This would be my first Gaither cruise and my first time visiting the Caribbean! Sunday, Feb. 26th, I left Tulsa, OK at 7am on American, landing at DFW at 8 am. I boarded another plane at 9 am to fly to Miami. I ate a snack, slept and listened to the GVB and David while we flew over New Orleans and turned left to fly above the Gulf of Mexico, which was covered in clouds. We landed in rainy Miami at 1:30 pm Eastern time after an almost three hour flight! My luggage did not show up on the conveyor belt. I saw a gentleman taking the last of the luggage off of the belt, after it stopped, so I asked him about my luggage. He eventually told me and two other people waiting for their luggage, that there was more to come! We had hope! This couple was cruising on the Norwegian Sun for 10 days in the South Caribbean. We finally received our luggage at 1:45 pm. I had checked in with Holland America cruise line and waited for my transfer to Ft. Lauderdale. They ended up calling a coach bus just for me! The Holland America representative said, “Your chariot, me lady” as I boarded the bus! I was the last one to come into Miami and the only one on the bus. I boarded Holland America’s MS Westerdam at 3 pm. There was no line! I arrived at the right time! I went to my room to unpack and we had our safety drill on deck 3 Promenade at 3:45 pm to 4:15 pm. They took roll call by room number and several people were not there! They were warned that they would be forced to disembark, if they did not come to the safety drill. Everyone finally showed up! When I went back to my room 4012, Alison was there, so we met each other! She is from Northern Ireland and is sharing her room with me for the week! I unpacked and then went to our scheduled dinner in the Vista dining room on deck 2. I ate dinner with fellow Phelps phans, Karen, Brenda, her hubby Kendall, Gail, Lee and Judy! I had the shrimp appetizer, soup and rack of lamb, plus dessert! The sea was very choppy tonight and we didn’t have our sea legs, yet. Brenda had to skip dinner and lie down, so that she wouldn’t miss the concert. The wind was blowing tonight at 42 knots across the bow. Our red badge concert was scheduled to start at 8:30 pm. I think we were finished with dinner and in line by 7:30 pm. Most of us sat on the left side, just four rows up off of the floor behind the priority section. A perfect place for pictures! The Homecoming artists were sitting on the left side of the stage! David sat in the front row!
Our first homecoming concert started at 8:35 pm with the Homecoming Friends singing Goodbye World, Goodbye. Wes sang When God Dips His Love at 8:39 pm with David and Charlotte joining him. David was cheering him on! Reggie and Ladye Love Smith sang Live Like a Believer at 8:42 pm. Gordon Mote played piano and sang Getting Ready to Leave This World at 8:45. Buddy Greene and Jeff Taylor played and sang Jonah at 8:49, then Buddy sang a beautiful version of Come Thou Fount at 8:56 pm. Russ Taff sang God’s Unchanging Hand at 9:01. He was on fire! (fire is not a good thing on a ship, but this was great!) Gene McDonald took the stage to sing Lonesome Road with that low bass voice at 9:10, as David left the stage. Mark Lowry pretended to sing a part of the song, but it was David’s voice! He was singing from backstage! LOL! Bill Gaither told Gene to do three more. Gene said, “You didn’t pay me for that.” At 9:13 pm, the Martins sang So High and then Promised Land acapella! Wow! Their harmony is great & Joyce was rockin’! They sang Down by the Riverside, too. Bill introduced Ken Davis, the comedian on the cruise. Ken said, “Y’all are singing Goodbye, World, Goodbye; Getting Ready to Leave This World and Down by the Riverside. I’m ready to get off this boat!” He got down on one knee, like Tim Tebow and said it was a Tebow for Bill. Ken said that deep down in the ocean whales are freaking out hearing Gene’s low bass voice! Ken told his USA Today story about him sitting on his paper on the plane. The guy next to him asked if he was reading the paper. He said, “yes,” and stood up to turn a page, then sat back down on the paper. The Hoppers are joining the cruise on Wednesday. The Isaacs sang Hallelujah Turnpike at 9:30 pm – what a great song! They sang The Three Bells (song about Jimmy Brown) next, first recorded in July 1959. When they sang the “bum, bum, bum” for the sound of the bells, Sonya bumped her mom, Lily and then Bill bumped Lily! It made everyone laugh! Charlotte Ritchie started singing Let’s go Down to the River to Pray at 9:41 pm.
Mark said that Bill would video tape his own funeral and advertise, “If you enjoyed this brief presentation, you’ll enjoy the entire funeral!” The GVB sang Build an Ark at 9:51! I love this song! I Catch ‘Em, God Cleans ‘Em at 9:54 pm. At 9:57 pm they sang Daystar with Michael in the lead. Wes joined him and then David. Joyce Martin was wiping away tears. At 10:04, David wowed the audience with a great finale – Bring Him Home! Singing, “Please, bring him home.” The last note was held in classic Phelps’ form – high and long!! He never ceases to amaze me! Standing Ovation on this! While we were on our feet the Homecoming Friends sang I Then Shall Live at 10:10. Then we had a sing-along at 10:15 pm to end the evening with I Exalt Thee and I Have Decided to Follow Jesus. So ended our first concert of the cruise!http://www.flickr.com/photos/ruthdaniel ... 184031600/