THAT SHIP CRAY.
Observations from my first cruise: a week aboard the Carnival Valor. (Or the Carnivalor — total missed opportunity.)
The people aboard the Valor were a motley crew – honeymooners, big families, lifetime cruisers, chain-smoking geriatrics, and then – us! Oh, and tons of good-looking, single, thirtysomething men – HAHAHA, just kidding. (Apparently those bros stick to land.) There were all types of passengers who spent their time in different ways – those who stood all day in the buffet line, those who got up early for 6-hour excursions on that day’s beautiful island, those who sat at the pool baking in the sun for hours, those who participated in all of the ship’s riveting seminars, those who probably hadn’t seen their kids in 12 hours, those who bought the all-you-can-drink package, and then – us! We did a little bit of everything, really, but I’d say most of our time was spent doing whatever was most relaxing – reading, people watching, drinking, soaking in the scenery, dipping in and out of the salt-water pool and eating fro-yo for breakfast. Many of the cruisers lined up at night to prom-pose in front of beach backgrounds (despite landing on a gorgeous shore every morning) and sat for hours at the “Claw Machine” in the casino hoping to scrape up $100 bills with a janky claw and wore whatever-the-shit they felt good in. Truly a fascinating mix of people – most of the characters we met were incredibly warm and fun and friendly, except the lady from Sweden who went a little overboard (because I threw her in the Caribbean) by telling me all the reasons she didn’t like the company I work for. Also, you could watch Kathy Lee and Hoda every morning on a million-foot screen, so that was neat. And the deck was huge. I just love a big deck.
This is the official pose of first-time cruisers:
BUFFET: THE WAISTLINE SLAYER.
Food was available 24/7. Which is terrifying. No one should have access to prepared food like that – pasta and pizza and pie, ohhhhhhh my. Mom and I were fairly well-behaved, with the exception of the occasional post-beer hot dog or burger or pile of cubed cheese, and the dining room’s to-die-for melting chocolate cake, which we may or may not have eaten for dessert EVERY NIGHT. We spent most of the week consuming things from the sea – lobster, shrimp, salmon, crab – which only seemed appropriate. We were also assigned a table in the grand Washington dining room with two other women, both of whom did not speak English, and didn’t really care to try. They were impressed with mom’s use of the word “mantequilla,” but after the first night, they never showed up to dinner again. Maybe we should work on our conversational Spanish? And then there were evenings when the waitstaff would dance on top of barrels during the meal, which I found to be a fitting addition to the ornate tarantula chandeliers and hot pink & orange décor.
THE ELEGANCE IN THE ROOM.
Two of the most important nights in any cruiser’s life are elegant night #1 and elegant night #2. This is the evening when passengers put on their finest attire and do exactly what they’ve done every other night, except they are slightly more uncomfortable. Mom and I both wore flowy maxi dresses and spent a little more time on our hair and flossed – we looked exceptionally elegant! But perhaps we misunderstood the definition? Many of the women were dressed as overgrown Toddlers in Tiaras. BALLGOWNS! CROWNS! BEDAZZLED CLUTCHES! I hope whoever won the ship’s pageant goes on to do great things.
One of the most elegant queens:
NEVER BORED ONBOARD.
Each day we received a minute-by-minute schedule of the boat’s programs and activities. Lots of bingo, lots of Michael Jackson trivia (?), karaoke, blackjack tournaments, hairy chest contests, etc. There were also countless seminars, all of which tried to lure you in by offering a raffle for a *diamond necklace*, which I’m 99% sure was not made of real diamonds, but rather of various jewels passengers had left onboard. Mom and I attended exactly one event in an attempt to win a free spa treatment, but a bunch of assholes won instead. They also had several art auctions, which were just full of overpriced fingerpaintings, but the event boasted free champagne, so it topped our to-do list. My favorite offering, by far, was the “How to Eat More to Weigh Less” seminar, which surely provided false hope to a number of people, but confirmed the crew’s understanding of their audience.
NIGHTMARES MADE OF COTTON.
Our steward, Jasecco (whose name I could only remember because it rhymed with Prosecco), was very attentive and thoughtful. He would pop into our rooms twice a day like a devoted housekeeping genie (occasionally while we were half-naked or using the bathroom or just generally not-ready for his presence), and when we finally got out of his way, he would make the beds and vacuum and straighten up the curious messes I manage to make whenever I spend more than 15 minutes in a room. And at night, after we’d return from dinner or one of the shows, we’d be greeted by a cutesy towel animal on the bed. For the first few days, they were your typical seals and bears and swans, but they slowly progressed into horrifying hanging monsters.
First, a snake.
Okay. Then this Alf-looking thing.
Okay. THEN THIS FUCKING TOWEL BAT FROM HELL.
And finally, the night I pooped my pants. THIS.
I don’t know what Jasecco’s creation was supposed to be. A deranged monkey, maybe? A vagina-shaped monster, just dropping in to put curses on our ladyparts? Either way, I punched it down immediately, and didn’t sleep well thinking it could, perhaps, put itself back together and murder me in my sleep. (What a pussy!)
Mom informed Jasecco the next day that I had put his towel demons all over the internet, and he was filled with joy.
ALL THE SHIP’S A STAGE.
Mom and I managed to only make it to one of the “elaborate” off, off, off, off Broadway shows in the sprawling Ivanhoe Theater. It was a “Nightclub Express” production where we’d be taken to famous nightclubs (Copacabana, Studio 54, etc.) through song and dance and low-budget special effects by our tour guide — a sad-looking talking couch, of course.
At one point he said, “I love being in [whatever nightclub] because beautiful ladies sit on my face all night!” which was probably my favorite part of the show.
There were also muscular, stripper-like men who imitated the Village People (Y-M-sea-A!) and who certainly spiced things up a bit.
And finally, a dancing cow appeared. Because why the hell not?
The performers were actually quite talented, and the show was mostly entertaining, but probably not in the way they had intended. We also watched a man juggle for half an hour, and if you’re wondering if I wish I had that time back, I really, really do.
We also saw four comedians at George Lopez’s “Punchliners” club throughout the week. One was relatively funny. One was absolutely hilarious (but we saw him after several strong cocktails). One talked about tits and obese people eating all the buffet food for a solid 45 minutes (ugh). And the last one was shitfaced (shipfaced!) and cracking up at his own offensive jokes. The punchline to the “Punchliners” club is that it’s probably funnier to watch people prom-pose in front of cheesy island backdrops instead.
NAUTICAL BY NATURE.
Many people have asked me what just being on the boat was like. Three things:
- When the boat docked at the port each morning, I thought my life was ending. It felt like someone had parked the ship on land and then blown up the engines. I have minor PTSD from those 7AM terror wake-up calls.
- Walking around the ship, even in rougher waters, wasn’t so bad – the “sway” was always present, but fairly subtle. But after wine, it felt like I was forever trying to steady myself on a pogo ball.
- I actually enjoyed the gentle rocking of the boat at night. It felt like I was sleeping in a giant, soft baby’s cradle. Which is apparently something I’m into?
- One of the most entertaining parts of the cruise was watching mom be the bouncer for the Adults Only pool, telling defiant, ballsy little kids to GTFO.
- I used about 4 hours total of Wi-Fi onboard (over 7 days!) and it cost me about $150 because Instagram.
- Our ship’s “fun leader” was named Felipe, and Felipe would — I think spitefully so — say “WOO-HOO!” after everything, and now I never want to hear that ever again.
- Mom and I laughed for a solid 20 minutes when we found out you could buy a $20 DVD of the ship’s highlights from that week — like who’s going to go home and watch 90 minutes of Felipe and that talking couch?
- THE TOILETS! The toilets on the ship suck SO HARD that I’m positive they suck the soul right out of your body. The flush is SO INTENSE, you have to move away quickly or risk having your soul floating in the Caribbean for all eternity.
So. Would I cruise again? Eh. Maybe. Probably. But only if Jasecco promises to throw in the towel.