Cruisin’

Sailing, sailing, over the bounding—

OK, it’s not very bounding, when you’re only going 26 miles off Long Beach and then pretty much hugging the coast to get to Ensanada, Mexico. But it is sailing, again, as I head off on another solo vacation, a four-day jaunt on the Carnival Imagination. As I’ve written before, going on cruises is sort of in my blood, even as I readily acknowledge the extreme kitsch/tackiness factor, and as I have to deal with the frustrations of being vegan in an environment decidedly geared toward the omnivores of the world. Even more surprising, I had, I thought, sworn off cruising solo after I first did it 20 years ago, and kinda did it again on the Cruise from Hell, well documented almost 5 years ago now here at C?WC? (A random sampling of that character-building adventure is available here.)

But sometimes, after emotional turmoil, as with my recent breakup, one needs to just get away, and when Carnival offered a great price for a mini-cruise to Catalina and Ensanada, with no supplement for having a cabin to myself, memories of the old comfort of cruising kicked in, despite the challenges of doing it alone.

Avalon, the heart of Catalina.

Avalon, the heart of Catalina.

Because when you’re surrounded by happy loving couples and families and groups of friends traveling together, the solitude of the solo cruise is sorely multiplied. Oh, you have those occasional fleeting conversations with the people you meet: Today on Catalina I chatted with the couple who sat at my dinner table last night, and there was a pleasant exchange with the another couple on the tender from Catalina back to the ship. Interestingly, I’ve come across more singles on this ship than I’ve ever met on previous cruises; four of us sat together at dinner last night, and another two were with me on the early tender ride to Catalina this morning. My theory: Carnival just wanted to fill a lot of empty cabins. Most of us singletons booked last minute and at the same bargain price.

But when you cruise solo, and if you are shy like me, you know going in that most of the trip will be lonely. At least I take some comfort in my photography and my writing (and reading, though so far not as much of that as I would like).

Some of the local wildlife

Some of the local wildlife

Beyond that, I also take comfort in the joy of smelling the sea, after spending so long in a landlocked locale; I revel in that sense of being in the middle of the water with no land in sight, something I’ve cherished since my first cruise when I was ten. I feel the pull of living on an island, someday, despite the ridiculous cost (gas on Catalina today: $6.20 a gallon) and the isolation. And there’s also going from snow and 30 degrees to 70 and clear blue sky; today was just one of the more gorgeous days I’ve experienced in a long time.

And one of descendents of the bison brought here for a Western movie shoot almost a century ago.

And one of descendents of the bison brought here for a Western movie shoot almost a century ago.

I feel, at times, that with my many intelligent and sophisticated friends, I get a little defensive when explaining my love of cruising, this perhaps lowbrow–to some–vacation choice. And there is something a little…distasteful about being surrounded by many obese people who make eating a main pastime, with the cruise line as an eager enabler. And playing mini golf today (yes, mini golf on the ship! A first for me after all these many cruises), I had to endure the foul-mouthed rantings of a group of young males (but old enough to know better) that left me lamenting the state of our culture—this coming from someone  who can be pretty quick with a curse himself. But I was immersed in the culture of cruising at an early age, still have good friends whom I met on one trip more than 40 years ago, and I fall back into the rhythms of it easily. I, who can’t swim, enjoy being on the water. I love doing nothing, if that’s what I choose to do, or taking part in trivia quizzes and karaoke and late-night cheesy sing-along music (still waiting for the pianist who does this to play “Bohemian Rhapsody”).  Plus visiting locales, like Catalina, that I might not otherwise see.

And on every cruise, without fail, I have met good and interesting fellow passengers, and hardworking and constantly polite crew members from around the world. And while there are bound to be some obnoxious people along the way too, I enjoy being around so many people I might not otherwise ever encounter, from different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Today, I realized, being exposed to the diversity that is the population of any cruise, the population of the world beyond our immediate social comfort zone, that I was experiencing a metta moment: All people just want to be happy. And on vacation, placed together in the self-contained environment of a cruise, the 2 or 3,000 people are happy together, even if only for a few days. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

So what’s in store the rest of the way? Another excursion tomorrow in Ensanada. Then one full day at sea. A “formal” dinner at which I will wear a suit—the only time aside from weddings and funerals when that happens. Then back to Long Beach and a flight home to Santa Fe. This could be the last cruise in a while; most of my vacation time and money is planned for trips back east.  (This was a decidedly spontaneous splurge.)  And I know there are plenty of land-based vacations to unexplored places that I still want to take. But I don’t think I can ever say this or another cruise is my last one; there is always something so familiar and comforting being on the water aboard these behemoths of the sea. I would just prefer to do the next one with someone I love by my side.

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~ by mburgan on February 2, 2015.

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