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  • Writer's pictureDonna Brown

Looking at the good and bad of a taking a cruise

courtesy photo

“Try something new” seems to be the advice given to old people all the time. Take up a new hobby, learn French, join a yoga class, exercise your brain and live a longer. Life really should be a continuous journey expanding our horizons. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t say that my way of life is an example to anyone, but I do try to take on new adventures from time to time.

As lifelong campers we finally decided to try a cruise. It definitely was a learning experience and after 10 days at sea I have some observations. The cruise line was Royal Caribbean, and our trip was to New England, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Not the typical cruise to the Caribbean with umbrellas in your drinks and the aroma of suntan oil in the air.

The staff was amazingly attentive and the ship extravagant. The first thing I noticed was that the majority of people on the cruise were older than I am. Scooters, wheelchairs and walkers made navigating the dining rooms interesting and at the buffet you were in danger of being trampled when the ice cream was being scooped.

It seemed that everything on the ship revolved around food. I found the possibilities exciting until I observed the buffet. People piled their plates high, then half eaten they’d pushed it aside for a second or third plate of the same size. There was so much waste. I looked at the waiters, most of whom were from India, and wondered what their families were eating that night.

The second thing I saw and heard was complaints about the food, which we found to be impeccable. The lobster tail too small, the steak not as good as yesterday, the coffee too weak, too strong, etc. I personally think that any food I don’t have to purchase, prepare and clean up after is delicious.

Some things were wonderful. I must say that I was enchanted by the idea of an ice show on a ship. I enjoyed watching the surfing machine pool and the huge rock-climbing wall, which were never in use. A few years younger and I would have tried them. The ship’s orchestra was extraordinary and never failed to entertain.

One of the funniest scenes on the ship was the afternoon they announced a half-price sale of designer handbags on the promenade. I stood on a balcony to watch and couldn’t help but compare the women racing to the bags to a stampede of bison in Yellowstone.

We took an excursion in Freeport Maine. The town was quaint, and we visited an oyster shack with delicious lobster rolls for thirty-three dollars apiece. To my way of thinking, why would anyone want to cover a perfectly good lobster in mayonnaise and put it in a hotdog roll?

We visited the flag ship LL Bean store which is open 24 hours a day with no locks on the doors. It was huge with multiple levels and two coffee shops. Seemed that every third person had a dog with them as they shopped. Now I love dogs, but do the dogs really enjoy shopping? And how do you keep them from lifting their leg on the merchandise?

My favorite excursion was visiting the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Sydney, Nova Scotia. He was a man whose genius went far beyond the telephone. Bell was involved with the development of flight and hydroplanes. I hope to one day visit Novia Scotia again in my RV.

As for other activities, how many times can you play Beatles trivia, watch karaoke or play the penny machines? Apparently, every day. For some reason I expected sessions about the excursions we’d take, such as the history of Boston, but none were found. I did take a seminar on improving my posture only to find out after 45 minutes that I was expected to purchase shoe inserts for $199. For intellectual stimulation I took a class on napkin folding.

On my last day we were passing through hurricane Fiona, my husband was sick in bed, and I decided to take my embroidery to the ship’s library. It consisted of 30 empty shelves with 50 books scattered around. I took it upon myself to reorganize the books and none of the napping patrons seemed to mind. Then settled into a chair and stitched.

I soon overheard two gentlemen having a discussion on the stock market. Though I know nothing about finances I asked to join them, and we soon were discussing history and literature. After nine days filled with too much small talk, I had finally found the best place to be on the ship and had a delightful afternoon.

Cruises are perfect for many people, some cruise multiple times a year. We may try it again someday on the Mississippi or Alaska, but for now I think I’ll rev up my computer and map out some camping trips for next spring.

Donna Brown is a former Hammonton Middle School librarian and a columnist for The Gazette. To reach Donna Brown, send an email to


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