Thursday, November 09, 2006

Cruising the Caribbean, AARP Style

Different cruise lines are known for different things: Princess is affordable, drawing families and couples, Royal Caribbean has mammoth ships with ice rinks and Holland America has a reputation for catering to the older crowd.

When Andrew and I arrived at Pier 6 in Tampa I’d never seen so many walkers, wheelchairs, oxygen tanks and liver spots in one room. I counted three families with children and a few that appeared to be honeymooning but the majority had been collecting social security for years. What did this mean for our cruising experience? Well here’s my summary of things both good and not-so-good:

1. Bingo is very popular. Andrew and I caught the end of the final bingo game while waiting for the next show to start. An eerie diaglogue ensued between the announcer and his subjects, he’d pull a number and after announcing it, the group would intone the proper answer in unison--if it had been in Latin and a bit less energetic I would have thought it'd stumbled into mass. For example:

“I-66! I-66! Get your kicks . . .”

Here he would pause and the audience would reply: “On Route 66!”

Or perhaps he’d say, “B-7! I said B-7! Where do all the good bees go when they die?”

And the group would say with a slight buzzing quality, “Bees-heaven!”

It was like walking into some secret society, one with its own set of bylaws and behavior that would warrant exploration during a National Geographic special. Only problem was, when they finally had a winner—Gladys Merfred from Ontario, Canada—the old girl was so excited they almost had to bring out the defibrillator. Easy there Gladys. Breathe.

2. The early dinner seating is very popular. Five forty-five and everyone is ready to turn in—so get the prune juice flowing ASAP.

3. So, conversely, if you have a later dinner seating the world is your oyster—when 99% of the ship is in bed by nine you’ve got it to yourself.

4. But be prepared because it also means that come 6 am all those who can walk without assistance are doing their morning deck-walk on Deck Six’s quarter-mile teak loop. Kind of a mall walkers gone wild. I stepped outside my door one morning to catch the sunrise and was nearly trampled by a fleet of old men in Bermuda shorts, sneakers and navy blue dress socks all vigorously marching counter-clockwise.

5. The swimming pool is usually available without interruption day or night—ditto the weight room. I had the treadmills and salt water pool all to myself whenever I wanted them. On Deck Twelve the M.S. Veendam has a “teens only” area that’s called The Loft. Equipped with a waterfall, hammocks and a tropical theme it was one of the coolest places on the ship. I never saw one teen use it. Andrew wanted to sneak in but I put my foot down, afraid they’d cart him away.

6. But not so with the hot tub which was so popular it was “sagging” room only. The white wrinkled bodies tended to resemble chickens stewing in a pot. But who wants a hot tub in 90 degrees anyway, right? I’m fine with sticking to the pool.

7. You won’t have to dodge people on the stairs, they’re all in the elevators.

8. You’re not going to run out of pizza at the snack bar with the passengers all taking Nexium and worrying about heartburn. The spicy stuff is all mine.

9. There’s plenty of space available in shore excursions involving anything more exerting than walking down the gangway.

10. However, be careful as this can work to your disadvantage. We were booked on a shore excursion to go to San Pedro Island, Belize and snorkel in a place called Shark-Ray Alley. We love snorkeling and I booked that excursion a year ago to be sure we’d get a spot (it was listed as a favorite among guests). The day before we docked in Belize we got a message that the excursion was cancelled due to lack of participation. Seems that they needed 30 people to make the trip and only 10—out of a population of 1285 mind you—signed up.

We were crushed, but not as disappointed as the shore excursion guy at the front desk. He said that as long as he’d been at the job not once had they had enough people to make the excursion, evidently there’s no interest in snorkeling with sharks when you're taking high blood pressure medication. Oh how he’s longed to make that trip. So it’s a dicey situation, can go either way.

11. With that many elderly people on a ship, Andrew wondered if they’d ever had anyone make the Ultimate Disembarkation. I noticed they had ambulances on hand at the pier. Odds are it’s had to have happened. We wondered how Holland America would handle that. It’s seems a little odd, it says specifically in their brochure that women who are pregnant past a certain point of gestation cannot travel with HAL. Surely it would only be fair to add that people with an unusually high chance of dying during the cruise shouldn’t be allowed on board either.

12. Even though you’re 36 with four kids and crows’ feet you can be mistaken for a honeymooning newlywed. Don’t be surprised if you’re referred to as “kids” with kindly affection. Enjoy it or not. I chose to be flattered.

13. But the number one reason I'd recommend a geriatric tour of the Caribbean is that your odds are good that you will be the best looking body in a bathing suit for 2,000 miles.

Here are a couple tiny clips of that last day at sea if you have nothing better to do.

Andrew at our juggling workshop--don't laugh it was totally fun

Eating ice cream on the Lido Deck--our daily ritual

More about the Thursday Thirteen meme

33 comments:

Bec of the Ladies Lounge said...

Heaven!!

I laughed at your 'secret society' description - at least you've had advance notice of what's required when you (ahem) reach a certain age and want to do it all again.

Haley-O said...

Omigosh! That is soooo funny! Josh and I went on a cruise and EVERYONE WAS OVER 65! We were escorted to the cruise ship, and the people escorting us said, "we're not used to people moving this fast...". It was funny. We were at the "young" table in the dining room. Young being, oh, between 50 and 65.... ;)

amy said...

loved this post because we loved to cruise..Michael and I have now cruised with Costa and Disney..both awesome but different experiences

suki said...

:) I guess that's better than hitting the ship with the spring break kids...

she said...

The hubby has always wanted to go on a cruise and I've been less than enthusiastic in the past. Your hilarious breakdown of the experience might sway my vote in future.

Anonymous said...

Too funny! :) LOL on #13! :D Hopefully you still enjoyed your cruise. :)

Happy T13. :)

The Mistress of the Dark said...

13 made me laugh so hard I nearly fell from my chair!

Great 13!

zingtrial said...

Hi,I want to go on a cruise one day.Likes reading through.Thanks for sharing.Good laugh He!He!He!.
Wish you well

Anonymous said...

What a great post! Loved it!

Happy Thursday!

Anonymous said...

that looks like it was a blast! i want to go to the 24 hour ice cream place; do you know i haven't had ice cream since i moved here?! we don't have a freezer so i can't buy it at the store...sooo sad.

anyway, glad you had fun and glad you didn't have some sort of geriatric drama happen!!!

-macoosh:)

Anonymous said...

I see old people.

:)

I really like the idea of being the best looking one in a bathing suit...maybe I will take a cruise after all.

Carmen said...

the last one is worth going on the cruise. You don't have to compete with 18 year olds on the beach. :)

gail said...

So funny! I love the part about the "secret society" too, but that last one is great!

ali said...

i'm so terrified to go on a cruise...i'm scared i'm going to be sick the entire time!

ali said...

shoot...that cut me off...i was going to say...i'm terrified of being sick...but if all those old people can do it...maybe i can too! he!

Domestic Goddess said...

very funny. I like the "looking good in a bathing suit" benefit.

Anonymous said...

I had a similar feeling when taking the ferry from Vancouver to Vancouver Island.

Sounds like it was a great trip.

Carinne said...

What I want to know is if the picture of Mom reading on their cruise is supposed to be an example of a geriatric? I'd be offended Mom!

Carinne said...

Oops, didn't have my glasses on - looked at it again enlarged. It's you. Sorry - you just had your hair up. Open mouth, insert foot. How do I delete a comment? At least I'm here reading your blog.....
Carinne

Ni Yachen said...

I once toured China where I met up with another tour which had already been together for two weeks. Everyone on that tour was over 60 except one 25 year old guy. He had already been inundated with photos of everyone's available granddaughter and was the tour's unoffical mascot. To the guy's credit he accepted all the elderly attention very good naturedly. But it was fun to watch them.

Brian (cruise lover) said...

We had a pregnant lady need to get off a Carnival ship off the coast of Mexico (Pacific side). They stopped the boat and the medivac landed right on the deck.

Anonymous said...

I have NEVER been on a cruise, something is wrong LOL

Loved the post and the pictures :)

Anonymous said...

I love the idea of being the best looking body in a bathing suit. I won't even put on one! When you get older, your body is not that of a 20 year old!

My TT is up.

Anonymous said...

So flippin' funny. My mom and I did the NE US and Canada cruise in October 2002 and we were definitely the youngest ones there. By day 3 we were playing bingo and in bed my 9. It was great!

Cece said...

OMG that is, by far, the BEST TT I've read in the longest time! Loved it! *clapping*

When we go on cruises, we use Carnival, its a total party ship!

Amber said...

What a fun post! My hubs and I are taking our second cruise with Norwegian in January. I cannot WAIT, though I'm bitter he never let me play Bingo...

Anonymous said...

Oh God! That sounds soooo nice and relaxing. I love cruises. We went on a Royal Carribean cruise once, and I kept getting lost on the damn ship.

I have a feeling my next cruise will be a Disney Cruise. Somehow, I don't see relaxation in my future.

Jerusalem...yes that's my real name said...

I laughed so hard I cried. So funny it must be true. When I lived in Juneau, tourist watching when the ships came in, was a favorite hobby. It would be weird to be on the other side...

Mommy off the Record said...

I'm totally doing Holland America if we ever go on a cruise - just so I can look like the cutest girl in a bathing suit. That would TOTALLY be worth it.

Funny post!!

muse said...

sounds great
we came to Israel by boat in 1970, really were newlyweds then

MarkMcL said...

Thanks for dropping by, feel free to link to the Swedish Chef.

My sister went on a cruise for her honeymoon. Turned out 99% of them were second honeymooners, so many blue rinses. The special price deal had one condition - they had to share a cabin (with each other, that is). Funny old honeymoon if you didn't!

Toodle-pip! MarkMcL

BTW we Brits call those chinese yo-yo's "Diabolo".

Steve G said...

This is one funy post. The wife and I have never been on a cruise, but look forward to one...someday.

caribbean cruise fan said...

The idea that i can travel across several locations around the caribbean really appeals to me.