a column by Aatheus Centauri
©1999 Aatheus Centauri -- all rights reserved
Recently, I had the interesting experience of going on a week-long cruise aboard Carnival Cruise Lines to the Mexican Riviera, a week chock full of food, games, food, entertainment, food, stops in interesting ports, and did I say food?
Sounds like fun, doesn't it? I must admit, it was quite enjoyable. I got to see three wonderful parts of the beautiful country of Mexico: Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. I met many friendly people, both in Mexico and on board ship. A few of the people I met were a very nice tour guide named Gilberto and a waiter named Kenak. There were lots of activities to keep busy with, including live music, several dance clubs, a Vegas-style lounge, two pools and three Jacuzzis, a fully-stocked gymnasium, a sports desk with volleyball and shuffleboard courts, and a variety of other activities (like the huge casino on deck 9. Oof!)
Yes, the trip was all-around fun in terms of stuff to do and people to meet, except for a small problem with the ship, a problem that can take some of the fun out of the experience. To describe this problem to you, allow me to illustrate a simplified design of the ship:
The Carnival Cruise Lines cruise ship Elation is a big ship, measuring 950 feet long, 150 feet wide and over 100 feet tall, 70 feet of which is above water. While the ship itself is very big, with lots of stuff, the interior access ways of the ship, like hallways and doors and such, are built rather narrow. The hallways on my deck were hardly wide enough for two humans to walk abreast of each other; two-way traffic was limited to single-file. Now, if you're an average-sized human, this doesn't pose too much of a problem, but for those of us that are of the centaur persuasion, this can be, quite literally, a tight squeeze. Fortunately, I'm not too wide of a 'taur, so I was all right in the hallways, but I can just imagine some of my draft horse-based 'taur friends getting stuck in the hallways or doorways. In fact, I did manage to get my lower body caught in the doorway of my stateroom, the place you go to sleep on the ship. The doorways was about 2'6" wide, and my lower body is 2'10" wide, about two inches of that being from wings on my lower body. You do the math. Fortunately for me, as I was trying to uncork my body from the doorway, the person staying in the stateroom across the hall from mine opened his door about then, and asked me if I needed help. After assuring him that yes, help would be greatly appreciated, he placed a call to the Purser's desk using the phone in his room. Let me tell you this: if you have never gotten wedged in a doorway and have had to be forcefully pulled free, don't do it. I was so embarrassed my face had flushed bright red and my wings kept twitching occasionally. I'd also hit my head upon entering the room, the ceiling being only 6 feet from the floor, whereas I am 7 feet tall from head to forehoof. The headache lasted two hours. Ow!
Due to the space restrictions in the stateroom, (which, scary as it seemed to me, was crowded with three average-size humans in it) I spent most of the days we were out at sea up on one of the open decks. I spent a lot of time up there, spread-out on a few towels draped over the wooden planked deck, getting some sun and listening to the Calypso band play up on a stage. The songs they played, mostly "Everything is Gonna Be All Right" type songs, were actually quite catchy, and I often found myself dancing to the beat. Well, dancing loosely defined as moving my lower body side-to-side while swishing my tail to the beat and clapping my hands. Okay, so I didn't win any dance competitions, oh well. I still enjoyed the music.
Dinner on board ship is served in two shifts, main seating and late seating. Wow, the dinners were a treat for me, a growing young 'taur stallion who is almost always hungry. Never before had I had the experience of attending a sit-down dinner in a classy restaurant every night for six nights. The interesting thing about the menus they handed us each night is there were no prices on the menu! The food was all paid for by our boarding passes; only drinks like beer, soda, wine and cocktails would be charged for. I was able to order whatever I wanted and not have to argue with my parents if I could get an appetizer or anything. I distinctly remember one night where I ordered two appetizers, a salad and two entrees. Not only that, but my dam had told them the night before that it would be my birthday the next night, so I also got a large cake to eat! Bliss! Ooh boy, I actually felt ill from eating too much food, the first time I had felt that way in a long time.
Unfortunately, there is a side effect to eating lots of food, and I imagine you can guess what it is. Yup, you guessed it. What goes in, must come out eventually. "Eventually" is quite often the next day, and I ate lots of food each day, so I got to squeeze myself into the tiny little bathroom in my stateroom quite often. The bathrooms on board ship are ludicrously cramped, even for a human, so you can just imagine the fun I had squeezing my bulk into the bathroom. Actually, due to the layout of the room, I was only able to fit about 1/3 of my rear end through the doorway of the bathroom, while the front part of me stood in the closet.
To make matters even worse, due to way my ::cough:: excretory anatomy is constructed, being a stallion, I was only able to use the bathroom for #2, and that was questionable at best. For #1, let's say that I had to improvise, and leave it at that...
By the time we stopped at the first port of call, I was really itching to get on land. I'd gotten my "sea hooves" after about a day, so I never got seasick, but I was anxious to get off the boat and be somewhere I could RUN! Out first port of call was Puerto Vallarta, a neat little city (okay, maybe not little. I don't know it's size) with lots of palm trees.
The cruise director had planned several activities for passengers to do at each port of call, and one of the possibilities for Puerto Vallarta was snorkeling. It sounded fun, so I went snorkeling with my family. I skipped getting fins, as they'd never fit on my four hooves. Besides, my legs don't move the right way to be able to use fins. Anyway, the ship supplied each of use with a mask, snorkel, towel, and fins, before herding us all into one of the lounges for a pre-departure talk with one of the guys from the snorkeling organization we were to go out with. I can't remember the guy's name, but he was very friendly as he talked to the gaggle of passengers assembled in the lounge. After the talk, we all trouped off the ship and over to a pier, where the boat that was going to take us out was tethered. As is to be expected, the sailors on board, all natives of Puerto Vallarta, were a bit surprised to see a centaur climb on board their boat. I didn't really notices the stares of the passengers or crew, because as I gingerly stepped on board I was worrying about the boat holding my weight. Fortunately, the boat didn't sink, so the boat was untied and we set out to our destination, Los Arcos. Los Arcos, meaning "The Arches" in Spanish, is an underwater national park. The Arches are actually huge rocks in the bay around Puerto Vallarta, which over time have had natural tunnels etched in them by the motion of the waves. I am told there are many varieties of fish that use the coral reefs around the Arches as homes. Unfortunately, I discovered an interesting quality of my lower body: it floats very well. In fact, it floats too well. I could not submerge myself at all. Each time I would try, I'd just bob back up to the surface. So I found myself floating serenely amongst the other snorkelers, my torso completely above water. Ah well, I did manage to at least put my face in a couple times, and these pretty little yellow fish came up to me and swam around in front of my face.
After returning to our ship to get dried off and into new clothes, we went out for a walk around town. We walked over hill, over dale, through a few trees and along the highway, as it were, ending up at a mall in downtown Puerto Vallarta that, to my great excitement, had a cyber-café. Now, I should explain that a cyber-café is a place that provides public access to the Internet via computers located on their property, usually charging a per-hour or per-minute fee for the use. My sire (father to those of you not familiar with equine terminology) ducked into the cyber-café, called the Eclipse, for a few minutes to send e-mails to our friends in the States, after which the whole family, my sire, dam (mother) and I, all returned to the ship. Our ship left port around 5 or six o'clock that night, making its way up the coast of Mexico and towards Mazatlan.
Mmm, what do I remember of Mazatlan? Ah yes, another neat little city. My family and I went on a city tour by van, with the wonderful driver/narrator, Gilberto. I wish I had been able to take a picture of him, but the opportunity never arose. I did, however, take several pictures of a beautiful statue of a mermaid, perched on the edge of a rocky cliff near the sea. As Gilberto told us, Mazatlan's economy is about 70% fishing, so the ocean is very important to the residents of Mazatlan. On the subject of mermaids, I picked up this neat mermaid statuette in a small store located in a part of Mazatlan called "The Golden Zone". Not bad fur a $13 statuette, nee?
The third port of call was the beautiful Cabo San Lucas. We were there for only three hours, round about, as the ship had to lift anchor to begin the long return trip to San Pedro, California. My family and I spent our short stay in Cabo on a small beach, which we hiked to. The beach was nice, though the sand, which consisted of small pebbles, kept collecting on the insides of my hooves, a real nuisance to remove. As there wasn't a lot to do in Cabo, we just lazed on the beach, taking in some sun. Let me tell you, it felt good to warm my hide under the Cabo sun. True, I'd done some sunbathing on board ship, but the experience of doing it on a beach seemed more enjoyable.
Anyway, the last two days were spent on the return trip to the US, to the port that serves Los Angeles, located in San Pedro, California. There were the usual hassles with customs, having to declare goods purchased and prove citizenship. With all that over with, all I wanted to do was lean against a wall and rest, but we had to get out so the next load of passengers could go through registration and get on board ship.
I guess my advice to anytaur who is planning to go on a cruise would be to ask lots of questions beforehand. Find out if your cabin will be large enough and be accessable to you. Trust me, it will spare you lots of grief to find out these things first. Regardless, I highly recommend cruising if you can afford it. I sure won't forget the time I had >:-)