Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Ups and Downs of Freestyle Cruising

“Good morning ladies and gentlemen. This is your captain speaking. Due to tropical storm Olga, we are making a severe navigational adjustment.”

This, my fellow travelers, would have been music to my ears, had my ears—and stomach, and eyeballs (WHY DO I SOMETIMES SEE ONLY SKY THROUGH OUR WINDOW?!)--not been too seasick to register anything but . . . seasickness.

“We will seek shelter and calmer seas on the other side of Puerto Rico,” O' Ca-pi-tain added. He also informed us that due to that severe navigational adjustment, we would not be stopping in Samana, our very first port.

Whatever. Just find a way we can get out of bed without getting hurtled to the floor.

As the waves crashed onto our deck ten, bow-of-the-ship patio, we turned to the all-ship, all-the-time TV channel and saw what we suspected: we were riding 18 to 27-foot swells. No wonder we were getting tossed around!

(“Weren’t you afraid?” our friends asked us afterwards. “No. We were seasick.”)

By 3 PM, all was calmer. By dinner, we were pretty smooth. But by then, barely anyone remembered their seasickness since the HAPPY-HAPPY CRUISE STAFF added an extra karaoke AND bingo session to make up for (and fit right in with) our rock-and-roll seas and non-porting ship. However, the rest of the cruise was as deliciously relaxing as ‘twas before Olga. Only my second time out, and I’m hooked on cruising. It’s a great way to do nothing if you want, and everything if you will.


*Everyone should send out their laundry at least once. Our underwear came back rolled up like little sausages, neatly arranged in tissue with a gold seal affixed, all tucked into a wicker basket. I realize many of you first-classers are used to this type of service, but we weren’t. We even took a picture of this lovely bouquet d'undies, which I shall spare you since, well, it’s our underwear.

*Don’t eat bacon at the buffet every morning. You’ll blow up like a puffer fish.

*If you simply must pay for an internet package, get the smallest one possible, which will help you allot only teensy pockets of time for daily usage, causing you to STAY AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER. At 75 cents per minute if you go over your package, baby, you learn to prioritize. You also get a great lesson as to how UN-urgent most e-mails truly are. Besides, you're on VACATION!

*Check the tally of your onboard charges at least once during the cruise, just to make sure you’re close to your budget. Drinks with paper umbrellas in them can really add up.

*Keep the umbrellas. They make cute Christmas tree ornaments, beach accessories for your hermit crabs, and souvenir reminders of your grand time.

*If you can afford to upgrade your accommodations, do it. We accepted a terrific last-minute upgrade offer for a penthouse. A PENTHOUSE! There is no going back! Although some people profess that they’re not in their cabin often enough to care about where they sleep, we thoroughly enjoyed hanging out in our own room, especially since we had such a great view, a large patio, fresh flowers, a sitting room, a giant bathroom, and Mark, our butler (HOO-HA!), who brought us a fabulous Hors d’oeuvre every night around five. Did you know they can make a cream puff look like a swan?

*Don’t think you have to get off the ship just because it stops at a port. Which goes along with don’t wear yourself out shopping at a port for stuff you don’t need, just because you can shop, or just because you received a coupon. Which goes along with how delicious and relaxing it is to snorkel, or just sit and stare at the ocean while digging your toes into beautiful white sand.

*Buy at least one of the budzillions of pictures they take of you on the ship, or while you’re getting on the ship, or getting off the ship, or standing with a colorful unknown creature that sidles up to you which might be a red Crustaceon, but who really knows. Or cares. Yes, the pictures are spendy, but they’re usually pretty good, and after you get home, you can store them with your paper umbrellas.

*Go to the ship's spa and sign up for something(s). Ahhhhhhhhhhhh.

*Yes, it’s possible to take a twelve-day vacation, which includes a seven-day cruise, with only carry-on bags. We’re living proof. So we had to buy a few toiletries in Miami. So we USPSed one box home. Not fretting about the airlines losing our luggage was worth it. Plus, remember, we got to experience those neat-o laundered underwear.

In closing, I’d like to thank tropical storm Olga. Even though you threw us a brief topsy-turvy ride, you also gave us a reason to head to the sea again. After all, we still need to visit Samana. If it's half as beautiful as Tortola (right), WOWIE!
That's our ship, way down there slightly left of center. Our island tour was exceptional!

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