I recently went on a cruise for a week. Seven days of family togetherness and unlimited frozen yogurt with no internet access or cell service. The experience fluctuated between a dream come true and my worst nightmare. But though I am far from being a Cruise Ship Aficionado, I did learn a few things that I can pass on to other newbie-cruisers.
1. There is an entire Cruise Culture that I was not aware existed. These are people who buy 7 or 8 boxes of watches from unknown makers that are on sale on the Grand Promenade for 25% off. Or the ones who wear matching t-shirts in ports of call like they’re wearing Gucci.
2. There is also an entire Bingo Culture that I was not aware existed. I figured, “Bingo. That’s fun. Maybe I’ll win something.” How silly I was. These people are cutthroat. And they have bizarre rituals involving clapping and randomly standing up. If you aren’t prepared for it, it is just weird. I wasn’t prepared. It was weird.
3. Cruise Directors must have an IV drip of Red Bull hooked up in their staterooms. Or they are on cocaine. Seriously, I am pretty high-energy, but this guy put me to shame. And I’m not talking about some lame-o “Julie from the Love Boat” action. The cruise director on my ship was everywhere. All the time. I started to think that maybe he had a double.
4. The single most important item you can pack on your cruise is a lanyard to hold your stateroom key. Yes, it’s a step up from the fanny pack in terms of fashion, but you need that key for everything from getting off the boat, going on the zip line, or downing shots at the bar. Having it conveniently around your neck makes it that much easier to get where you want to go. Be it on an island or passed out at a bar.
5. A lot of cruise-goers are quite literate. Though there were a lot of e-readers that I couldn’t spy on, the majority of people laying out on the deck by the pool were holding actual books and many of them were written by legit authors. I found that quite heartening. Especially when I saw those same readers participating in the Sexiest Man Competition or the Belly Flop Competition.
6. You will eat. A lot. I knew this before I left, but still, it’s unavoidable. Even if you decide to skip the carb-loaded cone at the free frozen yogurt dispenser and take a jog out on the track, by day two you will start to feel like a passenger on the Axiom from Wall-E. Just make peace with it.
7. There is no greater display of trust and community as on the last night of a cruise. Here’s what happens: you pack up your suitcases and leave them in the hallway outside your stateroom. So, just to paint this picture for you, the hallways are filled with bags like it’s the last night of camp. Then, magically, they disappear from the ship and reappear at the port the next morning. No one steals anything or breaks into anyones bags. It’s like we are in Pleasantville for a few hours.
8. There can be a world war going on and you will have absolutely no idea. No cell service. No internet. Need I say more? Pass the margaritas.
9. You will not be able to stop humming the Titanic theme song. Not that I was sailing anywhere near an iceberg, but every time someone announced that we were on the biggest boat in the world, all I could think was, “Well, now you’ve gone and done it.” Cue James Horner.
10. There are so many activities on board that you will start wishing you would see “2:00-4:00: NOTHING” on the ship compass. It’s overwhelming at times. You can learn how to make an elephant out of towels. You can watch a diving show. You can sing karaoke. You can play trivia games. You can gamble and buy art. With so many choices it’s no wonder that most people just decide to stay drunk for the week.
If you have the opportunity to take a cruise somewhere, it is definitely an experience. Just go prepared. Bring your lanyard and extra cash. Your Sea-Bandz and your clothes with elastic waistbands. And be careful out there among the more experienced cruisers. They take their relaxing way too seriously for us novices.