I as get older and my work involves more thinking, decision-making, and responsibility, I find I like vacations more. And I want them to be longer.
In 2005 my wife talked me into a cruise. From what I had seen and read I wasn’t sure I would like this sort of thing, it looked regimented. I’m the type of guy who plans a vacation on the Internet booking my own flight and hotel and I’m picky about where I stay. Since I took a class at the University of London when I was a student, I like to stay around Marble Arch if I go to London. In Paris I want to stay in the 5th or 6th arrondissement. I like Union Square in San Francisco. I prefer Tropicana Boulevard and the Strip in Las Vegas. Package tours put you heaven knows here and I want to be in an area I know as a base. A cruise ship would be a very new thing.
I did some research on CruiseCritic and Frommer’s and decided on a Royal Caribbean cruise out of Miami on the Explorer of the Seas. At the time, this was one of the largest cruise ships. It had a mini-golf course and an in-line skating track along with the climbing wall on the top deck. It also had an ice-skating rink, three pools, hot tubs, and about 18 bars. It was a fairly good-sized resort that floated from place to place, and you only had to unpack once. Hmm.
We flew from National (Washington, Reagan, whatever, it’s still National), and a cruise guy met us at the baggage pickup, took our luggage and led us to a bus to take us to the ship. As we topped the high maze of overpasses we could see the line of cruise ships parked like cars next to the pier. They were HUGE.
If you ever take a cruise, you will spend most of your first one exploring the ship. I was amazed at the technology on the thing. We made port in Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and the Bahamas but after a while all the islands and beaches seem the same when you look back on them. What I remember most were the folks we met. The guy from Manchester in the pub who, like me, drank Strongbow cider. The couples from Canada, Atlanta, and Fredericksburg we sat with at dinner. The fellow from NewYork and the lady from Australia we played bridge with. “Fingers” Fred, the pianist in the Schooner Bar who’s now a friend on Facebook, There’s time on a ship to make friends. Not enough time to get bored, but time enough to make it interesting.
When we started looking to take another one we found that four cruise lines sail from Baltimore. For us, that’s an hour’s drive. We’ve now been to Mexico, Canada, and Bermuda without flying, which is to say without the indignity of being strip searched by TSA. This October we are cruising with friends to Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti. If you haven’t tried this form of vacation, try it just once. You might be as surprised as I was.