I just got home from a 7-night celebrity nerd cruise to Baja California. Cruising is not really "my jam", and I was barely familiar with the celebrity headliners, so it's odd that I ended up on this vacation. But I did it! I cruised for a week, and it was relaxing, but I'm glad to be home.
Brian's friends from college, Steuard and Kim, are JoCoCruise veterans and the architects of our presence on this trip. Mike and Meredith were also on the cruise, so we had a critical mass of friends to hang with, as well as a boat full of fellow Seamonkeys to befriend. For the first time, JoCoCruise chartered a whole ship, the mv Westerdam on Holland America Line for a 1-week cruise out of San Diego. We had our own schedule of entertainments in all venues of the ship, special theme nights, and a 24/7 craft room.
Compared to Skeptic Cruise in 2011, when we were part of a small group on a generic cruise vacation, I felt at home on JoCoCruise. The 10th-deck lounge was officially referred to as Ten Forward, there was a dedicated quiet room, the aforementioned craft room, and a full menu of nerdy activities from board games to magic shows, live podcasts to author readings. In the New Seamonkey Orientation meeting as we set sail, Jonathan Coulton pointed out that some aspects of our humanity would be on hold for the duration of the voyage, and that was okay. This statement resonated with me as the vacation wore on.
In cruise world, everyone seems to lose track of time immediately after sailing. Watching land recede, the open ocean ahead, does wonders for clearing the mind of all thoughts and responsibilities. A daily schedule was magically delivered to our door each evening, and the elevator floor mats were labeled with the day of the week to keep us oriented. There were official and "shadow" community-organized events going on at almost all hours of the day and night.
With a ship full of nerds, we stressed the limited WiFi network on day 1 and forced a reconfiguration. I believe at the peak, 2,300 devices were connected to the internal network. I didn't purchase the expensive satellite internet package, but Brian and other seamonkeys reported lots of lag when accessing the internet at sea. The internal network also had a server running a custom Twit-arr web app, so there was a lively online conversation going within the seamonkey community. Twit-arr also had the schedule, forums, and messaging, which made it easy to find events I was interested in and connect with my group.
Dining is a large aspect of the cruise experience. Fortunately, Brian and I cruised with Holland America 5 years ago, on the Westerdam's sister ship mv Oosterdam, so we adjusted our expectations accordingly. Cruise food is generally designed for old white people, and tends to be bland and salty, with few vegetarian options. This held true for the most part, although I was pleasantly surprised at the daily availability of sushi and tiny salads on the lido deck buffet, as well as the "no sugar added" desserts. I filled up on 🍞+butter or oatmeal cookies when I was snacky, which was fine. I wasn't very hungry after the first day since I spent so much time relaxing.
I was minimally interested in the entertainment, but I attended all the daily shows and was pleasantly surprised by each one. Cameron Esposito + Rhea Butcher did a lovely stand-up set together. I was blown away by Zoë Keating's cello performance. I saw Portland feminist duo The Doubleclicks; their song My Jam https://g.co/kgs/kAKgPr
was relevant to my experience. I caught the first part of Jean Grae's set at the concert in port at Loreto. Aparna Nanchurla's emoji comedy slideshow was so funny. And I formed a positive opinion of Pat Rothfuss after hearing him read and talk about his recent experiences.
I spent lots of time reading in the quiet room in the first day or two. After that, everyone else discovered that a quiet ocean-facing recliner is a great place to be. All the recliners were full, and some machine was making a loud vibrational noise, so I wandered the ship looking for a new place to do my introvert thing. I found Afternoon Tea at Ocean Bar on deck 3. Tea is the best meal on the ship: smoked salmon on bread, cucumber cream cheese on bread, fruit tarts and shortbread, scones with cream, and waiters in white gloves offering tea and hot water in silver serving vessels.
The staff are efficient and professional at all times, working long hours to ensure that guests will enjoy their vacation. There's an element of manic servitude in how quickly and thoroughly the crew clean, tidy, polish, and finesse every inch of the ship. If I left our cabin for an hour, it would be clean upon my return, with the bed made, breakfast dishes whisked away, and bathroom surfaces disinfected. Almost all aspects of my existence were managed, leaving me free to drift about, considering the intersectionality of being a wealthy white person attended by brown people in service jobs.
The Westerdam's first port of call in BC Del Sur was Cabo San Lucas. My period was happening in full force during the first 4 days (thanks stress) and so after lunch at Cabo Wabo with Brian, I made a trip to a farmacia to buy pads. Hahahaha spring break fun! I also visited the mall in Cabo San Lucas and found a brewpub untouched by the spring-breakers and other cruise people, so I scored some quiet moments of peace and free WiFi before taking a tender back to the ship.
The pools and hot tubs are another big attraction of cruising. In hindsight, I'm glad I didn't splurge on new swimwear, because I didn't swim at all. The pools on the ship are small and often full of children, the hot tubs are small and often full of drunk adults. I didn't want to swim while menstruating, and in general the wet humid area with lots of audible coughing grossed me out. I can go to the hot tub anytime at home, so I had no FOMO about missing the pool scene on the Lido deck. 😎
The Westerdam's next port was Loreto, where we anchored overnight and had a music festival in the town square. I enjoyed the atmosphere of Loreto much more than Cabo San Lucas; it was a small beach town that reminded me of Seaside, Oregon. Brian and I had fish tacos, ceviche and guacamole at an open-air cafe near the plaza, where we could hear the beginning of the concert without being right in front of the speakers. It was very pleasant, and we took a tender back to the ship around dusk, while the concert continued until 12:30am.
There were a lot of late-night official activities, which I missed because I'm not a late-night seamonkey. I went to bed when I felt tired, avoided activities that would tempt me to drink late, and woke up for 8am yoga three times during the week. I think my therapist and psychiatrist will approve.
Cruise yoga was Very Basic and only 45 min, but I'm glad I signed up and went to all 3 classes. The fitness trainers did their best, and I enjoyed the challenge of doing yoga on a rolling ship. I'm experienced in my yoga practice, but I always enjoy doing yoga in a group and learning from different teachers. On the last day, my teacher told me that his typical students are older and not-very-fit, and that he struggled to demonstrate poses on last week's cruise to Hawaii. It was interesting to hear about a cruise worker's personal experience, since every other crew member I talked to avoided any subject outside the transactional nature of our interaction. Could be my personal bias; I'm terrible at initiating small talk.
On about day 4 or 5, I realized I was completely tired of cruising. I was ready to end the simulacrum of life where every aspect of my existence was managed. I had Relaxed on Vacation, and emerged on the other side. The remaining challenge was enduring the final days at sea on our way back to San Diego. I kept busy by playing 3DS (constantly managing a stream of new StreetPass tags, if that makes any sense) and finishing reading a long book. It was satisfying. I had no responsibilities, no plans, and no connectivity until we docked in San Diego and started disembarkation.
The disembarkation was also a managed procedure, so Brian and I took breakfast in our room while we waited Green 3 clearance to depart the Westerdam. While waiting, I perused the Holland America brochure looking for the longest cruise possible. They offer a 16-week round-the-world Grand Voyage. 16 solid weeks of cruise life, whoa! Brian and I had a good laugh about that.
Our disembarkation from the Westerdam was uneventful, and we wandered through San Diego's waterfront park for 0.5mi, then stopped at Cafe Gratitude to hang for awhile before going to the airport. I had a CBD-greens shot and a ginger kombucha (ordered via affirmation: "I am CHILL, I am GUTSY") and felt quite healthy on the way home to Portland.
It only took a day and a half at home for the sensation of standing on a heaving deck to subside, but it made for an interesting hot yoga class yesterday morning! 🤣