I have never really longed to go on a cruise.
Just the thought of being trapped somewhere or on something where I cannot easily escape makes my chest tighten.
I also do not particularly like crowds. I am not a freak about it or anything — I can do it. But if you give me the choice of laying out on a beach with a book where the closest person is a hundred or so yards away or fighting for a beach chair on the lido deck, well, I can tell you who the winner of that contest is going to be all day long.
In addition to not regarding myself as a “cruise person,” I had also turned my nose up at our very own cruise ship, the Carnival Fantasy. People I know who do consider themselves “cruise people” described the Fantasy in such a way I could tell they think it’s a low-rent ship.
I have noticed though, a lot of “cruise people” who really love cruises in every way are reluctant to criticize any ship in the fleet. It’s kind of like talking about their children. But you can tell which ones they prefer — they gush about some, but when it comes to the Fantasy it was like, “Well, I mean, it’s a smaller ship,” or “You know, I think it’s just one of the older ones.” It’s akin to describing their hyperactive, misbehaving wild child as having “lots of energy.” But in either case, we all know what that really means: crappy ship, crazy child.
So, I have always had my reservations.
And even though I know it was a business decision, I was still a bit miffed at Carnival for leaving us without a cruise ship for years, while we, the taxpaying citizens of Mobile, continued to pay for a cruise terminal with no cruise ship.
But really, the final event that made me swear I would never go on a cruise occurred in 2013. That is the year of the infamous “Turdtanic” incident, when an engine fire on the Galveston-based Carnival Triumph caused it to break down at sea. After listing for a few days in the Gulf, it had to be towed back to our terminal, which was at the time serving as a special events rental space, since, you know, we still had no ship. Carnival essentially used us as a booty (port of) call. Thanks, Carnival!
But the stories from that nightmare had me absolutely dead set against ever cruising — toilets overflowing and sewage everywhere, no electricity and people making tent cities on the upper decks so they could get fresh air. It made national news, with all of the networks heading to Mobile to cover the infamous “Poop Cruise.” This was my absolute worst nightmare. You would never me on one of these Sewage-liners of the Sea.
But you know, never say never.
Carnival ultimately did bring a ship back to Mobile, with the Fantasy, so my grudge was beginning to stop festering, and this year we were looking to do something special for my little girl’s eighth birthday, which happened to fall during Mardi Gras break. She is a Leap Day baby and only gets a “real” birthday every four years, so we try to do it up big on those years.
Several friends — who I knew shared similar views on cruising — had been on trips on the Fantasy and all had reported having a really good time. The dates worked nicely and for a family of four it was a relatively inexpensive getaway. Plus, it’s obviously super convenient to hop on and off a ship in downtown Mobile. So we did it.
For the most part it was lovely. We splurged a little and got a suite with a balcony and our room was really nice and definitely spacious enough for our little fam.
I enjoyed sitting out on the balcony, looking out at the deep blue sea and contemplating life and if we were more likely to contract the coronavirus, influenza and/or rotavirus. I would have put my money on roto, but we all made it off virus-free (I think).
My biggest problem on the first “fun day at sea” had nothing to do with the ship but technology. Cursed technology! I had downloaded a couple of podcasts I was excited about but my wireless headphones (that I charged all night) just weren’t working. I had no backups and surprisingly they did not sell any on the ship. Dang it!
“All I wanted to do on this trip was listen to my podcast (about murders and serial killers) so I can relax,” I whined to my husband.
Once we arrived at our destination in Cozumel, I was able to download a book on my phone, but it did not involve any unsolved homicides, so I just don’t think it was as relaxing as it could have been. Oh well.
But we had a great time overall. We had a group of good friends and family with us and that certainly made the journey more fun, although one friend spent the first couple of days dealing with seasickness, which was decidedly not fun for her.
And while we did not experience any backed-up toilets or sewage à la Turdtanic, the problems we did encounter were bathroom-related.
On the first morning, I walked into our bathroom to take a shower, and as I was trying to figure out how to get the water to go from the tub to the shower, which apparently requires an engineering degree, I somehow dislodged the removable showerhead, which hit me on top of my large head.
“Mother-f$#^er!” I screamed. It was heavy! It hurt enough to bring tears to my eyes. I still have a bump on my head from it.
Nevertheless, I persisted.
Once I graduated with honors from MIT and was able to finally figure out how to get the water streaming from the evil showerhead, next came temperature regulation. I should have known something was up, as there were warning signs on the shower wall advising you not to scald yourself. WTF?
But even though I put it on what I thought was equal parts hot and cold, the water was still so freaking hot I think I could have poached an egg with it. All the time I was trying to readjust this, it felt like it was burning my skin off, only getting hotter with each readjustment.
I finally managed to turn it all off, then turned the cold back all the way up with just a touch of hot. Things started out OK, but I swear even without touching it at all again, as I was trying to rinse the shampoo out of my hair, suddenly it got insanely hot again. And I like hot showers! This was way beyond that. I finally just rinsed it out with cold water, as I wondered why there aren’t any billboards from personal injury attorneys right by the cruise terminal that read: “Have you been injured from cruise ship hot water? Call me right now!!”
The other problem came with our toilet.
Without getting too graphic, let’s just say you should never, ever, ever, ever, ever remain seated on your cruise ship toilet while flushing it. Always stand up and then flush.
It’s such a powerful flush, it sends all the recently deposited contents in said bowl shooting down to God knows where (I don’t want to know), BUT also (unfortunately) spraying liquid back up before it goes diving back down. And I don’t think it’s just water you are being hit with, if you know what I am sayin’.
Yep, we learned the hard way on this one. But then suddenly became very thankful for scalding hot water in the shower.
Nevertheless, we adapted. And had a lovely time, free of turds, viruses and toilet spray.
I still would not consider myself a “cruise person,” but the Fantasy was definitely a nice little break from reality.
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