We returned recently from a cruise.  That’s got me thinking about traveling and what it means to me as I get older.  Christina’s Dad’s side of the family is from Texas.  The plan was to fly to Austin, visit some family for a few days and then cruise out of Galveston for a short 5-day cruise in the Gulf and to Mexico on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

The trip to Austin was great.  We flew on Alaska and probably because the plane was only half full, we got upgraded to First Class, which is a rare but appreciated surprise.  It’s only a four-hour flight and the trip was late, so half of the trip involved me napping, but at least I did it comfortably.  For a guy who is 6’4” tall, legroom is a premium for me and First Class allows me to stretch my legs and even cross them without my knees being in my seatmate’s lap, which is the case when we fly normally.  That seatmate is usually Christina, who is very patient with my knees and legs being all over the place.

We are fortunate because Christina has lovely family in Austin, some of whom I had met before.  We had multiple offers of places to stay and we ended up at the home of one of her cousins.  She was only 15 minutes from the airport and met us and took us home and we crashed.

I had one goal for Austin: Barbecue and Tex-Mex food.  And we at much brisket!  So much so that by the third day I was done with brisket (for now).  The food was great.  The city has a very Portland vibe, but Portland pre-riots and out-of-control homeless problem.  One day we hung out with another cousin and her husband who took us around to a few sites.

We had lunch at a place called Ruby’s and the brisket (the moist versus the lean) was awesome.  It also had good sauces and good beans.  So, I was happy!

After we wandered around some more and checked out a famous boot store (I can’t fit in cowboy boots, my feet are too tender and wide!) and wandered down one of Austin’s shop streets with some great art.

There was a mix of being tourists, more barbecue and then some really nice family time while we were there.  But, Texas does have some challenges that we just can’t really process, at least I can’t, as someone from the Northwest.  We were chatting with one family member and she was talking about having to take care of scorpions.  In. Her. House.  Not okay.  And then went on to talk about how she was leaving with her Mom one day and heard a noise and said, “it’s just a sprinkler”.  It was not a sprinkler.  It was a rattlesnake that had coiled up near her garage door and was warning her off as she walked by, unaware of her new neighbor.  She did get a picture of it and shared it with us and this was a beefy boy!  A neighbor with a death wish and an apparent love of snakes captured it and took it out away from the neighborhood and released it.  I would have launched it into space if I’d had the opportunity.  So, yeah, despite the lovely family and lure of omnipresent good barbecue, we will not be relocating to Texas.

After a few days, we departed on the cruise.  The first day was just getting on and getting settled.  The second day was a sea day (no ports), the third day was a visit to Costa Maya, a tiny port town in Mexico, the fourth day was spent in Cozumel and the fifth day was again a sea day as we headed back.  They dropped us off on the morning of the sixth day and kicked us off the ship.

Some observations about cruises:

First, the ships are huge.  Here’s a graphic that shows the ships that Royal Caribbean sails.  We were on the Adventure, which you can see from the graphic below is a mid-sized ship.  We heard they carried around 2500 passengers and another 1000 folks to keep the ship operating.  So, yeah, you are on a boat with 3500 souls.  Many of the workers were wearing masks.  Washing your hands was required to go into the informal cafeteria space called the Windjammer.  There were signs encouraging sanitizing your hands regularly as well as dispensers all over.  I’m happy to say I didn’t hear about anyone getting sick.

The food in the dining room was good, albeit occasionally pretty slow.  The variety was decent but by the end of the trip, I was getting kind of bored with the options.  So, a five-day trip was probably optimal for me.

The ports were pretty good.  Costa Maya probably doesn’t have much going on when they don’t have a cruise ship in port.  It’s mostly there to service the cruise ships, it seems.  Here we walked into town by some ruins (not actual ruins, I think they just built them for the tourists) and I nearly died from a surprise iguana attack.  Not the guy below, but his faster, stealthier cousin who made the mistake of moving quickly down around my feet.  I showed him, though, by leaping out of the way and yelling!

Cozumel is probably much the same, but it seemed to have some life outside the cruise ship service areas.

In Cozumel we went to a beach club and hung out for the day at a pool so Christina could recharge her solar-powered batteries.  We ate tacos and just enjoyed the sunshine  It was a nice change of pace from the boat.

Speaking of the boat, there’s lots to do on the boat, but much of it was not for me.  There was nightly entertainment and it was a short, crisp 45-minute show.  One night was dancing, one night was an 80s Cover Band, and one night was a comedian and some musical acts.  All pretty good!

Cruises are an odd duck for a vacation experience.  I enjoyed this one and I’ve enjoyed the couple that we’ve done in the past.  You don’t really get to stay anywhere for long, so any place you visit is kind of a sampler of the area.  By the time the cruise is over, I’m ready to be done.  I think they’re fun, but they’re not for everyone.  

In this case, the main draw was that there were 20 or so cousins and spouses from Christina’s family who had all come together to take the cruise, so there was effectively family all over the boat!  I couldn’t wander the main outside deck without bumping into family a couple of times, all of whom were happy to share where Christina was and who were super friendly and really nice to spend time with.  Apparently, there is a range of political views amongst the family, so I was happy that no one really decided to wander into that minefield on the ship.  So, we could continue to pretend that we’d all be just fine talking about whatever with each other!

I do enjoy traveling and visiting family was really nice.  The weather down there was good (till we got back home where they’d had an ice storm and Texas’ power infrastructure shat the bed once again).  It was nice, though, to get back home to all my stuff and my bed and my familiar surroundings.  Till the next time!

Categories: Writing


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