Saturday, March 19, 2011

the cruise

Last June, Andrew and I spent a nice weekend afternoon walking around Port Moody. A dozen of the stores and restaurants in "old Port Moody" had a promotion going on. We picked up passports at our first stop, then followed a map to all of the businesses. At each stop, we met the owner or manager of the business, explored the premises and picked up coupons, free samples, etc.and got our passports stamped. We frequent a number of these places already, and were pleased to get to know others. Everyone was lovely and welcoming, and most told us that not many people were participating in the passport game, so we had a good chance of winning the prize - a free cruise. A couple of days later we got a phone call from Joye of Joye's Stone Art Gallery. Joye told me that we won the prize. Hooray!

Andrew and I were not planning a vacation, mostly due to finances. Had we been planning a vacation, it surely would not have been a cruise. But here was an opportunity dropped in our laps. We decided to go for it. We chose from 3 possible itineraries, picked a date and booked it. Andrew researched flights and hotels, and the vacation was on.

We took our cruise in early March. We sailed on Carnival Imagination from Miami to Key West and Cozumel. The trip was fun and cruising was interesting, luxurious and enjoyable in many ways. I'll publish some photos in a separate post. Instead of telling the day by day story of the cruise, I'll share a few of my reflections in list form.

Things I liked about the cruise

  • the dining room - we sat at a table with 3 other couples which was fun and friendly, our waiter and assistant waiter were charming, and the food was delicious, varied, well-presented and in small portions (that's good in my book)
  • you can have whatever you want to eat - I had 3 appetizers and a dessert for supper on my first night in the dining room. You can have pizza in the middle of the night. At any time of day there are at least 3 different places to eat, including room service, and it's fresh and good, with lots of treats and lots of healthy food - more fruit and vegetables than I could conquer, that's for sure!
  • friendly people - the staff are all lovely and friendly and obliging. Other passengers are just like us, ordinary people out for some fun and eager to share impressions and stories, always someone to chat with if you are in the mood
  • clean and comfy - our second-cheapest-room-in-the-boat was spacious and clean with lovely linens and everything shiny new looking. A cabin steward was on duty at all hours to freshen things up, bring us ice or wine glasses, and greet us as we went out and came back in
  • no internet - well, there is slow expensive internet so we opted out. This was a nice break from being online all the time
  • excuse to dress up - we wore nice clothes to the dining room and nightclubs/shows every evening. I wore a different dressy dress every evening. This is a rare occurrence and it was fun.
  • lounging - you don't have to do anything. You can sit and enjoy the see breeze and sunshine (or shade) all day if you like.
  • people-watching - with 2000 passengers and 900 staff on board, there was no shortage of people on parade. It was fun to see couples, singles, families, kids, older folks, etc. What they ate, what they wore, who they hung out with. If you like this, you can do it all day and all night
  • entertainment and activities - There were musical shows and comedy shows and musicians, and dance lessons and tournaments and jigsaw puzzle time, and health presentations and art auctions and ice sculpture demos and high tea on the high seas. It was all a bit on the corny side, but loveably so. The comedians were the best. They had late night shows that were very funny and lots of fun.
  • the gym - there was a walking/running track on top of the ship. I went round and round that thing every morning in the fresh air and sunshine, then I visited the gym. It was well-equipped and maintained, with a mixture of people working out in a friendly and respectful way. No grunters or posers. Nice.
  • sushi bar - 'nuff said
  • the sea - it really is beautiful being out on the ocean. The water is an astonishing deep blue, like in Van Gogh's Starry Night. I have not seen that blue ever before anywhere else.
  • Outdoors - lots of deck space. We took breakfast and lunch on the deck every day. We lounged and walked and sat and visited and had a drink and stood and watched the arrival in port and the departure from port, and other ships. I really loved the outdoor spaces and being out on deck.
  • organization - checking in and getting on the boat was quick and easy. Getting off and back on at ports was quick and easy. Getting in and out of shows and restaurants was smooth silk. Getting off the ship and finding our luggage and passing customs inspection was speedy and uneventful. They know how to take care of lots of people who all want to do the same thing at the same time. I admired that tremendously.
  • lots of stairs - we slept on level 4 (deep in the ship) and hung out on levels 9, 10 and 11. We left the elevators for families and older people and went up and down and up and down and up and down the stairs - good exercise to compensate for cruise eating
  • time with my sweetheart - honestly, we could have been anywhere and it would have been good just to have this time away and any kind of new experience together. Yup, I love my husband and I love to do things with him. It's been a busy winter for both of us. This vacation came at the right time.

Things I did not like about the cruise

  • paying for drinks - We don't drink that much anyway, but drinks were expensive, and add up easily when you are presenting your "sail and sign" card to pay the bill. We bought a wine package for supper (3 bottles at a discount) and carried on the allowable 2 bottles of wine to open in our cabin. We ended up carrying one of those bottles back off, so you can see, we didn't drink much! Two beer cost $15 with automatic tip and tax included. With lots of time to sit around and drink it would have been easy to rack up a huge bar bill. (we did not)
  • smoking areas - most areas of the boat, including the cabin areas, were no-smoking, but a few deck areas were smokey, and the casino is a smoking area with no bypass hallway - to avoid the smokey place you have to go up one level, past the casino and back down
  • photographers - Everywhere you go, everything you do, someone wants to take your photograph. Lots of people seemed to like it, and lots bought photos for lots of money at the photo sales area. There were even mini-studios set up all around the interior of the ship. You could stand by and watch a family or couple posing with a fake ship's steering wheel or bale of hay. We were asked several times each day to pose for a photo, but never pressured when we said no thanks. That was good. And it was pretty much fun to see some of the people posing for cheesey shipboard shots.
  • interior decor - glass, brass, mirrors, neon, patterns on every piece of carpet, fabric and upholstery. The decor was definitely "more is better." I felt overstimulated almost immediately. This must be somebody's idea of beautiful but it was not mine! Our room decor was more simple, thank goodness! Best of all, the outside areas were decorated more simply and tastefully.
  • the ceiling at the gym - metal mirror tiles that produced a funhouse image of me exercising. I had not contemplated this before, but now I know for sure. I don't want to look at myself in the ceiling when I am lying on the floor doing crunches!
  • stuck on a boat - as nice as it was, and as many things as there were to do, we were stuck on a boat whenever we were at sea, which was a good part of the time. I know it's nice to have a hotel room that travels with you from one place to another, but I'd rather have my hotel in one place, and travel a bit farther on my own time, by my own schedule to see other places.
  • short time in port - We got the tourist's eye view of our two ports because we were there for a short time. Cozumel was better than Key West, because I had arranged to do something ahead of time (I'll post about that later). I still had the feeling of being one of the American cows, off the boat with money hanging out of my pockets, coming to gorge on the local commerce before being herded back into the boat.

Things that surpised me about the cruise

  • other people new to cruising - Our dinner table companions were all first time cruisers. None of us had actually chosen to book a cruise. One couple bought a car and got a cruise as incentive. Another won it in a golf tournament. The third couple bought it at a fundraiser silent auction. It was fun to trade discoveries at supper time.
  • not seasick - I was really worried I might turn green but I did not. Even when the dining room started swaying noticeably on our last night. Even when the comedy club lurched from side to side later that same night. I was okay, without a sea band or meds or anything. This was remarkable and a big relief. I get carsick reading the name of the next stop on the bus.
  • the big musical show - it was actually much better than I had anticipated. The "Welcome Aboard Show" was pretty cheesey, so I didn't expect much when we went to see "Shout!" on the final night of the cruise. Well, it knocked my socks off. The dancing, singing, sets, costume and production quality were great! I admired the small cast of young performers who must have been exhausted after their high-energy technically challenging show. I really admired that they did it on a stage that was lurching on choppy waters, but they didn't let on that anything was out of the ordinary. I admired even more that they did two performances back to back. It has to be hard work, but they brought true talent and commitment to their performances. The show was well put-together and a pleasure to watch.
  • mal de debarquement - I got vertigo after leaving the ship. I'll post about that separately. Nobdoy warned me abou this one. Luckily, it lasted for just a few days.

I am glad we went on the cruise. I won't go on another one on purpose. It was nice enough, but not really our style. If we want another lazy vacation, we'll book into an all-inclusive resort and make it our home base.

I'm grateful that we won this prize and had this adventure together.

question - do you cruise? do you like it?

mompoet - now I know

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