Being in a ship is being in jail, with a chance of being drowned.
That line was written by Samuel Johnson in 1759. As far as I can tell, not much has changed in 256 years.
I’m not a fan of cruise ships. While some people love the cruise ship experience, they give you little feel for the places you’re visiting: you swoop in, spend a few hours, and swoop out in your floating hotel. If you just want a quick peek at a variety of places without having to haul luggage around, cruises can be an okay way to travel. That’s rarely what I want, plus I just don’t like cruise ship life.
However, my dad loves cruises. He’s been on over 20 of them, and thinks they’re the best possible way you can spend your time. He doesn’t even get off the ship much—he just likes sitting up in the Crow’s Nest drinking wine and watching the ocean go by.
When Dad asked me to go on this cruise with him, I said no. But next month is his 80th birthday and he had his mind made up. When Dad invited a long-time friend to come along as his roommate, I realized I had to go. While his friend could make sure he was doing okay during the cruise, I couldn’t let Dad go from Guatemala to Fort Lauderdale and then back from San Diego to Guatemala on his own. I decided to take the opportunity to visit family in San Diego and do my best to enjoy the cruise.
The main attraction of this cruise was going through the Panama Canal. There were a few other highlights: the private island in the Bahamas, the surprising charm of Huatulco, Mexico, and seeing my husband (ever so briefly) at Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala. The time in most ports is so short that you can’t do much, and the whole trip was quite hot and humid. I hadn’t spent this much time in air conditioning since I left the sealed buildings of my corporate past.
While I met a few lovely people on the ship, I also encountered several who were poster children for “ugly Americans.” I’ll just leave it at that.
There are some aspects of cruising I liked: the enforced hiatus from internet for a day or two at a time and the spa treatments (my one real luxury on this trip). I got to visit some places I’ve never been: the Bahamas, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua. I attended some interesting cooking and flower arranging demonstrations. Though the main shows were bad enough that I walked out of most of them, I enjoyed some of the musicians on the ship. In fact, one of the highlights for me was singing with solo guitarist Brian Frank.
I might enjoy a cruise if it were specific to my interests: a vegan cruise or a music cruise. In general, though, cruise life just isn’t for me. On this cruise, that was most apparent in the food and dining experience.
When I disembarked from the ship in San Diego, I truly felt like I’d been let out of jail. Mr. Johnson, indeed, had it right.