By Catherine Daniels, as told to Sally O'Neal Coates
First, take at least 25 type-A personalities, many of which haven't met each other, and put them on a red-eye airline special where each person experiences at least a 2-hour time change. Throw in a travel agent who believes mind reading is the highest form of communication and a tour bus driver who doesn't have a mind.
Paint the background with 88-degree temperatures and at least 75 percent humidity, then overlay it with a faulty bus air conditioner. Stir vigorously on a 75-minute ride to Galveston Pier. Make sure at least half of the personalities are smokers who are now going through nicotine withdrawal. Assume that the debarking passengers from the previous tour were radically delayed so that you spend another hour circling the pier facility trying to get off the bus while being vigorously pursued by the parking police who won't let you stop. As the internal temperature nears boiling point, let the passengers off the bus to snake through a line of 2,300 other passengers to board ship. Finally, allow everyone to flop down in their cabin in utter exhaustion.
How To Enjoy The Ship
Spend a day at sea marveling at how deeply blue the ocean can be. Observe flying fish. Sit on the Lido Deck during lunch listening to the Jamaican band play "Sweet Home Alabama." Watch passengers line dance with a salsa motion. Be thrilled that your phone is back home and refuse to buy Internet access on the ship. Go back to your cabin to discover the steward is fond of creating little animals using bath towels. In preparation for formal night, try on new beaded gown and black feather boa. Admire boas of two other roommates. Swap boas to discover best color combination. Spend 10 minutes picking white ostrich feathers and red turkey feathers off beaded gown. Meet rest of boa-wearing group for formal photos. Suddenly realize where the creator of Big Bird got his idea.
Proceed to early dinner seating and enjoy a wonderful meal. Adjourn to bar for drinks and dancing. Realize why ships generally don't sail anywhere within 500 miles of a hurricane. Be rescued by a battalion of elderly, teeny-weeny Filipino ladies on the dance floor whose purpose seems to be keeping statuesque dancing American women from falling as the ship undulates six feet to port, then six feet to starboard in 15-20 foot seas. Overhear that most of the people enjoying the rum punch at lunch are now in their cabins wishing they were anywhere but on board. Feel sorry for the cabin stewards working tomorrow's shift. Follow feather trail back to cabin. Wonder why someone doesn't put a chocolate on your pillow at home ... it is such a nice way to end the day. Pick ostrich feathers off pillow before going to sleep.
How To Have A Land Excursion
Go shopping in Cozumel. Feel at home in Mexico. Track down an off-the-beaten-path local restaurant that serves fresh conch seviche and grilled octopus. Wish the waiter was 20 years younger and not married so a proposal would be taken seriously. Walk slowly to delay getting back on board ship.
Wake up offshore in Belize. Join 100 other passengers for the snorkeling expedition leaving directly from the ship. Ride in a catamaran 20 minutes to a cay with a submerged coral reef. Feel the air embrace you like a sauna before diving into a lagoon the temperature of bath water. See four different kinds of coral, fan algae, starfish, sea urchins, parrotfish, sergeant-major fish, eels, and rays. Bob on the sea surface like so much flotsam, watching another world go on below. Get a sunburn. Dance the macarena with the crew and other passengers as you head back to the ship.
How To Appreciate Your Fellow Passengers
Wonder how on earth people can sit still and sunbathe for two whole days. Buy a box of chocolates to give the dining room waiter on formal night. Walk a mile on the jogging track. Start investigating every nook and cranny on the ship. Stop and realize the body types seen on board. Skip the clothing optional deck. Take a tour of the galley. Run down to the cabin and admire the latest towel animal. Consider signing up with the galley crew if we are at sea even one day longer. Pick last ostrich feathers off clothes before packing.
Reverse the arrival steps in perfect order with the exception of the plane flight. Have passengers booked on an afternoon flight leaving an hour earlier than practically achievable. Chose farthest available airport gate for departure to ensure passengers must run to board plane. Sprinkle in passengers with colds in order to infect the rest of the plane. Arrange for much colder weather at destination to ensure colds take on first try. Move luggage arrival to unusual carousel to maximize confusion. Call it an adventure.
Catherine Daniels is a latter-day globetrotting adventurer who usually directs her writing talents toward scintillating subjects such as the herbicidal properties of vinegar (don't ask). Sally O'Neal Coates contributes weekly to sportsmansguide.com.