He spent eight hours bobbing up and down in the lifeboat before being picked up by an oil tanker and brought back to Port Everglades. The ship didn't sink. The forward and aft sections were fine. Only the middle of the ship was destroyed. The crew was allowed back to pick up their belongings. "All my puppets were gone because the stage was in the center," Ray recalled.
But there was one puppet Ray was working on that he had left in his cabin. He went back to his room to look for it and it was gone. Ray had to go home and completely rebuild his act.
Ray was soon performing on another ship. After his show a man came to him and said, "Were you ever on the Ambassador when it caught fire? I said yes," Ray proclaimed. The man worked for Coast Guard. They broke down all the doors to make sure no one was still there. "Someone thought a child was in the cabin. It turned out to be a monkey puppet which the man took with him and gave to his son," Ray recalled. Ray made a deal and carved the man another puppet for his son and got the original back. It's now in a glass display case at Ray's home, and the puppet is wearing a life jacket.
"My favorite word is quirky. We're all quirky," Ray said. "After 40 years on ships it's made me a quirky person. I am happy in who I am. You become self centered. It's not selfish. But I do what I want to do when I want to do it because there's no one else to consider."
Ray is thrilled with the way his life is going. "My needs are not much. I don't like flashy cars," he said. He lives with his brother in a 22-bedroom manor house in the Lake District outside of London.
"There's someone looking after me," Ray believes. "Success is taking opportunities, not being afraid to take opportunities. Not being afraid of hard work. Everything I've done I've applied myself 100 percent to, even working in the post office and the bakery." If you apply yourself 100 percent people will want you to work."
At age 62, Ray doesn't plan on retiring anytime soon. "I'm peaking. I've never been as content," he said. Everything Ray has is paid for and he holds no debt. "One of the biggest evils was the advent of credit cards," he said. "It gave people access to money they didn't have."
And what if Ray hadn't taken the road that led to the sea? "If I stayed in the post office I would be doing local opera, have a wife and grandchildren and be very happy living in a semi detached house," he said. "And it could have been another life for me and it could have been wonderful. I took the opportunity of going on to these ships and what it did is it broadened my mind incredibly. I can hold my own with anyone. I'm not afraid of people."
"I invested well. I didn't borrow things. I'm single and I don't spend anything," he said. "All I need when I go home is a pint of beer. I eat my meal, have some wine and I go to bed at 8 o'clock at night."
How much longer will he do this? "As long as I enjoy it, I'll do it," he said. "The day it becomes a chore I'll say it's time for me to go. "I'm content as I ever will be. I have no regrets."
Editor's note: ABC News producer Tom Giusto is sailing with Ray Solaire aboard the Seven Seas Navigator. He paid full price for his cruise and received no special consideration.