By Natalie Armstrong
Lying on a lawnchair on the ship’s deck under the sun, I overheard another passenger say, “this is heaven.”
It certainly was.
I had only one hour left in my vacation before I was to board a plane for Toronto. I realized, looking out at the Caribbean Sea, I had never felt so relaxed after a vacation. After a childhood of vacations spent travelling by campers and houseboats to staying in hotels, a cruise ship is the only way to vacation.
Of course, as a student, I could never afford to pay for a cruise. Fortunately, mom decided to take me, 22, and my 18-year-old brother on a week-long cruise over the holidays. It was supposed to be our last family vacation.
She decided on The Dream Cruise, a Carousel cruise ocean liner. It departed from Aruba and stopped at Barbados, St. Lucia, Grenada, Margarita and Curacao.
In those six days, we travelled in luxury on a “floating resort.”
The ship would sail at night so by morning we’d arrive at our next port of call.
Once landside, half-day tours of helicopter rides, jeep safaris and snorkelling trips were offered. For the rest of the day we were free to roam the island.
Meals were served in luxury. Four-course formal meals were served three times a day.
Two formal dinners included meeting and posing for photos with the ship’s captain (ours fit the captain image perfectly — he was British and resembled partly Captain Steubing and Captain Picard).
Although drinks weren’t included, waiters always had the cocktail of the day nearby — the drinks sported a paper umbrella, slice of lemon and cherry. (There was no tipping, either!).
Although it seems like there is a lot of extra money to dish out, this economy cruise cost about $1,500, flight included. There were deals, like the third person’s cruise is free.
Payment for drinks, souvenirs and tours could all be paid with the ship’s credit card — which also acted as your passport for getting on and off the boat.
Basically, it worked like a tab — you’d order your drink or buy a sweatshirt and you’d sign a bill. Like the trip, tab was paid by my mom, so the drinks were unlimited.
Special events included a ‘50s party and movie star night where the passengers dressed up for the themes. Prizes were always given away too — usually free drinks.
Other on-board paradises included strolling along the lower deck, or lying under the stars on the ship’s top deck.
As for the Granny and The Love Boat stereotypes, there were elderly people and honeymooners on board. But there was a lot of young people.
Although we almost chose to vacation at a resort, I’m glad we picked a cruise. I saw six places instead of one, so now I can find a resort at my favourite island to vacation next time.
Pulling my bound-for-Toronto clothes over top of my bathing suit, I was thankful I experienced my first cruise at 22.
We want to go again next Christmas, and perhaps bring along some more family.