We just returned from a four day cruise that took us from Fort Lauderdale to Cozumel and back. It was my stepmom’s 50th birthday and after a lot of deliberation, we decided a few months ago that a cheap cruise was the best way to get all of her friends and family together for a low-stress, minimal-planning-required celebration.
It was a huge success. For starters, there were no hurricanes. Moreover, a birthday celebration on a cruise ship is a pretty genius concept, because there’s nothing to do but drink. So it’s a guaranteed party. That’s certainly what we did, anyway. But I think I’m done with cruises now. Or Caribbean cruises anyway, which are always kind of a cross between a floating fraternity house and a floating Chuck-e-Cheese.
Mind you, no one went into it thinking it would be a stay at the Four Seasons. Hell, I doubt if anyone even hoped for the Motel 6. Sure enough, the boat itself surpassed zero expectations, which, as I mentioned, were pretty low to begin with. But the best get-togethers are always about the people, not the place, and for all the debauchery and poor form we witnessed from other people on that tub, our group was probably the worst, in the best possible way. (Although I doubt our fellow cruisers would agree)
Anyway, as I mentioned, I’ve decided cruises don’t really agree with me, and I’ve come up with ten reasons why I’m inclined to never cruise again (unless it’s for my stepmom’s 60th birthday, or something of the sort).
This should probably be reserved for a Trip Advisor review, because my experience probably had a lot to do with the specific cruise we were on and not cruising in general…but I haven’t totally sold myself on that theory yet, so I’m sharing this list with you.
1. The life jacket drill. Because it’s annoying, and it’s a waste of time. If the ship sinks, do you really think all these liquored-up hams are going to assemble in lines and wait for the 15-year old muster sergeant’s permission to board the lifeboats in an orderly manner?? Come on now.
2. The way the ship’s staff all appear to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Group dinner would be a lot more fun if the waiters weren’t running around with tight smiles and sweaty foreheads and deer-in-headlights eyes. This is supposed to be a party, not a gulag.
3. That being said, their stress is completely understandable in light of another one of my concerns — they’re working around the clock! They all have fifteen different jobs!! The guy snapping our photo at the gangway during boarding was an Elvis-clad karaoke emcee at night. Then he turned up the next morning as the Toaster Operator in the breakfast buffet, and from there he went to his post as a masseuse in the spa before reappearing as a magician at the dinner table. I’d be pretty stressed too.
4. The omnipresent loudspeaker really added to the institutional vibe. I felt like I was in the Hunger Games.
5. “All inclusive” is a boldfaced deception. This is not just a cruise thing; it’s a tropical vacation thing, and it always sounds better than it is. I purchased the one-step-above-budget booze package and spent the whole time drinking Coors Light and Chuck Shaw merlot, because apparently they forgot the Bud Light and Kendall Jackson in Fort Lauderdale.
6. Which leads me to my next beef: the ports they dump you in. Oy vey. We were pretty lazy about planning anything for Cozumel, so we ended up at Mr. Sancho’s Beach Club, where they tried to charge us $12 to swim in the ocean, $10 to pet the parrots, $10 more to get a photograph of us petting the parrot..and did I mention they were demanding cold hard American cash before they’d let us get in the OCEAN? That kind of swindling is almost impressive. Round of applause for Mr. Sancho!
In the interest of full disclosure, Mr. Sancho’s Beach Club charged for the use of their ocean but not for use of their wifi. Riddle me that.
BUT in order to gain access to said wifi, we were told to stalk the manager because he was the only one who knew the password. When we tracked him down, he insisted that he had to manually enter the password into our phones one at a time. When we asked why, he said “it’s private.” Whatever, free wifi beat the $95 they were charging on the boat.
7. Sizzler was my #1 spot back in the day, but in my old age I’ve developed a real dislike of all-you-can-eat buffets. This dislike has developed in tandem with my awareness of things like salmonella and norovirus, but also with certain life events, like the time I saw a full-grown woman stick a finger in the mashed potatoes to see if they were warm.
8. Someone could fall of the boat and drown/ be eaten by sharks/be shredded by propellers/get picked up by drug lords on jet skis. And I’m pretty sure the cruise industry reps are lying about the stats — “only 1 in every 1,650,000 passengers falls overboard.” Riiiight. Not buying it. My research on the matter was inconclusive, but this article about “what to do if you fall off a cruise ship” is one of the most entertaining things I’ve read recently.
9. The average cruiser gains 5 – 8 pounds. I know this because it was included in the advertisement for the cruise line’s new Fitness and Nutrition program. It probably goes without saying but the Fitness and Nutrition program was not part of the all-inclusive package.
10. Cruise ship showers.
One final observation (which should probably be kept to myself but I need some feedback on whether I’m missing something): I overheard a man saying he’d paid $150 for a tour of the kitchen on the last night of the trip. The sticker price didn’t shock me (at that point I was immune to the incessant daylight robbery going on around me) but I was pretty curious about why he wanted a tour. After three nights in the dining room, the last place on that boat I’d want to see is the kitchen. Plus, it’s not like it’s Emeril back there defrosting your pork medallions.
The upside — apart from some memorable partying with my friends and family for four days – is that I finally learned the Thriller dance (during a break in my drinking activities). And for the first time in my life, I was able to drink all day without requiring a nap. Although that had more to do with my efforts to avoid my grotty cabin than any newfound stamina on my part, so we’ll call it a draw.
If you’ve made it this far, what are your thoughts on cruises? I’m told there are super nice boats out there so it’s pretty likely that I just haven’t found the right one yet. Any really good – or bad – cruise stories to share?