I finally went on a cruise — a Royal Caribbean excursion recommended by my travel agent to be a good starter experience. It was good and bad.
My dear friend from college and I flew to Fort Lauderdale, an effortless three-hour trip from the Midwest. We spent the night there to relax and made the intricate journey through customs to the ship the next day. We surprisingly had a junior suite with a lovely balcony. The time I spent out there was a highlight. I logged extensive time staring at the wide-open ocean, which was a beautiful, deep blue color I can’t justly describe. Every time I moved the drapes and saw it, I was struck by its beauty. The first morning I got up and saw the water ten floors down, I gasped. So this is why people go on cruises.
But I was wrong. People go on cruises for the booze and the endless food served at all hours of the day and night. They go for the opportunity to stand in a hot tub or pool for hours at a time typically with a frosty drink in hand delivered by an obliging waiter.
At first, I felt good. We checked out the ship’s offerings and realized as junior suite members we ate in the upscale dining room with two very attentive waiters. We saw that we must have been bumped up on this ship because our original itinerary changed from visiting Cuba to going to (yawn) Costa Maya. The price for the trip also dropped, likely to compensate for our President changing the law last June — no cruise ships to Cuba.
I enjoyed the dinner served the first night. We enthusiastically signed up to share our table with people, but when the seats next to us stayed empty, we were told we had no table mates. We were disappointed as the folks around us had table mates they seemed to be bonding with.
The second day at sea I felt a little green, but I ate all of a tasty dinner — beef tenderloin, mashed potatoes, asparagus, and carrot cake. It was the biggest dinner I’ve eaten in months. After that, I was cooked. I felt nauseous, and the food was pressing on my rib cage. I was dizzy and had to hold onto the ship’s walls to keep from falling on my way back to our room. I went to bed. An anti-nausea drug and Dramamine helped a bit, but I could only lay there and try to fall asleep. I felt wretched and had no clue how I was going to survive on this ship for three more days.
But I did. Luckily I brought prescription sea sickness patches and applied one of those the next day when we were off the ship exploring Cozumel. It’s a poor island with its only attribute being the beautiful reefs that surround it. People come from all over to snorkel and scuba dive in those waters.
We paid in advance for an excursion to ride a Jeep around the island, have lunch and go snorkeling. But I felt lousy as we walked for a half hour to meet our tour guide (the walk was supposed to be five minutes). Our tour guide, Ivan, pulled up in a 30-plus-year-old rust bucket Jeep.
It was hideous — dirty, no side mirrors, no rear view mirror, broken seat belts. And its height from the ground — a good three feet — made it difficult to get in and out, especially for a person with mobility issues. We recommended Ivan give us his cooler to use as a step stool. That did the trick to get us into the gross vehicle. For the rest of the day, we used a broken concrete brick to get in and out of the vehicle. Each time it was an accomplishment.
Ivan was somewhat redeemed for the nasty Jeep by tailoring the excursion to meet my needs. He was a 27-year-old kind, soft-spoken small man who clued us in on many things about the island and what it is like to grow up and live there. He took us to a beautiful Catholic church, a special Mayan grave, the island’s military base where he served two years, his high school, his friend’s authentic restaurant for lunch, and a beach, where we splashed around up to our knees. We opted not to snorkel. My wonderful friend made sacrifices every day, giving up things we paid for without ever complaining.
Back on the ship that night, I was feeling normal again. We partook of guessing music trivia, chatting with random people and watching a song and dance show. The next day we opted out of the paid excursion (a trip to Mayan ruins), but spent a good amount of time shopping for silver jewelry, hanging out near the saltwater pool and walking around Costa Maya, which is a prefabricated town designed to entice cruise ship shoppers. Later I got beat in Scrabble — again. I also got to judge the sexiest man on the ship competition. Small accomplishments. Dinner was pizza and snacks from the deli. We lost interest in the rich meals in the posh dining room.
Will I do this again? No, not this. But I would go on a cruise to say Alaska or maybe a European river cruise. Now I know all I need is a tiny patch behind my ear and a balcony with a perfect view of the sea.