Taking a Cruise

by Susan Kraus (2007)

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It is 7:30 a.m. on Friday March 2nd and I leave for the airport in 5 hours. However, along with finishing packing (why is it that the personal hygiene and medications are such a major packing deal now when they were not 25 years ago?) and cleaning up, I promised this column to my new most favorite site.
At 6 a.m. I was doing back stretches (the back goes out under stress) and at 6:30 a.m. checking e-mail. After this comes cleaning up, more packing (why is there always something that has to be 'hang-to-dry' when what I need are clothes that could survive a hasty 'hot' cycle in a dryer?), dog to kennel, last minute drug store run (why is it that I forget to check to see if I have enough Synthroid until the night before leaving when I am packing… could it be that pesky memory problem?), stop paper, change phone answering machine message, do e-mail auto message…. Empty frig of things that will mold and decay……. Ah, the list goes on.

There are moments, like this one, when a woman has to ask herself, "Is it worth it?"
I mean, is it worth all the trouble, the lists, the organization, the getting everything covered at work and getting everything covered at home, the obsessing about details, the intermittent panic?
Is it worth it?

Well, yes.

There are times when I believe that all I really want is a week alone in my own house with no phone, no e-mail and no one knowing I am here…. but that has never been possible. I tried once. I told everyone I was leaving. I did all the stuff to make it look like I was gone. But then I couldn't stick to it. I answered the phone. I took care of “emergency” business. I couldn't lie to my own kids, could I? So, the reality is that I cannot escape responsibility and remain at home.
Plus, when I am home, no matter how much I want to pretend that I don't have to 'do' something, I can't pretend for more than a day. The tasks and projects follow me around like love-sick puppies, watching me with their begging little eyes. 

For a woman of a certain age (make that women of almost any age if you have kids and jobs), a vacation at home is an anomaly. So, I have come to the conclusion that it has to be worth it, and that, once I am on the plane, or fifty miles down the road, it will be worth it. I just have to believe…. Kick the heels on my adorable new red pumps and trust that I will be transported to paradise.

And, in this case, it's true. Tonight I will sleep in a spotless, cozy room at Tropi Rock Resort, which  appears  to be an adorable small hotel right off the beach at Ft. Lauderdale, with palm trees in a courtyard around the pool and owned by a nice guy named Mick. It is “highly ranked by the N.Y. Times and Washington Post,”  so I'm trusting their word. Then, tomorrow, I board a ship bound for the Caribbean… 8 nights and 5 ports. The Radiance of the Seas.  I feel a little radiant just saying the name.

I never thought I would be a cruise-girl. Ten years ago, I thought cruises were for old-fogies, people interested in midnight ice carving displays on buffet tables groaning with gluttony. Weird pool games. Bingo. Vegas style glitzy shows. OK for some folks but not for me. There were political considerations as well…. Didn't the big ships pollute the environment? Didn't they exploit poor people from third world countries who were forced to work long hours and not see their families for months at a time? (All of these issues will be addressed in future columns… just not today… I still have to pack, if you recall.)

But then my parents had a 50th wedding anniversary and wanted us to go with them (and bring the grandkids) on a cruise. Well, can't say no to Mom and Dad, especially if it's their 50th and all they want is to treat us.

We had a ball. Crammed in a cabin with our two kids (they got the bunks) for 7 nights… and we still had a ball. We hadn't realized how safe it would feel. With a crew of about 1000, all of whom are trained to watch out for kids and intervene if they see anything that looks like it could remotely need intervention, it was safe. No cars, no streets, no way to really get lost. There were programs for the kids (I calculated the cost of a week's full-time child care at home for two kids and realized that, after child care was deducted, it cost us under $50 a day per kid for room, all meals, all activities, all entertainment. (Figuratively speaking, of course, since I wasn't even the one paying.) Heck, it costs that to take a family of four to the movies if you get popcorn. 

But I digress. Because, since that cruise, it has not been about the kids despite the bargain aspects. It's about me. It's about my husband and marriage. It's about being out of cell phone range from life. We did a cruise to celebrate my 50th birthday. Then one for our 25th wedding anniversary. Then one because it was cold and damp and icky in February and I was having a bad day and it is so easy on the internet to push that “confirm” button…

When we board the ship, we change focus in a way that we can't seem to do on land. We turn to each other.  We ignore all the games and other cruise-biz marketed fun and just let down. Naps on deck chairs on quiet, secluded afterdecks. Langorous breakfasts. Room service if we lack the energy to walk (did I mention that all room service is included… thus, in my mind, free?) Workout sessions in upscale fitness centers with glass walls overlooking the ocean. Dancing every night. Lovely meals (no buffets for us) served by attentive staff that remember our little preferences… like that latte with dessert. Islands to explore… or beaches and seafoam-green ocean.

Oooops. I could go on like this for hours! And I will, I promise. I plan a column on how and why cruising is cheaper than marriage counseling if you do it right…. and how a woman can have a spa vacation at sea and bring a family of four (and only see them at dinner) for the same price as a land-locked spa alone for one for a week….  and my favorite island… and my favorite websites for finding and booking the best bargain cruises… and a column to address all those political concerns about the big ships…. 

But, now, oh-my gosh, I really do need to  go… 

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"I think we often know things in our gut way before the synapses connect in the head."