As an airline family it never occurred to me that a cruise might be for us – I had visions that a cruise would involve being stuck on a boat awash with a novovirus outbreak and quarantined to a tiny island somewhere until the home port let us back in.
I was also guilty of assuming that, if the ship didn’t turn into a giant mobile sick bag, then all our fellow passengers would conform to the silver-haired, buffet-savaging stereotype, be cruise bores, or, worse, be the kind of people who don’t even bother to get off the ship when it calls at new destinations. I imagined being stuck at dinner with the latter, and then belched out with a thousand other passengers to traipse after an umbrella-wielding tour guide also owned by the cruise line.
For these reasons, I’d always given cruises a wide berth (excuse the pun!) –until last week, when I realised what I’ve been missing.
Yes, I’m now officially a cruiser – and have new friends: the American lady and her son who we shared our dinner table with each night, and who weren’t cruise bores at all but had funky tattoos (the mom not the boy), funny stories, hair tips (she was a hairdresser who’d worked in Beverly Hills) and (relevant for my sons) also had extensive knowledge of dabbing, YouTube and Pokemon cards.
It turns out the US cruise market is HUGE, as popular with college kids as retired folk, and – as our short introduction to cruising proved – is really an excuse for a three-day-long party.
Of course, it helps when you bump into the Bahamas, the sun is shining non-stop, the sea is as smooth as an ironing board and the waters and big skies of the Caribbean are the kind of cerulean blue you find in tubes of oil paint – an intense colour boiled down to its very essence.
Adjusting to the sandy summer skies of the desert is proving quite the challenge for this newbie cruiser!