As we pulled out of port at the start of my recent cruise, I felt uneasy. I was virtually trapped on this ship for the next 14 days. Sure, I could have flown home from any one of the ports, but that was not the point.
On my past cruises – from at least 10 years ago – my husband and I had purposely chosen itineraries that included very few days at sea. Our cruises were four and seven days, so this current cruise was much longer. In addition, this cruise included six days at sea, plus an additional day on the ship as we passed through the Panama Canal. I was concerned about getting bored on board – I brought a knitting project so I could keep busy.
Thankfully, my uneasiness passed, and by the end of the cruise, I realized I enjoyed the “at sea” days as much as the days in port. There was so much to do on the ship, I was never bored, and yet, I still found time to relax in the sun.
As we sailed out of port, cruise personnel lined up on the bow side of the main pool and began to sing and dance. They invited cruisers to join them. This was the beginning of the “Sail Away Party.” Each afternoon that we were at sea, the cruise leaders entertained passengers with a game – Flip Flop Toss, Pick Up Ping Pong Balls (out of the pool), and a T-Shirt Relay. The games were great fun to watch, even if I didn’t participate.
Basketball, Shuffleboard, and Exercise
The ship had basketball and shuffleboard courts and, on sea days, hosted free tournaments. Winners received cruise souvenirs, such as cups or t-shirts. Losers had fun and got a little extra exercise.
The ship had a fitness room (I never visited it) and walking and running paths that circled the ship. I often saw people walking this path. I chose to exercise in a different way – I took the stairs instead of the elevator every time I moved from one floor to another. This turned out to be quite a bit of exercise, since our room was on Deck 8, the pool was on Deck 12, and restaurants were on Decks 7, 12, and 13. I was always going up and down.
Spa and Salon
In addition to exercise, sometimes our bodies need pampering. The ship had a spa and salon. There was a dry sauna, eucalyptus steam room and a lap pool. Massages, wraps, manicures, and pedicures were some of the available services.
Bingo, Deal or No Deal, and the Casino
If you like to gamble or spend your money on games, there were several options available. Each afternoon while at sea, a round of Bingo and Deal or No Deal (like the TV show) was played in the lounge. Game cards were available for purchase. I don’t really like playing, but enjoyed watching my friends play – and mostly lose.
There was also a casino on board – open only while we were at sea. I’ve been to casinos before and sometimes they are entertaining. Before I left for the cruise, I set a small casino budget for myself. I finally went to the casino on the last day and ended up losing the money -next time my budget will be even smaller. This time wasn’t as entertaining as I remembered it.
Trivia and Karaoke
There were plenty of free activities. In addition to the paid games, the crew held trivia contests in the afternoon. The trivia ranged from movies and TV to history, and from art to geography. Sometimes the audience was split into two teams, while at other times, each table of four or five people formed a team. Winners received prizes of ship souvenirs, but each participant also had their game card initialed. Near the end of the cruise, prizes were awarded to participants based on how many games they had participated in.
One of the bar areas offered karaoke each evening. Within the group I was cruising, there was a talented singer who often participated. We enjoyed listening to him. A couple times there were karaoke contests. When our friend entered the contest, our group faithfully and exuberantly cheered him on.
Lounges and Coffee Shops
In addition to the karaoke bar, there were a variety of other lounges on board – each had its specialty. One of the lounges was popular in the evening, since it featured a band and dancing. Another lounge featured jazz or piano every evening.
The coffee shop near the main service desk also entertained with piano or easy listening music. There was music for every taste.
Each evening there was a free (included with the cruise fee) show in the main auditorium. The ship had its own group of singers and dancers who prepared four major shows that were performed over the two weeks. We heard songs by Burt Bacharach, Las Vegas show tunes, and more.
Other musical groups – a soloist and a quartet – took their turns entertaining us. A magician presented a show. We watched a hypnotist charm several people from the audience.
On board the ship was a small shopping mall where duty free items were sold. The stores were only open while the ship was at sea in order for them to be duty free.
The shops carried a large selection of jewelry and watches – beautiful but expensive. There was an area that carried a selection of liquor, but again, the prices didn’t seem like they were any better than discount prices I’ve seen at home. I suppose if you live in an area that has very high liquor taxes or if you have something in particular you are looking for, it might make sense to purchase on board. Remember, though, if you are flying home, you will have to carefully wrap the bottles and place them in your checked luggage.
One of the most popular activities on board a cruise ship is eating. Although most cruise lines have discontinued the famous “midnight buffets” because of waste, there is still elaborate and delicious food available.
The ship I sailed on had several complimentary restaurants and an additional six that charged an extra fee. The premium restaurants were exceptional, but the complimentary ones were where we ate most of the time.
Each night for dinner we were given the evening menu. The menu included a selection of basics that were available every night, but in addition, there were meals that were only available that evening. The appetizers and desserts also changed each night.
I felt spoiled in that I could order any appetizer I wanted – or two, or even three. Dessert is something I rarely order in a restaurant, but on the cruise, I ordered dessert every night. I never had more than one dessert, but I could have.
You might think that with all these activities, I wouldn’t have time to knit. Imagine my surprise when my roommate and I looked over the daily activity calendar and she noticed a knitting group meeting. We attended the meeting and met several others who had brought their projects along. As the cruise went on, we continued to meet in the morning on each sea day. We became friends with this group as we watched their projects progress.
I worked on my project in the morning, but also in the afternoon as I lounged by the pool, or while I watched bingo or played trivia. I finished my project soon after I got home.
So Much to Do
As I looked over the daily schedule sheet this afternoon, I noticed how many more activities were available that I didn’t take advantage of. On Day 10, I could have participated in a fitness cardio dance class, an origami class, a Spanish lesson or a line dance class.
There was so much to do on the ship that I never became bored. Our port days were busy, and although the sea days were a welcome respite, they were busy in their own way. On the sea days, I was able to relax, knit, listen to music, and enjoy the sun. There was a perfect balance.