Christy Lorio: Cruise culture

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Line dancing aboard the Carnival Elation. Yes, people apparently still do that. (Photo by Christy Lorio for

Christy Lorio (photo by Leslie Almeida)

Cruise ships are weird things, like a cross between a resort hotel and an airplane. It serves the purpose of being your method of transportation, lodging, dinner, and entertainment, all rolled into one. They are also vessels of pure gluttony and relaxation, yet it somehow maintains a sense of adventure.

I just got back from one, my first actually, last week. I was leery of going on a cruise, no doubt. About 8 years ago I found David Foster Wallace’s book  A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments in a used book shop. In it there’s a detailed account (in an essay of the same name as the book) that perfectly sums up the cruise experience, albeit in the most cynical of ways. It’s a hilarious, accurate, and a damn good read. Since I can’t top what Wallace wrote, I’ll leave you with my travel diary to peruse instead.

Day One: Departure

The Carnival Elation, next to an even bigger boat. (photo by Christy Lorio for

I’m not the type that enjoys manufactured fun.

Sedentary. Nothing to do yet everything to do as well. Eating, sitting down to watch corny shows.

Assigned seating at dinner. Dining companions scoffed at our choice to hit the gym, something we goaded ourselves into almost everyday. They were all from Alabama. We didn’t talk about football.

Even though you are supposed to have “the time of your life,” a 2 a.m. dip in the hot tub was cut short when we found out that limitless fun has its limits. They close the tubs down at midnight, but there is 24/7 pizza and ice cream.

Line dancing. People still do that?

Would recommend going {on a cruise} with other people, would be far more entertaining. Felt far too out of my own element to enjoy.

Day Two: “Fun Day” at Sea

Well... (photo by Christy Lorio for

Acclimated to the environment, not feeling quite so cynical about the entire experience. Most people seem to eat, drink, and that’s about it. Haven’t been to any of the shows.

Got really, really sea sick. Felt every slight rocking motion. Bring motion sickness pills, take at first symptoms. We were incapacitated for hours, had to call room service to bring us four pills at $3.29.

Day Three: Progreso

Initial thoughts on Progreso: very poor. It’s embarrassing how we have a wealth of riches and complain about it in the USA.

I couldn’t quite enjoy Progreso w/o feeling a pang of guilt. All of these people hustle for pennies, can’t even eat dinner in a restaurant without someone peddling their tourist trinket wares. Also the peddlers were obnoxious, but then you feel guilty for being annoyed since this is how they are earning a living.

Women offering massages for $10-$15 an hour. Didn’t get one, probably should have considering the cruise charges $150. Didn’t get one of those either.

Back on the boat, sunset was incredible. It was so neat watching the sun dip below the horizon. The colors were intense, like a painting.

Dinner. Racist comments from our dining companions. One couple thought it was a big deal to be the only white people in a bar. They also made racist comments about Indian magician on cruise smelling like curry. Skipped dinner the next night.

Day Four: Cozumel

A highlight. (photo by Christy Lorio for

Similar to Florida, water is beautiful, don’t feel guilty to be on vacation. Usually prefer an adventurous vacation but sometimes it’s fun to play tourist as well and not rough it in a tent.

Hubby thought it would be a great idea to walk aimlessly. Don’t do it! Finally asked a cab driver to take us to the nearest public beach. Beach was free w/ a $10 purchase at the restaurant. Were starving and in need of liquid fun so this wasn’t a problem. Close out your tab right away- ordered 2 entrees and 5 drinks which totaled $100 USD and blew all of our pesos that we had. Stupidly didn’t bring any debit/credit cards either. Had to get a taxi ride, go back on ship, hit up an ATM to pay. Such a hassle.

Back on boat, skipped dinner and gym, took a long nap. Something about the rocking of the boat lulls you to sleep. Dance party on pool deck later that night. Line dancing, conga line- pretty cheesy but people were enjoying themselves.

Day Five: “Fun Day” at Sea

Slept in, watched TV until noon. Stateroom (aka your hotel room) didn’t have a window so it was basically a cave. Slept well, but weird not being able to see natural light. If we do this again will definitely get a room with at least a porthole, one with a balcony would be preferable.

Watched TV show about scaling Mount Everest. Decided that risking death to scale the highest mountain just isn’t worth it.

Actually ate at lunch time, long lines everywhere for mediocre food. Can’t imagine working on one of these ships and having to eat the same stuff for eight months.

For 2,700 cruisers there are only 5 hot tubs. A couple was talking to some kids in the hot tub about just getting off of probation after being on house arrest.

Last dinner. Thank God our regular dining table was packed so we were placed next to some hipper couples. Got to talking, figured out we were all stalking the same passenger w/ one epic mullet.

Last night at Jekyll & Hyde nightclub- lots of people tearing up the dance floor, including a family.  Pretty fun, good to see people legitimately enjoying themselves.

Day Six- Debarkation

Customs employees back at port are extremely rude, only encountered one nice guy.

Cruise is over, kind of sad that vacation is ending. Kind of awesome that we live in a port city and just have to take a cab back to our house. Parking at the cruise terminal is $80, round-trip cab ride was about $30 from Uptown.

Christy Lorio, a native New Orleanian, writes on fashion at and is also a freelance writer whose work has been featured online and in print magazines both locally and nationally.

11 thoughts on “Christy Lorio: Cruise culture

  1. “Line dancing. People still do that?”

    Cha Cha Slide.
    Cupid Shuffle.
    Walk Like Ronald.

    New Orleans party / wedding favorites.

    • Sadly, no. However there are professional photogs taking pics of everyone on the cruise, which they sell to you in the “photo gallery”. We joked about buying all of his pictures, sort of wish we would have now. Ha!

      • Going on the Norwegian Spirit out of NOLA this Sunday, have done it before and also the cruise you went on. Norwegian is much better, no assigned seats for any meals. I know what you are saying about Progreso plus it smelled very bad. If you get the chance to go again try Norwegian and a room with a balcony, makes you feel like it’s not a movie, but a vacation. Enjoyed the article.

          • It is a shame that when you reached a port you did not venture out into the countryside.

            Instead of staying in Progresso you could have hopped a shuttle for a couple of bucks and gone to Merida, one of the most beautiful colonial cities in Mexico, it has a beautiful socolo (town square) and one of the largest markets in Mexico. Not a tourist trap either a dollar goes a long way there.

            Also when in Cosumel, a boat tender across to the archeological ruins in Playa del Carmen and the amazing underground river in Xcarat are great side trips you can do on your own very easily. Thanks for your perspective and article.

  2. I have contemplated the cruise thang for years since it seems so easy to go…right in the back yard. I think the key is to go with a big group of family and friends. That way when you line dance…they all have to get up and boogie too! But the notion passes and we rent a beach house in Fort Morgan where we can bring the dog and sit and do nothing on the beach. Being an accomplished cook, I would not be happy with the food on a boat. At the beach, we cook extravagant meals and drink fabulous wine and don’t have to tip anyone (but each other!)
    I am glad I got the real low down on cruisin!

  3. Racist comments from our dining companions. One couple thought it was a big deal to be the only white people in a bar. They also made racist comments about Indian magician on cruise smelling like curry.

    These were the same table companions as the previous night? Quelle surprise!

    Did any of them have the temptation to get drunk and uh tea uh….never mind.

  4. Lol at this! I can relate. Just came back from my first cruise, a Norwegian cruise, which might be more up your alley.

    1. We went for our honeymoon, but it felt weird because it was filled with kids and senior citizens. A guy died while he was SCUBA diving, an old lady fell, etc.

    2. Norwegian has “Freestyle Cruising” which means all the pools and hot tubs and such are open 24/7 and you can eat wherever/whenever you want. Thank God, because I had a bunch of racist folks on my ship, too. So rude…they made me feel embarrassed to be an American. I hate disrespectful and/or touristy tourists and REFUSE to associate with them.

    3. The food wasn’t the best, but if you’re used to bland food, it’s the place for you.

    4. They KEPT trying to sell us stuff. I felt like I was at a musical at a Megachurch because they kept trying to make us spend money and wanted us to wave BINGO cards in the air and raffle tickets and foolishness.

    5. It was still the best bang for my honeymoon buck, as I got to visit Costa Maya, Roatan, Cozumel and Belize with food, lodging and some transportation and activities included. I’d do it again.

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