Exactly a year ago, I, my girlfriend, and another couple went on a Caribbean cruise vacation. Man, if I gave myself timely writing deadlines I would have fired myself by now.
Before I went, I had some misconceptions. Now that I’ve gone, I honestly think cruises get a bad rap. Especially since Carnival apparently decided to hire a bunch of 5-year-olds as executives (“HAHA! Let’s play with Poop!”). There are always 3 types of people in the cruise world: those who went once in the 80’s, had a horrible experience, and vowed never to return, those who need toes and fingers to count how many times they’ve gone, and those who have never been. The truth is, if you know what you are getting into, it can be a great experience. My first time was probably the most fun vacation I ever had. Here are the life lessons I learned that extended far beyond into my real life:
1) Old People Are Just As Crazy as Us
One of the common jokes you hear about cruises is that they are full of old retired people. Though partly true, the cruise I went on was a good mix; I bet about half were under 45. There were a lot of newlyweds, middle-aged couples, and even some annoying kids. And yes, there were some old people.
The thing you have to understand about the older people who decide to go on cruises is that they can presumably afford other vacations, but choose a cruise for a reason. And my patented bullshit analysis tells me it’s this: nothing on the boat “counts.” There’s no obligation to go to church, or family parties, or interact with others at retirement homes, or anything like that. They are purposely trying to get as far away from that life as possible, which gives them the best excuse to actually have fun. Throw cheap booze on top of that and voila, let’s start the show.
My first revelation came when we went to the on-deck nightclub. It was a gothic themed room with 2 bars, a DJ, and a big dance floor in the middle of the room, surrounded by balconies all around on the 2nd floor that were covered in some gargoyles that unfortunately did not come alive at any point. Most of the clientele were married couples in their 30’s and 40’s, and one grandma. Let’s call her “Mother Cougar” because that’s what I affectionately referred to her as. I don’t know if it was the booze kicking in with a mix of daily medication, but she decided every fleshy body around her was going to be her personal stripper pole. She was grinding with clearly taken guys, who thought it was freakin’ hilarious that The Den Mother choose them, and played along. But she seriously was not fucking around, and that was the best part. I swear she was on the cruise by herself, because each time there was an on-board party, she was there, with no one else, trying to pick up the most married looking guys on the boat. And of course, the first thing I thought of was my own grandmother doing something like that, and I threw up in my mouth.
Another staple of cruise cliches is Karaoke night, which was apparently every night on the ship. Again, the youth-challenged took home the gold in this category. Not in terms of talent. God, no. If we are measuring pure numbers and amount of balls, the only other group of people more willing to humiliate themselves for the enjoyment of others star in the Jackass movies.
Finally, I don’t think I’ve laughed harder in my life than when we went to see “The Wedding Game.” You know how it works: three couples go on stage, answer embarrassing questions about their partner or relationship (“What’s the craziest place you’ve had sex?”), and then the other person comes back in to see if they answer the same thing. To mix it up, they chose three distinctly different couples, and I swear if you were purposely casting the scene for a shitty sitcom it could not have come out better.
– There was the virgin newlywed couple who literally banged for the first time on board the ship minutes earlier.
– Then, the great-looking sexually-charged late-20’s couple who answered every question with how many 69’s they performed that day, and if they weren’t married to each other would have gotten one of the crew members fired for “inappropriate conduct while on duty.”
– And of course, the married-for-longer-than-the-host-has-been-alive senior couple.
When Grandpa correctly guessed that Grandma was wearing a hot pink bikini underneath her clothes, and that the craziest place they had “made whoopie” was in the back of his son’s Volkswagen, I nearly shit myself, along with everyone else in the theater. All these stories confirmed what I should have known all along about the human race: old people are just older-looking teenagers.
Then, very quickly I learned:
2) What Being Treated like A King Feels Like
The room service was better than The Ritz Carlton (I’m assuming, I’ve only been to the Ritz Holiday Inn). If you’re done with a towel, you are required to throw it on the floor or they won’t even take it. It was like having a Mom come in everyday. You had the same attendant the whole week, who would happily get you anything you wanted. Anything. They would constantly ask what you needed, and if it was on board, you could probably have it.
The reasons for it make sense – you’ve already pre-paid their salary and their tips. But I’ve never felt like true royalty until I realized that this guy would have gotten me a crystal meth brownie if I asked and done it with a smile.
The best bang for your buck on board came from the food service. Every single night, you got a 5-star, 3-course dinner with a personal waiter, who had a goddamn assistant. The food alone must have accounted for at least 3/4 of the price of the ticket. And it was all-you-can-eat. They having steak and lobster on the same night? Fuck it, get both! What’s gonna stop you other than the guilt that comes with the realization that some children in the world are eating bugs off the street?
Speaking of meals, I also learned:
3) What Real Food Is
You may be thinking that I gorged myself every day, but in reality I probably ate less than usual, even with all these options around me. The portions at dinner were “real,” meaning they took four bites to eat but were more filling than they looked, which is actually how food is supposed to be.
We even accidentally experimented on ourselves to see how this was affecting our appetites. On the last night, we “celebrated” by going to the on-board Johnny Rockets, which was both a horrible mistake and an enlightening experience. I had one fry and basically got sick. Our bodies were so used to a constant stream of gourmet “cruis-ine” that anything else we threw down there made our stomachs reject it like a cheerleader to a Level 80 Night Elf Mage.
Lastly, I figured out:
4) What “Tropical” Means
The beaches in the Caribbean are not like our peasant beaches. For starters, their sand has no glass bottle shards in it. And the water is actually 85 degrees, and that’s not even slightly an exaggeration.
Also, there are, like, wild animals in there and they didn’t give a shit that we were trying to swim. In the Bahamas, we went to one of those beach water parks where they fill a cove with inflatable slides and floaty things. At one point, my girlfriend got attacked by a small shark. If I didn’t see it myself, I wouldn’t have believed it, but I promise you there was a scary-looking brown shark-shaped animal that chased her onto the trampoline. The lifeguard somehow didn’t think it was a threat at all, and actually said “don’t worry, it’s just a needle fish.” We looked it up when we got back. It wasn’t a needle fish.
On the flip side of that coin, I got to go snorkeling and was able to get up close and personal with shit I’ve only ever seen on the Discovery Channel. After almost drowning because there was a hole in my equipment and after coming to terms with the fact that “Stay away from the Lionfish” means “No seriously, it will fucking kill you,” I came to face-to-face with awesome animals. At one point, I dove below and saw a huge stingray right underneath me. I jumped back up to the surface like a kid in a pet store, “Daddy, Daddy, look!” No one was around me, so I stalked that motherfucker like Steve Irwin’s widow and took a sweet picture of it. Unfortunately, I can’t find the photo right now, but it was more-or-less like this one I found online:
P.S. Some of you may be wondering which cruise line I took on this vacation. Since I have received no advertising dollars for this article, let’s just say the poop deck was nothing more than a silly naval architectural term.