Can You Be Too Woke to Cruise?

Can You Be Too Woke to Cruise?
Photo by Alonso Reyes on Unsplash

The armrest on the bus was stabbing me in my side. 

The seat on the small van was too small to fit myself, my wife, and our day luggage, which included towels and two pieces of snorkeling gear. 

Even though my spine was put through a grinder, I thought it would be worth it. We were on our way to ride a catamaran off the coast of Roatan in Honduras. 

We pulled the trigger and finally went on a 7-day cruise with Royal Caribbean. We booked our cruise in March 2020. At that time, we were getting excited. Until we saw this unfortunate ship whose passengers contracted a weird virus that spread quickly. We were going to be on that ship a week later.]

We were deciding if we should go. Of course, we know what happened. All cruises were canceled due to a fake disease called COVID-19. 

We were given full credit to use anytime. Although we had the cruise credit, we didn’t use it until December 2023. 

This was my wife’s first cruise and my second. I went on a cruise back in 2005, so I consider it my first. We bought new clothes. Since it was our 9th anniversary, we decided to forego the standard celebration and wait to celebrate it on the cruise. Cruises offer you to experience the culture of the ports you stop at by having what is excursions. 

Excursions are little mini trips to activities that happen to be at whatever port they stop at. A cursory lookup on YouTube will give you in-depth analyses of anyone you may want to go on.

We thought it would be great to go on a Catamaran. The excursion had a 5-star rating. People raved about the food. It sounded like a good choice. 

For some reason, whenever I think of a catamaran, I think of everyone wearing white linen outfits from head to toe. I imagine seaman’s hats made by that guy on Seinfeld, J. Peterman.

Catamarans exude glamour and class. Imagine endless supplies of white wine. The movie The Talented Mr. Ripley comes to mind. Remember that movie with Matt Damon and Jude Law where Damon is a weird stalker who tried to steal his friend's identity? They are in Italy riding Vespas and listening to Jazz. Everyone is extremely beautiful.

Well, this was not that. 

We were jammed into a small van and escorted to the port. 

I can see why COVID-19 spread like wildfire on that first cruise ship. People would talk so close to me that I thought they were trying to stick their tongue in my mouth. It seemed like every human was trying to make up for the fact that they had to social distance by being as physically close to you as possible without jumping into your clothes while wearing them.

On the way to Roatan, I saw familiar images that reminded me of my old home in pre-gentrified Brooklyn. The abandoned building looks. There were abandoned buildings with cardboard signs for window coverings. I wasn’t allowed to walk by when I was a child. 

The surrounding area was poor. You could see dogs running around the streets eating out of the trash. I was surprised that the town we rode through had electricity or even running water. 

I tried to convince myself this was rustic, but I wasn't convinced. I felt guilty. I am not rich, but I kept on feeling that the people who live here should get some of the proceeds somehow. I felt privileged and didn’t like it very much. 

The boat was not the cleanest in the world. The bathrooms were old. Muddy footprints were all over the deck. I had to let go of my expectations. It wasn’t as glam as I had expected. The food was basic - a tray of red beans and rice, a salad made of iceberg lettuce, and roasted chicken thighs. They seemed to have pulled the food out of a cabinet on the deck, but we were traveling for at least an hour so I wondered how long the food was there for unrefrigerated? My wife ate little. I ate all of it and paid a price for it that night. 

They were offering to sell some tees. I thought it fit my aesthetic. I bought one. I didn’t give them the exact amount for the shirt. They said they would exchange it when they got back to the port. When they got to the port, they didn’t have the chance. I knew I had a decision to make. When I was a young New Yorker and people did that, I would either make them get the change or I'd say ‘Never mind’ and not purchase it. Usually, this forces the person to find you change. 

I let them keep the change. I knew it was the oldest trick in the book. However, I felt sympathetic. Maybe the people running the boat needed the money. Maybe they were greedy. Who knows? 

We decided never to go to Roatan again. I couldn’t deal with my interpretation of the poverty I was observing. 

Towards the end of the cruise, we had dinner in the main dining room. Each department has surveys that they give the passengers to grade their performances.

A waiter came to our table in the middle of our meal when the head waiter wasn’t looking and started to beg us to fill out the surveys. We assured him that we did in between taking bites of my steak. He then said that these surveys are super important because that is how they feed their families. We then explained in great detail how we filled them out and gave them the highest rating possible.

The waiter quickly disappeared when he saw the head waiter approaching our table.

The policy is that you are not supposed to beg the customers or make them feel responsible for their children getting fed. 

All this is to say that the cruise was enjoyable. Money is the underlying motivation factor for everything on the ship. That is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just a reality check. If you are an American, you're perceived as rich. The main reason is that you can spend a lot of money on a luxury item like a cruise so you must have plenty of disposable income.

Of course, there is a lot of nuance within all of this. You should never be made to feel guilt. Your responsibility is to enjoy yourself. Just be aware of what some of the underlying factors that can affect your enjoyment.

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