Living the life of a cruiser

Sherri Gardner HowellFarragut, Kitchen Table Talk

When it comes to traveling, my husband and I have become “cruisers.” It’s not something I ever thought would happen and certainly wasn’t on his radar, but it happened.

We are currently enjoying my 10th and his eighth cruise. This one is one of our favorite types, meaning it’s a long one. We like interesting ports-of-call, but we love our “days at sea.”

Cruisers on long voyages (and I am calling anything more than eight nights a long voyage) are an interesting lot and all very different. Some of us like the forced relaxation you get on a long cruise. Some see the ship as transportation to get to interesting places and only have to unpack once. Some just want to sit by the pool, soak up sunshine and do a little swimming, topped off with a night of entertainment or casino play.

And yes, I suppose, some come for the endless food. Most cruise ships have cut down on offering buffets of food at every corner and midnight dessert bars. I think the large waste – and maybe large waists – led to a drive to cut it back a bit. Even without midnight buffets, there is never a time of day or night when you can’t find something to eat.

Neville and I like the forced relaxation. He will read three, maybe four books that have been on his tablet for months before we hit our destination. We also enjoy the time together. My husband and I have very different interests when we are on land, plus, he’s retired, and I am still working part-time. At home, we often realize it’s 6 p.m., and we haven’t had a conversation since breakfast. We like each other, and cruising gives us time to realize that again.

Without a doubt, however, my favorite thing about cruising is meeting a variety of people, even if only for an hour. We love sitting at large tables at dinner, and, when the assigned people show up, we get to know six other people pretty well. We have met some who have become my Facebook and email friends and whom we would love to see again.

We are into Day 5 of this cruise, and our table of eight has been a table of four. The couple sitting with us, however, have more than made up for the missing four. Heather and Camo (it’s Eric, but he won’t answer to it) are from Lake Tahoe and are fascinating. Younger than we are, Heather is full of energy and constantly looking for that next activity. Camo, whose life has been filled with racing cars, yacht delivery voyages and entrepreneurship, knows how to chill.

I suspect they are suffering from sitting with a woman who has spent her life interviewing people. I don’t ask a few questions. I ask hundreds. It’s in my blood. So far, they are still showing up at dinnertime and not escaping to the Windjammer buffet, specialty restaurants or room service, so maybe it hasn’t been too bad.

Sharing tables is common practice on cruise ships, even when you are just sitting in the Centrum, lounges or other venues. Every conversation includes two elements: Where do you live? How many cruises do you have under your belt?

From there, the possibilities are endless!

The other thing about long cruises is the simple activities that entertain you that you would never do at home. Neville and I are currently experimenting with our egg cradle design for the Egg Drop. We partnered with Gloria from Nova Scotia, whose husband likes to stay in the room and watch sports, so she begged us to partner with her. On the last night before we dock, 30 teams will get their eggs and drop them from deck seven onto the Centrum floor.

I think we will win.

Of course, I was 100 percent sure I would win Superhero Trivia. Out of 20 questions, Neville and I amassed a whopping eight points. They threw in too much pop culture by asking the names of “who was the actor/actress who played whoever in the movie, blah, blah, blah.”

I got Christopher Reeve … The rest was just embarrassing.

Probably not as embarrassing as karaoke would have been. Luckily, I chickened out.

Someone just joined my table here in the Solarium, so I’m closing up work for today. The ocean is so blue, dolphins were jumping this morning, and it’s 80 degrees.

I don’t think many people are here just for the buffet …

Sherri Gardner Howell, a former features writer and manager at the News Sentinel and publisher at Blount Today, has been writing about family life for newspapers and magazines since 1987. She lives in West Knoxville, is married to Neville Howell and has two sons and three grandsons.

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