Cruising with the Five Families

Royal Caribbean has a boat called “Adventure of the Seas”. My family and four others embarked on this boat for what we hoped would be a week long adventure at sea! Expectations for a fun time were high and we were not disappointed! The week was great!

It started in Bayonne, NJ. Ahh.. Bayonne in the morning, which smells nothing like victory. Stuck in traffic, waiting behind the eager, hat wearing throng while hoping the people behind you don’t ram you as you navigate the long lines in the heat, jockeying for position and merging into the stream of humanity. And I am not talking about the line of cars angling for the best parking option, I am referring to the lines for the Foodjammer the very first morning on the boat!

But we made it on to the big ship, ran the American Ninja-like obstacle course around and over impossibly large suitcases scattered in the narrow hallways and ultimately found the closet we’d be squatting in for the upcoming week. The tiny room with no window, no ventilation and which was hermetically and electromagnetically sealed so nothing got in or out: no cell phone signal; no stale, vomit infused air; no liberally sprayed perfume in which my teenage girl basks; none of yours truly’s fetching bodily aromas, etc.

Of course, while the Family Z was driving, parking, lugging, navigating, suffocating and boarding the Royal bohemouth we received a continual stream of txt’s from Uncle Frank sharing with us the calm and relaxing breakfast of curry chicken and basmati rice he and his professional cruising family were peacefully enjoying. I will say this now, however, whatever service fee Frank will eventually charge us all for his unbelievable guidance and knowledge of the ship and all things cruising it is not nearly enough! Thank you for shepherding us Frank! Cruise Director Julie is rolling around in her grave! (Ok, had to look her up. She’s not dead. She’s 65 and is a cheese steward in Seattle. So I guess she’s rolling around in Roquefort?)

The first day at sea is a blur… a big ship.. port, aft, safety drills, life boats, so many people walking around with little Dramamine patches behind their ears and wearing multiple, multi-color wristbands. Looked like a day trip from a mental asylum and we were all inmates. I could not wait for dinner and that first vacation martini! Then tragedy struck. Oh the horror! It was not an iceburg.. but the lack of Hendrick’s gin that did me in. And the lack of olives. And a slice of lime with the olives for the next one. What a travesty!! The look on my face must have said it all… the next thing I know, our drink waiter Denny was handing me a pen and pad telling me to write down exactly what I wanted. Four pages later, (I realize now that writing “new mountain bike”, “Taylor Guitar”, “17 yo bottle of Ardbeg”, “world peace” and “Steve Austin Doll with kung fu grip” was wasted on Denny and should have been reserved for Santa) I finally got around to writing the only thing he was interested in reading: “Ketel One Martini, extra dry, up, with olives.” From there on in.. Denny was my man.

Please forgive this commercial interruption:
“This week on ‘The Man with the Black Hair’.. our hero finds himself pinned down in the Foodjammer, against the waffle machine by scantily clad and bountiful Europeans wearing nothing but Speedo’s. Will he be able to slide, scrape and squeeze his body past the smarmy and sweaty mass of humanity to freedom, or will this be the end of the Man with the Black Hair? Tune in to tonight’s episode to find out!

The next day we were at sea! Glorious weather, nothing to do, no wifi, no laptop, the vacation was on! And the towel and chair dance began! Whoever awoke first was to register with the Towel Police – or TP as they are known – to get full background checked for towels to place on available chairs. (By the way, the TP unveiled their newest ad campaign this week: “Not that TP: We Don’t Take Your Shit!”)

The girls would head out to the chairs early and find another already camped out on their respective watch. One morning Evonne found Lisa M relaxing and reading “War and Peace”. She dropped her towels and left and by the time Monica showed up for her shift, Lisa finished Tolsky and was halfway through Shakespeare’s Complete works. I arrived not thirty minutes later to relieve Monica and noticed Lisa just started volume four of Gibbon’s “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”.

The younger kids swam, frolicked, chased, wrestled, slipped and slided, flossed, danced and boogied, ate loads of free ice cream (and loads more that we did not see), ruled the super slides, and cruised the ship showing their colors and successfully neutralized a rival gang on the mini golf course. They were little, gansta ladies and gentlemen meeting for dinner each night for much merriment and reliving of their daily exploits. Royal Caribbean is still at this moment trying to account for the massive loss of bread during our time at sea. Half the wait staff was preemptively sacked over either the egregious mistake in the loaf inventory ledger or the daring theft and smuggling of over 427 loaves of bread in 6 days.

The older children all seemed to get along swimmingly, yes, pun intended. I truly wish I had brought my old baby monitor on board and placed it under their table to eavesdrop on their conversations. Unlike the adult conversations I cannot imagine they talked as much about poop and pink, bubbly ooze draining out of skulls as we did. Why so much talk of pink, bubbly ooze draining out of ears?? They are way too mature for this kind of talk right?

When we were not at sea, chilling and smoking and drinking and sunning and drinking and swimming and drinking and wondering were our children were at all times, the boat did pull into port a couple of days:

Cape Canaveral:
Old men waxing their rockets.

Coco Cay:
Beautiful, hot and I believe we have all lived a new metaphor. You know the one that goes “Out of the frying pan and into the fire”? Well, we now can say “Out of the cay with the stinging jellyfish and into the cay with the shark.” The kids love playing with the feisty jellyfish and adults can handle swimming with 4 foot nurse sharks. Hell, I know that if I were wading peacefully in waist deep Caribbean waters without a care in the world with my three year old daughter in my arms, I’d be perfectly fine watching sharks swim around. I’d be thrilled to see them close enough to touch, or potentially lunge out of the water to grab my little girl like she was a sack of Cinnabons. I know for certain if a four foot shark came from behind me and swam literally between my legs as I walked feeling at one with the world I would most certainly not emit a painfully high pitched shriek like a little girl; I would not leap out of the water fearing for my very life; I would certainly not terrify my little girl and act out a scene from Sharknado and run out of the water like a Jesus lizard. Nope, I would not do any of that. I know in my heart that if a shark swam between my legs I would calmly, even lovingly look down and simply say “Oh twiddly dee” and then lose myself in deep reflection on just how magical is the wonderfully random spectacle that we call life.

Please forgive this commercial interruption:
Tonight on “The Man with the Black Hair”: Our hero faces the toughest decision in his life when he has to choose between facing a sea of child-stinging jellyfish to save a damsel in distress, or plunge into nurse shark infested waters to save his other damsel in distress. Will he make it through the sea of jellyfish an unstung hero? Can he out swim a shark? How can he woo two damsels at once? Find out tonight at 9.

Bahamas and the Syndicate:
Even though we the Five Families were cruising incognito, it seems word got out that we’d be heading to Goodman’s Bay for a day of “west and rewaxation” as Elmer says, plus a bit of fun. The other families made all inquires and got their lieutenants together and they were out in force and ready for us. If they could not coax us into wearing cement shoes or go to swimming with the fishes, they were to at least going to try to take us for all we got.

First, in the port right off the boat it was the Shuttle Brothers and their second and third cousins all vying for a piece of the action. They were all trying to give us a ride, if ya know what I mean! But we made it to our destination without any loses.

Arriving at the beach with no incident, we were then pounced on by Jimmi the Jet Ski, Bennie the Beach Chair and Urkel the Umbrella Guy. Oh these guys were pro’s. No package deals, they were not running no high class resort experience, they were out for all they could get. Trying to rent us the jetskis, then the gas, then the water to ride on. Urkel was renting the umbrella, with a fee to plant it for us, and then said he’d make us an offer we can’t refuse for the shade underneath! And the chair guy, Bennie? Foggetaboutit! He nearly got a fee for the chair and a fee for just sitting down on the damn thing: $5 per cheek! If it was not for the cool, collected and hard nosed negotiations of Frankie P and Black Hair Jason, we’d have been dead. Or worse, we’d be on a beach with no chairs, umbrellas or jetski’s! They were something to watch alright…wheeling, dealing, playing it cool. I stood there like Fredo, backing them up, waiting for Mo Green to stop by and help us out of this situation. But the deal was done, the day went on.

Amanda jumped on and rode the wave runner like a pro; Michael tore off into the distance with a shriek of his engine, realizing after the first wave it was not the engine shrieking but his mom clinging to him for her life. And here’s the magical thing: while Joseph and I were riding the waves by hat blew off. Up and gone. Forty minutes later, Breydan walks up to me and hands my my hat. It was stuck in the rudder of the jet ski. Imagine that??

Back on the beach, Uncle Gobble Gobble floated; the boys attempted to hoist an anchor; Kelsey and Rachel lounged near the water’s edge singing, “Dig dig dig, cover up, cover up, cover up”; Lisa finished the last volume of Gibbon’s series and started (and finished) all of John Grishm’s books before we headed back to the boat.

The final days at sea were awash with a flurry of images:

– Paige running towards me carrying every single bit of clothing and shoes we all packed to seal my victory during the onboard Scavenger Hunt. Way to go Paige!
– The ice skater slamming into the boards and screaming at Joseph and the kids, giving them the delightful scare of their life
– Rachel calling me a f*&king, c*&k sucker after the Mike Pace comedy show (kidding!)
– Cigars in the breeze
– Boogie boarding
– Disco dancing (for some reason?)
– Cloe
– (Please fill in your own memories, I am sure I am missing much!)

I don’t know about you all, but the Family Z not only had a great vacation but we all got along! We had a great time in every possible way, and it was in no small part because of all of you. You, your kids, your company was wonderful! It truly felt like a family gathering each night at dinner, at the pool or at the beach.

As we sat and had dinner on the Friday we returned home, even Rachel looked around and asked, “Where’s the rest of our family?”

It was a great week folks!! Let’s do it again!

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