This past Christmas holiday we were very fortunate to go on our first cruise. I wasn’t sure how I’d like it – I’d heard the usual saying…you are either cruise people, or not cruise people. My husband and I have traveled the world and stayed in both nice and not so nice accommodations, been to nice and not so nice places, and had plenty of nice and not so nice experiences. Grabbed in a back alley in 1986 Bombay, anyone? Stranded by pirates in the South China Sea, perhaps? A cruise sounds better than pirates.
Anyway, we (husband, 3 sons, mother-in-law and me) boarded in New York City and headed to the Caribbean for 11 days of fun, adventure, way too much food and way too many cocktails.
This is what I learned:
1. If you share an inside cabin – that doesn’t have a window or balcony or any means of fresh air – with your husband and 2 of your 3 sons, the tiny room will instantly smell like farts and dirty socks. And remain that way until you disembark.
2. When you walk up the aft staircase every morning – the one with all the huge mirrors everywhere – don’t look at your reflection. Because the combination of shiny clean mirrors and bright indoor lighting will show the exact places where the 10 cocktails and 3 desserts you had the day before have taken up residence.
3. If you are on a Christmas cruise, listening to Frank Sinatra and the Chipmunks singing about White Christmases and jingling bells will be strangely disconcerting, especially as you are drinking tropical cocktails and gazing at turquoise blue water.
4. For the ladies (TMI for you men) – if Aunt Flo comes to visit unexpectedly, it will be while you are wearing your brand new bright white linen shorts. But you won’t feel too bad about it, because your 7 year old son will have just spilled his virgin blueberry daiquiri all over them anyway.
5. Watching the sunrise every morning by yourself on the sun deck, with a mimosa in one hand and a coffee in the other, will be a highlight of your cruise.
6. It is vitally important to make friends with the bar waiter. Because he will know exactly when you are due for another cocktail. And sometimes he will bring you two because he’s going on a break and wants to make sure you are covered. My bar waiter was named Red. I love you, Red.
7. A lot of people are slobs. They will leave their garbage all over the place thinking that because they are on vacation, someone else will clean up after them. Slobs are not nice people.
8. Being confined – albeit wonderfully so – on a cruise ship for 11 days is a wonderful way to teach your children how to behave. How not to be rude. How to treat others with respect. Because before you even board the ship, you will see an extended family yelling at the crew before they are even out of their car. Yelling how ridiculous it is that there is no porter to meet them and their 37 pieces of luggage immediately. Your children will be aghast and they will spend the next 11 days searching for the rude family so they can scowl at them. And your boys will say please and thank you to everyone they meet from that moment on.
9. Even if you dress your boys up and take them to the swanky dining room on Christmas Eve, their conversation will still revolve around burps and farts.
10. Want to feel like you are the only person on a cruise ship? Wander around the decks at 7:00 am on New Year’s Day.
11. Teaching your teenage and tween sons the stupidity of being a drunk teenager is an easy lesson on a cruise ship. All the boys had to do was watch the roving gangs of teens swigging from a bottle of champagne on New Year’s Eve acting foolish. Your kids will realize how dumb those kids look and will never want to appear like that. Hopefully.
12. Having your cabin toilet back up is a scary moment. Which is why making friends with your steward is vitally important. We love you, Alfred!
13. Lots of people have tattoos. Lots of people have really bad tattoos.
14. If the brochure says that the hike up the volcano in St. Kitts will be strenuous, you must believe it.
15. If you are worried about not losing those 10 pounds before the cruise so you look extra fabulous in your swim suit, don’t worry. There will be all shapes and sizes on board, and you will not feel bad about having that extra jiggle in your middle. And you’ll put on some extra jiggle anyway. Oh yes you will.
16. It’s very important to have good reading material. Along with a good cocktail. Even better is to read a good book about cocktails.
17. Don’t worry about the extra calories that you will consume. Especially if you are a mom and never get a break from cooking, cleaning and laundry. This is a vacation not to be missed, and the food and cocktails are so worth it. Take it from a mom who hasn’t had a vacation that didn’t involve cooking, cleaning and laundry in 14 years.
18. When your good friend recommends that you wear elastic waist clothing for your entire trip, you should listen.
And finally, the best lesson learned…
19. If your husband buys you the “Ultimate Drinks Package” and asks you to make sure he gets his money’s worth, you must oblige. And if you take a photo of every cocktail that you consume, you will come home with 86 photos. And your husband will be proud of you.
My one regret? Not buying this giant bottle of vodka.
And Norwegian Cruise Lines – you are the BEST!