Following the “infamous 9/11” Spud and I sailed a back-to back Rhapsody of the Seas repositioning 7 nites from Galveston to Aruba – 6 nites Aruba to Tampa – departing December 23 – WOW – Christmas and New Year onboard – how “festive.” The atrium was beautifully decorated for the season – holly boughs – twinkling lights – and a giant Christmas tree that seemed to reach to the ceiling- what a lovely way to spend the holidays –or so we thought.
One travel agent from outside the U.S. had booked a very large percentage of the ship’s cabins – ALL FAMILIES –and, from appearances (OMG) none with less than five children. Adult passengers and crew were woefully outnumbered - helpless to intervene as these unmannered, undisciplined, unsupervised little monsters wreaked havoc onboard all hours of the day and night! Punching every button in every elevator - slapping women on the butt as they passed - blocking doorways and stairwells - were only a few of their favorite games. They especially enjoyed screaming at the top of their lungs while running full-tilt through adult venues – often at one o’clock in the morning.
Neither the parents, nor the “nannies” of these hellions believed the ship’s rules of conduct applied to them – frolicking in the pools and hot tubs with children in diapers – smoking cigars wherever they chose – blocking hallways with strollers – and becoming indignant when the behavior was called to task.
I witnessed an ship’s officer publicly chastised by the father of a couple of 3 to 4 year olds she had brought to the purser’s desk after having found them alone on an outside deck – did she receive a “thank you?” – NO – it was instead: “how dare you touch my children – no one is allowed to touch my children!!!”
As strangers formed alliances – our cabal in the Schooner Lounge opened the bidding at a $100 “bounty” for each kid thrown overboard –other alliances joined into what became a “bidding war” - we WERE only joking – RIGHT?
In an earlier post I noted that most families choose early dining. No so in this instance –and they all brought ALL THEIR KIDS!!!
Spud and I were lucky enough to have been seated with a lovely couple from San Antonio at a table for four on one of the dining room’s upper levels – (“terrors” were on lower levels) – TYJ! We had a “large” time – reveled in the quiet – but our server related that some of his fellow workers had been “stuck” with those rotten kids (my words) and that rather than “dining” the aforementioned “rotten kids” preferred “food fighting” – while their parents simply smiled and said nothing.
At the “Welcome Back” party, the Captain assured us that he was well aware of the situation and that the crew was doing everything it could to keep things under control– at the “late nite adult show” the comedian quipped that after witnessing the goings-on on the cruise he was opting for a vasectomy –it gave us all a laugh and a promise of better things to come.
The “bounty” was up $400.
These musings are not to “carp” on what was an inescapable situation – but to offer a few tips on how to survive one.
The first morning, Spud and I headed for the breakfast buffet – we love the omelet station. Oops! Big mistake! It was a ZOO - kids everywhere – barefoot – (a cruise ship “no-no”) –grabbing food from the serving tables with their fingers –tasting it - and throwing what they didn’t like either back onto the tray or onto the floor. Parental supervision was nowhere to be seen.
This was the cruise we discovered the pure enjoyment of breakfast and lunch in the dining room. So civilized - excellent selections –“great” coffee – and above all, served and savored in a peaceful, relaxing atmosphere. Alas, we became “cruise snobs” - “mingling with the masses” was not for Spud and Lorraine – not on THIS cruise!
Fortunately, ships are large enough to provide pleasant venues for those who seek them - and seek them we did! We began by reading the daily planner (Cruise Compass), highlighting activities that would not necessarily attract children – and attending those. We were not alone in our quest for “no rotten kid zones” – we played so many rounds of “trivia” and “name that tune” we lost count –and while garnering a virtual plethora of Royal Caribbean “valuable prizes” – (read: key chains, pens, water bottles, fanny packs, caps, etc.) –the growing group of “regulars” morphed into a team of “survivors” – adopting a “we’re all in this together” mentality and focusing on the “positives.” But, underneath – it was still US against THEM!
The “bounty” had risen to $500.
All passengers bring joy to a cruise – some when they embark – some when they debark!
Every cruise line has a Guest Conduct Policy - repeated violation of which is subject to something called “refusal to transport” – meaning in layman’s terms, “you get your butt kicked off at the next port.”
These include - but are not limited to: disorderly or abusive conduct or language, failure to obey the instruction of any crew member, sitting, standing, climbing on or over any interior or exterior railings, smoking cigarettes or cigars in prohibited areas, violation of ship’s curfew as determined by the Captain’s directive, failure to comply with age requirements for ship facilities, and behavior creating unreasonable annoyance to other guests. WOW! This “bunch” was hitting off the charts!
As the Captain had promised at the “Welcome Back” party - the situation was being addressed – and it was with a vengeance! I did not personally witness it, but was told by fellow passengers that at our port of call in Curacao, at least 2 families had returned to their staterooms after breakfast, found their luggage packed, and were quietly escorted OFF the ship by security personnel – and another 2 or 3 were (shall we say) “involuntarily debarked” at Aruba.
How much credence one can place in “scuttlebutt” is in question. And, as to whether it was the threat of – or a true activation of the ship’s “refusal to transport” policy that triggered the marked change in the demeanor of the children AND their parents we’ll never know – but it was MOST WELCOMED!
By the start of the second leg of the back-to-back cruise things were well under control, and as each day became more and more enjoyable for ALL passengers, the cruise was delivered from Hell and the “bounty” rescinded.
Will Lorraine and Spud ever plan another “festive holiday” cruise?