There was no question about bringing Jon* along on our family cruise.
*In case you are new here, read this for reference.
However, we began to learn only two days into our trip this choice, which had been natural for us, was one others have debated for years.
As soon as the first hint of warmth touched our ship, we hightailed it for the pool. I was focused, scanning for enough open chairs together, when a man and a woman stopped me. I’d just claimed four chairs* and was ready to fight these people for them when I realized they were stopping me not because of chairs, but because of Jonathan.
*Only five short for our entire group, but beggars can’t be choosers.
There are times I’m strongly aware of people’s recognition of Jon’s presence. This, however, was not one of them. The man asked if I was his family, which, in my beach chair focus totally confused me.
“Yeah…” I said, giving off a strong side eye of scrutiny.*
*In that moment, I realized (via the award around his neck) he’d just won the Mr. Sexy Legs competition and had to break the tension by commenting on it.
He began telling me about how his family was on the cruise together and how he and his wife wanted them to bring a family member who has Down syndrome, but the mother was too worried about how he would do on a cruise. Originally, he thought I was Jon’s aide hired to go on the trip with him.
“How’s he liking it?” he asked, nodding towards Jon.
We all perked up to this question and immediately began telling him of our first night.
As we toured the ship during our first hours aboard, we discovered the game room where Jon and Joel immediately took over.
After dinner, Joel took Jon to a dance party and then we tried to watch Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in the Atrium where it was playing on a gigantic wall screen, but Jon kept pestering Joel to go back to the dance party.
Jon danced without stopping, abandoning his dolls only ten minutes in for a group of people who danced the rest of the night with him and yelled at me for taking him away somewhere around 1 am.
I expected this to be a singular interaction, yet had no idea Jonathan’s impact on others on this trip was only beginning.
Striking a pose in Antigua
After a day at the beach in Martinique
Jonathan became a favorite among the ship staff, who tenderly called him, “Mr. Jonathan” and received all his love and hugs effortlessly, many with heartfelt return. One staff member in particular sought him out whenever we arrived at a port. She would eagerly say hello to him and give him a hug.
Back to the game room
Date night with the ladies
Our first night of karaoke
Halfway into the trip, we discovered karaoke. Though the trip had already been wonderful, karaoke made all the difference in Jon’s positive influence on others on board.
Jon’s manager discussing tunes with him
Not only did Jon receive numerous standing ovations to his performances*, but after our first night at karaoke, his popularity on the ship grew even more.
*With tunes including Santa Baby, All the Small Things, Roxanne, I Love Rock and Roll, and more!
It was clear there were several ‘regulars’ to karaoke, those who had probably been going every single night since the ship set sail from New York. They welcomed Jon into their group of performers and whenever we passed a fellow karaoke star during the day, they’d approach him with eagerness and tell him they couldn’t wait to see him at karaoke that night.
Posing in Saint Lucia
Waiting for karaoke to begin
By the third night of Jonathan participating in karaoke, he now had a fan club. A women none of us knew came up to him one night and said, “Jon, I’m here to see you!”
Another man had approached our group in the same way Mr. Sexy Legs had and when he learned about Jon’s new favorite evening activity, he brought his wife to watch.
Another woman stopped us, after having danced with Jon, to show a tattoo on her leg of her daughter who had Down syndrome who had died at only two-years-old.
But my two favorite stories are Rick and Roger’s wife.
Rick was quite possibly the best karaoke performer. On the second to last night, he asked Jon to come up and sing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” with him, a performance which brought the house down.
The last karaoke night was “Karaoke Idol” where a karaoke champion would be chosen. Roger, who had also been known as “Frank” for his spot on Sinatra impression, was a karaoke regular who we would shoot the breeze with at the end of each night. His wife approached us several times the day before and night of Karaoke Idol to tell us she was rigging the competition, and that it would be over her dead body that Jonathan wouldn’t win.
Rick left the room when the Karaoke Idol champ was announced for fear he wouldn’t have been able to control his anger if it hadn’t been Jonathan.
And he was pleased to be able to give his congratulations as we headed back to our cabins that night, surrounding the Karaoke King, as he is now known.
Who knows the countless untold stories of the effect Jonathan made on others aboard the Norwegian Gem this December?
For myself, it increased within me the drive to continue to tell the world of the richness Jonathan brings to the lives of all who meet him.