I guess it’s not breaking news anymore, having been mentioned in my last two columns, that our spring break vacation this year was a cruise. What I haven’t mentioned yet is if we actually cruised TO somewhere. Because as you may know, there are cruises that don’t wind up anywhere except back at the home port at the end of the voyage.
These are known as “cruises to nowhere,” and my sons 3, 4 and 5 all think that sort of trip would just be one step shy of heaven. Heaven being, of course, going on a cruise to nowhere WITHOUT mom and dad, who are always insisting on boring activities such as showering or sleeping.
We, however, chose a cruise that did wind up going somewhere, although, when you factor in my mother-in-law and father-in-law, who cruised with us, the seven of us never wound up in the same somewhere. That is, we all disemboated (or whatever the term is for getting off a ship) and partook of different excursions and experiences at each port.
Our first stop was the Bahamas. We docked in Nassau as the sun was starting to come up, right about when No. 3 and No. 4 sons were heading to bed. Just kidding. But probably not by much, considering they showed up at my cabin at 8 a.m. with three-quarters closed eyelids and spectacularly grumpy dispositions, just the right ingredients for tons of fun on our excursion, the Clear Kayak Adventure.
(How grumpy were they? Well, trying to be a thoughtful dad, and knowing it would too great an exertion at such an early hour for them to ride the elevator up three decks to the breakfast buffet, I’d brought some food to my cabin for them. And they bellyached about the selection! Why? Because I hadn’t brought anything from the 24-hour pizzeria! What the heck was I thinking!?)
As we walked down the gangway to the dock, people were being approached three or four times by cheery ship’s photographers to stop and stand still for snaps with costumed crew members, or next to little signs in the shape of a ship’s wheel, or while donning caps like the one the Skipper wore in “Gilligan’s Island.” But looking us over, the photographers wisely opted not to pressure us to pause and pose -- that’s how grumpy my boys looked.
As we stood on the dock getting instructions from our tour guide, I sized up the crowd of Clear Kayak Adventure-ers. Since the kayaks were two-person vessels, and since I wasn’t going to foist either of my grumpy teenagers into a kayak with any fellow passenger (or into mine, for that matter) I knew I was going to wind up in a kayak with a stranger. Whereas, that person would wind up in a kayak with someone not at all strange.
We strolled to our catamaran and motored out to the kayaking location. There wound up being only one other group of three that had to split up -- an 11-year-old and his parents. That’s how I wound up in a see-through kayak with Charmaine from Tennessee. Who was very charming (Charmin’ Charmaine!) and all but who really wasn’t the least bit interested in paddling. Well, not a kayak, anyway.
No. 3 and No. 4 took off to the starboard or leeward or whatever was the opposite direction of Charmaine and me. This wasn’t because they were trying to avoid us. This was because Charmaine was content to let the waves and currents carry us where they would, even if it meant winding up in Cuba.
Eventually I managed to get our kayak near to that of Charmaine’s son and husband, and we had a pretty nice time. I didn’t tip the kayak over, I saw some interesting fish through the boat’s clear bottom, and I got Charmaine back on the catamaran in time to be near the front of the line for plastic cup-fulls of rum punch.
For my boys, the ride back to the dock was the highlight of the excursion, because as we glided past Paradise Island, our captain told us which celebrities owned each of the gi-normous oceanside mansions. One of them belonged to Beyonce and Jay-Z. Who, at that very moment, happened to be in Cuba.
They got some political and media heat over this, but I understand they were exonerated when they explained they’d arrived there in a clear kayak that neither was the least bit interested in paddling.