“GILIW,” better known as Alice N. Francisco, M.D., and her lawyer-husband, Aris, just spent two weeks cruising the British Isles, Norway and other ports of call with the Carnival Cruise Line.

And had a swell of a time.

The November-born couple plans to cruise the Caribbean next with fellow Scorpios and friends.

Alice and Aris are among the growing number of cruise aficionados from the metro area.

Cruising is popular among a certain age group for food, fun and relaxation.

For important celebrations, sailing the seven seas with family is pure delight.

Lili, who writes “Sugar & Spice,” and hubby, took a respite from writing and sailed aboard the Norwegian Gem with ports of call in two cities in Canada and three in the U.S.

What a week!

First stop after boarding the ship in New York was Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia, one of Canada’s eight provinces.

We visited the resting place of more than 100 victims in the sinking of the Titanic.

One tombstone belongs to Alma Paulson, who lost four children traveling with her.

Also buried there was the young violinist who played his instrument while the ship was taking in water.

The Public Gardens were worth a visit, where a full-grown oak tree planted by King George VI during a royal visit catches one’s attention.

From there, onto St. John, in New Brunswick, where a river’s current whirs like a pool with its reversing waves.

In Bar Harbor, Maine, we motored through Acadia National Park, one of the most visited parks in the U.S., after a lobster lunch at the posh Bar Harbor Club.

Other stops were Newport, Rhode Island, home of the Vanderbilt mansion and the rich and famous, and Boston, Mass., site of the Tea Party during British rule.

Aboard the ship, cruisers have a choice of specialty restaurants, a buffet floor, a nightclub with a five-person Filipino band called Soundbytes playing to all types of music, a casino, a theatre, spa, library, huge swimming pools, jacuzzis, etc.

About 60 percent of the 1,000-strong officers and crew are Filipino, with Alex Pagtakhan as the most ranking of them, with the rank of director of all staterooms.

Tagalog is the lingua franca of the wait staff, most of them serving nine-month contracts, with three months of fully-paid vacations.

“But separation from family is rather painful,” moans a waitress from Las Piñas, Rizal.

In one show, the cruise director told of the questions frequently asked by first-timers, drawing howls of laughter.

Is the island surrounded by water?

Do toilets flush with salt or fresh water?

What time is the midnight buffet?



Gloria Diaz was the first Filipino Miss Universe, not Margie Moran as we wrote in a recent column, according to an alert reader, Dr. Luther Tamayo of St. Catherine of Siena Hospital in New York.

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