Cruise ship at sunset

Get on board for a cruise ship experience

Lines of excited travelers snake slowly through the port terminal on embarkation day, when modern cruise ships typically welcome more than three thousand guests, equivalent to the population of a small town, plus mountains of luggage. Somehow, friendly efficiency prevails, and travelers finally enter the floating hotel, their “home-away” for several days. As soon as guests clear the entry ramp and receive identification badges, their destination is often the buffet line, tantalizing, bountiful, and “free.”

Public areas, gleaming and glitzy, delight visually, but guests usually wait to explore and promenade. Now, there are other priorities, like finding one’s stateroom down long (really long), identical corridors. Some passengers remain befuddled for the trip’s duration, exiting elevators and wondering, “Port or starboard, fore or aft?” Cabins, especially the least expensive ones, cleverly utilize every inch of space for storage and sleeping comfort. Amazingly, the occupants’ “stuff” usually arrives in the right cabin by early evening. Just before departure, everyone hustles to designated emergency stations for headcount and instructions, “just in case.”

Then, the ship’s horn sounds, and fun begins. Highly competitive, cruise ships strive to please, offering activities for all tastes. Shopping. Gambling. Spa treatments. Art auctions. Ping-pong and shuffleboard. Ice-carving demos. Fitness rooms. Miniature golf. Lectures on just about anything. Dance lessons. Contests, bingo, and bridge. Movies. Music. Variety shows, elaborately choreographed and costumed. And, naturally, poolside swimming and sunning, especially during winter months when ships ply the Caribbean. The first day or two from port can be blustery, so think determined “sunbathers” swathed in blankets, hoodies, and sunglasses, showing mere inches of skin.

Sundeck on cruise ship

Moods of sea and sky, sun and scudding clouds, soothe and invigorate throughout the cruise. People-watchers enjoy a gold mine of humanity: Bookworm, Competitor, Flirt, Fashionista, Friend-to-all, Know-it-all, Joker, Malcontent, Mother Hen, Newlywed—they’re all there, and surely some wind up comfortably dining together.

Speaking of food, cruise cuisine is what some travelers remember most. Whether personal preferences run to snack bars, buffets, designated evening seating for multicourse dinners, pub grub, high tea, or specialty niche restaurants, eating often provides the passengers’ common denominator. Formal night might feature waiters carrying flaming desserts in a conga line—truly memorable.

Exotic ports-of-call compete with ever more options, such as whale-watching, scuba diving, zip-lining, or exploring ruins. There’s so MUCH, whether travelers visit Key West or Ketchikan, St. Thomas or St. Petersburg, Cozumel or Catalina. Just wave good-bye and enjoy!

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