We’ve been home from that long cruise for a few weeks now. The unpacking and reacquainting ourselves with real life has taken more time than I thought. Hence the long gap between posts here. Why has it taken so long to slip back into everyday life?
I think part of the reason cruising is so hard to come home from may be the same reason it’s so popular. Cruising is like the best summer camp ever. For adults.
For one thing, your meals are prepared and you don’t have to bus your own dishes. In fact, you have no chores at all. No making beds, no washing dishes, no scooping litter boxes. I remember my mother complaining that she had to retrain me every time I returned from camp.
There is at least one pool. I don’t remember my summer camp having hot tubs though. Or an indoor pool for inclement weather.
And, just like at camp, you can meet people from all over. On a cruise that means the world. Literally. Australia, Portugal, the Ukraine, Indonesia, the Philippines.
All the cool kids wear a lanyard with their ID badge–your Sea Pass. You carry no cash. All financial transactions are handled by swiping that card. That bucket of Coronas you had delivered to you at the pool every afternoon? The pricey massage? The candy bar at the gift shop? At the end of camp, your parents settled up. Sadly, on a cruise, settling up is your responsibility.
Camp counselors (your Cruise Director’s staff) lead tons of indoor and outdoor activities. You get to try activities you’ve never tried before. Every day the long list of events included trivia contests, bingo, bridge, belly dancing, knitting, yoga, rock climbing, gambling, a chorus, a flash mob, sushi making, and more.
Of course, the major difference on a cruise is that you are free not to participate. Want to lie in your bunk and read all day? Or drink yourself silly? Or nap beside the pool? Or just hang out and smoke with your friends? Totally your choice. No one will bug you, except maybe your traveling companion.
And there is no “lights out” or “reveille.” You set your own schedule.
Pretty nice. I’m now wondering if an Assisted Living apartment might be similar. Meals prepared. Helpful staff. Scheduled outings to malls or museums. Like a cruise ship that doesn’t go anywhere, you know? It certainly makes the possibility more appealing. I’m now beginning to consider a long cruise as a transition to such an arrangement when/if the time comes. Costs are comparable, I imagine. Getting rid of everything and cruising for a month or so before moving into Happy Acres would certainly soften the blow of giving up my independence.
For now though, I enjoy sitting here, drinking my coffee, and waiting for the stateroom attendant. The bed needs to be made and we need some fresh towels. Then I remember I am home. Crap.
Real life is overrated. I want to go back to camp.
While being interviewed a few days ago, one of the ship’s food and beverage managers said that passengers gain an average of one to two pounds per day on a cruise. Per day! Not bad if this were only a weeklong cruise. But this one lasts eighteen days.
Could I actually gain thirty-six pounds? Not that I don’t like a challenge, but that’s how much I lost fifteen years ago and promised myself I’d NEVER have to lose again. Besides, I gave away all my fat clothes.
So this is one area in which I am determined to stay well BELOW average.
I do expect the scale to be up a bit. After all, I’m on vacation and the food is delicious and plentiful. The dining room offers modest portions of delectable dishes, appetizers, and desserts, all included in what you already paid for the cruise. So, it’s practically free.
Or one can choose to eat at the buffet. It’s a more casual atmosphere and there are more choices. Besides, you don’t have to share your table with eight strangers as you do in the dining room. That’s helpful if, like me, your traveling companion resides at the extreme end of introvert spectrum.
Trouble is, at a buffet you can take as much as you like of anything and go back for seconds. Or thirds. Or— you get the idea.
And then there is room service. Food, drinks, whatever you want, brought to you. Day or night.
To counteract this increase in intake there is a well-equipped gym, a running/walking track, fitness classes, and stairs. So many stairs. Yoga, spin, belly dancing, and boot camp give passengers plenty of opportunities to burn off a few of the extra desserts and cocktails.
However, I’ve learned you can’t out exercise a bad diet. I can eat way faster than I can run.
I just have to make good food choices and move my lady-like keester. You know, that motivation thing. Overcoming excuses–too hot, too cold, ooh look, ice cream! And setting priorities– I really ought to finish reading that book, or work on my novel, or check my email… You know, that stuff.
That being said, I’m at the gym the other morning, using the elliptical when I notice a middle-aged Asian gentleman on a stationary bike. He finishes, reaches for his collapsible cane and feels his way to the towel rack and the next machine in his circuit. Yes, he was blind. By himself. On vacation. On a boat. And did I mention he was blind?
My excuses paled in comparison. I hung my head and powered through a few more sweaty minutes and a 30-minute stretch class before climbing the stairs to breakfast. Then I strolled right past the sweet rolls and pancakes, the biscuits and gravy, and the explicably ever-present baked beans on toast. I selected poached eggs, wheat toast, and as much fresh pineapple and melon as I could fit on my plate.
Day 15 and I can still zip and button my capris. I’ll take that as a win.
Observation of my fellow humans is a hobby of mine. And maybe the teensiest bit of quiet judgment. But honestly, the endless variety in shape, size, color, language, mode of dress, experience, and expression fascinates and amazes me. Every day.
For context, at the moment I’m on a cruise ship with 400 of my fellow Americans and 1000 Australians. (Sadly, not one of them is Hugh Jackman) The other 500 passengers are from just about everywhere else. One thing we have in common though, in spite of our differences: We’re all on vacation in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on a big beautiful boat that will dock in Tahiti tomorrow. So, you know–life is good. Very good.
Nonetheless, it appears that some people can still find something to complain about.
- One recent morning, after a particularly rough night of twenty-foot seas, I overheard a young man complaining at Guest Services. It seems his stateroom was creaking a lot, and that he (or his pretty young wife standing next to him) couldn’t sleep. Could the Captain do something about it?
Personally, I was grateful that the ship hadn’t capsized overnight and that the Captain was getting us past the storm as quickly and as safely as he could. I was also grateful I packed earplugs. And Dramamine.
- A New Jersey gent noticed me eating a chocolate ice cream cone and commented that he was glad they finally had chocolate again. He really didn’t like strawberry.
I’m grateful for the self-serve, soft-serve available all day, every day, as well as the forty-seven other desserts to pick from. I’m also grateful for the freedom to not eat strawberry ice cream.
- This morning, in the ship’s library, as I sat rereading and revising the beast I like to call my “novel,” a woman came in looking for the Sudoku puzzles that are placed there every day. She lamented that the previous day’s puzzles weren’t there. She’d gotten behind.
I’m grateful that the puzzles are placed there, just in case I run out of other things to occupy my time. I’m also grateful that there are entire books of Sudoku and crossword puzzles available (not to mention mobile apps) that one might carry along, say, on a long ocean voyage.
- At the breakfast buffet, a woman poked at a huge pan of lovely poached eggs trying to determine which ones might be done to her liking.
I’m grateful that poached eggs are available without having to order them special. And that the toast and English muffins are already done and that someone has made Hollandaise. Those facts alone are enough to allow me to overlook the precise degree of doneness that I prefer. That and the fact I don’t have to do the dishes.
Yes, the Internet onboard is a little slow, but again, we’re in the middle of the ocean. And even though the breakfast buffet doesn’t open until seven, they do put out tea things every afternoon at three, including scones and cute little sandwiches. And there is always room service. And did I mention not doing dishes?
There’s plenty to be grateful for. Especially here.
While the language is the same (mostly), my dearly beloved (db) and I were in for a few little surprises when we arrived in beautiful Sydney, Australia after a long flight on our way to a long cruise. I’m not complaining—who can complain about a chance to travel so far and see such beautiful places? No, I’m merely noticing.
The first thing we discovered was the electric tea kettle in our room instead of a coffee maker. Several varieties of tea and an Arrowroot Biscuit (!) were provided along with a couple of packets of instant coffee. Instant coffee.
Yes, I can–and did–drink instant, but you see, db and I are accustomed to early morning coffee before we attempt communication. Certainly we would survive, but seriously, how do people function and remain married without real coffee? We’ll celebrate our 44th anniversary this year and I know part of our marital longevity is due in no small part to the consumption of a couple of cups of coffee before we speak each morning.
At least they’d have real coffee at breakfast. Right?
Of course, a few of the menu choices at the hotel’s breakfast buffet also reminded me I was no longer in the USA. There were packets of Vegemite and Nutella to spread on toast, broiled tomatoes, muesli, baked beans, and boiled eggs in the shell–served hot! Still, I found enough creamy scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, and raisin toast to fill my plate.
Now to find the coffee before I sat down to eat. I looked around but found no giant urn, no thermal carafes… Oh, wait, there’s a machine. I read my choices. Espresso or long black. What about regular coffee?
Espresso is a shot, right? Not enough. But would a long black overfill the cup I held in my hand? I weighed the risk of going another moment without the requisite amount of caffeine I needed for basic social in interaction. I pressed the button for a long black and hoped for the best. Blessed hot black liquid poured forth from machine.
When I tasted it, it was stronger than an Americano, but definitely “real.” Later, with the help of google, I learned that “long black” is a term used in Australia and New Zealand for a double shot of espresso poured over hot water.
With that long black coursing through my veins and my jet-lagged brain now firing on most of its cylinders, I could face the puzzling items that would appear on the lunchtime menu: rocket salad and cos lettuce with capsicum.