Our first and last days of cruising were spent at sea. They served as the maritime equivalent of our road-tripping repositioning days where we do nothing but driving. However, unlike entire days spent trapped in a car with five other people, the cruising equivalent was wonderfully relaxing.
As you may have noted if you have read any of the travel episodes of this blog, we jam-pack our vacations with activity. There really is very little down time, not for the adults at least. However, on the ship – with no chores to do, no cooking, cleaning, or laundry* – I found myself with large chunks of free time. What a luxury! I read two and a half books within one week. I even (accidentally) napped one afternoon. Woah! With the exception of the two times when I had ‘flu, I have not napped since I became a parent almost 16 years ago. We took ourselves off for afternoon tea – sometimes formally, with dainty sandwiches and little helpings of sugary treats, and sometimes informally, with mugs of tea and slices of cake from the buffet. One evening, Mr Pict and I sat out on the lido deck to watch a movie on the big screen. It was pouring with rain but the air temperature was warm so we stuck it out. We wrapped ourselves up in beach towels, complete with snoods, and made ourselves feel cosy with mugs of tea and a packet of popcorn.
There was lots to do on board, including areas we had absolutely zero to do with such as casinos, bars, and clubs. The swimming pool was small and often so crammed full of people that it was akin to human soup so the kids only really used the pool on a couple of afternoons. They loved the flumes and hot tubs. There was a volleyball court, a mini golf course, and some deck games. We took advantage of the library, not for the books but for its collection of board games. Sometimes we played in the library and other times we took the games back to our rooms. We participated in some trivia events (including a satisfyingly challenging Harry Potter one where the kids and I got to exercise our nerd knowledge), we went along to some stand up comedy routines, and we watched several shows in the ship’s large theatre. The production values of the stage shows were incredible. While the quality of singing and dancing could be professional but patchy, the production was always slick, polished, and very impressive.
While I did not take advantage of the opportunity to eat whenever I felt like it, the boys sure as heck did. They absolutely loved being able to wander along to the buffet area and order a burger, munch a slice of wood fired pizza, or construct a burrito, or (less often) make up a salad or grab some fruit. They certainly took advantage of the amazing desserts on offer. I had to give one of my sons a dressing down upon learning he had eaten seven slices of cake in one evening. Seven! At home, under the auspices of parents, they eat at set mealtimes and have the option to snack on fruit between meals. Needless to say, they loved the freedom of being able to snack on pretty much anything they felt like it whenever they felt like it.
We had a formal dinner as a party of eight every evening. We had the same table and the same waiting staff each evening so we got into a relaxing groove with it, even when we had to dress up for the “elegant” nights. I cannot remember the last time I managed to eat three courses in one sitting but – largely thanks to sensible portion sizes and partly just due to irresistible deliciousness – we ate three courses each evening. Everything was cooked to perfection. Some meals were tastier than others, of course, but all were impeccably cooked and immaculately, sometimes exquisitely presented. A whole week without meal planning, with zero cooking, no washing up, and no complaining from the kids about what they were being served, was very much a luxury for me.
I was not sure that cruising would be for me. I definitely have the mindset that vacations have to be utterly packed with experiences in order to represent value for money and, therefore, I found it mentally difficult to transition into a vacation that involved entire days of doing “nothing”. I actually found it difficult to give myself permission to relax. I also felt guilty that my ability to relax and experience the luxury of laziness was down to the hard work of incredible numbers of crew who were missing the holidays with their families in order to cater to mine. However, despite all that, I did enjoy the experience of cruising and would consider doing it again as a way of sampling different destinations.
*No laundry for seven days was a thing of wonder for me, someone who usually has to do an average of one load per day. Of course, I paid for it when we arrived home and disgorged the contents of our cases as I had to do several loads in 24 hours but it was very nice indeed to have a break from the daily grind of laundry nevertheless.