My husband and I were recently offered an all -expenses paid, kid-free 4 day getaway by my very generous parents. It was by no means a private getaway. Rather, we shared a Very Large Boat with my parents and over 2000 other vacationers, ranging from drunken frat boys and their scantily clad girlfriends to creaky old ladies in wheelchairs, all of whom appeared to be thoroughly enjoying their time at sea.
Since I rarely go anywhere or do anything out of the ordinary, this whole experience was quite a production. We awoke very early Friday morning when my parents arrived and the four of us took a taxi to the airport. I haven't even flown for over 10 years so the post-911 experience of being treated like criminal sheep at the airport was new to me. On the other hand, I guess I am still pretty much like a little kid when it comes to flying as that magical point where the plane tops the clouds is still thrilling for me.
We flew to San Francisco and then to LA where a very affable Armenian cab driver drove us to the dock blasting The Gypsy Kings all the way. Definitely the cab driver you want when going on vacation as he was determined to get the party started in his cab!
Arrival at the cruise ship was a great deal of standing in line, showing ID, and going through metal detectors. We were quite exhausted when the very peppy cruise ship photographers started snapping photos which they would later attempt to sell us for outrageous prices.
The photos of the ship gave no real sense of size but standing alongside and looking up I was astonished. There are 12 floors, 2 pools, a fitness center, numerous bars and lounges, restaurants, and hundreds of staterooms. The ship holds over 2200 passengers and 800 crew members. It's rather mind-boggling.
Once settled on the boat, we had our first experience in the bustling and diverse all-you-can-eat lunch buffet at the top of the ship. We weren't the only hungry ones so it was a bit overwhelming but my Nicoise salad was tasty and welcome after little more than airplane pretzels for most of the day.
We left LA at around 5:30 pm. I was up on the top deck at the front of the ship as we left the harbor and had a great view of everything including pelicans. I love those gawky yet graceful birds and these were the first of many we'd see.
Our dinners were delightful. We were seated during the first of two seatings in one of two enormous dining rooms but our window table was cozy and it didn't really feel as though we were eating with 400 other people though I think we were. The food was delicious and I was delighted to find Indian food included in the very diverse menus. One evening we were delighted to look out and find dolphins leaping through the waves beside the boat. Dolphins! A first for me and definitely one of the most memorable of moments.
We spent a few hours in Ensenada on Saturday. This was my first visit to Mexico after living there 20 years ago. We only walked through the waterfront area which was geared entirely toward separating tourists from their money. We picked up some little gifts for the kids and strolled about but it wasn't my favorite part of the trip. I looked everywhere for the big jars full of aguas frescas but there were none to be found. Lots of booze, though. Every little cantina had someone at the door urging us to come in and drink. Judging by the beer and sex-themed T-shirts on display the folks in Ensenada must have a rather dim view of English speaking tourists. I was happy to leave all that and retreat to our floating palace where we retired to deck chairs to read and enjoy frothy, fruity drinks while grubby, skinny kids continued to pester tourists back on land. A very weird juxtaposition indeed and one that wasn't at all comfortable for me.
I had similarly mixed feelings about the very servile staff on board the ship who seemed willing to cater to our every whim. These folks came from all over the world but I noticed that the Caribbean islands, China, India, Hungary, and The Philippines were all amply represented. These folks served our meals, cleaned our rooms, made the food, ran the ship, manned the various shops, and more. In addition, they would creep into our rooms when we were out to tidy up, leave chocolate on the pillows, and renew our linen supply by delivering cleverly sculpted towel creatures.
I am sure these were good-paying jobs for these folks and I was hoping they weren't too horribly abused by either the management or the passengers. I wondered if it wasn't payback from the dining room staff after the final dinner when dessert was served:
One night The Spouse and I dressed up, had another great meal, and danced to salsa and cumbia songs in the Latin lounge until the band quit playing. There were some truly fine dancers there and it was great to watch them strut their stuff. Dancing was followed by a late night stroll on the deck under the stars--very luxurious indeed. The remainder of the trip was spent in very deliberate relaxation as we alternately sat in deck chairs or strolled about taking in the endless view of the ocean. I missed my kids pretty much as soon as we left but it was very nice to have some interrupted time with the man I love.
It seemed to take forever to get home yesterday but we jumped right back in to normal life. It's very hard for me to believe that only 48 hours ago all I had to worry about was avoiding sunburn.