Our 5-day cruise set sail at the docks of Jacksonville, Florida. Before I even begin my cruise experience, let me talk about Florida herself.
As a warmth-seeking individual stepping out the gates of Orlando Sanford International Airport, Floridas’ PR team betrayed me. Much of the clothes I packed would prove to be not weather-appropriate. And in defiance, I stubbornly donned them. Note to future Florida travelers in December: pack a sweater or learn how to accesorise your goosebumps.
I’m reflecting on this trip a week after returning. As memories flow like the tides, I will forget to mention much of what happened.
As the cruise set sail, leaving behind the old world with no crowds bidding us bon voyage, the sea world welcomed us, though the dolphins remained elusive. In fact, I didn’t see any sea creatures. I thought I saw it once, and it was just a big leaf moved by the tides. The colossal steel mold ship we were to call home welcomed us with soft-lit evergreen garlands, wreaths, bows, artificial snow, a grand Christmas tree, and a menorah in the central lobby.
The only thing I remember from the first day on the cruise was the constant playing of ‘cha cha slide.’ It is a great common denominator, a perfect song for virtually all occasions. A quick search revealed that DJ Casper amassed a fortune of $1.6 million through this single track.
As a kid, I found comfort in tiny spaces – closet, under the bed, anywhere I felt snuggled. There was an attached loft bed in the cabin, which I could climb onto. The cabin room felt like a return to childhood comfort. I watched Home Alone 1 & 2 and Charlie and the Chocolate. I took multiple naps throughout those days as the sea cradled me. My circadian rhythm may never recover.
The buffet tested the limits of my appetite. Seeing kids eat seven ice creams daily left me equally envious and concerned. But indulgence without consequence wasn’t possible. The dining area was gorgeous, adorned with stained glass images of peacocks. I didn’t dine on the balcony; it was too windy, and the chips would’ve drifted off to the sea—too much sodium, even for creatures that live in salt water. The formal dining was suffocating; people were dropping like flies after each course. The formalities of the setting clashed with my desire for unbridled enjoyment. If that weren’t enough, I had to scan a QR code for the menu, which was only possible through the cruise app that I did not have. The tiramisu was good though. I’ll leave it at that.
The absence of reception became a liberating escape from the constant connection. If you got separated from someone, that was it. You walked around the deck until you eventually bumped into each other again. Instead of calling to get their location, you can simply avoid them and have a great excuse – “I looked everywhere, but I couldn’t find you.”
At night, I would simmer in the hot tub for hours. The view of the sea was obscured, along with the stars. But the pool deck was empty, the wind was mad, and the water was boiling. It was perfect. One night around midnight, I took a proper tour of the cruise, serenaded by the tunes of Sunil Parajuli from his aptly named album ‘Sunsaan Raatma.’ I ventured into a casino for the first time, and the smell of cigarettes almost beat me to a pulp. The slot games were larger and brighter versions of mobile game pop-up ads you see while watching Family Guy on pirating sites.
We arrived at Freeport Bahamas on the third day. The tour guide drove us around the neighborhoods of Freeport city. “Thyakai Nepal jasto”. “Yesto rukh ta Nepal ma ni dekhincha”. “Yo ta Nepal kei ghar ho”. I believe we got thoroughly scammed in Bahamas. But you can’t expect authenticity in a tourist town. Next day, the cruise stopped at the capital of Bahamas – Nassau. Most of the passengers were using the day in port to go out and explore. I stayed as the ship would be basically deserted. I exceeded the recommended time in the steam room and wiped my runny makeup with a clean white towel. I learned sweat and makeup don’t mix well.
Our last full day on the ship was quite rocky. No one was safe from motion sickness. The buffet was mocking me. I could not wait to get off the ship and do laundry.