When Holland America announced the “Oprah Experience” as one of the highlights of its cruise ship Nieuw Statendam it wasn’t exactly what passenger Cathy Meils expected when she signed on for the ship’s premier voyage.
by Jan Myers
"You go ahead in and I'll stay on the boat and watch," I found myself telling my son, Maxx, as he jumped into the water with his snorkel gear. I had been feeling a bit anxious about my first snorkeling attempt, and as I looked at the others from our shore excursion group already looking confident in the water, I decided maybe this just wasn't for me.
Maxx and I were on a Carnival Cruise together. It was my idea to take him on a cruise for his sixteenth birthday—just the two of us on a mother-son bonding trip. He loves to travel and since he had never been on a cruise before, he was excited. So was I. I was hoping this trip would help clear some of the awkwardness that often sets in between moms and their teenage sons.
It's funny, but not so long ago, I was one of Maxx's favorite people. We would spend hours building with Lincoln Logs and Lego's. He couldn't wait to tell me all about his day at school. He used to share his thoughts and dreams with me. At one time, he even asked my advice regularly. However, as parents know, life with kids is definitely a journey with many stages. With Maxx, we are currently in the "I don't need mom for anything anymore" stage (except maybe help with homework).
In my mind, the cruise was sure to change all that.
But there I was, sitting on the side of the snorkeling excursion boat by myself while Maxx flippered away. What a metaphor for our relationship. I had to do something to add a little glue to our bond.
"Ok, I'm coming in!" I said. Thankfully, one of the snorkel guides was nearby as I jumped in and immediately lost my snorkel. I watched it sink toward the bottom of the sea and of course, I couldn't plunge in after it with my life vest on. Quick as a fish, the guide dove down and retrieved it. Whew! How embarrassing! I was glad Maxx didn't see me do that.
by Paul Ross
A vacation on a large cruise ship is a lot of things: convenient, easy, hassle-free (unpack once!), planned and scheduled, largely affordable, entertaining and unchallenging. You’ll know when, where, with whom and pretty much what you’re going to eat, who won the knobby-knees contest at the aft deck pool between the disco and life raft station zebra and exactly how long the “endless night soiree” will last. What’s not to like? At times, and on specially-themed outings, there are even opportunities to learn something. But, mostly, there is relaxation--especially during those long “days at sea.” Yes, vacation cruising can be many things. But it is not travel.
Travel can include difficulty, surprise, expense (both monetary and personal), challenge and always a chance of the unknown, which necessitates awareness. There are “lessons” aplenty but they’re rarely pre-digested and aren’t spoon-fed. You not only learn about the places and people you visit, but also about yourself.
You’ll have to find eateries on your own and they may be native and weird. Or, as an adult, you might even enjoy a brand new taste sensation. There may be a schedule--which can vanish in the instant it takes to get a blown out tire, be caught in a storm, or meet an unexpected situation or person of interest. Cruising is Disneyland afloat. Travel is what happens behind the scenes, beyond the gates and out in the world. The challenge is real but so are the adventures, discoveries, revelations and delights.