These photographs were made during a 1-week excursion on and off a cruise ship. My former in-laws graciously invited us for a Western Caribbean, 7-day cruise on the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines as a Christmas vacation present in 2004. Being in the Caribbean in late December seemed like a pleasant way to spend Christmas with our 2 young children (7 and 10 yrs old) and the grandparents. But then again, I didn't fully consider the drawbacks of being stuck on a floating metal island with thousands of people who I never met before nor would want to meet ever again. Add unlimited alcohol, food, and entertainment (Disney style) and you have the perfect makings of a bad dream.
The cruise ship experience is designed to give you all you need in terms of distractions with unlimited eating in multiple restaurants and cafeteria's, workouts in the small gym, beauty and massage treatments, basketball or climbing and relaxing and reading while lying in the sun on the different decks, swimming in the relatively small pools with lots of children and adults who clearly didn't shower prior to getting in.
The ship also schedules daily excursions to visit tourist zones on Caribbean islands, so travelers can spend money on duty-free clothing, jewelry, alcohol and be able to return travelers back to the safety and comfort of the ship to eat, enjoy the post-dinner entertainment including shows, gambling and then off to sleep. Rinse, repeat Day 2, 3, 4, 5,6, and finally returning to the original port on day 7.
For the roughly 1500 guests on the ship, there are another 1500 service people working to fulfill the various daily requirements of running a large ship. From cleaning crews, to food and beverage and wait staff, to entertainment staff to medical, engineers, and casino staff. The place is busy 24/7. If you want to get off the ship at a port, there are lines of people ahead of you doing the exact same thing. If the ship needs to be anchored in the harbor, you need to wait till the tenders return and wait your turn before you can leave the ship to start your day ashore. When you want to get back to the ship, you have lines to wait in as well.
I was extremely thankful for the opportunity to try this vacation, but looking back on the many possibilities of travel and seeing the world, this is not my preferred method of doing so. As a cultural and adventure traveler, meeting locals, and exploring cities, rural towns, hiking mountains as well as enjoying time relaxing on a beach and swimming in the ocean or seas. I love cultural experiences which takes me out of my everyday American experience and expands upon my appreciation of the diverse world in which we live. I deplore waiting in lines and love being around nature, museums, and wandering the cobbled streets of a city I have never visited before.
That is not to say there aren't moments of relaxation and beautiful views looking out to sea and some fun conversations and memories with the family, just not the type of vacation I would plan to do again anytime soon.