Of all the theoretical trips we talked about taking, a cruise was never one of them. In fact, beach / relaxing style trips have never been on my travel list. That could be because I never planned on going anywhere by Airplane. The only place I've ever longed to visit is the East Coast. Growing up watching Anne of Green Gables and Road to Avonlea gave me a fondness for Prince Edward Island that I've never been able to shake. I could go on about my visions and the dreams I've had, but I'll save that for another time.
As I mentioned in my previous post, my sister in law suggested a family cruise. She and her family have been on a few, and so have my Mother & Father in law. They've raved about them really, the food, the atmosphere, the service, not one bad thing has ever been mentioned when recalling their travels. While it wasn't on our list of ideals, Anthony and I liked the idea of visiting different places without needing to remove and lug luggage. We also liked the idea of being all together and not needing to drive anywhere. We aren't big drinkers by any means, but it's nice to have that peace of mind. You can have a glass of wine with dinner and not worry about who is driving or calling a cab. This particular boat "The Oasis of the Seas" is known for family fun and entertainment. The whole boat is geared to travelers just like us, ones with small kids, teenagers, adults, and grandparents. Anthony's sister planned the cruise keeping these things in mind, no doubt. We know that the older members of the family had to make some exceptions to accommodate us and our young kiddos, we appreciated the sacrifices.
My first impressions of the cruise weren't as high as I expected. Quite honestly I didn't see the appeal whatsoever. It was so busy! So many people, a lot who left their manners on the dock. The first day or two waiting for an elevator was annoying and because no one else wanted to wait everyone just jammed in. I'm a bit of a germaphobe so having other faces so close to mine was uncomfortable. The menu barely included vegetarian options and the only vegan option was a fruit bowl appetizer. If you are a meat eater, then you will enjoy the food. The other members of the group loved the lamb and the prime rib. I think my Father in law ate the prime rib five of the seven nights. Every dinner is a three-course meal, appetizer, main, and dessert. When you refuse one of the options, the waiter looks at you like you have two heads. When I first refused, he told me it would just go to waste, and everything has already been prepared. That didn't sit well with me! People are starving all over the world especially on the Islands we would soon be visiting. The issue bothered me the whole trip. I called the customer care centre when we returned home. David, the representative I spoke with assured me that they are aware of the waste issue and that they have cracked down and made several changes over the last four years. I'm going to do some more research on that this week. My favourite part of the boat was the people who worked on it. Our server Seon treated us like family, he cut up the kids food, joked around with us, made adjustments every single night to accommodate Anthony's food allergies and preferences. He was terrific! We loved sharing stories with him, and he got a kick out of the way Anthony and I banter back and fourth. Another crew member that made our time memorable was Jessica our housekeeper. It saddened me to see her working such long hours. She has been away from her family since August, and one night when Kendall was crying, she held her and silently cried because she was missing her baby. I understand that the workers are making more money than possible in their counties and that they are very thankful, but I couldn't help but feel like I was supporting a modern less barbaric form of slavery. The only white north Americans I saw were cruise directors and entertainment staff. I may be wrong with this judgment and if I am; call me out! I spent a lot of my time talking with the staff on the boat, and some of the things I heard I didn't think were fair. They are responsible for supplying their shampoo, body wash, etc. I'm not sure how it's possible for them to acquire these essentials when they rarely have time off to leave the boat. I also learned that only the doctor onboard could decide if they are "sick" or not and if they are sick and unable to work they don't get paid. They work holidays without additional pay and do not receive compensation for overtime. When I brought this up in my conversation with David, he informed me it was my own social issue, and I agree it is. I hope most of you have this same issue as I do. God created and loves us all equally so I'm of the mindset that we should all be treated equally.
As the days passed, I found enjoyment in the entertainment they offered, the variety of pools and outdoor recreation geared to kids and families. The occasional lime margarita by the pool wasn't so bad either. It was nice to have everyone accessible, and it was fun to take in the beaches and swimming in the ocean together. I wouldn't have had the opportunity to explore these places had I not taken the cruise. They each offered their uniqueness that taught me a lot about their culture and way of living.
In Saint Martin, the food was incredible; I decided to eat chicken on this trip. I've never tasted anything as delicious as the BBQ chicken I had there. I could see past the rebuilding and genuinely appreciate what they have to offer. I felt like I was in a movie on the water taxi and my kids are still talking about how the waves carried them to the ocean and pushed them up on shore. Sitting on the beach was the first time in the trip where I stopped, took in a deep breath and thanked God for this beautiful land and for the opportunity to share this with my kids and our family.
In San Juan, we visited Castillo Del Morro. It was breathtaking, the view of the ocean was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. Walking through the tunnels and on the cobblestone gave me an urge to explore beyond my comfort zone, but only if we go with Kristina. She's the ultimate tour guide and planner extraordinaire. I can see why everyone wants to travel with her.
Labadee Haiti is where I did most of my shopping. They have all these incredible handmade goods. The people seem aggressive at first, but now I understand that they are proud of their creations and want to share them. They don't have facebook or Etsy to showcase their shops, they have 5 seconds to get us in, or the opportunity is gone. The beach was clean and beautiful; my kids loved playing in the sand. Royal Carribean owns that portion of the island, so it is very well kept, they have tons of chairs (we had to pay for chairs in St Martins) they have staff on the beach, you can use your sea pass, and they hosted a free BBQ. They pull out all the stops at this port.
Cruises are expensive, at first, it seems like a waste, but after a few days we realized where the money was going, the entertainment was exceptional, and the boat was clean and well serviced. They are well staffed but the hours still seem long to me.
Would we go on a cruise again?
- Not likely, or at least not anytime soon. It was an experience, and one we are very grateful for.
Would you recommend a cruise?
- I would, especially for seniors or if you are traveling in a large group. I would also recommend the cruise line, they do care about your overall satisfaction, and when I spoke with David, he enlightened me to the many efforts they've put into helping islands like St Martin recover.
Let me know if you have any questions, and I'll do my best to answer, Also PLEASE correct me if I'm wrong on any of my views regarding the staff and the treatment they receive. I would love for you to prove me wrong.