This is an extremely long post, and you probably won’t care much about it. It’s more posted for family members and those that wanted a summary of what went on.
This past Christmas break I got to go on a cruise. It was my grandparents 50th anniversary and they treated their family along with kids and girlfriends and everyone else to a beautiful 5 day cruise down from Florida to Jamaica to Grand Caymen and to Mexico. It was quite a trip so I thought I would post about it (along from the encouragement of my uncle) and take you through some of the experiences/lessons/sights that I went through. I usually don’t use this blog as a journal of experiences for the sake of them, but I think that I learned some valuable stuff on the trip also.
It began with a flight to Orlando where I was sitting beside both my dad and brother who was both scared of flights. My brother was having trouble sleeping days before the plane because he didn’t like the thought of. I took advantage of that of course, being the older brother, and told him stories that weren’t true and facts that would make flying illegal. I didn’t think I would be as so lucky to sit beside both my brother who I tormented and my dad who had his own list of reasons for not liking planes. So as the flight carried on I was getting antsy like I always do when my knees are pressed up to the seat in front of me, it’s hot and the people next to me are freaking out; my dad decided that a scotch would serve to calm his nerves a bit. I guess he also thought that a scotch would serve well landing on my pants because I was changing in the cramped bathroom only minutes after he ordered it. I didn’t mind too much when my dad called the flight attendant over, at least he felt bad and was going to do his part to help clean up. But all I heard was something about another scotch to replace the one that spilt, and I was left fending for myself. A great start.
Catching up with some of the family I haven’t seen in a long time was a great experience, and probably the best part of the whole trip. My cousin had recently got married and had a baby so I got to meet the husband and their baby. I got to hang out with her sister and their parents. It was good to catch up, have some laughs and experience the royalty together. It is odd coming back to family in such gaps. I see these cousins every few years and you always notice crazy differences in them or life changing events that forever mark them. My one cousin (Melissa) is now married and has a baby. Last time I remember I was just coming out of high school, or in my last year, and we were talking about those kinds of troubles and that kind of life. What a crazy difference there is. Now her sister (Katie) is in her first year of college, likes boys, likes hockey and is all grown up. I had some fun teasing her about all the cute boys without shirts on the cruise, I also taught her some Canadian dance moves. It’s encouraging to watch people grow though and peek in on their lives everyone in a while and see where they are. Sometimes it makes me wonder how they see me, and if they see me as growing or the same or anything at all.
My grandparents are awesome to be around. They are the sweetest couple ever and are so giving. As if buying for our flights and cruise doesn’t say enough. I learn what real genuine love it when I am around them. After fifty years later you can still see that they love each other more than anything. It is awesome to see, especially with what love seems to come down to at this age. Although my grandpa’s jokes about my grandpa are endless, you still see such security and love in each other when they are with or talk about each other.
My other cousins who are from Sarnia came with us, Roland and JJ. I grew up with them around and we got to hang out lots as little kids. As we all got older we slowly started to go our own way. Roland continued to love fishing and I started to do a lot more ‘churchy stuff.’ We all went to school for different things and have watched each other grow up. I think they discovered a side of me on this trip that they never knew was there. It’s called the Living-in-close-quarters-can’t-escape-can’t-breathe-so-I-get-annoying Nathan. We had some really fun times though experiencing this different sites together and just spending time together that we don’t seem to make as much time for back at home anymore. It made me realize how much I miss those guys and that I want to spend more time with them in the future.
My parents, Naomi and Jordan also came on the trip. I think this was a great bonding time for all of us (even though I think my brother wouldn’t talk to me for most of the trip, something about me not being nice to him). We had great conversations and got to spend time together which is quite rare lately for us with all of our work schedules, with me being gone to school for three years and Naomi is gone this year. So it was good to spend some time with them. I loved getting to know my Uncle Doug and my Aunt Sue in a way that I don’t remember knowing them before, a more of an intellectual, intimate relationship that went beyond me fake laughing at their jokes because I either didn’t understand or I just didn’t like the humour. Not that he isn’t funny, because he’s absolutely hilarious, I was just to young to get anything probably. There is something about being around couples for a long period of time that make me appreciate marriage for what it is. I really admired them as a couple and how they treated each other; especially catching my uncle Doug a few times going down in the middle of the night to grab some food “for his wife” (so he says). You really knew he loved her then to make those kinds of sacrifices.
We went with Royal Carribean, and it was on the Mariner of the Seas. This boat was one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen in my life. There was well over 4000 people on the boat. 3000 ticket buyers and 1200 staff. They had over 35 chefs alone. Yes, that was important, I ate about 4-6 full meals a day, meals of the best possible food that you could eat. The service was also phenomenal, there was always someone there to help you in anything you needed and everyone was so friendly. I thought it was cool that they had over 55 countries represented on the boat. The architecture of this boat was what impressed me the most. The way it all came together and how intracet the detail was blew me away, the ocean was losing its appeal because I just wanted to stare at the all the stairwells and hanging art and lights and gold and all that stuff. I couldn’t believe that I was on a boat. There was at least six or seven different restaurants, a library, a casino, a thousands person auditorium, a massive lounge that could hold at least 500, a piano bar restaurant, a two story dance club, an ice rink, a full strip of stores like a mall, a bunch of pools and hot tubs, a spa, a rock climbing wall, a weight room and to be honest I think I missed much of what was on that boat. It was amazing.
Every night we would eat, all dressed up and Augie from the Philippines would serve us and bring us remarkable patters of as much food as we could eat. We found out later that our boat ate more food than any boat they had before us, or some kind of statistic like that. All this to say, yes I did go to the front of the boat (without a girl, my girlfriend became my girlfriend after we bought the tickets, so she missed out….) and sing Celine Dion’s Titanic song as loud as I can. It was a crazy experience, because at night its pitch dark and the wind makes you feel like you will end up in the water. I don’t think I would have trusted Jack.
I wrote a little about my experience in Jamaica here. It was a bit different. I wasn’t expecting it at all. It was a very poor country and the people from the country that were around where the boat had one thing in mind, to make as much money off you as possible. My mom ended up spending over $200 for my sister’s braids, when she could have spent a fraction of that. For some reason both my parents decided it would be cool to get braids to with their short hair, so that they did. We got a tour by a guy named Genie and he took us all around and showed us some cool things. Grand Caymen was a bit different. It was completely destroyed by the hurricane a few years ago and was trying to clean itself up. We went to hell there (a weird set of rock formations) and went snorkelling in the salt water, which was pretty sweet, but rather than that there was really nothing overly exciting about that island. Mexico was probably my favourite and for one reason only. My sister and I somehow escaped the over-worried parents and got out into the real city, I bargained a buy down to a cheap price and we rented a scooter. We got to drive around downtown Cozumel, Mexico and see it for what it really was. We drove through villages and saw things that they don’t exactly brag about in the tourist parts of the country. It was an experience I’ll never forget. My sister took tons of pics whie riding on the back, so hopefully they won’t let me forget. It makes me a lot more grateful for what I have.
One of the deals that we had going on this trip was that me and my sister and my mom were going to compete in the karaoke competition. I told them that I would easily beat them despite my inability to sing, but I knew how to but on a show I told them. The first night my mom was the only one that got to sign up, but I got the privilege with Melissa’s husband to be one of the judges. My plan was playing out well; I’ll just give my mom a crappy score. So the tree judges and I were pretty harsh but honest I felt giving crappy scores to those that sucked and good scored to those that were good. I gave my mom a good score except on performance because she was boring, but that was followed by loud booing, throwing of objects and threats of abandoning me from my family and father. In total my mom got an average of about 34/45, so not too bad. My mom however, despite my father’s newfound hate for his son’s horrible judging ability, made it to the finals.
The next night my sister and I competed and my uncle Doug and his daughter Melissa also went in the competition. Unfortunately I was the first person that night to compete. So I had to really push hard, and put on a show. That I did. I did Crawling in the Dark by Hoobastank and I ran around and screamed and yelled and tried to sing, and had people clapping and yelling; the typical rock show. I got some claps and cheers and then looked at my numbers and I got such a good score, I blew my mom out of the water, I got about 40/45 total. I was so excited. Then as more people started to compete and go on, I realized that these judges were all pushovers and gave the highest scores to everyone, and within a few performances I was soon forgotten about. I did get the compliment of people doing alternative music don’t usually score high, but that’s about all I got. A guy singing great balls of fire and some cowboy jock took the championship. My sister who made it in the top 100 of Canadian idol didn’t come close, and she was extremely good. So what I’m trying to say is that I should have beaten my mom and me and my sister got ripped off because the judges sucked.
All bitterness aside, my mom got to compete in the finals which was held in an auditorium with lights and video and channelled to all the 3000 people’s television around the boat. They put on such a good show with interviews and animations and all kinds of things going on, I was so impressed. My mom didn’t win that one. For some reason balls of fire was more appealing than hotels in California but the experience was so much fun, and we all enjoyed ourselves so much.
I think I spent too much time in the casino. I think everyone in my family walked away with more money they walked in with but me. I have this weird love for roulette even though I never win at it. It was still fun and my uncle almost made it to the finals for the blackjack tournament. I did some clubbing with my cousin who seems to love that scene. So I got my groove on and impressed all the ladies, then broke their hearts when I told them my heart was elsewhere. For the most part I spent my time in one of three places. Either I was in the food rooms eating as much food as I could possibly eat, sitting on the deck reading a book in the sun or lounging in my room enjoying the quietness and the fact that I didn’t have to think about anything (except of course Rachel, who I am always thinking about).
Overall I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed. There were a number of reasons for this. It was difficult to go into these beautiful countries that have been completely ravaged by poverty. There were so many hurting people and hurting conditions in these countries but for some reason we were there lounging and consuming everything we possibly could. Then when we would get to these countries we were encouraged to stick to the tourist parts (which were nothing more than Caribbean versions of America) and we’re robbed of any actual travel experience. It was difficult to enjoy myself so much when all around me people were hurting. For that reason, and that reason alone, I doubt I could do a cruise again the same way. If I did it again I would have broader agenda’s when I got to the countries, something more than just doing more consuming. Being on the water, one time seeing dolphins jump by the boat, being in five different countries in just one week was such a cool feelings. I got to meet new people and learn new things and I’m so grateful I got to go. I do know one thing. I hate luxury. I don’t like fancy food. I don’t like people putting my napkin on my lap. I don’t like coming home to a perfectly made bed with the towels folded into some kind of animal and a fresh mint on my pillow. I don’t like dressing up to eat. I don’t like gourmet foods. I don’t like ungrateful snotty rich people that get mad because their ice melted. I don’t like it at all. I want a big plate of food and I’ll whipe my face myself from the napkin that is on the table. I will make my own bed, and I will make it sloppy so it doesn’t feel new and it feels like mine. I want towels that are soft and feels worn because they’ve been washed five hundred times. I don’t like mints. I like eating with my pajamas on. I like Big Macs. I like people that are grateful for every bite they are going to consume because its food. While the experience was unbelievable it helped me understand very clearly that I couldn’t live a life of ‘niceness’ and ‘luxury.’ I want to be dirty sometimes, and I want to be forced to eat food I don’t like, and I want to be uncomfortable at times and I want to be grateful for every bite of food I have. It’s way to easy to forget about others when we live like that, all we can think about is how much we can consume and to make sure what we are consuming is of the greatest quality.
The experience was valuable in all aspects of the trip. I love my family so much, and I learn so much being around them. I loved the ship and the way that it floated and moved along the water. I loved the people on the islands and the way that they would follow me until I left to sell me a two dollar painting. I loved eating all I could eat. I loved it all. Thanks Grandpa and Grandma for giving me an awesome experience that I’ll never forget.