A friend of ours is currently on a cruise from Southern California to Mexico. When I found out, I was a little surprised. She’s well-traveled and culturally-adventurous, and cruises don’t generally attract those interested in exploring the ins and outs of a city like a local, which I know she enjoys doing. I think she was surprised to find herself on one too, judging from her text message that contained the phrase, “…Forgot how ridiculous cruises are.”
For a span of time, my family was all about cruises. While I was in middle school, we boarded three different cruise lines to three different places. The first one was like our test-run. It was a short Carnival cruise that touched on the Caribbean and part of Mexico. Our second one came a few years later to Alaska on Celebrity Cruises and the third (and at this point, final one) was an all-out Caribbean tour thanks to Royal Caribbean Cruises.
In my pre-teenage and early teenage days I considered cruises were the ultimate form of family vacation and travel. I roamed the ship with my new-found best vacation friends Now, though, I’m a little ashamed to admit to serious travelers that I’ve been on so many. Why? Many consider the stereotypical cruise-goer a close relative to (if not the same as) the socks and sandals clad, overweight, Hawaiian-shirted tourist. Our cruises invariably boasted 24-hour buffets. One ship even had an ice rink and a Johnny Rockets. Thousands of people unloaded almost daily into small ports where all the souvenir shirts read some variation of “Yah, mon.” When you look at the profile of a typical cruise and cruise ship, it’s just plain hokey.
But at the time, it worked. My sister was still little, I was itching (more like fighting) for an ounce of vacation freedom and my parents were looking for some relaxation. A cruise was everyone’s happy compromise for a one-size-fits-all form of vacation. And to be honest, in retrospect, we did some pretty cool stuff. We snorkeled with sea turtles in Barbados, fed and swam with stingrays in the Cayman Islands (pre-Steven Irwin incident, RIP). We went rafting on a glacial river and kayaking in an ocean inlet in Alaska. And to this day, I recall the sights from the dock of our cruise ship bound for Alaska as some of the most stunning I’ve ever witnessed. In fact, I’d recommend that cruise to anyone and everyone interested in seeing more of Alaska than Sarah Palin on TV. (It’s really a lush, beautiful place. Warm in the summer, too.)
I’ve thought back on past trips and re-assessed my family’s temporary cruise obsession. It’s made me realize, even more than before, travel really is what you make it.
Hubbard Glacier in Alaska (as seen from the cruise ship deck)
Snorkeling in Barbados (L: My younger sister, R: Me)
(I apologize for the quality of the photos; they come the pre-digital camera era. Hard to imagine…)
–Karina for TKGO