By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
Today I’m doing something I’ve always wanted to try but never had the opportunity to do before now. I’m writing my column from an exotic location, and it feels just as new and exciting as I’d hoped it would.
Normally, I write while sitting in my home office, which happens to be inside the kids’ playroom. I tap steadily at the keyboard while the sounds of the nearby washer and dryer drone on in the background. The work gets done and it’s business as usual.
But there’s nothing usual about today’s writing conditions. I’m happily jotting down these words in a notebook that’s splayed out across a lounge chair on the deck of a 10-story Disney cruise ship. The page is bathed in bright sunlight and lifts up now and then when the gentle Bahamian breeze hits it. The only sounds I’ve heard so far are the fluttering of a Mickey Mouse flag that’s flying high above the deck. And a little earlier a friendly waiter stopped by to ask if I’d like to try the “drink of the day”, complete with a tiny umbrella and slice of orange perched on the side. “Why, yes I would like to try it,” I said. I could TOTALLY get used to this.
This is our family’s first cruise experience. We’d heard about cruise vacations from friends and relatives who’d done it many times, and we finally saved up enough to take one of our own. We timed it so that we could celebrate two of the three kids’ birthdays while here on the ship, and Tom and I are calling it our Christmas gift to each other.
As of now, the cruise has moved into the No. 1 position on my “favorite vacations” list. And, no, Mickey Mouse and company did not pay me to say so. In fact, we paid them a good chunk of change to be here. It’s climbed to the top of my list because it’s one of the only vacations I’ve taken (with kids in tow) that has allowed me to do something every busy mother dreams of – take a nap.
The problem with most family vacations is that they’re downright exhausting. It’s easier to just stay home. You spend the majority of your time packing up, getting in and out of cars or airplanes, waiting in line, finding a place to eat, and making sure that your kids are entertained during the trip. But the cruise industry has included a feature that we parents find wildly appealing – the kids-only club. They’re called different things by different cruise lines, but the basic premise is the same: Parents check their kiddos into a kids-only area, which is supervised by several enthusiastic staff members who are paid to not only keep your kids safe but also to entertain them with fun activities and games. Genius idea, isn’t it?
But after a few hours lounging alongside the adults-only pool, Tom and I started to feel a few pangs of guilt. So we decided we’d better go collect our kids, who’d probably be anxious to see us again. We walked down to the kids’ area and asked our kids if they wanted to go swimming with us. “Not right now, Mom,” said 6-year-old Jack. “We’re about to make Flubber and then have a relay race. Can I stay here longer?” His older brother was also preoccupied with a game of Four Square among his fellow kid cruisers, and Kate was listening to a story read by someone dressed up as Belle, her favorite princess from Beauty and the Beast. So Tom and I walked back out of the kids’ club like many other parents who’d been rejected by their own offspring, and then we happily skipped back up to the adults-only pool where we plopped down on lounge chairs and ate snacks at the buffet bar.
Speaking of snacks, the only drawback of a cruise vacation is that they will stuff you so full of food that you may have to waddle back down the gangplank as you leave the ship. The restaurants, snack bars and buffet lines seem to be open nearly all the time, and the food is included in the cost of the trip so, using a warped type of vacation logic, you figure “the more I eat, the better the deal.” It’s silly, I know, but it does make more sense when a piece of cheesecake is staring you in the face.
In an hour or so, we’ll go insist on getting our kids back from the club so that we can go to dinner as a family and attend a stage show in the ship’s main theatre. One of the staff members tells me that Peter Pan will fly over the audience and it will snow inside the theatre at the end. It sounds great, but I’m already a happy cruiser. I’ve had a nap, a snack and a few precious hours of quiet and solitude.
By the time this column prints, I’ll be back home with a tan line and a pile of dirty laundry. But for now, I’m cruisin’ and snoozin’ on the high seas, and I’m wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas.
How Grand and Exciting! This family has been talking about the Disney cruise to Alaska in 2013, but I think that the Bahamas cruise sounds pretty darn fantastical! I could deal with a warm breeze and a fruity drink! And a Nap! 2013!
You should totally do the cruise. You guys would LOVE it. The naps and the food are awesome. Promise. 🙂