Saturday, December 12, 2009

cruise control

In 2 weeks I'll be sitting on a balcony, at the top of a ship, watching the sun set over the ocean. I'm not one to look ahead, to live in the future, to imagine being somewhere else entirely, but it's been really cold in NYC and the thought of being somewhere warm is too hard not to get lost in. Even more delightful is the thought of someone cleaning my room twice a day. No cooking for a week is heaven. Having other grownups around who are happy to be with my kids while I do something else? I'm hoping it all works out that way.

We're heading to yet another caribbean cruise. Honestly, at this point, I have no idea how many I've been on. I'm sure that's because cruises aren't my vacation of choice. My parents love them, make all the arrangements, and it's always such a generous offer we can't say no. I have said no, but ended up going anyway. My ideal vacation is renting a house on the beach, hanging out until I'm so mellow it doesn't really matter what I do or don't do. No schedule. No pre-conceived notions. No formal nights or having to be back from the beach at 3. I love unstructured time. Actually, it can fill me with dread, but it's really healthy to let go of schedules and plans. Cruises are the opposite of that. Much of the day is spent trying to find the people you're with until dinner, which is always too early. Tons of over-effective air conditioning. Crowds of people. It sort of feels like being in the city, which is why I yearn for the opposite.

I've been on cruises while pregnant and feeling awful. When my kids were babies, toddlers, not sleeping through the night. I've crammed into rooms the size of closets with clothing for 4, cribs, beds folding out from walls, trying to keep all of us happy, or at least sane, with no time for naps, no room to relax, no way to get clothes clean after endless feeding fests. I've dealt with sunburns, seasickness, fevers. There was one summer cruise to Scandinavia where it was in the 50s and rained every day for 2 weeks. Rough seas that were so bad plates were regularly crashing to the floor at dinner. There was the cruise when I had to take a 28 hour train ride to Florida because my eardrum had just burst and I couldn't fly. My face started to swell in an elephant man sort of way half way through the trip and as soon as I got back to NYC I was in the hospital, on 6 hours of antibiotic drip a day for 5 straight days.

One cruise with way too many family members when my mom thought my sister was coming out of the closet. She wasn't, but my sister and her friend found a demonstrative way of entertaining themselves for a week. The time when a cousin, who was 10, burned his hand so badly after spilling hot tea on himself, I watched skin peel away and could hear his screams for hours after the accident. The time we all surprised my mom for her birthday–she had no idea when she opened the cabin door that we'd all be standing there. True tears of joy all around.

There was the time I sat through an explanation, at afternoon tea, with one step-relative explaining to a vegan, how to train a hunting dog. Talk about uncomfortable. Then there was the person who got onboard with ship with cases of soda, refusing to pay ships soft drink prices. She'd arrive at every meal with 2 cans in hand, proudly displaying them on the beautiful set table, a personal statement of her cost effectiveness. She shopped religiously for expensive watches at every port.

I've been on cruises where more than one of our party had motorized scooters. It was like being part of a very slow moving parade every time we went to dinner. Last cruise Iz was injured by a life size chess piece and spent 5 days limping around with crutches.

There was the night we bundled up under blankets, eating freshly popped pop corn watching Mamma Mia under the stars on a giant screen. It was brilliant.

The time we managed to pull off a playdate, on St. John's, with Iz's best friend who was down at the beach for a few weeks with her mom. We took a boat over, and we hooked up at a bar by the dock, and then spent the afternoon at Trunk Bay. They played on the beach for hours while we marveled at how we managed to pull that off. Best photos ever.

There was the time we sat at the very top of a ship, the original Love Boat no less, and saw the Milky Way against the pitch blackness.

The cruise where, by day two, our waiter realized that my mother was really all about eating (it wasn't hard to figure out). He called her "my little sparrow" and brought her one of every dessert without her even asking.

The cruise that happened just a few weeks after a devastating hurricane. Local people were thrilled to have tourists coming back. Drives to beaches through towns that had been completely destroyed, yet everyone was smiling.

I'm hoping this trip will be relatively uneventful. That I'll get to read a book. Sit quietly. Let myself slow down. That I won't need to be at the internet cafe more than once a day. That I'll spend plenty of time in the steam room, on beaches, with a cocktail or two thrown in.

Sitting on a balcony.

Watching the sun set over the ocean.

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