Still Swaying After All These Years, or How I Came to Love Cruises: Everyday Magic, Day 452

Yesterday, I woke up on water only to travel by land and air the long way home, exchanging endless summer for definitely winter. The night before on the ship, moving fast through 40 mph winds, I slept deeply, rocked in the rough cradle, so it was no wonder that I couldn’t stop swaying afterwards, or at least, feeling like I was. It helped me to hear that my sister Lauren was also having trouble locating her land legs.

Today, awake in Kansas where a light snow has dusted the ground, I’m sitting still and yet not so still. The ocean moves inside me. Either that, or my equilibrium is shot to hell. But then again, we are so much made of water that it’s no surprise how easily we’re prone to move in tune with water.

I told Ken last night how astonishing the ocean was from the vantage point of being in the middle of it. “It’s like suddenly being on the top of a 14,000-footer mountain in the Rockies when you’ve never seen mountains before,” I explained, not bothering to add the high altitude factor. “Only it’s more than that,” I continued, “because we’re made of water, and we came from water, so it’s the ultimate way to come home.” Having never been in the middle of the ocean before, he couldn’t fully understand, but I hope one day he gets to experience this.

As for me, what I treasured most was simply watching the water as well as having good talks and hanging with my family. I could have watched the water for hours, and at some points, I did, once even falling asleep on my balcony while staring at the moving blue body all around.

My beautiful niece and daughter

Being with the sea rolled in sharp contrast at times with being on the ship, particularly when I turned on the TV to see some of the worst Karaoke performers on one channel and the final stages of the “Hairy Man Contest” on another (which included each man dancing with a giant chess piece and then leading a roomba line). At dinner one night, our waiter decided to multiply whatever we ordered. When one of us asked for a little extra lobster, she got a second lobster dinner, plus a steak dinner. Dozens of passengers strolled with exotic drinks in coconuts. On elegant-dress-up night, people wore everything from evening gowns and heels to sun dresses with fuzzy slippers. Neon, gambling, chocolate, rum, bikinis, and room service abounded.

There are also magical moments via the ship: discovering the daily towel animal on my bed, talking with the dining room hostess from Belarus, walking with my mother from stem to stern, meeting an avid biker from Denver in the hot tub and talking prairie and stars with him, doing yoga with my niece on the top deck one morning, giggling with my daughter in the dark late at night, watching the room move across the water, talking with my sisters, joking with my nephew, and smiling back and forth with Suhendri, our beloved room steward who even helped groom me (“Caaa-reen, you must go back to your room and wash the sand out of your eyes”). I even enjoyed our family posing for its glamour shot (“We look like nice people when we dress up,” I told my mother).

Whatever the surreal moments are of cruising on a ship with 3,000 passengers and crew members — not to mention a dozen bars and nightclubs, a live Newlywed game, and big food everywhere — the primal and pervasive beauty of the sea won me over. So despite my fears of hating the cruise and feeling trapped at sea, I found I love the cruise, and I would probably love most cruises (except in seasick-inducing weather) for the simple reason that they happen on oceans.

Will I do it again? Yes, although a smaller, less-party-city-oriented ship would be nice along with more time at sea. The water is a magnet, and who am I to resist it? In any case, I’ve gotta go because I have a bath waiting for me.