Where's the Fun in Cruising?

| Wednesday, 02 Dec. 2009

Today's cruise ships have more activities to keep you happy from waking to waning

When Mrs. Kuki and I first got married I promised her a cruise after our first 10 years of wonderful wedded bliss. When our 10th wedding anniversary finally arrived she hinted about going someplace she had never been before. I said "how about the kitchen?" Well, I found out my sick sense of humor would only get me so far.

"What about that cruise you promised me after we'd been happily married for 10 years?" she asked me. "The key word in that question is 'happily'," I said, and yes, I got slapped.

And it was all just an excuse, a typical avoidance technique by someone who had never cruised and was afraid to "take the plunge," so to speak. What was I worried about? I'll tell you. I thought I would be bored silly!

And I couldn't have been more wrong. On today's cruise ships there are activities to keep you happy from waking to waning. You can begin your day with a work out in a fully equipped gym, or you can take a few turns around the jogging track. Okay, I normally begin with a jog around the breakfast buffet, but I do load extra food into my shorts to add a degree of difficulty.

The key to enjoying your shipboard activities is to plan ahead. The very first time you enter your cabin, on the first day of your cruise, there will be a ship's newsletter waiting for you. These are delivered to your cabin daily, and they list all the activities scheduled for that particular day.

Depending on your ship, the choice of activities can vary from scuba off the swim platform on the Seabourn Spirit to rock climbing or ice skating on Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas. Many ships feature guest lecturers (usually on such itineraries as Alaska, the Panama Canal or Europe) to fill you in on the areas you're visiting. Most ships have a library, and many ships offer full-screen movies in a theater. There are many ships with Internet cafes and computers on board where you can take computer classes.

Here are some of the shipboard options the major cruise lines use to fill your days at sea.

  • Common to all of the major cruise lines is a nightly showroom entertainment featuring "Vegas style" production shows, some headline entertainers, comedians, magicians etc.

  • Casino gaming is standard on most ships, other than those too small to dedicate an area to them (the exception being Disney Cruise Lines and those that only sail in waters where gambling is illegal -- American Hawaii). Ship casinos typically offer table games such as Blackjack, lots of slot machines, and usually one craps table and one roulette wheel.

  • Daily Bingo games are available everywhere, with some of the cruise lines featuring snow ball jackpots which build until the last night of the cruise -- I've seen people win as much as $8000. On Carnival ships the grand prize for the final night of bingo is usually a free seven-day cruise for two.

  • Art auctions can be found on most ships. I see a lot of people attending these auctions, so they must be pretty popular, though it's not my personal cup of tea. I've often thought if I could get the list of people who actually purchase art at these auctions I could probably sell them a lot of other useless stuff.

  • Some ships present passenger talent shows. Auditions are held to choose the participants, and the show is generally pretty well attended. I've seen some wonderful talent at these shows and I've witnessed some acts that should have stayed in the shower, behind closed doors.

Each cruise line has its version of different passenger participation games. One of everyone's top favorites seems to be the Newly Wed/ Not so Newly Game. Here the Cruise Director will get four volunteer couples from the audience, ask them semi-embarrassing questions, and let the laughs fall where they may.

Carnival's first night's "Welcome Aboard Show" features their signature "Bed Time Story" where the Cruise Staff works hard to get passengers involved. On sea days they also feature many different poolside games which run the gamut from odd relay races, to "hairy legs" and "belly flop" contests.

Royal Caribbean has their signature evening game for passengers, "Novel Quest" which draws huge crowds when it's held. And why not? It's fun to watch people willingly embarrass themselves in front of a crowd. I really enjoy myself, as I seem to fit in anywhere people are acting like fools.

Horseracing is another fairly common activity on cruise ships. No, no one actually has horses running around the ship. They use small cutouts of horses, normally placed on a pole or stand, and the movement of the horses is decided with throws of the dice. The races feature paramutual wagering, in most cases just a dollar or two per bet, so they're really just for fun.

On Caribbean cruises Royal Caribbean takes horse racing a step further. They auction off the horses near the beginning of the cruise, and let things build towards the owner's race near the end of the cruise. I've seen horses sell for everywhere between $15 to $600. The money raised at the auction goes to the "owners" of the horse who wins the Owner's Derby. Passengers are encouraged to form consortiums to purchase the horses, and then they are given possession of the ponies for the remainder of the week. They name and decorate their ponies, and parade them around the ship during the cruise. I've always found this to be great fun, and highly recommend making a purchase on your next RCI cruise. I know many loyal RCI cruisers who have their horse decorating packages ready for their next cruise along with their cruise wear. I'm one of them. I have my Kuki-moose antlers ready.

These are just a few samples of shipboard activities. There are also trivia contests, bridge tournaments, golf tournaments, pool games like basketball and volleyball, sing along piano bars... the list goes on and on! So, if you have never taken a cruise all I can say is "Follow your dream!" unless it's the one where you're sitting in your office in your underwear. Bored? NO WAY! Trust Kuki. It ain't going to happen!

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