I was wrong.
I went because my wife blinded me with logic right after Christmas. She pointed out that I had never gone on a cruise liner voyage, so I had no idea what I was talking about, and we were going to escape February in Annapolis.
The best excuse I could come up with was that I had spent the last three months dropping 25 pounds in order to avoid hip surgery and I didn't want to take a vacation on a ship where apparently the primary goal was to shove as much food into your mouth as possible.
We flew on a Friday after work and landed in San Juan at one in the morning. No worries. We had booked a room in the Best Western which is attached to Luis Munoz Marin Airport.
We walked from the baggage area through an empty airport, following signs to the hotel, came out into the warm Caribbean night, went down a flight of steps to an office where a pretty lady directed us to our room on the top floor, overlooking the airport arrival area. We were sleep walking at that point and immediately crashed in the somewhat cheesy room. But it had a clean and fine bed and we got about five hours of solid sleep before checking out at noon and catching a taxi to the Royal Cribbean boat dock. It's a standard rate for all taxis so there's no gouging. You just hail a cab, tell them where you're going, and you're off. It costs something like $18, plus a dollar a bag, and takes about 15 minutes to get to the boat.
Nothing can prepare you for your first up-close glimpse at a modern tour boat. They are splendidly beautiful in an almost surreal sense of scale, like some ginormous white space ship with all sorts of shiny bells and whistles.
The Royal Cribbean folks have perfected the entire embarking process to a science. Happy help greet you and explain the drill as the lines move quickly along. Passports are checked. Bags are whisked away. There's lemonade and boat drinks. And in the end, you are given your ticket into the magic kingdom - your SEA PASS - a credit card that pays for anything your heart desires for the rest of the trip.
We climbed the gangway to the fifth deck of the wondrous Serenade of the Seas and entered an inviting and playful world of luxurious elegance.
We still had an hour until dinner and I was strongly attracted to the pool where the sun was hot and bright. I swam in the sea water pool, and the Men of Culture we're jamming as we we looked out over Old San Juan.
It was soon dinnertime.
I had been dreading this part of the show and it was a big reson why I didn't want to do a cruise. I figured that I could dodge most of the imbecile crap, but having to eat dinner for a week with random strangers seemed a bit too much.
Contestants Number 1 hailed from Redding, PA., about two hours from where we live. They were my people. Four blue-collar straight-shooters from Redding, PA, who were funny as hell and I looked forward each night to see them and discuss the events of the day.
Couple Number 2 were two very charming ladies from Boston who were seasoned travelers and who were a joy to dine with.
Our final contestants were a charming mother and daughter from North Carolina who were so Southern you just had to smile back. They were flowing hair and infectious affection that made us feel like family.
I looked forward to going to dinner every night and even found myself crying several times over the week as I sat there being served like a prince and eating succulent delights. Like on the last night when we were saying goodby to our waiters and our tablemates. A sweet pating indeed.
It's amazing how quickly people can bond with one another given the right ingredients.
After dinner we got our bags and nested in what would be our home for the next 7 days. Then we were rocked to sleep like babes.