No, This is The Love Boat.

Do luxury cruises ever live up to their expectations? Are they the last refuge of the truly unimaginative newlyweds, singles looking for action and anniversary celebrants?

I don’t know. That’s not how I ended up taking a cruise.

Several decades ago my mom, sister, brother-in-law and I drove down to Galveston from my mom’s home in San Antonio and boarded one of the Princess Cruises. My father stayed home because he had been naughty. Mom decided he should stay in San Antonio and spend the week alone reflecting on his bad behavior. I’m not certain he did that. I suspect, rather, that he watched a lot of bad TV, read awful books, and ate vast amounts of peanut butter straight from the jar.

It seems to me that cruise shippin’ is the perfect environment for an extrovert who doesn’t thrive on hazardous sports, but wants to be surrounded by group activities. It isn’t a perfect environment for an introvert like me.

Ads for cruises paint a delightful picture of people having fun, staying up late, relaxing and eating well. Everyone seems caught up in an aura of exuberant rapture. They’d have you think that no one is sitting alone, in their cabin, missing their pets. Is any of it reality? It’s not an introvert’s reality. Asking an introvert to enjoy a cruise is like expecting a lizard to shed its skin and trade it for a spandex bodysuit.

Once in a while, I’ll catch an episode of The Love Boat on Me TV. It’s a painful show to watch (as are The Brady Bunch, Gilligan’s Island, and The Partridge Family). The forced gaiety, canned laughter, insipid love triangles and mating escapades, and, definitely, Doc’s predatory sexual behavior and the blatantly sexist dialogue turn my stomach.

Fortunately, I didn’t experience any of that on my cruise, though there were some uncomfortable and anxious moments. Within hours of our trip, a younger man glommed onto my mom and began to stalk her. Okay, he wasn’t exactly stalking. My mom has this magnetic, warm personality that draws people to her. I take after my dad. I exude get-the-hell-away-from-me rays, which have proved to be very effective at driving people away.

During the cruise, I turned into Mama Bear. I glared at the stalker every time he wandered up to speak to my mom. My sister and I devised elaborate schemes to keep him from finding our mother. I created an elaborate back-story for the guy: He was a gold-digger, a predator with a history of cruise-ship stalking, an ax murderer preying on the elderly. It kept me awake at night. My mom, however, was flattered. She likes people. Generally speaking, as a category of living things, people don’t thrill me much.

Meanwhile, my mom felt that it was her responsibility to help me, a single, eligible woman, to enjoy the cruise. And that included badgering me until I agreed to attend line-dancing classes onboard. Somehow, I managed to stuff my dignity into a dark place, and I participated. It delighted my mom. Fortunately, I escaped without having to fend off unwanted advances, proving once again how effective those GTHAFM rays are.

My memories of that cruise are mixed, but mostly wonderful. I was able to spend a week with my mom, away from cranky dad, with no responsibilities other than to make sure that my mom wasn’t taken in by some gigolo. I discovered that she was then, as she has been in my older years a mom who is also a good friend.

This January, my mom, my sister, her husband, and my brother went on a 2-week cruise to Hawaii. I stayed behind—not because I had been naughty, however. I simply couldn’t scrape up the vacation time. I would also be starting my mom’s bathroom remodel as well as doing dog sitting for three terriers. My family cruise gang luckily missed some of the worst winter weather in Idaho. They missed the 8 inches of snow that fell overnight and a string of cold, bleak, windy days.

This cruise occurred almost exactly a year since my dad’s passing on January 5. I hoped that my mom would, with the warm sun of a different climate, feel refreshed and comforted by the presence of her loved ones. I’m pretty certain she did. It was, after all, a truer representation of a love boat than the one inhabited by the likes of Gopher, Isaac and the annoying and anemic cruise director, Julie.

The best part of it all is that mom seems glad to be back home. Home. A world away from what was called home a year ago, her Idaho home appears to be giving her what she needs—comfort, solace, safety. And that fills me with joy.

snoring dog studio digital illustration, digital art by snoring dog studio, illustration of lady on cruise ship
She’s Queen of the World.

40 thoughts on “No, This is The Love Boat.

  1. My parents have gone on several, and apparently 10 days is too long and 5 days is too short a stay. I have never been much for boats or ships. I think a cruise sounds just dreadful, because people AND itineraries? Eek! But, I must admit, the ads for the cruisline that travels the rivers of Europe get to me.
    I have absolutely no idea why other people enjoy a week at sea, but if it pleases them, yay. I’m happy for your mother.

  2. My parents went on at least a cruise or two a year, but that was back in the 70s. They took us kids on several with them, as well. I always enjoyed them then, and I was a pretty quiet, introverted kid. However, I’ve not been on one as an equally introverted adult, so it may be different now. Glad your family avoided the cold. LOVE your mom on the front of the ship!

    Hugs from Ecuador,

    1. I didn’t read much. I think I worked too much around the house doing things I had put off doing. I cleaned the house, took stuff to the thrift shop and I made a folding door for a cabinet. I did whatever I felt like doing and it was pretty relaxing.

  3. my husband is unalterably opposed to cruises, and I must say they do seem to have awful things happen rather regularly. I am not one to “participate” either. I don’t do the water aerobics class because I refuse to “sing along” and “meow” to the instructors “woofs”…I was done when we were told “say good morning to sarge!” When the group didn’t say it loud enough, he chanted, “I didn’t hear you” and damned if they didn’t yell louder…I don’t play well with others I’m afraid…Still Hawaii could change my mind…lol

    1. Well, I didn’t include this in the post, but as a matter of fact, a crew member on my mom’s cruise committed suicide a couple nights into leaving port. He jumped overboard. They spent two days zigzagging the ocean looking for him, to no avail. It’s utterly tragic.

  4. My dear wife Karen and I go on a cruise every year, with a group of friends that varies in size, sometimes 20 people. We love it. The group eats dinner together every night, usually at two adjoining tables. If enough seats can be saved, anybody who likes to watches the evening show together. Once in a while, we end up on the same excursion in port. The rest of the time, we enjoy couple-only time. My wife even goes off on her own to the spa on one day to leave me reading on a lounge chair poolside. A cruise is what you make of it, different high points for different people, SDS. And, we did take that Hawaiian cruise for an anniversary, with one other couple. It allowed us to visit all four major islands without hopping on another plane. We loved it!

  5. Oh, I think I love your mom.

    I’m not into cruises either, but once we were invited to an all-inclusive Mexican resort as part of a birthday gathering. I didn’t think I’d like it, but there’s something to be said about vacationing with groups of people in an atmosphere where the check is always covered, there’s a way you can enjoy your own activities and then congregate at the end of the day.

    And I didn’t realize you were sending out GTHAFM rays. My husband thinks he sends those things out too. I can’t sense them. Maybe I’m just impervious. Or oblivious.

    1. It works when the group of people are good friends or family that you get along with well. I’m not much of a vacation person – I have trouble relaxing away from home. But I’d probably not choose a cruise for my next one.

      Yep, those rays are powerful and detectable only by those you want to repel.

  6. Whoa, Jean, this post just made me remember that back in November a friend included me in an e-blast about joining her for a cruise to Alaska to celebrate her upcoming 60th birthday. I have yet to respond! Oops. What a jerk am I! But I am so turned off the idea of taking a cruise, I’d rather hang glide over an active volcano naked. I am glad that your mother takes pleasure in these excursions. Hey, if it makes her happy at this point in time, that matters a lot. Now I should email that friend. We’ve known each other over 30 years so I think I still have a line of credit that is being rapidly reduced to a slender thread.

    1. Yeah – time to let her down easily. I, too, wouldn’t do the cruise thing. I need to be on land, walking, hiking and away from food. A cruise ship is pretty much just like a big hotel and not much more.

  7. Your wit Jean is still sharp as ever.

    Took a couple of Caribbean cruises back in the 90′s, paid for by the company I worked for then. I found staying on the boat more enjoyable than going inland. Gambling and eating pretty much filled my time up then. If I were to take another cruise however it would be to Alaska.

    1. I enjoyed our Key West port stop the most. I really didn’t like Belize or Puerto Vallarta that much. Lots of poverty there and it made me feel guilty. My sister did the Alaska cruise – she liked it.

  8. I can just imagine you on that cruise!
    (I’m not a cruising sort, pets and work made a good excuse for me) Sounds like it was a good idea for your mom – (Nice observation of the “Love Boat”)
    Glad all had a good time – some just love those vacation ships.
    Stay warm! (gag, it’s drifting down this way….nooooo. Enough cold…like we have anything to complain about)

    1. From my sister’s description of the cruise, it sounded more like a floating buffet – the Love to Eat Boat. Trying to stay warm here. I feel so sorry for my mom after spending two weeks in sunny warm weather.

  9. I love that Idaho’s being transformed into “home” – that’s the best part of all. And your illustration is just terrific.

    As for the cruise? Dante created several circles that never made it into his Purgatorio. Cruise ships were included. Of all the things I don’t want to do, cruise ships, Vegas casinos and Disney World are right at the top.

  10. When you get into a relatively secluded area and look out at the ocean, it can seem like you are all alone, great for my introverted self. Plus in a ship filled with strangers, it is easy to get lost and be anonymous.
    The old guys were still flirting with her. Carolyn and I feared what would happen to us from you if one of them connected with her. Fortunately, she quickly forgot about them after the encounter and could not remember her address or phone number to give them if they asked.

    I’ll send you some pics as soon as I get around to downloading them

    1. Yeah, Carolyn told me that mom wandered off a few times and you’d find her at a table with a bunch of old dudes. But I checked her purse and suitcase for phone numbers and love notes. And I was relieved to find none. I did, however, find almost a year’s worth of chocolates.

  11. I’ve never been on a cruise and I have no desire to start now. I’m not an introvert, but there are so many other places I would RATHER spend my rare travel days and dollars.

    I know what you mean about the old TV shows, though. I used to love all the ones you mentioned but I caught Gilligans Island the other day and it just made me cringe.

    Love your mom as figurehead!

  12. Love your Queen of the World illustration! I’m sure this was also a lovely break from each other for your mom and you. No matter how much you love each other, a bit of solitude now and then is a wonderful elixir.

    I went on a cruise to Alaska after I retired. I knew I wasn’t cruise material, but I thought maybe Alaska, a place where people keep their clothes on, would at least attract more people like me. Not so. They kept their clothes on (fortunately because most of them were so large they required walkers to get around the ship). But everything about the cruise was repugnant to me. Perhaps if I could have afforded a room with a view it would have been better. Instead I spent countless hours in my room, torn between my need for solitude and quiet versus my need for sky. The only compromise for me was when I dashed upstairs in my workout clothes to hang out in the empty “library” which had windows with it’s chairs.

    I was uncomfortable with the astounding amounts of food, much of which was consumed by people who shouldn’t, the rest of which was wasted. I learned that the help weren’t even allowed to consume the left overs! I was also uncomfortable with the help. They were everywhere. If I left my room for 5 minutes, someone was in there, straightening up…I’m pretty tidy and make my own bed! I could smell the bowels of the ship where these poor people had to sleep and spend their off duty hours. It smelled like a garbage dump. I was horrified by the idea of people from impoverished circumstances waiting on me hand and foot. I know they made more money in a year of cruise work than they could make in a life time at home, but I still couldn’t stand the slave-master feeling of the experience..

    Then there were the jewelry stores! Not only on board, but at ports of call. Who would go to Alaska to buy diamonds? Ack. Never again!

    1. You’ve summed it up quite well, Linda. I feel the same way as you do. And in the midst of all that faux cruise gaiety, on my sister’s cruise, a crew member committed suicide by jumping off the ship at night. It’s a facade – the cruise ship experience. However, I respect that it appeals to some people.

  13. Once again, cheers to your mom as she seems like a grand lady. Meanwhile, we love cruising, but also realize it’s not for everyone. …. so did you make progress on the remodel?

  14. Good for your Mom — it sounds like she is doing well as a figurehead.

    The cruise ships hold no attraction for me, either. A floating apartment building where activities are planned and worse — timed (I am NOT interested in meeting a clock when on vacation) and memories of The Love Boat are not for me!

    1. Cruise ships appeal to quite a few people, though. I suppose it is one of the easiest vacations to take. And you never have to wonder where the next meal is–it’s around the corner. My sister says that nowhere but on a cruise ship can you better witness evidence of the obesity epidemic.

  15. If there was a shred of desire left in me to ever go on a cruise, you’ve wiped it away for good. And I’ve long wondered how to describe this personality trait I have, the one that seems to be the exact opposite of charisma. I didn’t know what to call it, and now I do — GTHAFM. (Pronounced gathaffum.) Thanks!

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