Tag Archives: cruise

A Decidedly Fun Thing I’ll Certainly Do Again


So that was it, my cruise journal. I still have a couple of poems yet to publish from on-board, but other than that, this will be my last post relating to this vacation. I learned a lot of things on-board about myself and about how I would like to spend future vacations. I learned that I really enjoyed and benefited from keeping a vacation journal. I shall endeavor to keep one for all future trips and assuming I am still blogging will share those too.

I learned that I prefer smaller cruise ships and that the next cruise we take I would like to be more of a luxury cruise. Something about mega-sizing the ship and going for a younger crowd removes something of what allures me to cruising. I want to feel like I am gatecrashing a lifestyle and a culture that I am normally a not a party to. Yes you can still (I did) have a wonderful vacation on a super-mega-ship, it is just not the experience that I would ideally choose. That is not to say that I won’t vacation on the Magic again, exiting Galveston for a really rather reasonable price has a very big upside. I still got all the rest and relaxation that I wanted, I just would have liked to have felt a little more hoity-toity in the process (if that even makes sense).

I learned that while the flexibility of “any time dining” is wonderful, but, if you have assigned dining, so long as it works out well, that can be even better. We have had this on previous trips and usually you are assigned to a table with other people. This makes for much better dinner conversation opportunities because you are not just reviewing what you have all done together all day, you have the chance to tell stories to people that have not experienced them. However, if you are assigned to a table with people who don’t want to talk, or not with a good wait staff, then anytime dining is the way to go.

The thing that changed this from a really nice vacation but the service was not so much, to this was a great vacation & the people were amazing was relationships. Whether it was that we(I) needed a few days to get to rested enough to where we could enjoy people, or that it took us a few days  to find the people that we could effectively relate to I’m not sure, although I lean towards the latter. Our conversations with our eastern European friends in the dining room, with the English people on the entertainment crew made the vacation vastly more enjoyable. I have to look at this and apply it to life in general, to be fair I have been working on this for a few years now & the change is immense.

Relationships are what can change your life from “is this all there is?” to “life is great”. Sure there are challenges, most of us don’t get to work for fun, we have to work for a living. Yet the time working is not so bad if you build relationships there, just like if you have relationships waiting for you at home & in your recreation time, life is just better. Now these relationships need work, unnourished they will be empty & flounder, but if you work on your relationships. If you chose to build covenant relationships rather than contract relationships, your life will just be better & that makes life much more worth living.

While my vacation gave me much needed & overdue physical & emotional rest & recuperation. There was an unfortunate down side, it had left me feeling spiritually low. I didn’t realize how much until I walked into church the Sunday after we got back, it was a beautifully overwhelming experience. I had happy tears as my spiritual gas tank was immediately filled up. The answer to my life’s purpose is in here somewhere what He will chose to do with that is up to him, I will simply follow (and look forward to more vacations). I need to make sure that on future vacations I make time to stay connected to my source, more than I did on this trip.

Other thoughts? Some people say that I don’t have an accent anymore, however I have come to realize it is because I don’t sound like James Bond, Hugh Grant or Dick van Dyke. I have an accent, faded and slightly Texanized, but I still have my accent (dang it). I have never sounded like any of the aforementioned people, I am from Yorkshire, our accents might not be Hollywood famous, but they are wonderful British accents. I shall decide to ignore people who say I have no accent from now on.

I have no idea why I could not bring myself to dance at the beginning of the week, the terrible music was no excuse, my daughter wanted to dance and I didn’t do it. That could have been a great regret from this week. However it will simply serve as a warning to ensure I don’t get as fried as I was prior to this week. By the end of the week I had danced on stage with my daughter and on the final day (skipped this from the journal) we danced in the atrium several times, slow dancing around the floor shared with some delightful elderly couples, one of which were especially encouraging to my daughter to just keep dancing (her whole life I presume) and gave me that wonderful, knowing look saying that I am not doing too terribly as a Dad. Maybe I should force myself to dance more, before the inhibitions that were removed come back, I guess that’s a thought for a date night in the near future.

What else did I learn? I learned that I cannot read an entire David Foster Wallace book in one week if I have more to do than just read the book. I discovered that while I loved his essays, especially “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again”, I do not agree with his assessment of cruising.  My assessment, and if for some random reason I decided to gather my vacation writing into a book its title, would be “A Decidedly Fun Thing I’ll Certainly Do Again







Vacation Journal: Day 7


Day seven was our last day at sea and our last day of vacation. We have been sailing north / north west since we left Cozumel last night, sailing towards the end of this wonderful week. I had a pleasant sleep-in to 0745 (something is wrong with that being a sleep-in on vacation), followed by a slow breakfast of smoked salmon on bagel, followed by blueberry pancakes. Overeating is so easy on a cruise. The service at breakfast was slow, causing me to consume more of the excellent coffee than normal.

A planned day of pool side leisure was curtailed by mist on the horizon. That mist slowly manifested into rain and occasional thunder. Somehow being in a pool in a metal vessel in the ocean seems remarkably unwise with the very real threat of lighting on the horizon. Instead we decided to review our week’s photographs taken by the cruise photographers. From probably over a hundred photos, we pick out three to keep, I then went back and got another three, because while my wife could live without them, I couldn’t  she is the strong one when it comes to such things.

The humidity on board is so great today that the stairs are slick close to the lido deck. Another downside of humidity is the adjustment period required by your camera to take photos outside after being in the a/c. Prior to the adjustment the lens fogs rapidly and annoyingly.

Stormy weather means choppy seas and high winds, which means the boat is rocking. Not everyone enjoys the physical sensation of the ship listing. Personally, I love it. It is like a perpetually slow roller coaster, strangely similar to being drunk, but only in your legs. Looking over the balcony the waves do not seem to be big enough to cause the movement that the ship is experiencing. They are choppy, but we are not talking deadliest catch and with the size of this ship it should take some serious moving. A quick look on one of the ships tv channels tells me that we are experiencing steady 30mph cross winds with gusts over 40mph, that will do it.

There is not much of our vacation left now, I feel ready to return home, if not to work. I am however not looking forward to debarkation or the 5+ hour drive home. These feelings may be fueled by spending so much time in the cabin today, reading and writing. As much as I enjoy these things I am starting to feel confined, yet there is nothing on the ship that appeals to me to go and do right now. I don’t want a drink and I certainly don’t want to eat. I am pretty much sick of the taste of chocolate & sweets in general. I am tired of eating. I am ready to feel productive. I would estimate that my tank has gone from 10% to 90% in this wonderful, restful and fun week.


Vacation Journal: Day 5 – Belize

Belize meets Venice

Today was wonderful, simply splendid. A little hurried to start the morning as we gave ourselves only 1 hour and 15 minutes to get ready, have breakfast & get gone. No worries though, we made it, even if we did abandon breakfast halfway through.

Belize has a shallow bay meaning the ship has to anchor quite a way off land. Port Authority tender boats then ferry you to the pier, ours was a 2 story boat holding around 100 people (at a very rough guess).

Belize City going down the coatsOur shore excursion today was a guided tour up the River Wallace and onto the Altun Ha Mayan ruins, which I had told my daughter were alien castles & not really pyramids, she got a kick out of our in-joke. Our tour guide Merlene, was fantastic. Always quick with her infectious smile, she is a proud Belizean Creole and she gave us a great day. Her knowledge was remarkable and she was always ready to answer questions. Although at Altun Ha, given the lack of documented history (the Spanish burned all but 6 history books, she said), she did offer that it was a 50/50 tour; 50% fact and 50% BS (Believable Speculation).  The whole crew were great in truth, you could tell that they wanted you to love their country, they kept asking us to make sure we came back. One the river they took the time to slow down & circle in the places known for seeing wildlife.

The river tour started in the harbor on a speed boat holding approximately 35 passengers sat on rows 5 across, 2 crew and our guide. The strong sun and the humidity were sweltering as we got everyone loaded onboard. The Merlene, after a quick safety briefing, advised that they would be turning on the air conditioning so hold onto your hats. The twin Yamaha V6 engines revved up, the tail of the boat sank, the nose rose and off we went. A wonderful sea breeze cooled us off as we sped down the coast line, stopping briefly for some tour narration Entering the River Wallacein a couple of spots. Before long we entered the river, the water seamlessly transitioned from blue to green. Mangrove walls providing both shelter and viewing interest.

I wish I had either taken notes, filmed the whole thing, or had a photographic memory to recall all the detailed information on the wildlife & Belizean history. The River Wallace, is actually called the Belize River, however the River Wallace legend from a Looking back to the bay from the riverScottish buccaneer, Peter Wallace, who may or may not have actually been there. On the river we saw all manner of wildlife and beautiful foliage. We saw manatees, a dolphin, iguana, a crocodile, howler monkeys, insect bats & a plethora of birds, including tiger herons (the only one I remember the name of).



foliageIguanaTiger heronCroc



The river tour lasted around 2 hours, the perfect length as we were ready to get off the boat River Wallaceby that point. We alighted at the Black Orchid Resort. There we ate a traditional local dish of stewed recardo rojo chicken with red beans & rice and the most delicious fried plantain you will ever eat in your life. I washed it all down with the local beer of choice Belikin, I can’t give a review because almost any beer would have tasted good in that heat, but it was good.

Following lunch we embarked on a 45 minute bus ride to Altun Ha. Cherise, a tour assistant joined our party and gave the bus narration for a while until Merlene took back over. Cherise did a good job of giving info on Belize, she was nice and she tried hard, but her lack of experience was clear to see & her lack of natural confidence (understandably talking to a bud of tourists) made her a clear 2nd to Merlene. She has a good future in her profession though if she sticks to it, especially if she sticks with & learns from the masterful Merlene.

At Altun Ha we were given a guided walking tour by Merlene. The place was fascinating, all spice treewhen I have time I intend to read some more about it. How the Mayans migrated through Russia & Alaska. How they thought buildings were good only for 52 years (I think I got the number right) , before they had to add on or knock it down. It is such a different part of history that that which I am familiar with.

2nd pyramid we climbedThere were several pyramid ruins in various states of excavation and repair. The biggest and most significant, the sun god temple, was quite spectacular. The age of the site, first occupied in 900 BC, was impressive. However to met, I was most taken with being somewhere so old in such a different environment & culture from Europe. Growing up, the Mayans etc were largely overlooked in our education system for any significance.

After climbing 2 of the pyramids and taking all kinds of photos, we got back on the bus for a 1 hour ride to the port. Lots of well earned tips were distributed & we made our way back to the tender boats to return to the Magic.

sun god templeme taking a picture of a faceAltun Ha from top of 2SGT from the opt of the other one we climbedAltun Ha from the top of sgtIMG_4855

It was formal dinner night, so I got suited up. For dinner I had some award winning Basa dish. I eat things here that I would never normally eat, it is good for expanding my culinary palate, without risking paying big bucks for a meal you don’t like. If you don’t like your dinner on the cruise ship, they will bring you something different. Can’t make up your mind what to order? They will bring you the whole menu, dining is fun on a cruise!

We had lots of photos taken after dinner, my professional smile now well practiced and feeling decidedly fake. However I am sure we will have a few good photos by the end of the week, if not it will not have been for  a lack of trying.


All in all, today was an unBelizeable day

(that saying is the copyright of Merlene the awesome tour guide:) )


Carnival Magic - beyond huge

Vacation Journal: Day 4

Vacation Journal: Day 4 – Honduras


After 3 days at sea we have arrived at our first of 3 ports of call. Mahogany Bay, Roatan,Six Flags Honduras. A tropical paradise, so perfect it is impossible not to see how artificial it is. We woke up in port, our port side room providing the perfect vantage point for the port village. I know nothing of the island, its population or history. I do know that the port area looks more like a six flags set than an indigenous location.


We rode the cable car to the beach, got set Does it get betterup with 2 sun loungers under a low palm tree with a clam shell shade, a very nice situation. Despite the numbers on the beach it was eminently relaxing and peaceful. The weather was perfect, hot enough to sit shirtless, but not stifling. The water was cool, but not frigid. Floating on the provided mats, endlessly enjoyable.

My desire to people watch is waning. Either folks are boring, or disgusting and loud, in the way (it seems) Americans specialize in. Take the guy today searching for a mate, presumable a casual mate as he didn’t appear to be looking for a soul mate. So full of his own worth, trying to determine which lucky maiden would be today’s winner of his arrogant, over weight egotistical company. More of a booby prize if you ask me. Generally speaking, while I have not seen or observed all there is to see, I have seen & especially heard enough. How I long to overhear a conversation of depth & meaning. How I miss my daily poetry delivered by friends I will never meet. Never mind, I am relaxing, I am recharging & I am starting to appreciate how really quite good my lie at home is!



Relaxing in the sun, floating on the ocean, utter bliss. Ecstatic squeals of joy permeate the air, overpowering any annoyance or distraction. The happiness of one’s child really does transcend general existence.


Carnival Magic - its a big boat

Back on board, my thoughts once again drift to the size of the ship, I am still overwhelmed by it. The size of the ship, the quantity of passengers, it gives everything on board a more hurried and crowded feel. The staff have less time to talk and as a result they seem less friendly. Initially I thought this could be a cultural thing as there are significantly less Europeans working onboard than previous cruises. However I am convinced now that it is much more to do with capitalism gone wild overwork, the kind that I am so very familiar with. More work less people makes more profit, yet leaves the workers burned out and needing a cruise to recharge.

The set from Six Flags also reminds me of a user made multi player map from Far cry 2, for you gamers out there. I could torch this place with a flame thrower, destroy the van on the hill with my grenade launcher & run amuck with my A/R, ahh the good old days, TGIFC2F.  I think I am having PS3 withdrawals, planning how I would approach the port if it were an FPS video game.

The ridiculously plastic man made beauty of this place masks some true beauty. Out of or Workers going homeopulence and self indulgence, we help to provide a sustainable existence to others.  You could argue that we are gate crashing & ruining their once peaceful way of life. You would of course be right, however the 21st century & all of its seductive technology & toys has already beaten us to it. So I will choose to embrace by role as British / American tourist secure in the comfort that my reward it not only the vacation, but in a small way helping others, which as you know, is very important to me.

After another overly decadent dinner of smoked duck, some rich (too rich) creamy turkey pasta and chocolate melting cake. Accompanied by a Mai Tie (first & last time) which was too sweet for my tastes & a Jamaican Hot Coffee (rum & liquor) which was almost too perfect for words. We ventured into the evening show.

It was an illusionist show, not a magic show. Magic apparently has been retired as it implies what is happening is real. As we all know it is not real, magic must now be called illusion, for the sake of accuracy, or maybe just to irritate me. Despite being fully aware of being actively duped & concentrating fully on how they are doing it. Magic remains a wonderfully excellent form of entertainment. This show, magic mixed with show tunes & Vegasesque sickly sweet cover songs, was excellent, enthralling and compelling viewing. If only I could figure out how they do it. At times I thought I was close (probably was), then something would blow that though. Very impressive stuff, a very impressive day, the kind of day that you cling to the memory of when you are sat at work wondering why you do it.




I do not like the casino

Something deep inside me is repulsed by it

I don’t know if it is the stale smoke

The desperate souls blindly giving their money

In the hope that today is their lucky day


It could be that I can do math & understand odds.

Maybe it is the putrid décor

That looks like Christmas and voodoo had a baby that threw up everywhere

Possibly it is the supposedly stimulating noises

That make me want to run wild with a sledge hammer


I imagine it is a combination of all these things

Yet through all that

I bet I wind up in there by the end of the week

You know, just to see if is MY lucky day

Lord help me



Written on day 2, other than passing through to get to the other side I stayed out of it all week. Note that I have no moral objection to gambling, if that is your thing and you’re not an addict, have fun, it’s just not my thing, I’d rather but a video game or some new music.




Vacation Journal: Day 3


I just returned from a 45 minute march around the promenade. The best feature of this boat bar none. It is an outdoor wooden floored deck that circle the entire ship. I walked at a normal pace for me, which is apparently 5 times faster than anyone else onboard that was out walking.

As I walked past people nursing their morning soda and cigarette, looking sullen and hung-over. I felt energized & alive, this speaks volumes to my efforts of the last 12 months to reclaim my physical body from the depths of obesity. This morning after a day and a half of eating too much and doing very little, I felt bloated and lethargic. Only when walking did I start to feel energized and alive. It seems it is now essential to my complete wellbeing to get the proverbial oil flowing through this old machine, quite regularly.

My daughter tried out the onboard day care for a few hours this morning. She had fun initially as they decorated t-shirts & watched a magic show. Unfortunately then she got bored, immediate bonding with the few other kids that were there did not happen. This caused her, usually well hidden, shy gene defect, gifted to her from her father, to surface. They made a call to our room & we went to go get her, only about 5 minutes before we were planning to anyway. I had been sat on the balcony, taking in the ocean & reading. Pizza, salad & ice cream for lunch, happy kid & dad.

After lunch we went down to deck 4 to review the previous evenings photographs. One of the fun things to do on an evening on the cruise ship is to have your photo taken at one of the many staged areas with professional photographers. They print every picture, you then go look them over & if you can’t live without one of them, they will sell them to you for what seems like a lot when you want to keep all of them, but for a professionally sat photo they are pretty reasonable. We like to get photos taken almost every day and then at the end of the week try to decide which ones to keep, never an easy process, but we always come away with some nice family photos.

Next up we went to spend some time at the pool & water parks. While I was having fun with my daughter, my observations of people were going wild. There were people all around “having fun”, what defines such a thing is open to interpretation. One guy was trying to prove his toughness to his peers by having a friend punch him in his gut. Others seeking attention by being loud and “funny”. Some trying so hard to be too cool to notice, yet desperately wanting to be seen. Women seeking affirmation from longing glances, the notice me just don’t talk to me ego stroke. So many more just sitting or laying, soaking in the sun, music, booze, food & whatever is on the giant screen, waiting for the next piece of staged entertainment.

In the evening my daughter started to get sick, suffering the chills at dinner, we fear from too much sun. I bought her a 5 sizes too big sweat jacket, the smallest one they had, to try & warm her up as she had no long sleeved tops with her. After dinner Mum & daughter retired, Mom sent me out to wander, sensing that I would not be satisfied to call it a day at that stage. This was true, sadly & mostly because I as yet, had not yet managed to find a bar onboard that could serve me a regular old fashioned hurricane on the rocks. I had been looking forward to this drink on the boat for months & today was to be the day dang it.

I tried to at dinner but rather strangely, unfortunately and annoyingly (this last one felt the most significant), they were unable to provide a non-frozen hurricane. What the actual #$@!? Last night I ordered a hurricane & I was delivered some frozen monstrosity. I despise frozen drinks, especially when they are rum based, for me rum should not be frozen. This shouldn’t be such a big deal, but I had been looking forward to my onboard hurricane for months, just 1, please! Next I tried to order a Jamaican rum coffee (maybe tomorrow), the waiter however was too busy to listen so I withdrew my order on principle. My wife kindly pointed out that I was only hurting myself, but frankly my dear ….

So after we went our separate ways I toured the ship on foot, again. Trying to find a place to sit and not be repulsed by the drunken life I once knew. Yes I realize the ridiculous irony of looking for a drink in a place that is not full of drunk people.

Struggling in this task I found myself at the very top of the 8 story atrium looking down. Maybe this is a me thing, but I looked down & thought about the splat, the mess, that would be made if I jumped. To butterflies in my stomach & nervous knees I plotted how such a process would transpire. Knowing full well that this was nothing more than some dangerous journey into the depths of my mind. Yet the internal chemicals were buying into this heinous thought. They believed possible what in my mind, conscious & soul, would never be allowed. Strange & poignant  in itself I believe. I don’t suppose this macabre tendency visiting from my troubled past to taunt me is a good thing. I am certain though, that acknowledging it and shining a light on it, so to say, forces its ridiculousness to pail into nothing more than futility, which is a good thing

Eventually I found myself sat at the bar in the small theatre at the rear (aft) of the ship. Finally a European bar tender, He, Sasa, I didn’t catch the country & he was too busy to ask. He was able to give me my vacation drink of choice. A Hurricane on the rocks (I need to learn to make that at home one day). My repeat order could not be filled by his colleague, I had to wait until maybe the only person on the ship capable of such a feat was available, prompting an additional tip on an already overpriced drink.

The purpose of being in the small theater was to watch a comedian, a Mr ?? (I have no idea). His routine was slow to get going but was actually quite good overall. The majority of his routine was based around the traveling public’s favorite subject, the TSA & their ridiculous rules like no leaf blowers or oversized nail clippers.

After the show I went to the atrium, had a pint of Red Frog ale, Carnivals on-board brew, which tastes almost identical to Alaskan Amber (this is a good thing). I watched the Pilipino entertainment couple sing & play piano. The young lady had a beautiful voice, but every once in a while her accent would come on in force, which while adorable, completely changed the mood of the romantic music to something slightly more comical. I finally walked the long way back to my cabin, helping a wheel chair pilot to understand that reverse is his & the occupants friend when it comes to bumps, much more so than repeated attempts to imitate the Dukes of Hazard & the General Lee.


Good night fine day. I am beginning to feel alive, if not quite fully rested.


PS: The ship is rocking tonight, to the extent that the towels are swinging in the bathroom. I anticipate a wonderful night’s sleep.