Life At Sea

Endless sea and sunset

Before I jump into the activities and adventures we did and had in our ports of call, I thought I would clear up the notion of a Sea Day. Until I took my first cruise, the idea of days at sea with nothing to do troubled me. I thought I would be bored. I assumed days floating at sea would be a waste of time and money. Many of my friends who have said they would never take a cruise vacation claim the “wasted days at sea” as their reason. I get it. I felt the same way until I had a day when I had nothing to do, no one to answer to, nowhere to rush off to, and the freedom to do exactly and only what I felt like doing. How many days do adults get like that in their busy lives? Not many.

A day at sea allows you to truly relax. It does not mean you will lack for things to do. Many cruise ships are like floating theme parks with water slides and zip lines and climbing walls. Cruises on Celebrity are aimed more at an adult crowd, though, so their sea day amenities are more about pools, spa treatments, casino time, and fine dining, but the lack of children tearing through the passageways and screaming and splashing at the pool more than make up for that. Cruise directors load the day with potential activities for those who want more and are looking for distraction. There are lectures and art classes, wine tastings and friendly on-board competitions (passenger versus crew pool volleyball and putting tournaments, for example). There are movies and games and ship tours too. At night there are karaoke sing-offs, live music performances, theater shows, comedians, and plenty of opportunities for dancing. If none of that appeals, you can read a book or nap in a deck chair facing the sea or play cards or watch for sea life. We enjoyed searching for dolphin pods and seeing them race and jump and flip alongside the ship. If you get bored at sea, you have no one to blame but yourself.

One activity that costs extra but is well worth the investment is a behind-the-scenes ship tour.Our tour took us through the galleys and into the belly of the ship where food is stored. We learned about how the ship processes recyclables and waste, does epic amounts of laundry, plans their shopping, and stores the food for the journey. On our ship, there were 1500 people employed for food preparation and service alone. We learned about what cruise life is like for those who live on the ship and work in its service. We visited the engine room and learned about what powers the ship and keeps it running smoothly and on time. The final stop on the tour was to the bridge where we learned about what training the captain and officers undertake for their careers, as well as how they bring these huge ships into port. It was fascinating.

When we finished our ship tour, we grabbed some lunch, gawked at the desserts, and then went to a wine tasting with premium wines and cheeses. After that, we sat on deck and enjoyed the view and the peace and each other’s company until it was time to dress for dinner and head to the Raw on 5 restaurant for Joe’s birthday dinner choice….sushi. We topped off our day with some silent disco because why not?

If the notion of a sea day or two on a cruise, where your every need is catered to, vexes you, perhaps it’s time to reassess your priorities. Do you not deserve a day where you don’t have to cook, clean, or care for anything or anyone other than yourself? Have you not earned a day or two with no obligations and thoughtfully prepared, delicious meals served with whatever cocktail calls to you? Come on. Live a little. Become reacquainted with yourself. When the sea day is over and you wake the next morning to find yourself in another exotic port of call, rested and ready to explore, you realize this is why you took this vacation. You’ve let yourself go in the best way possible.

The silent disco is a vibe

Sometimes Hot Water Is A Good Thing

Somewhere in an alternate universe...The predictability of established routine is a sedative in a tumultuous world. There’s comfort in the monotony of the mundane, a sense that we have a modicum of control over something in a world that is largely beyond our control. This morning, I found myself engrossed in the necessary routine of cleaning the kitchen. I wiped off the stove, scoured the sink, washed the counter tops, wiped off the window behind the sink, hand-washed the wood floor, and polished the stainless. In the midst of doing these chores, it occurred to me that sometimes I bore the living crap out of myself. Yawn.

I needed to do something to break routine, something unexpected and out of character. I put the rags from my morning’s work into the washer and sat down on the sofa to figure out what I should do. You know what? I had no clue. My mind was empty. I’ve become so routinized that I could not imagine one truly unusual thing to do. I needed something that was out of the ordinary for me but that could be completed in under three hours. It needed to be something that I would never think of doing, but if I would never think of doing it how could I generate the idea? Suddenly, I was in stuck in analysis paralysis. (Analysis Paralysis should honestly be my middle name.) I was flat-out stuck.

In times when I forget myself, I seek counsel from a friend, the kind of friend who will tell me truthfully when I’ve walked around all day with spinach in my teeth because no one else would tell me that I had spinach in my teeth. I texted my friend Heather with the simple request to find me something I could do that was uncharacteristic for me. Her first response was swift.

Go to church. I laughed out loud at that one. I had to hand it to her for her quick wit. I asked her what else she had.

Run down the street scantily clad. I’d probably do that if it weren’t just 20 degrees instead of the 60 degrees it was yesterday. Plus, I’ve already done a polar bear plunge twice. I’ve been there and done that. Next.

Take a long, hot bubble bath with a glass of wine.

That one hovered in the air for about five seconds, but I knew she had me pegged. Ding. Ding. Ding. We had a winner.

I am a rare breed of woman. I do not take baths. When I’m in the tub, I feel like an ingredient in a soup consisting of dead skin cells, random germs, and dirt. Worse than that, eventually the bath water goes cold. Then I am in cold soup and need to warm up, which requires a shower, which is clearly where I should have been in the first place. And don’t get me started on the whole, great-now-I-have-to-clean-the-tub thing. No. Thank. You.

But today was about changing my routine, so instead of going to my usual yoga class I filled the big bathtub in our room, the one that I’ve only sat in maybe twice in the 12 years we’ve lived here. I added bubble bath and this fizzy bath ball thing I bought eons ago for who knows what reason, lit a couple of candles, and poured myself a glass of wine at noon because, dammit, it was 5 o’clock somewhere. Then I grabbed a book and eased myself into the tub. In the middle of the freaking day on a Wednesday for no good reason.

The first few minutes felt bizarre. My mind could not let the me who needed peace break away from the me who was secretly wondering how much of her own filth she was sitting in. But as one minute eased into five, then fifteen, then thirty, and then beyond thirty, I discovered something. I had become a shriveled fruit. But then, after that, there was peace, quiet, stillness, and solitude. Time for me to just be. Nowhere to go. Nothing to do. So I decompressed while I was decomposing, and I felt better. The busy-ness of the morning had given way to tranquility in the middle of the day just because. It was an incredible luxury.

As I continue to practice kindness with myself (and it’s going to take me a lot of practice), perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to be kind to myself in other ways, like eating better, taking long walks, and maybe occasionally indulging in a mid-day, relaxation bath for no reason. Maybe over time I can get myself out of hot water with myself by getting into hot water more often.