Thursday, September 11, 2008

On the Gulf with Gustav

Well...not exactly. That would be the cruise before us.

Our trip, which was to have been the five-day cruise with calls at two glamorous ports, was instead, coutesy of Gustav, the three-day Cruise to Nowhere. Really. Rather than disembarking (debarking?) in exotic foreign places, we floated around out there, one "Fun Day at Sea" following another. A Fun Day at Sea consists of all manner of activities, sublime and ridiculous. Activities whimsical, physical, comical, or informational, take your pick.

Now about the food...It's true what they say about the food on a cruise: it is limitless. There may be two or three hours out of a day that you can't find a place to eat~perhaps between the hours of 3am, when the Gala Midnight Buffet shuts down, and 6:30am when the serving of breakfast begins. But don't worry. If you just can't make it that long, give the 24-hour room service a call.

And let me tell you, you aren't going to find any chicken-fried steak or fried okra or black-eyed peas or pinto beans on this menu. None of that "down-home" stuff. Try lemon curried lentils and Caribbean pepper pot. Grilled portobello mushrooms, tiger shrimp cocktail, pumpkin soup, charred corn, tempura veggies, and poached salmon. Even the lowly potato takes on the scent of rosemary. On the salad bar ~ a veritable garden: veggies fresh and pickled and marinated, lettuce in endless variety, dressings and toppings galore. And for dessert: mango cake and tiramisu, cheesecake in many flavors of both fat-free and yummy versions, coconut cake, banana cream pie, jello, and pudding, 24-hour ice cream and frozen yogurt, orange cake, and apple pie with ice cream. That's the sort of thing to find on the cafeteria-style line, and if none of that suits you, well, try the pizzeria, the deli, or the bistro. Or the grill, where you can get backyard fare of hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries, onion rings, sauteed onions, and the like, just outside the door by the big pool.

To drink: iced tea, coffee, lemonade, fruit punch, apple juice, orange juice. Really, the onliest thing they didn't have was...water. Well, they had water, but...well, ick.

That's the menu on the casual Lido Deck. If it's the fancy stuff you want, go to one of the dining rooms where you will be served by a staff of attentive, impeccably-mannered waiters, uniformed in vests and ties, who will serve your drinks in elegant stemmed glasses, and bring you menus of starters and entrees and desserts to die for. Some nights they will even dance and sing for you, and when they come marching and clapping down the aisles, it is hard not to get up and dance and clap along with them.

Did I mention the Chinatown Restaurant and the Rolls Royce Bar? You really can go from restaurant to restaurant for the duration of the cruise, and if you don't want them to have to roll you off, well...try out the gym. We opted to stay in shape by using the stairs. We walked from our cabin on the Main Deck (Deck 5) deep in the bowels of the ship up to the sea breezes of the Sun Deck (Deck 12) for putt-putt golf probably about 26 times a day. We did use the elevator on three separate occasions as a treat at the request of the Blue-Eyed Boy.

Just in case you might like to do something besides eat on your Fun Day at Sea, you can choose to swim in one of the four pools, play miniature golf, run/walk/jog on the Olympic track, play volleyball or basketball on courts totally enclosed by netting, play ping-pong or shuffleboard, or bask in the sun with a book from the ship's library. Play Bingo, or go to the beauty shop and/or the spa for the pampering of your life: hair fixes, mani/pedicures, massages. Get your portrait taken at one of the many photographer's stations set up at various places around the ship. Go to the card room for a hopefully friendly game of...whatever.

If you are traveling with a kidlet, as we were, you may want to check out Camp Carnival. They have a whole schedule of age-appropriate games and puzzles and parties beginning at 9am and going until 11pm (Shouldn't those little guys be in bed by then?)!

Need something more scheduled? Check your handy little Carnival Capers paper which is left in your cabin each evening by your devoted cabin steward, along with chocolates on your pillow, cookies with faces for the kidlet, and pillows folded into animal shapes, a different animal every night. In the Carnival Capers you will find a complete hour-by-hour listing of every activity on the ship: shows, classes, games, contests. Even menus ;-)

Oh! Don't forget gambling in the casino! I can't really speak with any authority on this, but if the jam-packed crowds and the clouds of cigarette smoke billowing out the door were any indication, this might well have been the most popular activity on board. Well, besides eating. And besides the unending army of bar staff around every corner handing out champagne, rum punch, Bloody Marys, screwdrivers, whiskey sours, wine, and the occasional "non-alcoholic fruit punch" (For more *ambiance,* try the Starlight Lounge or the Neon Bar or the Stripes Bar.).

And then there's everybody's other favorite: shopping! There were stores galore, and sellers of gold and silver chains and other jewelry in kiosks on every deck. Not being a shopper myself, I can only speculate, but there must have been some really great deals, because most of the people I met around the ship were burdened with bulging shopping bags.

Art aficionado? Go check out the Art Gallery and sign up for the drawing/contest to win a Picasso! No thanks, I think I'll pass...

If you are a night owl and can tear yourself away from the Gala Midnight Buffet, you might want to go to one or more of the shows. And don't worry about your kidlet. Just deposit him in "babysitting" (for a small fee of invisible $ on your *sign & sail* card) where you can leave him until 3am!!!

So, you see, a Fun Day at Sea really is a fun day (and night) at sea. Even for a non-smoking, non-drinking, non-gambling, non-shopping stick-in-the-mud like me. Because on a cruise, particularly on a Cruise to Nowhere, you have a luxury unmatched in your everyday life: Time. Time to sit and enjoy the timelessness of time. Without a timetable.

1 comment:

jlbo1981 said...

OMG!!!! I am so totally jealous. What I would give for timeless timelessness. You may not have cruised anywhere but it sure sounded wonderful.