As I have written about in other posts, part of the goal of My Year Away is to try new things. One of the things on my list is to take a cruise. While this might seem like a strange item to put on a sabbatical list, I added it for two reasons: 1. I would go with my best friend, Kathy, who loves cruises. I have long been curious about why Kathy enjoys cruising so much. Personally, I didn’t see the appeal, but I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt. 2. It’s good to try new things. I don’t know why, but it is.
So, off to a cruise. I drove 10 hours straight south until I hit Miami, met up with Kathy and hopped on our 1,000 foot vessel, the Norwegian Getaway. Considering most of my boating experience has involved sailboats or my rowing shell, it was difficult to get my mind wrapped around what a 1,000 foot-long boat would be like. The most common phrase I had heard was “floating hotel.” Let me just say that the Getaway was not like any hotel (floating or otherwise) I have ever visited.
It was fairly incomprehensible from bow to stern.
First, the ship reaches port at 8 every Saturday morning. It offloads 4,000 people; someone cleans all the staterooms and then 4,000 different people get back on at noon. (I’m not making this up.) And this is all done with a “hey, it’s no big deal” confidence. This might be hard to believe, but we parked the car (and spent a few minutes memorizing where we had parked it), went through security, filled out health forms, went through another kind of security, and walked on to the ship in under an hour. The whole week was like that. Organized, non-frenetic, easy peasy.
Besides my one bout with seasickness (I know, it’s hard to believe that I could get sick on a ship that size.), I had a blast. And I learned some things over the week. Here are my top four.
- Being disconnected is a good—albeit, rare–experience. When I go on vacation, I try to stay away from digital things. But “staying away” and being totally disconnected are two different things. Even while I was a gazillion miles away in Tbilisi last June, I was able to email people, check in on Facebook, and talk to my husband via Skype. You can’t do any of that on a cruise ship unless you want to pay for it. On principle, I was not willing to shell out 75 cents a minute to connect with the world so I was completely offline for an entire week. It was lovely.
- A cruise ship might be mammoth, but compared to the ocean, it’s actually just a tiny bobbing blip. So the prevalent image you see while cruising is water. Every inch of the ship (except the casinos, the stores, and the auditoriums, in which I spent next to no time) is geared toward a water view. Windows are everywhere. And, there are multiple outdoor areas—many more than I expected. Besides our balcony where I could read in private, or hang over the railing and look at the miles of ocean with no one to bother me, there were pools (I have no idea if we discovered all of them, but we saw at least five), a basketball court (where we attempted Salsa and Zumba exercise classes), an outdoor giant chess board, a ¼ mile jogging track, an outdoor promenade with restaurants and bars and plenty of quiet seating areas (it took us four days to discover this deck!), and that is just a partial list. I looked at the water all day long. This is a good thing, which I’ll write about in my next post when I review Blue Mind (which I read on the cruise), a book about the science behind the benefits of water.
I felt like I was on a boat. I was glad, because I was worried that it really would feel like a hotel and if that was the case, why not just stay at a Hilton?
- People sort themselves into communities wherever they are. On a cruise ship, there are an unlimited number of activities. While they are all supposed to be fun, some to me sounded dreadful. Uh, Bingo? No thanks! Fun with balloon animals? Are you kidding me? Bidding on Thomas Kinkade art? You can’t make these things up. But, amidst all the goofy things on a cruise ship, there are plenty of things to do that I did find appealing. One of the favorite evening activities we discovered early in the week was listening to Brazilian pianist and vocalist Paulo del Souza. No matter what bar he was playing in, we found him—and so did lots of other people. Kathy and I started to notice his groupies. “Hey, wasn’t that couple here last night?” By the end of the week, we noticed each other, talked to each other, even shared a few bottles of bubbly together. In between Paulo’s sets, we would talk about all sorts of things and found we had lots in common. We even joked about some of the other activities on board that we agreed were sub-optimal. It didn’t take long, but we had, indeed, found “our people” on this cruise.
Yes, I was on a vacation, completely out of my comfort zone, but I still found comfort by discovering a community of like-minded people. I also started being more observant around the ship and noticed other groupies: the group gathered around the Backgammon sets. Or the Trivia Challenge group. (I’m guessing there was a community of Thomas Kinkade art collectors, too, but I definitely didn’t see them!)
- Developing a routine helps us sort out our lives. Given how new cruising was to me, I didn’t expect to develop a routine so quickly, but I did. Without saying “Hey, Kathy, let’s develop a routine to make the most of our trip,” it just happened. By the first full day, here is basically how our days shaped up.
- Wake up.
- Grab workout clothes and hit the jogging track for a mile wake up stretch.
- Leisurely breakfast, chatting about anything and everything.
- Work out, either in a class or on the machines.
- Hit the therapy pool, the sauna, and the salt room.
- Leisurely lunch, chatting about anything and everything.
- We’d go our separate ways for a couple of hours in the afternoon. I would typically sit outside in the shade and read.
- Reconvene early evening where we would get ready for dinner.
- Leisurely dinner, chatting about anything and everything.
- Go find Paulo and listen to his set while drinking Prosecco.
There were variations, of course. While there are no pictures to prove this, we did, indeed, dance the night away at the Disco party under the stars. And we did watch a fairly bizarre musical rendition of Legally Blonde. But, we basically found a rhythm and a routine that was comforting, helpful, restorative, and productive. (We each got a good amount of writing accomplished during the week as well.)
It’s taken me about a half a century to realize how much I like a routine.
And, so here I am on my sabbatical where, theoretically, I can do anything I want for an entire year. I’m finding that what I want is to lead a productive life. And I’m realizing more and more that routine helps me do that. So does having a community to rely on. And so does disconnecting sometimes.
And so does going on a cruise.
November 11, 2014 at 6:19 pm
Really enjoying your posts…on sabbatical too…in Canada…with some pretty intense research still on my plate. Yes, while theoretically…our time is our own, routine is good, the writing feels productive, and WOW!…a cruise…now you’ve got me thinking! I am a water baby, deep in my soul. I will be looking for ‘Blue Mind’ 🙂
November 11, 2014 at 6:26 pm
Thanks, Kimbimmath! Would love to hear about your sabbatical as well. The full title of the book is: Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do. Author is Wallace J. Nichols. The cruise was a crazy idea, but totally worth it. Glad your research is “intense”! Mine is getting there. Starting to see some good results. Thanks for reading my blog!
November 13, 2014 at 1:32 am
It’s good to have you back in the “connected” segment of the world — but I envy you your week of being unconnected. (Well, there is the issue of not concerned about what was going on with various children and other relatives, but, aside from that, a week of no internet sounds like bliss to me, on or off the ocean, especially with your good friend there as well.) I’ve reached my early 50s without ever having been on a cruise, so I enjoyed living vicariously through your experience.
November 13, 2014 at 1:35 am
Always the typos with me — sorry: I meant to say “the issue of not knowing about what is going on with various children.” I feel confused by what I typed.
November 13, 2014 at 10:35 am
Hi, Sandi! No problem. Nice to hear from you. And just so you know….I’m in my late 50s and this was my first cruise so there is still time for you!!!
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November 13, 2014 at 4:03 pm
Thank you for mentioning the importance of routine! I’m on my first sabbatical, with fall semester ‘free’ to finish up some projects, and spring semester working in Ecuador. Over the past couple of months I’ve realized just how much I need to set up ‘appointments’ with myself, with friends, with my workout, with that paper I’m writing. Your post made me realize how I do tend to set up routines on vacation as well. By the way – I’ve enjoyed reading your blog – it gives me inspiration! (And I look forward to checking out your other blog as well!)
November 13, 2014 at 4:06 pm
Thanks for taking the time to write, Nococlimoprof! Your Ecuador trip sounds exciting. Really appreciate your dropping in.
December 17, 2014 at 6:12 pm
CJ, I enjoyed this post. I’ve always wondered whether I’d enjoy a cruise. Part of me is terrified of forced get-togethers and group activities, but another part of me suspects I might enjoy it. Only one way to find out, I suppose!
I was interested in your comment that it’s taken you a long time to realize the value of routine. I’ve been slowly coming to that conclusion myself. Sometimes, the more free time I have, the less I achieve. I guess it’s a balancing act, but I remember someone once telling me that if you want to get something done, you should ask a busy person. Time has shown me the wisdom of that expression.
Enjoying your blog!