In 2005, I got to go on my first and only cruise. It was on the Carnival ship Fascination for a Thanksgiving cruise. I went with my boyfriend (at the time) and his family. I was so excited about going on my first cruise and a little scared about what it would be like to be out in the middle of the ocean. I quizzed all of my friends who had been on cruises and they all said I would love it.
Now that I have been on one myself, I will tell you all of the little secrets I learned on the cruise I went on. Maybe not all cruises were like the one I experienced, but I’ll bet you there are some similarities.
What they don’t tell you is that it takes about four to five hours to board the ship. You have to stand in line. You have to go through customs and Homeland Security.
After standing in line for those many hours, I was ready to have a tropical drink in my hand and lounging on a chair by the pool, but wait, there’s an hour-long seminar that you must first attend to learn about how to save yourself in case of an emergency. While I appreciate their class on how to safely cruise, I was ready to start enjoying myself.
Finally, as the sun was setting, we were released to go to our cabins, and to roam around the ship. About the coolest memory I took away from my experience was the tug boats pulling the ship out of Miami harbor as everyone on the ship waved to passing ships and bystanders. We were finally on our way.
But wait, remember in 2005, when the hurricane season ran so long they ran out of names and had to start using the Greek alphabet to name the storms? That was the year I went on my cruise. For one full day at sea, the ship pitched and it rolled. The passengers were clearly sick and the crew had even caught a case of seasickness. That’s when you know you are in trouble, when the crew is sick.
The reason the ship was moving so much is we got caught in hurricane-force winds. It didn’t seem evident by looking at the sea, it was calm and smooth. But they explained that with a ship that tall and long, it doesn’t take much wind to toss it around. So for 24 hours, everyone on board was miserable.
And as if that weren’t bad enough, the worst part was that we couldn’t dock in Key West, because of the high winds. I have always wanted to go there, so I was really disappointed. We also didn’t get to dock in Cozumel, Mexico. The ship did eventually dock in some rock quarry, which was apparently the only place large enough to safely dock a ship that size.
I had a chance to go see the Mayan Ruins, but my boyfriend at the time had already seen them, so he talked me into going four-wheeling. I had never driven a four-wheeler in my life and “Mexican” four-wheelers are not exactly like what people ride around here. They had tires tied to the front and back. They referred to them as “brakes.” Yeah, that was scary. We only had about nine hours to spend on dry land. I did get to do a little shopping in a town called Playa Del Carmen, Mexico.
Once we were back on the ship, it was time to crank it up and head back to Miami. I did get to at least see Cuba from the sea on the way back.
I did enjoy a few things about the cruise. I liked getting dressed up for dinner and the food was amazing.
Another thing that no one talks about is that you won’t find one American working on cruise ships. If cruise ships fly under the American flag they have to pay income taxes on their employees and nobody makes money. We asked the employees on board about it and they said Americans wouldn’t work for such cheap wages.
One of my biggest complaints about the trip is there were large amounts of children on board and the last day, since it was a little chilly in November, kids filled the hot tubs and sat in there for hours on end. Finally one angry passenger asked that the kids be told to get out and he was told that their parents had paid to come on the cruise just like him. So tough luck.
So even though some marketing executives at Carnival probably think a commercial about a supposed “mind-erasing” water slide which shows one grown man screaming as he slides down it, it’s not nearly enough to make me change my mind. Free massages and free drinks, maybe, but a water slide, not even close.
Mondee Tilley is a staff reporter for The Mount Airy News. She can be reached at email@example.com or 719-1930.