After roughing it for 9 months, I was uncertain of what to expect from the luxurious lifestyle of a cruise. Truthfully, Hannah and I just wanted good sleep, clean, available bathrooms, and easily obtainable, nutritious food and water. We had moved every 3-4 days on a shoe-string budget. I was not certain we would even fit in with the “Platinum” and “Diamond” jet-setters who would be our shipmates. To my surprise, we did, and we made some great friends. Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas was a great getaway and gave us the needed energy to make the last push in our trip.
The lights on the casino games flashed, the band’s tunes echoed in the Centrum, and the hot tubs bubbled as passengers sought out their favorite activities. Hannah wanted a drink as soon as we were on board. Her eyes glistened at the sight of the buffet and with no surprise to us, be both sat down with full plates of salad. We had been craving vegetables. Everyday a never-ending list of new entertainment and people to meet. A classical pianist played beautiful music. Hannah and I competed in mini-golf. At night, I fell asleep on a lounge chair poolside during 2 of the 3 big screen poolside movies. There was trivia, ballroom dancing, silly gameshows, magicians, singers and so much more. 16 days flew by!
Our cruise was part Mediterranean, part Middle Eastern. We traversed the Gulf of Aiden. Once known as pirate territory, nowadays, the bigger threat appears to be Iran’s perception of “violation of sovereign waters” or “dangerous maneuvers” that constitute a boarding and their intervention. Several months prior to our cruise, Iran held up a shipping vessel for this reason. We briefly hesitated on booking the cruise due to these developments. But, in the end we concluded that oil and international shipments worth millions were probably more valuable than a ship of octogenarians that would bring more trouble than value.
Further along in the cruise, a private security force boarded and patrolled the lower decks during our cross between Somalia and Yemen. Pirate country was no joke, the ship even introduced a short drill to safely move passengers into internal corridors. Passengers appeared a bit tenser through the southern Red Sea and Gulf Aiden. Some periodically checked the ship’s position on Google Maps. Others merely talked about past hijackings and speculated as Hannah and I had on the unlikely event of a problem. 3000 unruly, high maintenance cruise passengers on a massive ship would be much harder and less worthwhile to take than a ship full of crude oil slowly ambling through the waters with 30 crew total. Thankfully, we remained safe and all the fun activities never stopped.
Hannah and I made a number of friends and truly enjoyed our 16 day cruise, especially the days at sea. It provided a time to de-stress, recalibrate, and socialize with people from all over the world. One family stood out. Rod, Jessica, Santi, and Nora are a young family from America living an extended travel lifestyle. They had been traveling for 1.5 years when we met in a Royal Caribbean hot tub. At the time, they were working as photographers on our ship, Jewel of the Seas. We shared drinks one night while recounting stories from our journeys and challenges on the road. Our last lunch together left Hannah and I both sad to see them go and promised to stay in touch.
The very first friends that we made were Angelica and Maria who were Romanians living in Canada. We entered the same train out of Rome and struck up conversation, noticing our large amount of baggage in common. We ran into them at numerous on-board activities; Angelica enjoyed being the life of the party.
Monica and her mother Joann hailed from Pennsylvania. They were both very sweet and her mother had several questions on how Hannah and I knew each other were “the one”. It led me to be reflective of my relationship and what an interesting start we experiences for our marriage. I am immensely thankful for my wife, for without her, the year’s journey would have been unattainable. Her vast intelligence, eye for detail, and skeptical realism enabled us to conquer any obstacle. I love her for those qualities and so many more. Enough gushing about her though. As I wrote this, she was sleeping off a late night of game shows and reading. We ran into Monica and Joann several more times and enjoyed each and every chance we had to talk with them.
Emma and Thomas were an Irish/English couple that we ran into often at trivias and competed against in the “Egg-Drop Challenge”. The challenge was intended for teams to design a contraption with materials found on the ship to be dropped 3-4 stories without breaking the egg. Hannah and I had creative differences and broke off into our separate teams to see whose idea was better. Out of 12 teams, I actually came in first and Hannah in 3rd. Mine was a hot mess of paper straws and blown up latex gloves that spiraled like a UFO (somewhat unintended) as it dropped. Hannah improvised a parachute with a milk carton and grocery bag. Emma, Thomas, Hannah, and I watched the sunset across Muscat, Oman as the ship pulled away and learned they had been on our exact same ship years earlier for their honeymoon. Later on the cruise, they persuaded us to stay for the “Silent Disco” and we were so thankful they did. The cruise staff handed out wireless headphones with 2 channels. You picked your channel and started dancing! You could switch between the two, like I did, or dance your pants off on 1 like Hannah. From time to time, I took them off to take in the scene. About 25-30 cruisers danced with no music going on, some singing the words to whatever channel they were on here and there, but otherwise silence. It was strange but so much fun. Hannah and I agreed that we would seek one out in Houston.
The sun rose and set on our cruise. It was not long enough. We made many new friends and enjoyed the relaxation. It was the perfect “vacation” from our trip. We had 1.5 months to go in the journey, in some of the most exotic and challenging destinations yet.
2 thoughts on “From Mediterranean Sea to Indian Ocean: Friends and Fun on the High Seas”
What a great treat! I’ve never been on a large cruise ship but your description makes it tempting.
You absolutely should give it a try! It was a wonderful, safe way to see a few countries that we normally may not have had a chance to see.
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