I called my long time best friend last fall and ran the idea of just the two of us getting away for a vacation. We were turning fifty and had been best friends for over three decades so why not get away? Our wives were for it, I turned the planning over to Dave and BAM!! We had a seven day Caribbean cruise booked for early April. We were both pumped about the idea and couldn’t wait for it to get here. We departed Iowa on a unseasonably cold April Friday amongst snow showers, flying to sunny and warm Fort Lauderdale Florida. Man…what a trip. Our flights went smoothly. Time flies (no pun intended) when you’re 30,000 feet in the air, drinking beer and swapping lies and memories with your best friend.
We touched down in Fort Lauderdale at eleven at night, picked up our luggage and made our way to the hotel shuttle…with a warm and balmy breeze slowly thawing our middle-aged frozen Midwest bones. Life is good. God is great.
I’ve never taken a cruise before. We were on Royal Caribbean’s goliath ship Oasis of the Sea’s…weighing in at 255,000 tons and longer than the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier (but half as lethal…). It. Is. Massive.
It has a machine that makes 4000 rolls an hour (I couldn’t keep up with it but I tried!!). The pool for its diving show is 17.9′ deep…making it the deepest pool on any cruise ship. It takes five million gallons of water to fill its multiple pools. It manufacturers 110,000 pounds of ice…A DAY (that’s a lot of daiquiris and pina colada’s). There’s 3,300 miles of electrical cable throughout the ship. There are 186 bartenders, many of whom I grew very fond of. There’s Dean, Jose, Ariel, Nikoletta, Dean II, Sampson, Mister Blurry, Misses Blurry & “That GUY!!”…all wonderful, hardworking, patient and professional.
We boarded and quickly started taking photos and enjoying the ship, even while in port.
The locals caught wind of me being in town that day and decided to commemorate my appearance (if even on a passing cruise ship…) by getting hitched (some people!!)
Even the mayor of Fort Lauderdale turned out to see me off….
Our state room
Saturday and Sunday were spent cruising towards our first stop, Labadee Haiti. The morning dawned just as a storm was moving out, making it the best sunrise of the cruise.
Once docked we meandered towards the shuttle that would take us to a Royal Caribbean owned, stocked and staffed beach.
The beach was clean. The water…warm and salty. The sky…blue. Bugs? Nonexistent. The only issue…they had computer issues at the beverage hut so they couldn’t sell or serve alcohol for around 45 minutes. Apparently even Paradise has IT issues from time to time.
Realism is just around the corner. This high wall topped with razor wire was a stark reminder of what lies behind it…kept from our view.
The cruise was an international affair. I rode a shuttle with some Israeli kids, just about died in a Jeep with an Alabaman driving like a bat out of hell, ate supper with a couple of ladies from Thailand (who thought Dave looked like John Travolta…and they weren’t drinking….), soaked up some rays with some Jordanians and broke bread with Jorge and Fariba from Miami. I love listening to their stories. Like the room attendant who’s saving up his money to buy property in his country then build an apartment building and become a landlord, or our room attendant who’s been working for the cruise line for ten years. Those folks working on the ship work eight months (seven days a week) then get two months off. It’s hard work, they earn their keep and they’re doing a wonderful job of it.
Here I am assisting a lady at the pool with proper form….or so it would seem.
One little thing bothered Dave and I on the cruise…and that was perhaps the perception that we were a “couple” and not a couple of married men with wives and kids at home or in college. About the only time it surfaced was when the cruise photographers (they’re everywhere) would ask us to pose together. I get it. They want to sell photo’s of couples who are celebrating an anniversary, or honeymoon or special evening, and its something that if we had, had our wives with us we would have taken advantage of as they’re good photos. One evening, as Dave and I made our way to the main dining room in our Sunday best, one photographer wouldn’t take “no” as our answer to a posed photo. After three forced poses of “back to back” now “face me with your hands in your pockets” with Dave and I grimacing for each one….I announced “…and now one in our action crime fighting pose!!” Dave, not missing a beat, followed suit. The photographer looked at us…paused, shrugged his shoulders and took the below photo. Consequently…we were never asked to pose again the rest of the week.
….but this is how we really are…laid back besties.
Until next time…God bless and thanks for coming along!