CRUISING - If I can get a nap by the 2nd afternoon of a holiday, I’m laughing. It’s almost unheard of in my 4 years traveling as a family, by the time you finish every project at work suddenly due within the realm of you going on leave and hurriedly pack most of your house into 3 small cases, clean the house and get to the airport, you’re exhausted. It’s often 5.30am, you’ve had 2 hours sleep and you’re standing in a long line of some crappy low cost airline that’s all smiles and no delivery.
Or you’re in the family wagon before sunrise so you can crawl out of Sydney before the other escapees clog the roads. By 10am you’re at the driver reviver in Newcastle sipping a well meant but scoldingly hot, tasteless cup of tea and a stale Arnott’s shortbread before contemplating the next 7 hours of driving averaging 35km an hour, so if you’re napping by day 2, it’s a great start.
Me, who has earned his backpacking stripes and proudly done some pretty stupid things was going on a boat with 2 ½ thousand other people for a week at sea. It could either be the best or worst thing I have organised as the family vacation. Because I work in travel, I’m constantly surrounded by images and stories of amazing places while I’m stuck in air con, working on my office tan. So for 1 week I wanted it all, I wanted to relax and spend as much time with my daughter and wife.
Getting on was easy! We find our room, I’m always paranoid about the place I book because I want my girls to have it all, even though they would put up with anything. We open the door and there it is, a nice room with a queen size bed, a single bed and a balcony overlooking the Opera House. It’s so great I could cry.
We sail out and all my worries are left in our wake, we’re cruising baby. We’re like kids in a candy shop and we spend the next 2 hours exploring the ship with everyone else. It’s huge and reminds me of Jupiter’s on water. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you wander into some forgotten bar where there’s an old bloke playing piano to 3 ladies sipping the cocktail of the day. The next day it’s on, well 9am on. We’ve slept and the bears need feeding and thus begins the pattern that I now see as cruising; eat, activity, eat, sleep, eat and repeat. We mosey over to the pool and grab a deck chair, there’s loud music, games, tournaments, cheesy cruise directors and hundreds of white pasty people from Sydney and I love it.
Days pass and we’re so lost in the routine, I can’t believe we actually get to venture onto land but there it is, the picture perfect Isle of Pines complete with dolphins in front of our balcony. Crystal water, amazing reef and a white sandy beach that laps lazily at the overhanging branches. The next day we wake to Mystery Island and what it lacked in name’s mystique, it made up for in beauty.
The water was the colour of turquoise and warmer than my morning’s cup of tea. It was absolutely divine and we quite happily spent a good part of a day flopping between the water and the palm fringed shore. The next day’s highlight (or that’s what the brochure said it would be) was Noumea. We get the shuttle to the towns “centre” which normally means a central point in the city but in this respect was just a random road near some water.
Back to the ship and we quickly shower and run for the pool where the comfort of cocktails (it was clearly past midday), endless ice cream and images of the tropical destinations we could have visited that day are projected on the massive LED screen. Sure we talked about doing a lot of things that afternoon, I must walk around the boat, a bit of rock climbing would be nice, I could see that movie. Truth is I just sat there and watched the passing parade for hours before falling asleep, it just keeps happening.
The following days at sea are unremarkably pleasant. We lounge, eat, splash and savour every last moment. It turns into one long buffet interlaced with bouts of swimming and sleeping.
Cruising may not be for everyone. You have to have the will to not take things too seriously and seriously enjoy yourself. It’s about you and the people you are with that makes cruising what it is. I walked off the gang plank with 3kg’s of apple crumble strapped to my belly, a beautifully relaxed and deeply happy wife and a daughter who wouldn’t let go of my hand.
All I wanted to do, was turn around and do it all again.