Finally, after several months of waiting and slogging through what passes for a Seattle winter, the cruise is now less than a week away. In fact, exactly seven days from the time I am writing this, I fully expect to be aboard the Ruby Princess and halfway to Eleuthera. Of course, along with being less than a week away, there’s also a whole bunch of prep work I have to do to get ready. I’ve already made several updates to my Loud Tropical Shirt collection (living around here doesn’t provide much opportunity to put such things to good use unfortunately), and sent my suit off to the somewhat pricey dry cleaning service they have here in the building so I have it ready for the two formal nights aboard the ship, but there’s still plenty that needs to be done before leaving. I’ve still got a week of work to get through, end-of-the-month bills to pay, a bunch of documents to print and stuff to get (and I need to figure out how to pack it all in the meantime), and I suppose if I was good I’d probably try to get my taxes done before I go too so I can see how much I need to win in the casino on this trip (Editor’s note: This is a really bad idea. Don’t try this. Ever. I mean it.)
I don’t think that any of these things are going to be anything I am going to have any trouble getting done between now and then, but it occurs to me that sometimes it can take a lot of work just to get ready to spend a week not really doing much. In particular, the whole idea of having Formal Nights on the ship seems to set a lot of expectations that some people might not necessarily want to deal with on their vacations. On the cruising board I’ve been reading a fair bit of in preparation for this cruise, I’ve seen that there are three particular topics that seem to generate heated debate: Smoking in cabins, formal nights, and chair hogs on the Lido deck. On one side, you’ve got the people who think that their whole cruise is going to be ruined if they have to look at someone who dares to enter the dining room without a tuxedo on a formal night, while on the other side you’ve got the people who think they should be able to wander in wearing t-shirts and flip flops and nobody should complain. You can probably imagine the results. In reality, from my previous cruise the average seems to be a nice dark suit and tie, which is how I plan to go. I think they’ve only ever managed to get me in a tux once, and that was for my sister’s wedding reception. Not that the result was disastrous or anything like that (well, at least I didn’t try to burn the pictures or anything) but I’ve never been big on dressing up, even though I can usually manage it when the occasion permits.
But even with the formal night there are alternatives if you don’t want to participate (you can still visit the specialty restaurants on the ship in the “smart casual” dress that’s the norm for the dining rooms on the other days, or there’s always the buffet and room service if you don’t want to bother with those,) and the only truly “must do” activity aboard the ship for the whole entire week is the Coast Guard mandated muster drill that takes place before the ship leaves port. It’s the kind of vacation that gives you options to do as much stuff as you want, or none at all. Of course, as I’ve probably alluded to a number of times here, I am terrible at doing nothing when I’m on vacation, and even worse at not completely overdoing it. You’d think that boarding a ship that’s going to be spending most of a week out in the open ocean would be a good place to just sit back and relax for a while, but modern cruise ships aren’t exactly the tiny little Love Boat type ships you used to find most lines sailing (a few of those ships do still exist, but they tend to stick to itineraries that are just a bit too exotic for the amount of vacation time I’ve got available right now.) The Princess Grand and Crown class ships are all 951 feet long, 118 feet wide, and too big to fit in the Panama Canal (at least until the new set of locks under construction is completed.) This means that if you’re on one end of the ship (the cabin I’ve been assigned for this trip is the second cabin from the bow on deck 5) and the other people you’re with are on the other end, it’s not going to be a trivial walk to get there. One of the defining features of the Grand Class Princess ships is a Promenade deck that goes all the way around the ship in one continuous loop. Walking a mile requires just three laps around the Promenade. It’s a bit cliché to say that these large ships are cities at sea, but it’s an apt description. There’s plenty to see and plenty to do to fill up a week without ever leaving the ship (in fact, on the two gigantic Royal Caribbean Oasis class ships, it’s apparently fairly common to have passengers just never get off the ship at any of the ports.) Personally, I couldn’t see doing this (in fact, if there’s one fundamental flaw to cruising it’s that there’s just not enough time in some of the ports) but the option is definitely there if you want it.
All in all, a lot of how I plan to spend this trip is, even now, still up in the air. However it happens though, you should be hearing about it soon enough. Given the high cost of Internet on the ship, chances are you won’t be hearing much from me while I’m aboard (St. Thomas has Sprint coverage so I may post something from there) but there should be plenty when I get back. If I ever actually decide to come back, that is. I seriously doubt it would ever come to that (cruising is nice, but I suspect I’d get sick of it sooner than later if I did too much of it) but if it did, at least the weather would probably be nice.