Hell Or High Water? Four Days On A Cruise With The Family

 I'll admit it; when I got the invitation for my brother-in-law's destination wedding on a cruise ship, I was less than thrilled.  Actually, my reaction was more "WTH?" than "AWESOME!"  You see, I've been on a couple of cruises before; none were by choice, and none overwhelmed me with the desire to do it again.  In fact, I believe I'd repeatedly decreed, "Never, ever, ever again."

And yet...

Ever since my hot dates on a Saturday night in high school were with Gopher, Captain Stubing, Doc or Isaac from "The Love Boat," I've had a romantic image of cruising.  The glamorous celebrity passengers, the full-length gowns, the Broadway-like shows, the swashbuckling adventure, the lure of the open sea all called to me. To this day, I still want to throw streamers from the balconies and listen to Charo as we set sail.

Seeing "Titanic" sort of crushed that image, but nothing did it quite like the very realistic four days I spent on a Western Caribbean Cruise where the seas were so high they had to drain the pools at night.  Swaying in the teensiest shower I have ever seen and climbing up and then running down the decks all while careening into other people wasn't my idea of romance on the high seas.  Neither was sliding down in my bed at night while trying not to puke. I spent the four days trying to convince myself that the Dramamine was really working.

As real life is never quite as exciting as movies or TV, the cruise director's name wasn't Julie and the crowd on board was no Hollywood casting agent's dream.  Romance was tough to find at the buffets and I spent my time trying to imagine ways in which a helicopter could come airlift me off that floating hell.

Things were much better the second time around when we traveled on a smaller ship, housed in elegant quarters. We visited exotic ports of call all while floating on lake-like waters.  Although still not my first choice for a vacation, it was a considerable and memorable improvement.

And yet...was I willing to do it again?  I wasn't so sure.  But...I kept thinking that this could be really fun with the family.  I mean, seriously, we could have a great time. I knew cruising was not a trip I'd choose for just my husband and I, but as a group, the buffets, casinos and karaoke nights all sounded promising if not hilarious.

With a little convincing, my husband and I, mother-in-law and brother and and sister in-law flew out to LA to meet the ship.  It was even a Princess cruise!  Can you only imagine my anticipation?

The doubts began almost immediately when prior to embarkation (such a cruisy word) we were asked to fill out forms about our present health status.  I never knew one could ask so many questions about diarrhea!  We almost lost my brother-in-law right then and there when he saw the other questions asked on that form but, the hand sanitizer placed everywhere even before we'd crossed the gangplank, (really, that's what they call it.  How fun is that) convinced him to stick with the plan.

As we prepared for embarkation, (cruisy!) threw off the bow lines, and headed to our starboard (right) side cabin (never called room), my Saturday night "Love Boat" episodes playing romantically in my mind, my son texted me this from college, "Hope ya hit an iceberg."  "Love Boat" was immediately replaced by "Iceberg, dead ahead!" and a few of us almost turned back. What a lovely child.

Once we'd set off with no streamers in hand, which was a huge disappointment for me, but tempered somewhat by the giant, outrageously expensive and basically alcohol free margarita, we were all smiling.  The people watching alone made for outstanding entertainment and when the Lido deck lit up with groups doing the electric slide, we were equally horrified and amused.  With the margaritas flowing, the Macarena blasting and the pizza and ice cream buffets open for business, we were set to go.

Within the hour, the drunken passengers and electric sliders were required to attend our safety demonstration. "Mustering" in our designated area with our lifejackets, I felt like the kid in the back of the class in catholic school who just couldn't control the laughter.  My brother- in-law's inability to contain his own muffled laughter brought tears to all of our eyes and all I can really say is, in my family, there is no doubt it will be every man for himself should there be any at-sea emergency.  "Meet ya in the lifeboat," would be our motto.

The laughter and good times continued for the next four nights.  We enjoyed each other, made fun of other people; oh be quiet, you all know you do it too, and we ate ourselves sick.  I experienced some of the best night sleeps I've had in ages, which is either because the beds were great (seriously), the movement of the ship was so calming, or perhaps the Dramamine combined with the tequila worked its magic. Regardless, I was well rested.  By the last night, we were all talking about how our adventure had turned out to be so much better than expected and that we might even consider a cruise to Alaska!

So, next time someone suggests a cruise, I may head up that gangway once again.  I will tell you that it is something amazing to be out on the open sea waking up in a new port of call each morning.  It's an experience I'm glad I've had and I'm grateful I didn't give up on after the first or even second time around.

I'm sure each of us conjures up his own vision of what cruising means for you.  I'm not saying that it's the vacation choice for my family, but when given the opportunity to go have some fun with two to three thousand other crazy people, it can make for some good memories if not some moments of sheer hysteria.

As for us, "ahoy, matey we'll be back!"

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