Friday, November 1, 2013

Family Vacations don't have to be Hellish

Ever since moving out of my parents’ house after high school, I’ve become something of a Christmas-and-Thanksgiving daughter.  And even Thanksgiving has been negotiable.  We always struggle to find things to do together for more than a day or so.  Part of that is down to personality and preferences, but I think it’s also fair to say that I can be a bit tarty about scheduling time away from work.  After all, time when I’m not at work is TRAVEL time.  And for me, travelling is worth hoarding vacation days. 
I like to be up and moving – seeing new things each day and absorbing local culture as far away from Brick City and the franchise crush.  My mother prefers Señor Frogs and national hotel chains on the beach.  My father likes to visit remote locations, preferably with a pop-tent and a gun, where he can shoot large mammals for meat.  There’s not a lot of common ground there, especially when your most limited resource is vacation days.

So, in the spirit of compromise, I agreed to go on a Carnival Cruise with my mom.  It had all the things we were looking for: quality time, space to retreat, warm weather, novelty, and booze.  It was also dirt cheap. I mean, really, really cheap.  There’s a saying in my family, and it’s that we’ll squeeze a quarter ‘til the eagle screams. Hear that sound? It’s freedom, baby.  Sweet, suffocating freedom.

Anyway, my mother had cruised before; she took my father on an Alaskan holiday, which qualified us for some steep price cuts.  If you think you want to go out on a floating resort and sucker-punch your liver for a few days, cruising is great.  Plus, you’ll easily get every subsequent trip for half price… as long as you stay with the same line.  Choose wisely.  But even without VIP discounts, it’s not too pricey for your average lower-middle-post-recession-but-at-least-working pocket. 

Carnival is a solidly 3-Star experience.  Maybe 2-star if you’re pinching pennies like we were, but I have no complaints. Well, actually, I have a litany of complaints, but none of them change the fact that we had a good time getting reacquainted. 

If you’re looking for an abundance of mid-quality dining options and cornball entertainment, look no further.  (But seriously, has anybody ever been looking for these things?)  If you’re willing to settle for a sunny space to read, don’t mind bringing your own wine to dinner, and want 24/7 access to surprisingly good pizza, then cruising actually is all it’s cracked-up to be.

Personally, my idea of a relaxing vacation (again: vacationing, not travelling) is reading in exotic places; seeing a large swath of the Bahamas from my perch on the 21+ Deck worked just fine.  By the time it’s over, you’ll be well rested, but ready to leave. 

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