February 25, 2009 Edition

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Local couples enjoy cruise

Liz and Ronald "Hoss" Jones enjoy a meal on the ship during their cruise to Jamaica. This was their sixth cruise, with their previous ones all being to Alaska.

Helen and Tom Dodd pose for a photo on deck during their cruise on the Carnival Conquest, which they described as "big and beautiful."

Gretchen Hunt

Ronald "Hoss" and Liz Jones have developed a love for cruises, having taken five trips to Alaska. Recently, they had the opportunity to combine a cruise with another love, gospel music, when they joined their friends, Tom and Helen Dodd on a cruise to Jamaica.

Hoss said the group decided to take the cruise after The Mercy River Boys, a southern gospel quartet, mentioned the cruise during a performance at Sedgwick Baptist Church, where the two couples attend.

The quartet, which is made up of four of Hoss's former students at Quitman, performs on the cruise every January.

"We discussed it," Hoss said of the cruise, "and we decided we were going to go."

Helen had also been on a cruise to Alaska, but for Tom it was a new experience.

"This was his first time on water other than rice fields," Hoss said.

Tom said it probably won't be his last, though.

"I really enjoyed it," he said. "I want to go back."

Hoss got an extra treat on the trip when he discovered approximately 150 Quitman residents were on the ship, as well. He coached and taught at Quitman from 1968-73, as well as coaching at Hoxie, Clover Bend and Strawberry.

The group was there to support The Mercy River Boys.

"My highlight was The Mercy River Boys," Hoss said. "In southern gospel, they're as good as there is."

The travelers also enjoyed performances by N Him, another gospel group on the cruise.

Hoss and Liz, though seasoned cruisers now, said this trip was a new experience because they had friends on board with them.

"This was the first time we had friends to go with us," Liz said. "It makes it so much better when you've got friends to go with."

Helen said there were plenty of new friends to make, as well.

"I really enjoyed meeting all the new people," she said. "The staff was really nice."

With 3,600 passengers, making new friends was not difficult.

Tom was impressed with the ship, the Carnival Conquest.

"That ship amazed me," he said. "It was big and beautiful. It didn't seem like you were on a boat. We just sailed along and enjoyed life."

The cruise was Jan. 4-11 with two days of sailing before their first stop. They enjoyed stops in Montego Bay, Jamaica, the Grand Cayman Islands and Cozumel, Mexico.

The couples experienced a four-hour delay waiting for fog to clear as they were leaving and a three-hour wait for a car when they got back.

"But we got to meet some more friends," Tom said of the delays.

During the initial delay, while they were waiting for the fog to clear, the cruise line provided lunch for the passengers.

"Can you imagine having to prepare box lunches for 3,600 people," Liz said. "There were people piled up everywhere."

The couples plan to cruise again, though the next time they will probably be heading north again to Alaska. For first-timer Tom, he is ready to go again whichever direction the group decides.

"I just had a ball, I tell you," Tom said. "I can't wait to go back."

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