This is the third in a four-part series on a first-time cruising experience.
Have you ever been to one of those all-you-can-eat buffets where you eat about five plates more food than you should? Did you have dessert? Multiple desserts? When you left, did you have a snack and start planning your next meal?
If you answered yes to all of these questions, then we're probably related. If we're not related, then you must have been on a cruise.
When I got off the ship at the end of our cruise, I never wanted to see food again. One day, perhaps in September, I'm thinking about finally making room for a saltine cracker. But, for now, I still feel like I swallowed one of the ship's lifeboats -- look like it, too. I ate so much that we actually stopped and plundered a passing Royal Caribbean ship so that my fellow passengers also would be able to eat.
As I mentioned before, we had smuggled an awful lot of rum-flavored mouthwash on board, so we had plenty to drink. Unfortunately, the only thing you really mix into the rum-flavored mouthwash was lemonade that was free and readily available throughout the ship. This was a necessity since the ship's drinks were pretty with their little umbrellas and such, but they lacked punch. In fact, I'm pretty sure you could have served them in a daycare.
But the pretty drinks took a backseat to the eating anyway, and that's because the food was not just free and everywhere, but it was pretty darn good. The only meal I didn't particularly enjoy was our first night in the grand dining room -- but that was just because it was formal night, so we had to dress in uncomfortable clothes, such as a tie that prevents you from swallowing things like whole chickens. Yep, I had to actually chew my food. I think the ship could stand to ditch formal night, or let uptight people get their own boat.
In the grand dining room, the wait staff from all over the world was extremely attentive and engaging. They did magic tricks and sang. In fact, the entire dining experience would grind to a halt while the entire staff performed for a couple minutes each night. On formal night, they all sang, "That's Amore!"-- or as my wife calls it, "The Pizza Pie Song." So we have folks from Serbia, Romania, Thailand and elsewhere singing an Italian song. Come to think of it, it sounded about the same as when they inevitably sang "Happy Birthday" to someone each night, which sounded a lot like the fa-ra-ra-ra-ra Chinese restaurant scene in "A Christmas Story."
I believe it was formal night when we introduced ourselves to the late-night pizza. It was perhaps 1 or 2 in the morning when we decided to give it a shot. This was the only time during the cruise that we encountered a surly worker -- which is pretty amazing when you consider the onboard staff numbers nearly a thousand. Then again, if I came from a poor country like he did, I might get a little surly myself catering to the gluttonous whims of over-indulging Americans in the wee hours of the morning.
Since I totally understood where he was coming from, I ditched the pizza and got some ice cream.
But the best part of the eating was that no matter what you ate or where you ate it -- which half the time for us was overlooking the ocean -- you just left your plate and silverware and whatever else right there where you were sitting. I'm starting to think the increase in America's obesity rate and laziness may be directly proportional to the increased success of the cruising industry.
I'd give the onboard dining a definite A-plus, but that could have something to do with being able to look out upon a vast blue ocean with no troubles in sight while I ate. We saw dolphins and birds, but not some of the more exotic creatures of the ocean such as sharks, whales and used syringes.
Actually, I did finally see a whale on the final day of the cruise. Unfortunately, it wasn't outside our window. It was in the mirror.
Next week, Chris sums up the cruising experience in the final installment of the series.
Chris Johnson is an independent correspondent. Connect with him at Facebook.com/KudzuKidWriting or firstname.lastname@example.org.