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Teen Essay Contest Winners!

Here are the winners from the first-ever CruiseMates.com Teen Essay Contest! Congratulations to everyone who entered, all the essays were great!

WINNER
"Cruise Experience"
by Renee Lewis

In January 2000, I went on a cruise to the Caribbean with my family and my cousin Elizabeth. My sister Rachel, Elizabeth and I were very excited to go on another cruise. The best thing about cruising to me is the teen club, where you can meet all different kinds of people, and do all kinds of cool things. When we got on the Carnival Paradise, after flying to Florida, we explored it, including the teen club. The meeting to introduce the teens would be later that night. Next, we went to a place full of the second best thing on a cruise: food! We ate lunch, and then went to the top of the ship to wave to all the deprived people who didn't get to come.

Finally, we set sail, so we decided to go to the teen club at the disco and meet the other teens. After a while, some teenagers showed up. We were all a little nervous, and then we learned everyone's names. The three guys were Avi, Sean, and Blake and the girls were Katie and Kelly. That night was casual, so we got into skirts and went to dinner.

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The next day was an at-sea day, so we met at the disco for activities with the teens. We met two girls named Alex and Anna; they became our best friends on the cruise. Starting on the second day, we fell into a routine we would follow every day. First we would go up to the Lido deck to eat breakfast and maybe see other teens. Then we would meet at the disco, maybe stay for one activity, and then go off on our own. Our favorite hangout was the Sports Deck at the very top of the ship. We'd go up there night and day.

Our second favorite hangout was the pizzeria. The pizza was SO GOOD! It was the best pizza we ever had. We ate there for breakfast, lunch, sometimes dinner, and sometimes just when we got hungry. After we ate lunch with the teen group, we would meet for afternoon tea, the tastiest meal of the day. There are cookies, ice cream, little sandwiches, and cakes and pies. During the late afternoon we would go around the ship and sometimes stop into the teen activities. But what Alex, Anna, Elizabeth, Rachel, and I were really practicing for was the Talent Show.

We choreographed a dance to the song "Drive Me Crazy," and the guys started working on their performance to "No Dignity." About an hour before dinner, we would go to our cabin and get ready for dinner; especially on formal night. All the teens were getting a group portrait taken on the atrium stairs, and our family was getting a portrait in front of one of the cool backdrops. Everyone got dressed in his or her best and it was really exciting.

Now, the most fun part of the entire Paradise cruise: Every night after dinner, every teen and some of the older people would go to the disco and dance until midnight or 1 a.m. We would dance to all different kinds of music and do all different kinds of dances. For me, the disco was the most memorable part of the cruise.

When we reached the ports of call, which were San Juan, Virgin Gorda, Tortola and St. Thomas, I got off with my family and toured the cities. The best overall city was definitely St. Thomas. We went to Coki Beach and snorkeled and even ran into a few of our friends from the ship. By the last day, after the talent show, the daily meetings on the sports deck, the nights of disco dancing, and growing closer to my new friends every day, it was very hard to accept that we would probably never see each other again. We were spread out all over the United States, and there were even some from Canada.

The last morning, an hour or so before we all had to go our separate ways, we met at the pizzeria. We just sat there as each luggage tag color got called, and each person left with a hug goodbye. Our family happened to have the last color called, so we had to watch all our friends leave one by one. I still keep in touch with most of my friends from that cruise. I will never forget that cruise because it was a very special time. We had lots of fun and made great memories.

That was the best vacation I have ever been on, or will ever go on. I hope that someday everyone gets to go on a cruise because it's really magical.

FIRST RUNNER UP
"Playing In Alaska"
by Jocelyn Cheng

Some days, sitting bored in chemistry class, alone on the subway, or just before I fall asleep, sudden flashes of memory transport me back to last summer. I have recollections of seeing the Galaxy and Mercury, on the surface identical twins, rising majestically side by side...Meeting some of the friendliest, most lively people ever, and instantly becoming inseparable ...Canoeing, decked out in full yellow rubber raingear, to the face of Mendenhall Glacier...Eating Oreos while it drizzled, and feeling the spray of the waterfall close by...Seeing lines of people crowding the decks to gaze at Windex-blue Hubbard Glacier...Getting lost on the sixth day of the cruise, laughing so hard with a wonderful boy that we couldn't even find our way to the Grand Buffet...Looking at the stars, so clear at sea, and wondering where the moon had gone...Thinking about the multiple crushes, ever changing, that developed throughout the week...Saying goodbye at 4 a.m. when we went to bed, at 8 a.m. when we took even more pictures, and running frantically to say goodbye again just before we left the ship for the last time.

On the second day of the cruise, we made our way up the Inside Passage, squeezing past forests and mountains and tiny little fishing communities. The counselors, Kim from California (SoCal, not NoCal!, she said), Derek from Halifax, Nova Scotia, and us teens all headed out to the deck to play volleyball. I'm on the volleyball team at my school, so I thought a game would be the usual service, bump, set, spike, and repeat. Wow, was I wrong--this game was anything but standard! For starters, the cheers and high-fives whenever a team scored a point lasted longer than the rally itself. We made up silly, elaborate handshakes and team cheers, including singing, stomping and even some dance moves. People kept switching sides both between and during plays, and once Alex hit the ball on one side, ran under the net, and bumped his own ball back!

Callie asked Derek to say "out and about in a boat", and pretty soon everyone was saying it between hits and serves, comparing themselves to Derek's Canadian accent. It was utter pandemonium and chaos. It was great. A crowd had gathered around the court, and people kept joining our teams, so the court got more and more full, and the game more and more fun. We were all teenagers, except for Andrew, a 21 year old who kept sneaking into Celebrity's teen program. That's how much fun we were having!

Meanwhile, the islands were floating blissfully by, unaware of the excitement on our ship. We were still playing when someone gasped, "look!" and I heard the sound of something gently slapping and spraying water. We all ran to the railing, and caught sight of another orca breaching. It was gorgeous; stark black and white, slick and gleaming, agile despite its bulk. There were dorsal fins in the water, not too far away from us--I counted four, then six of them. All around me, I heard "oohs" and "ahhs" and the click of camera shutters. The whales were playing with each other, dancing back and forth, and gracefully keeping up with the Galaxy. Framed against the backdrop of emerald isles filled thick with trees, and the green waters of the Inside Passage, the whales were the most beautiful things I had ever seen.

The orcas stayed next to us for a while. They weren't doing as much jumping anymore, but their dorsal fins were still quite visible; they almost seemed to be daring us to join them. Since we couldn't, we did the next best thing: we resumed our game, and let the orcas play alongside us. It was almost surreal, and ethereal. It was fantastic.

SECOND RUNNER UP
"The First Day"
by Libby Hawes

I take a deep, bold breath of sea air and stretch my limbs as I stand on the Lido deck of this year's cruise ship. Pushing my rose-colored sunglasses to the top of my head, wiggling my toes in my favorite Adidas sandals, I take it all in. The beautiful Florida port, the warm sun, the fresh air. I have been on many cruises, and my favorite day is always the first day, with its open-minded, free feeling of not knowing what this week may bring. The ship, still tied to the dock, is filling with passengers. In a few hours, the decks will fill with these ambitious passengers, waving to no one in particular, as the ship leaves the port. With crazy Caribbean mixes in hand, we all wave our troubles goodbye, and get ready for an extravagant week of fun and relaxation.

That night, relaxing in the teenage lounge, I love watching my peers walking around by themselves, or in small groups of two or three, hoping to meet up with fellow cruisers, and maybe even find a fling for the week. The slow rocking of the ship, the cool breeze, mixed with the anticipation of what is to come, is almost unbearable. I can close my eyes and be on last year's cruise, cuddling with a boy I know I will not see when the week is over, dancing with my friends to pop songs in the disco, relaxing in the cool pools and stimulating hot tubs. When I open my eyes, a whole new crowd of friends appears, with the same excitement and ambition as me ahead. We will make this week unforgettable. Not as unforgettable, though, as every first day.

THIRD RUNNER UP
"The Best Way to Learn"
by Brittany Taylor

Anyone who has had the opportunity to go on a cruise knows the feeling of true relaxation. Never lifting a finger and being waited on hand and foot! The staff is always happy to help you with anything. They must have a fun job! Or at least that's what I used to think.

I never had given any thought to this until I went on the Carnival Celebration in 1999. It was a Christmas cruise and my family was so excited! All the staff was happy, greeting us, asking if we needed anything, and making sure we were completely satisfied. Of course we were, and at dinner that night our satisfaction rose when we met Nyoman, our busboy.

Immediately we all fell in love with his cheerful young face that was always smiling, and the way he made us all laugh. Not only was he doing his job, but he also cared about us and everyone he met! Since we got to know him well, I am going to share his story that touched my life and changed my appreciation for all cruise staff. Though he always seemed cheerful, this 29-year-old had hardly anything to be happy about.

He began his life as an orphan walking the streets of a poverty-stricken country, Indonesia. Each night he would stay at an orphanage that he thought was temporary, but it is where he met his wife, and it is still the place he calls home today. Though poor and hopeless, this child was very smart. His brains were the attribute that got him where he is today, quite an accomplishment for such a poor child.

At an older age, Nyoman met a man who held his destiny. He could see through the dirty and poor child and found someone smart. He told Nyoman that he would sponsor him through college. This is where Nyoman learned restaurant and hotel management. This same man offered him an opportunity to work on a cruise ship! Nyoman would have to leave his wife and home, but what other hope did they have? Besides, this job was so much better than a life working in a sweaty factory like his friends.

You may think all his problems are now solved and his wife is well supported, but you would be wrong. Not only does he have to support his wife, but also his baby boy that he has never seen, held, or enjoyed. His life is spent working just to get those tips and send them back to his wife and child. Those same tips also support an orphanage full of kids just like him, where his wife is the headmistress.

His only dream is to find a way to live in America and bring his family there to be free! I learned so much about the love of family, and just how lucky I am to live in America and enjoy things that others never get the chance to enjoy. I have heard many complaints about tipping, but after learning about Nyoman and the other staff, my family will be more than generous for sure!

I hope everyone gets to experience being pampered and waited on, but I ask you to please think about this essay and be grateful! Get to know the staff; they are great and have wonderful stories! I heard a quote once, "You can learn something from everyone you meet." I do believe this is true, and a cruise is a great time to learn about other people. But the main thing I want you to get out of this essay is to appreciate what you have, and where you live, because YOU could have been just like this!

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