After spending a few days in Cartagena, Colombia we departed for Lisbon, Portugal on a 13-day cruise across the Atlantic. We took an Uber from the Airbnb we were staying in (sharing economy enthusiast, I guess) to the port. A 15-minute ride only ended up costing us about two dollars.
We arrived at the port to find a large group of people waiting to board the ship. The cruise terminal had several lines, and it wasn’t entirely clear what needed to happen to actually get on. The mix of confusion, many tame (not afraid of humans, at all) parrots, lots of mosquitos, and a few hundred travelers from all over the world made for an interesting experience. Luckily, we were able to board quickly without any issues.
Having spent the last few days in the Colombian heat, we were happy to crank up the air conditioning and take a long shower upon entering our cabin. The room was relatively small, but very nice–especially for the cost. Speaking of that, we booked our 13-day, all-inclusive (even alcohol) cruise for under $400 per person (fare, taxes, port fees, and gratuity). That includes a room, all food and drinks, and transportation to Europe.
On most cruises, muster drills are mandatory. The purpose of the drill is to make sure that everyone knows where to go in case of an emergency, but after going through the process, it made me realize that large groups of mostly-intoxicated, flip-flop-wearing vacationers are not easily managed.
The cruise stopped at Philipsburg, Sint Maarten on the third day. We got off the boat and checked out the city and beach. The ocean was very nice, and it was a little overcast, so I decided to swim a bit–even though we hadn’t brought any sunscreen. I found out later that the “Extreme UV” rating on my weather app still applies when it’s overcast in Sint Maarten. We both were sunburnt, but I had really bad burns on my feet, which makes wearing shoes problematic. The good news, though, was that I didn’t really need to wear shoes much for the next ten days.
Sint Maarten was the only stop that the ship made, so we had ten consecutive days at sea. Satellite TV was available for a couple of days, but once we hit a certain point, that went away (I thought it worked everywhere, but was wrong). We also didn’t have internet access (it’s available, but slow and expensive). Being completely disconnected in the middle of the Atlantic was an interesting experience. At one point, we were approximately 1,500 to 2,000 miles from any land. Most people know that Earth is covered mostly by water, but ten days at sea helps put that into perspective.
Apart from gazing at the sea and the occasional muster drill, we spent our time sleeping, eating, reading, and talking–in that order. Our room was nice and cool, and without windows (nearly pitch black), so it basically turned us into hibernating bears. The fact that there is unlimited food (I assumed the gluttonous American role, averaging about 7 desserts each day), and nowhere to be also contributed to our frequent napping. Things like “Don’t sleep through lunch today” were on my to-do list. As much as I felt like a bum, it was an extremely relaxing experience. I don’t know that I could’ve made it much longer than ten days on that program, though.
One last thing to mention about the journey was my introduction to European customs. The cruise line, Pullmantur, is a Spanish company, and many of the passengers were from Europe. As I walked up and down staircases, hallways, and through crowds, I realized that I was using a different navigation system than most of the other passengers. Several times each day, I would end up dancing with someone (trying to walk past them). I also noted the difference in how lines operate in Europe. If you leave a foot of space, someone will take it. I would wait in line for water only to have four or five people “cut” me. I was able to make adjustments after a few days, but it was frustrating for sure.
Overall, our journey to Lisbon from Cartagena was great. We made it without any issues (no motion sickness, norovirus, falls overboard, etc.). Linda and I even managed to not kill each other–although things got dicey a couple of days. We liked it so much that we’re considering taking the return journey from Spain to Panama later this year.
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