Monday, April 23, 2012

5 days on a cruise ship

A couple of weeks ago I spent 5 days with my wife, parents and sister's family on a cruise ship out of Florida. The occasion was my parents 50th wedding anniversary combined with my dads 75th birthday.
Yes there was shuffle board.

I admit I approached the prospect of a cruise with mixed feelings. Five days on a boat complete with Las Vegas song and dance shows and daiquiri  swilling seniors was not compelling.
Though I think its still not the holiday of choice, I did have a good time and was pleasantly surprised by the whole experience. The rooms for instance were bigger than typical New York or London hotels
The food was very good.
I ate a lot.
It felt like everyone was eating all the time.
Seemingly limitless capacity hollow legged vessels of gluttony lumbered from pool to pizza in a weaving dance towards obesity.
 I could understand it if the people looked deprived and underfed.
I assure you no one appeared underfed.
Ice cream at 9 am?
Fried eggs and roast pork with a baked potato mid morning?
Pizza at 4 am?
Yes sir, of course sir, would you like fries with that?
I felt an unsettling urge to join in.
To be fair there was plenty of healthy stuff on offer along side the junk food.
Flush with a smug sense virtuous disdain after finishing a crisp healthy salad I repeatedly ruined everything by veering towards the jiggling line up at the hot dog counter on the way to the exit. 
You eat all the time on a cruise because you can.
The gastronomic siren call was unrelenting.
Its all included and its so damn available.
The ship is 12 stories BIG with 2500 passengers and 850 staff.
Its a small floating town.
The logistics of having enough water, grub and booze on board is mind boggling.
Think about having enough (fresh not salt) hot water for all those showers.
Given I didn't see any supplies or fuel being loaded at either of the two stops, all the booze, food and fuel is loaded up in Florida and carried for the duration of the voyage.
I was struck by the obsession with sanitary discipline on board.
Hand sanitiser machines everywhere.
A guy or gal greeter squirts antiseptic gel into your hands as you enter the restaurant.
Signs asking you to exit toilet doors via a towel clad hand -that was a first for me.
The Jewel of the Seas had learned its lesson in 2010 when it was hit repeatedly by outbreaks of Noro virus. You can read about that here. They clearly learned their lesson.
Sick passengers shut down cruise lines.

We made two stops- Cozumel ( more on that in an upcoming post) and Casa Maya.
Casa Maya was really just a pit stop for trinket shopping and  alcohol consumption.
The  dock area was of a warren of souvenir stands, swimming pools and bars.
There was rather depressing concrete pool giving tourists a chance to "encounter and interact with a dolphin"
Really, really grim.
My mum and sister had taken my nieces to a dolphin attraction in  Cozumel (the first stop), which they assured me was far better, but I have to think these intelligent creatures belong in the sea not as playthings.

Despite the stops a Caribbean cruise is really about being on a floating hotel/swimming pool/restaurant.
As would be expected there are nonstop "activities".
You can take part in them or choose not to.
I didnt.
Given I was on the cruise as part of a  family celebration, the whole experience of having everyone together for 5 days was a tremendous success.
The fact that I ate too much was no ones fault by own.
Yes there are a lot of kitschy things about a cruise: 
  • "Art" auctions  whereby people frantically bid for stuff they wouldn't otherwise look twice at.
  • Vegas style shows- Not my cup of tea but surprisingly good according to my mom, sister and wife.
  • Super "limited time" watch sales ( $19.99)
  • Bingo
  • Staff constantly taking your picture and putting them on display for purchase on the "wall of memories" in the main shopping area.
  • A casino- tacky but hey its a Casino.
  • Organised line dancing by the pool
All this stuff is par for the course.
There is something great about sleeping with the sliding door open to a balcony overlooking the sea,  hearing the waves and looking out at a moon's reflection on the sea.

Or watching the sun rising over it.
I think I'd take another cruise in the Mediterranean or Scandinavia ( or Alaska or Canada for that matter).
The problem with the Caribbean  is that the stops have limited appeal and the sailing itself is  devoid of scenery.
Europe has some awesome potential stopovers ( Rome, Florence etc).
Great scenery  uniquly viewed from the water could be had in more northern climes - think the fiords or northwestern coast of North America.
Plus the quality of your room, shower and food are assured.
I've been to Europe.many, many times.
Hotels and restaurants can be highly suspect in terms of cost and quality.
Believe me.
My jury is out on the "idea" of another cruise whereas before I took one I was at best dismissive of the prospect.
I even regret not taking a crack at the mini golf and shuffle board.
No thats a lie, I dont regret that at all.
was blessed with being with the wholefamily to celebrate a great  occaision and I think that's my best memory of the 5 days..
Did I mention the food?
Lots more posts coming up over the next couple of days.
The pictures are loaded but I've written nada yet.
Stay well and stay tuned.


RS said...

Thanks Terry, you've put me off cruises even more than before. The eating part is bad news. I remember the first time I went on an 'all-inclusive' holiday - I put on half a stone in a week.

Anonymous said...

Reading this post confirm my idea of deciding a cruise ship one day - just love planning for all the front-of-house and back-of-house requirements and the intense performance requirements (the abuse of daily use, life, fire & safety concern, weight).

p.s. I was just back from 50 days in Asia - my 1st trip in 10 years. I am charting a move there to be part of the China Construction Boom. In the meantime, I am focusing on Hospitality design... but one day - cruise ship for sure!

See you around.

jL @ YYZ