Cruises bring out the worst in humanity.
You know, like wastefulness: putting more food on your plate than you can eat and throwing away whatever you don’t finish. Or not picking up after yourself. People drop food and rubbish on the ground and don’t pick it up. Or acting like you’re the only person who exists yet being on a boat that houses thousands of guests and workers. And so on and so forth.
Hear me out: I love cruises.
But I can’t stand how countless privileged guests continuously treat the staff like shit because they think they’re better than them. Cruise employees routinely embark on a wild and unfair water coaster enough as it is.
If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that “essential workers” are, well, essential. After watching how poorly some Americans treated each other this past year, here’s a thought: America is one giant cruise ship.
Again, I love cruises.
I love boarding the ship and sailing away on Day 1. A cruise, like any vacation, allows people to be whoever they want to be. While people believe moving to a different place or getting a new job are the only viable fresh starts, a vacation should be considered a new beginning as well.
Cruises feature endless entertainment options — that’s kind of their draw. All this entertainment on the boat, and you also get to visit places you typically wouldn’t have the chance to visit. You get, therefore, a taste of a new culture. Even if the ports are filled with similar attractions that prey on American consumerism. And it’s not about the cheap thrill of, say, stepping foot on Jamaican soil — just to say you’ve been to Jamaica, or wherever your cruise takes you.
There are two things to unpack here: (1) being in Jamaica is being in Jamaica. It’s a petty argument on both sides, but I’ve encountered people who claim cruising to Jamaica isn’t the same as visiting Jamaica because you visit the touristy part of the island. Does that mean being in Times Square doesn’t count as being in New York City? (2) You can still take in the culture by having a conversation with the natives or booking an excursion so you see something other than stores that sell indistinguishable items.
We might as well put this on the table now: The coronavirus pandemic complicated everything about cruise life. Who knows what “normal” will look like in the future. But that doesn’t stop me from dreaming of the next time I set sail to the Caribbean.
On a typical cruise, whether you want to or not, you’re estranged from your phone, the lifeblood of society, and the first thing everyone looks at when they wake up. Even if you buy an internet package on the ship, the WiFi is terrible, deeming it an utter waste of money. This is a classical disadvantage disguised as an advantage, as long as you don’t continue to waste your time and money on bad internet service. It’s also a bonus for writers, which I am! Because most of my vacations involve working in some capacity.
It’s a simple concept: I work on vacation because when I’m not working, I don’t make money. If I don’t make money, I can’t pay bills. That’s typically how being your own boss works. But I’m not complaining. While, yes, PTO is a privilege, so is working for yourself.
A cruise is one of the only vacations I can take and not be under the spell of the internet. Sure, I spent over $200 in one week on WiFi on my first cruise because I thought I could beat the system by not buying a data plan. Monetarily speaking, I lost. Did I mention the internet sucks? So I hopelessly waited for the pages to load.
I decided to get ahead of work before my second cruise and didn’t have to rely on the snail-like internet. I also wrote for a couple of hours at a coffee shop in the Cayman Islands while my family took in the culture.
Let’s hammer this sucker home: While there’s so much typical American bullshit on cruises, one aspect that’s usually not as relevant is people being glued to the glowing rectangles in their hands.
That said, most people don’t change their behavior no matter where they are — people are who they are, yet their bad behaviors and forgotten values tend to be highlighted on cruises.
Another perk of cruises is that mostly everything is planned.
A few years ago I took my California friends to my home state of Colorado. I told them I had everything covered: places to stay, transportation, and other promises I didn’t keep. Because this was during a period of my life when I didn’t realize how irritating it is when things aren’t booked in advance, an oblivious version of me played the trip by ear. My friends weren’t happy. In my defense, I was in my mid-20s, a time and place when taking responsibility was optional and excuses came in spades.
Backtracking to cruises, these decisions are already made: I have a room booked for seven days, the food and drinks are part of the cruise package, and that’s all that matters in terms of my survival.
The rest is left up to living in the moment. Or if I’m lucky, a stroke of serendipity.
I’m not the most seasoned cruise-goer of all time. I’ve been on four which morphs into “so many” when I tell my tales of the sea. But I do cruise with my aunt, uncle, and cousin, and they have been on 15-plus Big Boats.
I learn how to be a more efficient cruise-goer each time.
As a natural-born follower, I mimicked my family on my first cruise. Luckily, they’re ideal travel companions, and I actually wanted to do most of the things they did. I also wanted to learn the ropes from people who knew what the hell they were doing as a cruise ship and all it has to offer can feel overwhelming. Yet on my second cruise, I started to perfect my system. The first day consisted of learning the ship and discovering where I’d prefer to spend the rest of my time.
Accompanying my family, I visited art galleries and auctions. I watched Vegas-like Cirque du Soleil shows and theater. I gambled. I used the “state-of-the-art” fitness centers that are true to their description. I tried foods I never thought I’d ever eat. And all of this fun while aboard a moving ship at sea!
Cruises are flooding with people, but if you’re bored, that’s on you. Some cruises, after all, have water slides and climbing walls, go-kart tracks and basketball courts, ice bars and dance floors. And if you’re not into all of that, then you can find a quiet sanctuary to read or listen to music, with the ocean taking form as the ultimate background.
I like cruises because I’m historically bad with money. Once I step foot on the ship, I don’t have to worry about my financial struggles… although, as I write that, I remember the time when my card declined for the mandatory onboard account hold. Yes, it’s possible to rack up a hefty bill even with an “all-inclusive cruise package,” but your room and board, at the least, are covered.
I also like that I can do things that I would never do outside of a cruise, such as go to an art auction. I appreciate art but I also wouldn’t go to an auction if it wasn’t conveniently packaged into the cruise fare. I enjoy seeing the tongue-twisting auctioneer in action, as well as the potential for one of my family members to raise a paddle and make a winning bid.
More on brand, I love eating food and drinking. Food is unlimited, although there are specialty restaurants that cost extra. If you purchase a beverage package, which I do, alcohol is also unlimited, a blessing and a curse poured into a bottomless cocktail.
A cruise is perfect for spring breakers and young people, sure, but it’s also ideal for people like me who don’t want to make decisions and need to be spoon-fed their plans.
What I enjoy most about a cruise is the time between each event, even if the only plan of the day is devouring breakfast at the buffet. I like venturing to the side of the ship and staring at the ocean that seemingly goes forever. I like thinking about my life as I finally have the time to do nothing but think. I like the idea that all of these people are experiencing something every day. That any day of the cruise has the potential to be the best day of any person’s life. I like that some people get dressed up for dinner while I stay in my casual attire. I like talking to the crew members and asking them about their cruise lives and daily schedules as I’m obsessed with schedules. I like sitting in a lobby and listening to a performer play the covers of my favorite songs as I sip on a cocktail that I wouldn’t order anywhere else. (All of this goes double when I cruise during the holidays.)
Mostly, I like having nothing to do and all day to do it. And spending time with my cruise family, which consists of three loving family members who I don’t see often enough.
People are turned off by the behavior of cruise-goers, the treatment of workers, and other noticeable problem areas, but not everyone is a piece of shit on a cruise. Similar to not everyone in a city drives like a self-involved jackass. Vacation is what you make it. And that’s certainly true when you board your cruise ship on Day 1 — at least for me as I love the wonders of cruising.