CRUISING WITH THE GIRLS...WHAT A BLAST! SPECIAL CRUISES FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS
ENCHANTMENT OF THE SEAS, APRIL, 2004
THE SAVVY OLD LADY© Joan Giorgiani
Let me preface this review by saying it's definitely not the usual review of a cruise ship that you may be used to reading, it's more of a story about ways to have fun on any cruise. I wrote this Travel-blog story with the purpose of informing and, hopefully, amusing my readers and perhaps giving everyone a glimpse of some alternate cruise mates and themes they might want to consider.
Just recently I spoke to two women (in their fifties) while on a Princess cruise voyage and they told me they were high school friends who have kept in touch over the many decades but have never had the chance to see each other due to their hectic life schedules and living distance fro each other. Finally, they realized that life is just too short and they planned this cruise as a reunion of friendship, away from everything, including phones. They were having a fantastic time on the Caribbean Princess (see my Travelblog at thesavvyoldlady.com) catching up on over thirty years of lost memories. While sailing on various voyages The Crabby Old Guy and I have seen so many groups book cruises for special occasions such as Weddings, Sweet-Sixteen (Quinceanera) Celebrations, Family Reunions, Just-Us-Guys Week, Educational/Hobby Programs, Special Birthday or Wedding Anniversaries. What a great idea! Everyone is there in one place enjoying a leisurely pace, the costs are about the same as a weekend event in a resort (particularly when you factor in the food and bar bills at some of these places!) and if you qualify for a group rate (sometimes as low as just 20 cabins) there can be some additional savings. A good travel agent can help you organize one of these cruises with minimal fuss, or you can do them yourself if you have the time and inclination. Cruise lines frequently will also provide you with a room at certain slow times for a private get together of the clan at little or no cost and wow, the photo ops! On one Carnival cruise I was on there was a very large, and rather boisterous, group that was celebrating something or other. One night they all came dressed as pirates. Yep, they all walked around the ship in costume; some rather elaborate and they were quite the sight to see as all 50 or so of them posed for photos. Not exactly my cup of tea (and you should have heard what The Crabby Old Guy had to say) but you get the idea. You can be as creative as you want and, within the boundaries of good taste, the cruise lines will be happy to work with you.
So, now let my own Special Occasion cruise story begin!
I have cruised with my husband, five children, their friends, my grandson, in-laws and my own friends, even by happenstance with The Crabby Old Guys "long lost" cousins Tony and Pat (but that is another Travel-blog). I have even cruised romantically alone with The Crabby Old Guy; yep, even after a really long time being married a romantic get away on a cruise, complete with champagne, caviar, private cabin dining (Celebrity and Princess have great packages for this) and moon-lit nights on the sea is wonderful. One April, several years ago, I was struck with a fabulous idea and decided to take my two daughters and my 4 year old grandson on a "Girls Only Cruise". Okay, I know, grandson is male but he really didn't have too much input into the entire matter and he is just too adorable to leave at home.
When I suggested this idea to my girls they were absolutely thrilled and we figured out the best time to go would be on Spring Break, since my younger daughter was still in college. Next on the agenda was how I would break the news to The Crabby Old Guy that he was paying for a cruise and was not being asked to come along. Even The Savvy Old Lady had to spend some time figuring that one out. Finally, I got up the nerve to tell him of my new plan, while praying there wouldn't be fireworks in the house that night. After a moment of silence, he said, "Fine, as long as it's cheap." (Hmmm, did I mention that when the ole boy opens his wallet moths fly out?) The next week I spent most of my time cruising the Internet looking for an inexpensive (ah, I mean cheap) cruise and one with a nice itinerary. Ah ha, I found it! Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines' Enchantment of the Seas; I loved that ship (I haven't had the opportunity of being on it recently so I am not sure how she is doing these days - hopefully well). Ironically the Enchantment of the Seas was the same ship we had taken our five children on so many years ago on our first family cruise, perhaps...an omen.
I must tell you in the past The Crabby Old Guy was the one who booked all the cruises and did all the paperwork. I guess it was my turn now, how hard could it be? I called my friendly Internet cruise travel agent and booked a cabin for a five day cruise going to the Western Caribbean for three adults and one child... an inside stateroom. I must admit in the past, I have been spoiled and always had a balcony suite but this time the old boy had me on a shoestring budget. The girls and I agreed that the four of us would be spending most of our time outside our cabin so it shouldn't really make a difference. FAMOUS LAST WORDS!
The day came and we drove from Orlando to Miami to board the ship. Everything was going smoothly; we presented our documents at the terminal and walked right onto the ship. We decided to first stop at our stateroom and drop off our carry-on bags and then go up to the Lido Deck for their wonderful pre-sailing buffet. When we opened the door to our cabin, our mouths dropped open...I had booked a closet, or so it seemed. Oops! BIG oops, I never thought to check the square footage of the room on this particular ship. This cabin would have been fine for two people but put three female adults and one 3-year old child, with all of their luggage, in this size room and there was no where to turn around. I could hear my daughter giggling as she said "Hey Mom, come and check out the bathroom." As I looked in the bathroom immediately memories of another cruise flooded my brain. Years ago, when The Crabby Old Guy and I were on our honeymoon (he had booked a whirlwind tour of Europe on every means of transportation you can think of) we took a three day cruise down the Rhine. Our "first class" cabin on this river cruise had two tiny single beds and a bathroom that was practically non-existent. But being honeymooners, with stars in our eyes, close quarters were fine for us. That evening as many of us waited in line to go into the dining room, a rather large American man announced in a rather boisterous voice for all to hear, "Hey, did you'll see the bathroom...you can *#%^ and shower at the same time." Let me tell you all of the Americans there cringed at his words. This man was definitely the poster child for the "Ugly American" touring Europe. However, after seeing our cramped quarters all I could think of was that fellow and oh boy, wait until I get home... I'm going to strangle The Crabby Old Guy!
Despite all of this, we were in such a great mood that we decided to make the most of our circumstances and still have a wonderful cruise. After a sumptuous buffet lunch and our Sail Away party, my younger daughter and I decided to go to the casino to try our luck at the slots. This was the first time my younger daughter was old enough to gamble. We sat down at two side by side slot machines and each fed a twenty dollar bill into the machine. Since I was having more fun watching her play I wasn't even looking at the pay window on my machine, I just kept pressing the magic button. Wow, my daughter won. First, $10.00. Then $5.00 more. Pretty good. Must be true what they say about beginners luck. Hmmm, while watching my dear daughter just having a ball on that slot machine I realized that pay-off-bells were going off somewhere around me. Out of the corner of my eye I could see that although I was pressing my magic little "make another bet" button the reels weren't spinning any more. Finally, I looked at my machine. Oh my, I think I hit a jackpot...wow, $250.00, Yahoo! Soon one of the casino bosses came over and started to write out a receipt. I looked at him and said "I can't believe I won $250" He replied, laughing "No, Madam you won $2,500!" Fantastic...an old gal-friendly slot machine! A short while later the girls and I tried to figure just how we could put this money to good use. One suggested we should see if we could possibly get an upgrade on our cabin, the other thought we should save it and go on a shopping spree but Mom won out and said we would use our newly found windfall on all the extra perks that we had decided to pass up (excursions, pictures, drinks and, of course, some shopping in the islands) due to our restricted budget.
That night after dinner and a great show we returned to our cabin to see that the cabin steward had made up our beds. Ta Da! Two sets of twin sized bunk beds, ladders and all! I looked at the girls and told them there was no way this old lady was going to climb up a ladder to go to bed. They looked at me and laughed. Our grandson thought that it was cool and just didn't understand why granny was so adamant. Ok, we worked on this for a minute and the girls got the top bunks and our Little Man and I took the bottom ones. In case you have never booked an inside cabin you have to picture this scenario...once the lights are out it is pitch black until you turn another light on again. Hmmm, this all reminded me a little of a Las Vegas casino; it seems as if you're in a time warp the minute you enter the cabin, with no natural light peeking in anywhere and you have no idea of day or night. That would take a bit getting used to for the week. Okay, so now we needed to use an alarm clock to wake up, you see we are all good sleepers, including my grandson, and it wouldn't be hard to sleep until 11AM and miss our first morning aboard the Enchantment of the Seas. At about 4 in the morning my grandson woke up crying from a bad dream, immediately his Mom got out of bed to calm him down...oops, she forgot she was in the top bunk and literally came flying down from the ceiling. Thankfully, nothing was injured except her dignity as her sister and I started laughing...and laughing as only close family can do. The next thing I knew the alarm clock went off, I turned on the lights and the girls informed me that I had to immediately go out onto the deck and see what the weather was like. Now, I am NOT a morning person so the mere thought of getting out of bed, throwing on some clothes and wandering out on the deck to check out the day was not my idea of fun, especially without a cup of tea and a cigarette first (I know, nasty habit); but the girls were insistent. There was no way they were going to leave this cabin first without a shower and make-up, so best alternative...send Mom.
The day was beautiful. The azure blue waters were so inviting and we had just finished a late breakfast. What were our plans for our first day at sea day...hmmm, my girls in bikinis looking for a tan, my grandson wanted to swim a little and then go to the tots program, (I must say the Royal Caribbean's children's program, Adventure Ocean, on that ship was excellent, so much so that at times my grandson didn't want to leave), and I was itching to try my luck at the casino once again. But since this was a special girl-week I decided instead to sit out at the pool for awhile and do some heavenly bonding with "the girls". I'm glad I did. Just sitting there in such a relaxed atmosphere was great as we talked, laughed and giggled for a couple of hours. Ah yes, soon it was time for lunch!
After lunch, the girls went back to their sunbathing, my grandson went to the kids program and, you guessed it, I leisurely strolled around the beautiful ship and just happened to find myself wandering over to the casino...then I just happened to wander into the casino. If you expect to hear that I won another big jackpot again...I didn't. After awhile I decided not to donate any more of my previous day's winnings to Royal Caribbean and returned to the cabin for a peaceful nap. I no sooner put my head on the pillow when an announcement came over the PA stating that "BINGO would be starting soon". Ok, Bingo; so what? But my little old ears perked up just a bit when I heard the Cruise Director say they were giving away a suite on the ship in a lottery drawing for those who bought a certain number of Bingo cards. Sounded nice but I just laid there and started to fall back to sleep, Bingo was not exactly my gambling vice of choice. I'm not kidding, not even 2 minutes later the door to our cabin banged open and there stood my very excited two daughters and my grandson. "Mom, Mom, get up! We are going to Bingo and win a deluxe suite." Yah right, I thought, but the idea of this whole cruise was to do things together. Sooooo, slowly I got up from my bunk bed, stretched out my cramped old bones and put my shoes on. The girls practically pushed me out the door. "Hey, what's the big rush?" I said. "Mom, its 3:20 pm and Bingo starts at 3:30pm....we can't be late!" they wailed. Okay, you see the picture they had this old gal running full speed ahead. Was I having fun yet?....
Huffing and puffing (me, not them) we finally reached the Bingo Lounge. Oh, Oh! Where is everybody? Hmmm, we were the first ones in line. Seems as if there was a little schedule mix up here (inadvertent, maybe; maybe not). Bingo started at 4 PM - the doors opened at 3:30 PM. I turned and looked my daughters and said, "Guess you two would have had time to change your clothes before we got here", (both of them were still wearing their sunbathing outfits, bikinis with matching sarongs). Well, I thought, we are on a cruise ship and Bingo isn't really a formal affair...shouldn't be a problem. We finally purchased our cards and were given our little lottery tickets. Big surprise, being first in line we had no problem finding good seats and we chose a nice comfy couch in the back of the room. At last we reached the bewitching hour of 4 PM and the lounge was now packed, and I mean packed with people, all probably wishing for the very same thing...a deluxe suite. The Cruise Director kept us all in suspense as he called out the BINGO numbers. Darn, when was the drawing for the suite going to be held? That was the only reason we were here. Now I was beginning to feel guilty, what were our chances of winning with all of these people in the room? Our little closet must really be taking a toll on "the girls". Finally, the Bingo games were over and those who qualified for the lottery got ready as the Bingo-Buddy (yep, they always seem to give the poor junior cruise director's staff member who does Bingo some odd title like this) announced it was time for the drawing for the suite. A young boy from the audience of about 11 years of age was asked to come up to the stage and pick the lucky ticket. The girls and I had 8 tickets between us and we sat there all holding hands. I was a coward and kept my eyes closed as each number was called but I listened to my daughters slowly repeat, "We have that number". "We have that number!" "We have that number." "We have that number." And, "We have THAT number"...and finally they screamed, "BINGOOOOOOOOO!" Someone pinch me please! This just couldn't be happening to us. But it was, and we quickly all stood up and started jumping up and down. If you think this was a sight to behold, you should have seen the looks on the faces of the ten teenage boys sitting in front of us (definitely a Kodak moment but probably not a Hallmark moment). Oh, I guess I forgot to mention my daughters are amply endowed (thanks to Mom's genes, LOL) and they still were in their sunbathing gear. Needless to say my grandson also started to jump up and down. I'm not too sure if he knew exactly what was going on but he knew it was something fun and certainly did not want to miss out on any of the celebration.
With our new cabin key in hand we soon approached the door to our new suite. Oh my, we even had a door bell! As we entered the cabin our mouths literally dropped open the suite was HUGE and BEAUTIFUL...it was the "Owners Suite". Every ship has at least one of these beauties and, believe me, even though they are pricey they are worth it. A king sized bed was raised on a platform with curtains that could be pulled around it for privacy. The living area had a couch, two comfy chairs, a rather large round table with 4 chairs and three TV's all with video/DVD players. The balcony was enormous and had full length lounge chairs and tables. I swear the bathroom was larger than our entire inside cabin since there were two sinks, a toilet, a huge Jacuzzi and, for my ladies, a bidet (hmmm, can't wait to hear how my daughter explains the bidet to her son). LOL. I think my grandson, who now had figured out what was going on, summed it up the best when he loudly asked, "Mom, can we please stay here for the rest of the trip?"
Each day we enjoyed the delights of room service for breakfast (the Owner's Suite came with Butler Service - what a luxury). Each afternoon a surprise tray of fresh baked cookies (still hot), fruits, cheeses, chocolate covered strawberries or canapEs was delivered to our suite compliments of The Enchantment of the Seas.
Every night when I went to bed I thanked God for all my blessings. Yes, the financial windfall at the casino was great. The Owner's suite was fabulous. But most importantly the time I was spending with my adult daughters and grandson was the most precious blessing to me. As we all know, life is often too short, so appreciating each and every little adventure with vigor and delight, will bless us with fabulous memories that will remain forever.
Oddly enough, years later, when the girls and I talk about our first "Girls Cruise" the majority of the discussion surrounds the antics in our inside cabin. You see we all recognize that the importance of that cruise and all the others we have taken together since is the love, giggles and bond that we shared then and will share forever. I now look forward to the day when my future daughter-in-laws can join us on our "Girls Only" cruise. Now THAT will be another great Travelblog story!
So, my dear readers, if you are putting off that great experience of sharing and making more memories with friends, family, or children...don't wait too long. I can't imagine a better way to celebrate life. A cruise provides a great way to do it too; it's all there for you, it's totally safe (just use your head a bit) and it's a totally enjoyable environment. Was The Enchantment of the Seas really enchanted? For us it was, in more ways than one.
My wish for you all is that you sail on calm seas and may your lives reflect the joy of each new day.
Hugs, The Savvy Old Lady Read Less