When my husband was still alive, we often talked about taking a cruise. He even signed up to receive catalogs from several of the more interesting cruise lines like Viking River Cruises and Oceania Cruises. We'd wear out the pages of these catalogs browsing and dreaming. In the end, though, we never did take a cruise. We were both very active people and what kept us from taking the leap was the fear of feeling "trapped" on-board the ship. I mean, let's face it. When the mood strikes to seek a change of venue or scenery, being out in the middle of the ocean is going to be a huge deterrent. But I still get these catalogs and often think, "One of these days..."
With this concern at the back of my mind, I did go ahead and commit to taking this cruise. I knew going into it that there would be a total of 3 full days at sea: one day at the front end and two days in a row at the back end. Knowing is power.
Yes, the first day at sea was hardly noticeable, overshadowed by the excitement and newness of the ship and the experience. And, yes, the last two days, both of them at sea, were a bit harder. I power-walked multiple loops of the promenade deck. A lot of loops. I drank through my coffee card, to the point that the barista knew me by name. I knitted, casting on and knitting a fair amount of a cute little sweater for my granddaughter. I blasted through two complete books on my Kindle. I spent hours sitting in the Atrium area, sipping a cappuccino or macchiato, watching the steady progression of events that changed out every half hour. Paper airplane races, presentations, song fests, even a performance by the Princess Pop Singers comprised of passengers who'd been rehearsing for days. I'd become a slug....inertia had taken over by that point.
A bright spot during the two days was a fun presentation in the Princess Theater, put on by the chefs, maitre-d' and waitstaff of the ship. It was funny as all get out, and very entertaining.
Our last morning wake-up on Sunday, March 1) found us stuck out in the Gulf of Mexico in thick fog, unable to enter the Houston Ship Channel. We were going to be late arriving at the Pasadena ship port. This was no big deal for us. We didn't have a plane to catch. I felt sorry for those who did have flight plans.
We eventually did make it to dock and get off the ship at about 3 PM, dragged our luggage to the curb, waited for the shuttle to take us back to the Best Western where the car was parked, and then headed for home. My cabin mate dropped me off and hit the road for his last leg of the journey: another 3 hour drive to his home.
Ten things I learned about "big ship" cruising:
1. The Emerald Princess is a big-a** ship! This meant lots of walking, getting lost, and losing track of fore and aft!
2. Eating a big meal in the dining room at 8:30-9:00 PM is really not a good idea if I want to get a good night's sleep.
3. Three laps of the promenade deck is equal to 1 mile. I walked/jogged at least 7 miles over the 7-day cruise and met some fun fellow walker/joggers along the way. That's a lot of laps!!
4. Going by myself to have an early dinner at the buffet instead of later in the dining room with the group made for much more enjoyable conversations and meeting many more fellow passengers.
5. Shipboard dining room coffee is terrible. Espresso-based drinks from the International Cafe are awesome!
6. Corollary to #5: Walking down 6 flights of stairs every morning to the 5th floor to get real brewed coffee or a cappuccino or macchiato and then walking up 9 flights of stairs to the breakfast buffet on the 15th floor every day is a whole heck of a lot of stairs! I was determined never to take the elevators.
7. Sitting in the atrium in the afternoons made for some wildly varied and fun entertainment. Who knew how much fun watching paper airplane races could be?!
8. Two back-to-back days at sea are at the ragged edge of my boredom tolerance.
9. Access to unlimited amounts of food 24/7 is not a good thing.
10. 24 sq ft of bunk and floor space gets old.
It is done! But Princess Cruise Lines is not done with me yet. Oh, no. Let the tempting emails begin. And if I ever take another cruise, it will be alone. That is, unless it's with the man of my dreams!