew leaving less and less passengers looking back to the berth, now just a dot in the distance.
Later that night at dinner or in the bars the passengers ask their steward or waitress how they are feeling know, trying to be sympathetic. The crew, trying hard to hold themselves together because they have a job to do, answer “fine madam or OK sir!” shielding their broken hearts the best they can. All the crew from whatever country, whatever deck, whatever rank know that pain of leaving all too well. The Captain had done well that day.