A cruise ship, as an alternative floating universe, seems removed from the everyday world and all of its familiar routines. Life at sea is full of possibilities, with a hint of the unknown, and yet nothing at all. Nowhere to be, nothing to do, nowhere to go but where the ocean takes you. The reality is that cruising is packed full of activity, if you want it. A day can be filled with fun and adventure, history and culture, pampering and shopping, and of course, eating and drinking.
Every day on a ship is different, but a lot go a little like this.
6am: Are you kidding? I’m on holidays!
6:30am: But a sunrise at sea is truly something special to behold, so I guiltily drag myself out of bed. This is when a balcony cabin comes in handy, as I can wander outside in my bathrobe, snap a few photos and crawl back under the sheets for a morning nap (that’s normal, right?). The hypnotic, calming sound of the water splashing against the side of the ship lulls me back to sleep.
9am: Breakfast is the next big decision of the day. If I didn’t order room service the night before, there are two choices: help myself to the incredible buffet of my non-dieting dreams, or be served by waiters in the main dining room. I just want to eat, while gazing upon a blue ocean view, so I head up to the buffet, ask the chef to make me an omelette and pile my plate with fruit, yoghurt, muesli, mushrooms, bacon, hash browns, waffles, a croissant and a chocolate pastry. My healthy food choices went downhill pretty quickly. Who cares, I’m on holidays!
9:30am: Ugh. Why did I eat so much? It’s OK, I’ll go to the gym and have a light lunch.
9:45am: I’m too full to do any exercise. I check out the program of activities: trivia, dance class, lecture, art auction, bridge, yoga, wine tasting, table tennis, live music by the pool, afternoon tea, abseiling across the bow (what!). Too bad I’m feeling lazy.
10am: Time to find a deck chair and read my book for a while. One of the crew brings me an iced water and offers to clean my sunglasses. This is the life!
11am: The ship docks at our tropical island of the day. I gather up my beach gear, wake up my partner (almost forgot about him), and step out into this exciting new paradise to explore. Locals, with big smiles and flowers in their hair, are on the wharf, singing and dancing, welcoming us to their home. We buy a couple of coconuts with the top cut off, and sip the sweet milk to get in the islander mood. It’s cheesy but we love it.
11:30am: Other passengers go off on shore excursions, organised by the cruise line, but we just want to do our own thing today. One of the crew told us about this great beach a few minutes walk away, so we meander down for a swim and snorkel. Wow! Without doubt, the South Pacific has the best snorkelling I’ve ever experienced. It’s like plunging into a kaleidoscope of coral and fish of every colour, shape and size. I get lucky and swim alongside a turtle, then see a pod of dolphins in the distance.
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1pm: Lunchtime, so what else but seafood? The local barbecued lobster is ridiculously cheap. We wash it down with a cold beer and refreshed souls.
3pm: When the ship is in port, the day spa offers discounts, so I get back onboard to indulge in a mini-facial and massage.
4pm: We head for the pool deck and sink into one of the hot tubs while watching a movie on the giant outdoor screen. As most people are still off the ship, it’s almost like having our own yacht to ourselves. Absolute luxury.
6pm: As the ship sets sail for the next destination, we get showered and changed. I decide I need new earrings to match my outfit so I go to the duty-free jewellery store and pick up a sparkly bargain. It feels so indulgent to shop on a ship.
7pm: Happy hour, as if we weren’t happy enough! We join some new friends we’ve made onboard for a pre-dinner drink. Pina colada, martini or long island iced tea, anyone?
7:30pm: If there’s one thing better than a sunrise at sea, it’s a sunset at sea, because you get to do this one with alcohol.
8pm: Dinner time! Our friendly waiter entertains us with some jokes as we order up a feast. Six courses? For free? No, no, no. I couldn’t possibly. But it all looks so good. Steak! Prawns! Chocolate soufflé! Cheese platter! OK, just tonight. Tomorrow I will be good.
9:30pm: The theatre has a musical extravaganza, the pub has a guitarist, the casino is pumping and the piano bar is swinging. All this choice is overwhelming, so we hop from one to the other, enjoying the variety and vibe of the night.
11:30pm: Quick pit-stop to pick up a slice of pizza from the 24-hour counter. We pop outside to eat it under the stars and clear our heads in the sea breeze.
Midnight: Adults-only comedy is worth staying up for, if you are not easily offended. We cram into the venue with hundreds of other revellers to hear three hilarious comedians performing on stage. Our stomachs hurt from laughing so hard. Or is that from the overload of food?
1am: While the sensible people head to bed, we kick on at the nightclub. The DJ keeps the dancefloor rocking until the last one standing. Every night is New Year’s Eve on a cruise!
2:30am: Feeling like naughty teenagers, we creep back to our room and place the ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door, along with our room service order for coffee, bacon and eggs. There will be no sunrise and breakfast in public tomorrow. Luckily it’s a day at sea, so we have plenty of time to sleep in and do it all over again.