The Cruise Ship Extravaganza: What Was Our Humanitarian Cruise Ship Like?

Note: This blogpost was written in 2017 October and published in 2020 April.

ice cream

First off, its safe to say that we experienced it as a miracle when we were offered a place on a  cruise ship leaving the island and headed towards Miami. As you can imagine we were very excited and we felt pretty lucky. A series of elderly had rejected the offer and so one of them (Ana’s grandparents) ended up asking us if we wouldn’t like to take it. Adventures of the Seas was only picking up 2,000 people from Puerto Rico, 500 people from St. Croix, and 500 more from St. Thomas. It was their way of contributing to the recovery efforts of those affected by Hurricane Maria. The cruise was to last 5 days. We assume mostly to give people time to also enjoy the facilities on the boat such as the hot running water, the free food, and a proper rest. If you are interested we address the question of whether the cruise ship was really “humanitarian” or not in our next blog post, as its something that did cross our minds often. For now, we just want to describe the experience on the cruise ship as a whole so you can imagine what it might have been like for a few thousand people to catch a “break” from the very difficult conditions on the islands post-hurricane.

line to the boat

We received one cabin for the four of us, this means that there was a full bed in the room, as well as two pull out twin beds which descended from the ceiling just over the full bed. We had one bathroom within the cabin as well. It was basically like a more compact version of a hotel room with a hair dryer, safe box, and all that fancy stuff. There was also a gym, spa, rock climbing wall, surfing pool, mini golf, basketball court, ice skating rink, cinema, theater and music performances, workshops, pool access (not just to one), and much more. In the humanitarian version we had a more limited access to these facilities, but an access nonetheless! We spent the 5 days relaxing by the pool, using the gym facilities, eating a whole lot and drinking unlimited amounts of water (this was probably our main activity and something which we had had to ration back on the island), rock climbing, surfing, attending workshops, reading, blog writing, and some more lounging around. We were pretty relaxed when we reached the mainland to say the least, a big contrast to how we had all felt on the island in a prolonged survival mode – and a relief not just felt by ourselves. Most people on the boat took it as an opportunity to let go, relax, and try to forget everything that had happened in the last month, at least for those 5 days we were floating out at sea. However, it was also a moment to transport entire families (including animals) to the U.S. So it was pretty packed full with all the furry, feathered, and scaled creatures and humans that you can imagine.

on the boat

The boat was also an interesting experience in the sense that it ended up acting as a melting pot. Since we docked at two other islands, the boat ended up becoming fuller and fuller. Even though Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, and St. Croix are not so far apart, they all still have their differences in terms of the local culture. One example, where this became evident was on the dance floor of the cruise ship’s bar. It was really great to see all the dance styles in one place contrasted against one another. The Puerto Ricans were of course dancing salsa and bachata, and making it look easy. While, the other islanders didn’t actually dance in the same way, we can phrase their style as “less elegant” for diplomatic purposes. The tourists (like us) for the most part also need to be placed in this category. The other tourists who clearly took drugs or some psychedelics also need to be placed in another category. The nice thing, however, was that everyone was gathered in one place, letting off steam, and enjoying themselves after a shared trauma.

boat inside

Would we have gone on a cruise ship otherwise at any time in our lives? Probably not. Cruise ships are quite expensive and not in our style of travelling. We personally like to experience the difficulties, shall we say, that arise when trying to cross a country by its public transport system, for example. You learn more about the country, infrastructure, and culture itself, and it really feels like a well-earned reward when you reach your final destination (this could just be us though 😉). Cruise ships, additionally, only drop you off at the port of the given city for a few hours or a day at most (although this of course didn’t happen on this particular cruise as it had one final destination – Florida). This doesn’t provide a very long time for getting to know the city, and we prefer the in-depth approach. Thus we concluded that a cruise ship is rather more about the services you get on the cruise ship itself, rather than acquiring a well-rounded understanding of the destinations you dock at. After our experience, we can totally understand how you would definitely get a good rest on your trip, especially considering that you don’t need to cook or plan your holiday, since it is all taken care of for you. Like I said, planning is probably our favorite part, so personally we could not choose the cruise ship as a holiday option. After the hurricane and the conditions on the mainland though, it was truly refreshing to have a “functioning” life again, to be treated on the boat, and be transported to a safe location.

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