Boating Adventures | "Relaxing, Recharging, and Appreciating the Little Things" | by Vicki Totten

Turning the Cistern into a Gallery
One of the benefits of being retired is the ability to take a last minute trip. And if you happen to enjoy being near the water year round, that can also be a good time to snag a cruise deal to some place where you can wear those shorts and sandals just a little bit longer. Plus, taking a cruise can be a great way to unwind and be pampered, which is exactly what we were looking for when I booked our recent cruise out of Ft. Lauderdale.

November and December are very busy months for us. My artist husband has an annual studio sale in December in our home and in his pottery studio on our property. That means that in the weeks leading up to the show he spends every waking hour in the studio and I spend my time preparing the house and food for this two day annual event that will bring hundreds of people into our home. We turn what we call our "Cistern Room" into a gallery for the event. Even though it held water 100 years ago, the 24' round room is now our kitchen, living, and dining area.

First night of the Show

In order to transform it to a gallery space, we have to first remove all of the furniture. And since all of the furniture was going to already be out, we decided that would be the perfect weekend to add in a house concert at the end of Stan's show.

Within Hours, Transforming the Cistern into a House Concert Space

Even though both events were very successful and fun, when they were over we were exhausted and ready to just kick back and do nothing. So, when I spotted a "fast deal" six night cruise on the Vacations to Go website to Belize, Roatan, and Cozumel for a balcony room for $499 each - I quickly grabbed it.

Our Home for Six Nights

The middle of the Ship.

Perfect Place for a Little Reading...and Sleeping

The trip was exactly what we needed. It was the perfect mix of just hanging out on our balcony drinking our morning coffee or sipping wine as the sun was setting, and then either being entertained or learning something new. In between all of that was the eating and visits to the casino. We went to a line dancing class one day. Another day we went to a cooking demonstration and galley tour. And in the evenings we saw several excellent musical performances.

Cooking Demonstration Preceding the Galley Tour

When docked we went snorkeling in Roatan, took a city tour in Belize, and even got to assist in a sailboat race in Cozumel on a 66' former America's Cup sailboat.

Our 66' Racing Vessel "Stars and Stripes"

Fun Crewing

Winner of the America's Cup in the 1980's

Part of the Crew - some paid and some paying.

But in between ports there was still plenty of time to just sit and read while listening to the ocean as it lapped against the side of the ship. While we did use the gym and the pool, we tended to stay away from the pool areas in particular because they were usually loud and crowded.

While I have probably been on 15 or 20 cruises over the past 30 years or so, this was my first time to cruise with Princess. I had cruised before on Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Carnival, but had hoped I was going to find my new favorite cruise line with Princess. While there was nothing particularly wrong with the line, it didn't win my heart. And there was one area where they really let me down. That was being able to get a cup of coffee the first thing in the morning. Now, that may seem petty, but I need that first cup of coffee in order to function properly. In the past, ordering coffee from room service has always been the best way to get that first cup. Since cruise ships are rather large, it isn't always easy to just pop down to the restaurant and pick one up, and since there is no charge for room service (other than a tip), that has always worked well - until cruising with Princess. It typically took between an hour and an hour and a half for them to bring it after it was requested. Because it was taking so long to get our coffee, I even tried putting out the little card the night before requesting it at a certain time. The results from that effort ranged from them coming an hour after the time I put down on the card to coming an hour earlier than I requested it and waking us up. The funniest effort was the morning they brought us two empty cups and cream. No coffee though.

The coffee challenges, however, would still not keep me from cruising with them again, although I don't think they will be in my top three. I discovered on this trip that in order to begin reaping the benefits that frequent cruisers can get through their loyalty programs, you need to pick a cruise line and stick with it. We met people who were on their 20th or 30th trip with Princess, some who were on week three of back to back week long cruises, and others who cruise three or four times a year. While we didn't get to meet her, we even heard about an 80 year old woman on the ship who had been on a cruise ship for over 1,000 days! According to the people we met who knew her, she had discovered that it was cheaper than assisted living. She had access to the medical staff on board the boat, and the benefits that came with the loyalty program included things like free laundry and internet. The free internet is what would interest me the most since I don't particularly like being disconnected for days at a time.

But as great a trip as it was, we were both happy to head home. As nice as it is to have someone else prepare our meals and to have entertainment at our fingertips, it's even nicer to return home. One downside of cruising before Christmas, however, is the extra poundage that comes from eating all the great food on a cruise, is harder to get off because of all of the holiday eating. No pain, no gain? Or is that pain after the gain? Anyway, at least I know that once I'm home I will be able to get my coffee within five minutes of waking up and I have unlimited internet. I guess that's the other plus about going away. When you come back you have a new appreciation for the little things.

Vicki and husband, ceramic artist Stan Irvin, are both retired professors who have discovered the joys of Rockport and living part-time on their 33' sailboat, while exploring new sailing destinations and adventures.

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