For this winter break, my family decided that we should go on a family cruise! I love my family enough that the idea of spending a week essentially trapped on a boat with them sounded lovely, so it was on! We had a wonderul and wonderfully hilarious at times time on said boat trip, and I learned a number of lessons along the way that I thought I would pass onto you potential future cruisers:
1) The Buffet is the soul-sucking worst: Why ANYONE would elbow their way through a crowded room full of vaguely stale, luke-warm food only to spend twenty minutes frantically pushing through swarms of extended families calling out each other’s names only to find a table on the deck in 40 degree weather a 10 minute walk from the nearest water station when there are BEAUTIFUL dining rooms with real chairs and servers and equally “free” food (my dad liked to remind me that while I wasn’t paying a bill then, the food wasn’t actually free) is BEYOND me. What I’m saying is, avoid the Buffet.
2) People like terrible entertainment: My sister and I regularly (and by regularly, I mean once) got to bars early to get seats for the entertainment we were excited about – mainly a British cover band doing Beatles songs for an hour and The Second City touring group’s improv shows- but in order to keep those tables we had to sit through things like “Men versus Women Challenge!” which my sister adorably thought would be a “battle of wits” (to which I responded sadly, “WHY would that be it?”) and which was actually a contest to determine important questions like, which gender can fit more people on a single bed sheet or which sex can locate their shoes faster when they’ve been left in a giant pile on a bed sheet. (Props were clearly limited). What was sad was not that these games were offered, but HOW MANY PEOPLE SHOWED UP! SO. MANY. PEOPLE! Like standing room only. And they LOVED it. The cheering was deafening. And then they all left when actual good acts came on. It baffled me, but at least answered my question of who all these people are that are watching 2 and a Half Men. This also led my sister and I to decide to start a TED cruise, where in all entertainment is intellectually stimulating and awesome.
3) Harry Potter World is the best place on earth: This is how my mom actually convinced me to go on this trip. I had doubts, but the second I found out I could visit Hogwarts, I was in! My sister and I spent 8 hours in this magical wonderland, doing everything from drinking Butterbeer (see below: And yes, that would be a commemorative mug), to buying wands, to reading all of the ride warnings, which were written as proclamations from various departments in the Ministry of Magic. We again got on our pop cultural high horse when we decided that people should have to take a Harry Potter quiz to get in after I overheard some girl in Honeyduke’s saying she’d “only like seen one of these movies.” THEN WHY ARE YOU HERE TAKING UP PRECIOUS SPACE!?! *deep breath* Anyway, it was ridiculous and awesome. The line for the Hogwarts ride alone, which leads you through the castle and includes holograms of Dumbledore, Harry, Hermione, and Ron, would’ve made the whole trip worth it.
4) Large groups of people and children make me tense: My goal on this trip was mostly to avoid being around lots of people, which is difficult on a boat holding over 4,000 people. This led to a lot of me sitting on our balcony reading, which was beautiful and fine with me. My family also suffered from this anxiety, which also led to us getting some primo seats in Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian’s private island. I found some small note on the island map which noted an “adult” beach, which was THE BEST. Few people. No children. No noise. When we walked by where they actually wanted you to be sitting, the place with all the food, music, entertainment and people, my mom simply stated, “Why would ANYONE want to sit over here.” We’re clearly a fun bunch.
5) You meet cool people on cruises, despite previously stated annoyance with people: My family’s cruise friends included: a Ukrainian neuroscience researcher and her husband who sat with us doing the Second City Show. She was very interested in my teaching and hilariously and for no reason lied to her husband about my sister and my ages, which he seemed genuinely confused by; a Serbian lifeguard who lived on the private island (or had for three days at that point) and informed my sister and mom that the Norwegian staff often have parties with the staff on the Royal Caribbean island next to them; a South African woman who had lived in Israel and now lived in Chicago but hated it because of her kid’s school who was also very interested, but also confused by, Teach for America. She did, however, tell me I was changing the world and thus may have been my favorite.
6) Boat movement is weird, especially in windowless rooms: I have only been on one other cruise in my life, which was one around the British Isles. I remember it being very smooth, which now in retrospect makes a lot of sense as we were merely floating in the small stretch of water between English and Ireland. I now realize that most cruises involve more movement and thus more dizziness and nausea for me. Thankfully, my mom had Sea Bands, little wrist bands that look like eighties sweat bands that have little plastic balls that push on your pressure points and supposedly help with sea sickness. I still think they are more psychosomatic, but they helped. They also cut into my skin giving me weird scabs on my wrists. Not cute. In bathrooms, however, nothing helped. Feeling a toilet seat moving beneath you is just weird and upsetting.
7) Boat movement will continue long after you get off the boat: I also don’t remember this from my last cruise, but I definitely felt like I was moving, especially again in windowless rooms, for a full four days after the cruise. This makes walking around a mall not the funnest.
8 ) Towel animals are kick-ass and make any night better: See photo evidence below.
9) You can reach a point at which your body can consume no more food: It took a week, but it happened. I think it was this dessert that did it.
10) My family is the best: Being on a boat for a week could’ve made me slightly loopy – something about my liking to have control and being vaguely claustrophobic – but my family made this trip hilarious and fun and relaxing and awesome. They are simply the best.
11) (And I almost forgot!) Running on a treadmill on a boat is the ACTUAL soul-sucking worst – or at least tied with the buffet: It’s like running up and down a hundred little hills!