Havana Stories and Tips

Water, Water Everywhere...And Some Of It On Deck

Ultimately, a cruise has to be viewed from the perspective of being on a boat in the water: otherwise you could do it all in Vegas. Whatever diversions might offer themselves below, you aren't really there until you walk out on deck. That's where you see the deep range of stars in the far black dish undimmed by ambient light, where your very passage strews white streaks into the night, peeling slices off the dark fruit of the sea under a cartoon Caribbean moon. Go ahead, do your King of the World thing, nobody out there's watching: you're just a ship in the night.

It's also where you can lounge there slathered and steam-pressed by the too-high tropic sun, in the exact center of a perfect circle of that deep indigo you only see here in the Caribe. Why sweat "King" when you're the Center of the Universe? And now that wake is not just thumbing through dark pages, it's constantly weaving a long train of lace and trailing it in hypnotic patterns. You feel you could stare into it all day. Which you do, for fifteen minutes. Then you start looking around the topsides.

Which is pretty much one long strip of mindless pleasures. There are several levels of decks with lounges and plexiglas windshields, and two areas of shaded deck for those peoples of the world who regard sun-baking as nuts. One of the sheltered decks offers further nurture in the form of an open bar and occasional snack buffets. Food and shelter, clothing not a big issue. It's also down by the bar on the pool apron that the activities director stalks. Personally I find trivia contests through bullhorns, aerobics episodes, and salsa lessons right up there with lifeboat drills under live ammunition, but a lot of passengers not only refrained from keelhauling, but seemed to enjoy it all. Those who don't can escape the whole vibe (and pretty much the known universe) above and forward in the deck chair zone. Here behind the plexi shields, but with just enough slipstream to avoid being auto-sauteed, is the Void. The biggest excitement here is watching books and walkmans falling from numbed hands. It is a sort of adult area by default (and a few surreptitious defenestrations, I suspect) and from lounge to lounge the ambiance ranges from singles bar to nature worship to non-stick physical shells of zombies plugged into the mini-CD matrix.

The pool itself turns out to have hidden aptitude. At first glance, it seems like a relic brought up from the Lusitania--a small cistern of riveted boilerplate smaller than a backyard dip and surrounded by rims and troughs resembling girders around a pit designed to hold dangerous animals. Good for little more than sluicing off sweat, which could be done just as easily with the two showers on deck. And filled with salt water. Once underway, this weird little void reveals a few tricks. The ship's motion surges pool contents back and forth in unpredictable patterns. The troughs keep it from sloshing out on deck, while bathers bob, sway and generally waft around like olives in a drunk's martini. Of course it's a major hit with kids, but lots of adults find that lying on little foam floats and being safely wave-tossed up the walls of the pool is relaxing as well as enjoyable. If it's not relaxing enough, there are always the three jacuzzis with view at the aft end of the sun deck. They are shallow and square and the water is never extremely hot (you want hot, just tread your tootsies on the steel deck or stand in the sun for a hot minute) but are very congenial for logging around like captive crocs and chatting up other bubble-bathers. If straight-up sunlush and hot tubs don't get you hot and sweaty enough, there are also twin saunas and a shower located just steps from the jacuzzis.

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