I hesitated to admit this to people before, and I hesitate to say it even now, but Penny and I went on a cruise. I know people do it all the time, and of course we enjoyed ourselves tremendously, but it just sounds so indulgent, you know? So... frivolous. Excessive. Not the sort of activity I generally associate with myself.
But our friends James and Jessica said we'd really like it, just as *they* had really liked it during their honeymoon last year, so last Sunday the four of us piled on the boat in Ft. Lauderdale and headed off to the Western Caribbean.
We made three stops -- Key West on Monday, Grand Cayman on Wednesday, and Ocho Rios, Jamaica on Thursday. Not a bad way to spend the week. And in between, we rode around on the Carnival Liberty, a fairly astonishing contraption that glides through the water almost imperceptibly and features more elevators than my house has rooms.
There was a balcony off our room, and I recommend that. There was a Chocolate Buffet on Friday, and I don't recommend that. (The chocolate stuff is all way too good, and you stuff yourself comatose before you even know what's happening. The balcony thing is good, though. Looking out over endless miles of crystal blue water, with nary a boat or landmass in sight, makes it pretty apparent that you're capital O, capital V, On Vacation, and undeniably Away From It All.)
They say a cruise offers something for everybody, which is kind of both the draw and the drawback. My quiet afternoons reading by the quiet pool were occasionally interrupted by stumbling, half-naked people visiting from the *other* pool, the one with the twisty water slide and the constant loud music, but how can I complain? There are still two separate pools. On a boat. Each with adjoining hot tubs.
*Our* pool, on the aft deck, even did a trick, which I thought was particularly impressive: There was a glass roof over the whole area, but as soon as the weather got nice, it retracted and let the warm sun stream in. One day, while the boat approached a little rain storm, the roof slid shut so nobody would get any wetter than we absolutely preferred. Then the captain veered us off course a little, swerved back around to correct, and simply went around the storm. We watched over the side as the dark clouds passed by on the left and disappeared in the distance. Sweet.
What else? You get around-the-clock room service, at no extra charge. One afternoon I ordered a PBJ and a chocolate milk, just because I was feeling snacky. They toasted the bread and everything.
There is onboard sushi, and it's not even bad. Definitely a few cuts above the grocery store stuff, plus, you know, free.
Dinners at night are fancy affairs, with a headwaiter, an assistant, and a beverage service person all visiting your table in sequence. You choose an appetizer, like tiger shrimp or mango cream soup, then a main course, which is way fancier than anything I've ever cooked, and afterward there's dessert and coffee. Whoo-doggies.
About the only complaints I had were that I always ate too much and got tired, and they wouldn't let me see the engine room because of security concerns, and back-hair dudes kept going through the buffet lines in their swim trunks and nothing else. That's a little disconcerting. Oh, and alcohol is hysterically overpriced, but that's to be expected. Anyway, it makes it all the nicer to get home and buy a case of beer for the same price you paid a few days ago for *two* cans of Coors Light.
The highlight of the trip for me was probably Jamaica, which initially bummed me out because we were out of energy and money and chose to lay on the beach all day instead of hiking to the waterfall, but turned out to be exactly the kind of relaxation I was wanting without realizing it. We sat in reclining beach chairs under a big shady tree and drank Red Stripes, and I got to talk to a couple people who have lived on the island all their lives, and it was really fascinating and put my life in much better perspective.
And that wasn't even the best part! That was in the shop right before we left, where the owner wrapped up our long conversation about local history and homemade cold remedies by asking Penny and me what part of Canada we were from. After we corrected him, he explained that he'd assumed we couldn't be American, since we didn't barge into his store and charge around like we owned the place.
So I got to be an ambassador too. A friendly, sunburnt, slightly tipsy diplomat, who felt peace for the first time in a long time, and re-boarded the ship with a better understanding of what the world is like outside my little house and cubicle.
Can't wait for the next adventure.