I traveled on my first cruise vacation thirty years ago. I was intrigued by the idea of a cruise for perhaps a somewhat superficial reason: I had done a fair amount of vacation traveling to Bermuda, the Bahamas and the Caribbean, and had become enamored of the concept of “all-inclusive” vacation resorts, where for a fixed price vacationers’ lodging, meals, alcoholic drinks,entertainment, activities, and even cigarettes (hey, it was the eighties) were included. My first visit to an all-inclusive was to a resort in Jamaica that was called, aptly, “Hedonism”. With youthful exuberance, less maturity, and lack of self-control that comes with being in my twenties, I approached that first all-inclusive stay with the same rationale I approached all-you-
can-eat buffets back at home: “they’re going to lose money on me!” I partook in it all, indulging to excess in everything that was available, especially liquor (screwdrivers with my eggs and bacon at breakfast). It was on that first all-inclusive vacation that I cultivated my taste for cognac—even if it was not exactly top shelf. Up to then, the concept of an after dinner cordial was foreign to me. My rationalization of getting my money’s worth veered into stupidity. For instance, even though I had kicked the smoking habit several years prior to that vacation, I could
not resist the saucer of complimentary cigarettes that adorned each of the bars at Hedonism. Convinced that I could indulge for just the week I was there, I ended up re-starting the smoking habit again for another several years.
Cruise ships promised many of the same amenities of all-inclusive vacations, at least the food, activities and entertainment part, with the added benefit of being able to visit more than one destination. Despite cruises having obvious appeal, I had demurred. For one thing, I just was not a “water person”. In my boyhood in Brooklyn, NY, the closest I got to the ocean was occasional visits to iconic Coney Island. I never learned how to swim; my only opportunities to visit a swimming pool in my youth were when my summer day camp occasionally took field trips to the
Department of Parks and Recreation McCarren Pool. Furthermore, I was apprehensive about an unknown: the possibility that I or my companion would experience seasickness that would ruin
our vacation. Nevertheless, I was intrigued by these floating all-inclusive resorts.