Way back in January, my boyfriend surprised me with a lovely present: a cruise vacation.
Richard loves cruises. Whenever I get my new issue of Travel & Leisure in the mail, he skips all of the articles and looks at the cruise ads. He’s already sailed on dozens of cruises from countless lines on various continents.
So it was no surprise that this cruise fiend was hellbent on taking me on a cruise.
Between his 100 hour work weeks and my limited vacation time, we were only able to go on a three day cruise to Ensenada, Mexico. It wasn’t my dream destination, but I was happy to get out of the house, go somewhere new and finally get some nice R&R time with my lovely boyfriend.
Food and Dining
Ok, it’s not Michelin fine dining, but I have to say the cruise food impressed me.
Restaurants in cruises are built to resemble fine dining establishments. Some restaurants even require formal suit and gown wear to enter the premises, but thanks to us casual Americans, I think this rule is being phased out. Richard and I dressed to impress, but we were surprised to see a couple in shorts and flip flops next to us.
In addition to the nice sit-down dinners with the four course menu, there were buffets, pizza parlors and coffee shops.
Basically, shit tons of food.
While it was great to grab a piece of hot, piping pizza at any time of the day and evening, it was terrible for my waist line. I think I gained 5 pounds in just 3 days from being on a cruise. It’s pure gluttony.
Stuff to Do
Everyday the cruise gives you a schedule detailing all of the activities available for the day. Foot acupuncture, cooking lessons, ice sculpting, or a broadway-esque show–you name it, the cruise probably has it.
After becoming horrifically seasick running on the treadmill, we gave up the gym and opted for the library. Richard and I spent most of our free time reading there. Yes, we’re that lame couple.
We also watched The Martian (woo!) on the gigantic movie theater outside (aptly named movie under the stars), saw a comedy, magic and musical show and attended happy hour almost everyday.
Our room was tidied up three times per day. There were dozens upon dozens of servers waiting on our every need. It was simply excellent service and all without the need to tip (since it’s included in the initial fee).
I never, ever, ever get seasick.
But oh man. I really felt it on this cruise.
The ship is 15 floors and houses 4,000 people. I always imagined being on a vessel that huge must feel like being on land.
But oh, how wrong I was.
I felt every lurch. Every plummet. Every wave.
The worst was when I actually got off the ship. My body had become so accustomed to the constant swaying of the boat that when I came onto stable land my brain went out of balance. I had extreme dizziness and vertigo for three days post-cruise. Not fun.
On a cruise, water and iced tea are provided free of charge. Booze, however, costs extra money. Mary spent a good chunk of money on buying alcohol, and she was not proud. Oh no.
She also spent way too much on her drug of choice: coffee.
And Finally, Mexico
When I arrived in Ensenda riding the bus to go to the famous natural geyser, La Bufadora, I could only think:
Holy shit, this looks just like Southern California!
Flat, clay houses in faded orange and yellow. Arid, desert terrain. Shopping centers with Office Max, 7-11, McDonalds and Costco. There was even a dude selling flowers near the freeway ramp. Juice stands on the corner.
I didn’t feel like I was in another country. At. All.
As expected, La Bufadora was a tourist trap nightmare (so many shops and hawkers!) where you could buy fake bags, fake jewelry, and even drugs (like painkillers without a prescription). Almost everybody spoke extremely fluent English.
I know Ensenada isn’t very far from Southern California, but damn, this was ‘culture’ shock in itself.
“Oh look, smoked clams! May we have two smoked clams please?” I wandered over to the vendor and eyed two beautiful smoked clams stuffed with salsa, garlic and cliantro.
“That will be 7 dollars miss.”
“7 DOLLARS!? For two smoked clams? Jesus Christ. Fine. I want the two roasting on the grill right there and I’d like to sit at this plastic table here.”
“Oh no miss,” he inched up to me. “I can hook you up. With better clams. A better table. Let me take you upstairs.”
“No, really, I just want the two clams I’m staring at. Right now. Look,” I pointed. “Just give me those and we’re good.”
“Senorita,” he repeated. “Really, let me sit you down, get you in on the clam hook up”
Finally I lost my patience and went to the vendor across the street. Although he also charged 7 bucks, at least he just took my money and gave me the damn clams.
This is why I hate tourist infested travel zones.
Despite the local onslaught of hawkers and sellers, the ocean view was actually quite nice. Gazing at the jagged cliffs and the churning waves was way more entrancing than the blowhole itself.
Mexico was extremely stressful and, quite frankly, I don’t know if I could go again. I know that Mexico City and other tourist destinations (such as the Riveria) might offer a more authentic experience, but good god. Going to Mexico and paying Los Angeles prices for drinks, food and accommodations felt extremely wrong.
Tacos and beer there? They cost more than they do in Los Angeles. Rip. Off.
Cruising? Yes or No?
I hate to say it, but I’m a landlubber. I like to travel on land, and that’s final.
I do, however, think cruising is an EXCELLENT way to travel on a budget. Food, hotel and transportation are fully provided for–I mean, it’s just a crazy good deal considering all the perks and amenities you get.
I do believe that some destinations are also better suited for cruising, such as Alaska, Fiji and the Caribbean. When you need to island hop or explore by boat, you might as well just take a cruise and get comfort, food, and great service all bundled into one package.
So while I wasn’t as cruise crazy as my boyfriend by the end of the trip, I’m definitely up to try a cruise again. Someday.
Have you ever been on a cruise? What did you think?