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The myth of the "perfect" vacation

29 Jan 2022
Jill Kruse

From the moment we book a trip, we start dreaming about the “perfect vacation” we are going to have.  We imagine all the fun we are going to have, the things we will do and all the places we are going to see.  While this may sound like a reasonable expectation, expecting the “perfect vacation” is a set up for disappointment.  Last I checked, no one is perfect, so extremely high expectations can lead to “disenchantment” while on Enchantment of the Seas.  

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When I dream about my vacations, I dream about sun and sand, and my happy, smiling children who are eternally grateful for this wonderful experience that I have given them. 

Instead sometimes the reality is my kids are fighting and throwing sand at each other, the ocean water is freezing cold, and it starts to rain.

Somewhere in there I realize I forgot to pack the sunscreen and my husband becomes “hangry” because we miss-read the hours of the Windjammer and got back to the ship too late.  

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It is times like this where I used to throw up my hands in despair and lament that this is NOT how my vacation “should be”!  This is where I need to step back, take a few breaths and remember my kids fight like siblings at home as well.  They will be best friends again by supper time. 

Too much togetherness isn’t good and sometimes they need a little time apart.  This may be some alone time with each parent or a trip to the room for one and Adventure Ocean for the other.  

When my husband is “hangry” I’m eternally grateful for Sorrentos Pizza or the hot dog stand on Oasis and Quantum class ships.  A slice of pizza or a hot dog can make a world of difference and we usually have some emergency cookies stashed in the room for just such occasions.  

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When I forget to pack something, I remind myself that beside my passport (and now vaccine cards), there isn’t anything I need that cannot be replaced on the ship or port.  The price may be higher for my forgetfulness, but it is not the end of the world.  Sometimes this is something that I need to remind myself.  We have never been turned away from the main dining room because my husband forgot to bring black dress shoes and dress socks… again.

Thankfully my embarrassment is saved once his feet are tucked under the table cloth hiding his “dress Keens” sandals.  

Traveling with extended family is not an exception to the “perfect vacation”.  The way they behave at Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings is not going to magically change during a cruise.  While cruises are a great way for multiple generations to vacation together; it can provide numerous opportunities for opinions on how children should be raised and behave.  

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It is so easy to forget when you watch the commercials of the happy and perfect looking people that vacations are still real life.  When you see people’s vacation photos posted on social media, trust me when I say they likely only posted the “good pictures” where everyone is smiling and happy.  They don’t take pictures when someone is crying or an excursion gets cancelled.  

Vacation can be a great time to work on table manners with kids; unfortunately I have seen adults who could use some remedial training.  On one cruise several years ago there was an elderly woman in her late 70’s who was seated at our table.  She was impossible to please. We watched the crew do everything in their power to try to appease her and make her happy.  It became a game to see how soon into the dinner service she would send something back to the kitchen.  

She received mashed potatoes one evening and insisted on a baked potato after her plate arrived.  When the crew brought it out, she gently touched it with one finger and announced that it was cold.  She then turned her nose up and waved a dismissive hand telling them to “take it away.”  When asked if she would like a different one, she tersely responded that it was “too late” and she didn’t want anything anymore.  

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While there is nothing wrong with asking the waiter to fix an order, there is a way to do so with grace and compassion.  Sometimes I’ve left mistakes in place and didn’t point them out.  They ended up being “happy accidents” where I tried something new that I would not have otherwise done.  These are times when I found something new on the menu that I liked.  Also I have some empathy for the crew.  The amount of meals that are going out in such a short order of time means that things will not always be perfect.  Even with a 99.9% accuracy rate, on an Oasis class ship that would mean at least 5 dinners each night being messed up.  

We have had excursions cancelled in the past due to bad weather. One instance was the waves were too high at “Sting Ray City” in Grand Cayman for my children.  Royal Caribbean staff were wonderful in helping us find a substitute excursion on the spot at the Turtle Sanctuary and the Dolphin Encounter.  This has been one of my (and my children’s) favorite excursions to date and it is not one that I would have picked.  Speaking with people that elected to go to “Sting Ray City” despite the waves, said they had a disappointing experience as they were pushed around by the waves and the water was cloudy with poor visibility from all the sand stirred up.  

I could have been disappointed and upset that I didn’t get to go to “Sting Ray City” which was a main reason for picking this itinerary.  On the other hand, I could be thrilled that we had this amazing excursion and have an excuse to come back to this port of call on another cruise, although I might have to convince my children to try an excursion other than the turtles. Sometimes the anticipation is just as satisfying as the actual experience.  

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Covid and the related changes have complicated cruising, with onboard shows, ports of call, or even entire cruises cancelled with little notice.  Instead of complaining and asking “Why did this happen to me?!?” instead ask “How is this happening FOR me?” 

Try to find any glimmer of good that can come out of this situation.  It may take some work to come up with a silver lining for a missed cruise, but when you find it, it will feel much better to hold on to that instead of the disappointment and anger. 

We had a cruise that was cancelled in 2020 and instead of being upset, we adjusted directions. We ended up taking a trip to Yellowstone and Utah to visit friends. It was amazing!  We had another one that was cancelled in November 2021.  However, we were able to use the future cruise credits from both of those trips in order to upgrade to a suite for our cruise this past December.  

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Just remember wonderful memories and great stories from any vacation rarely start with the phrase “Everything went exactly as planned.”  Many of our most memorable stories and adventures are when things went wrong, we got lost, someone got seasick, or there was some other hardship at the time that we had to overcome.  Our lives are made up of stories and the hero needs to overcome some adversity on their adventure.  

Just picture yourself as the hero of your story and find a way to win the day with an amazing adventure.  Heed the words attributed to Captain Jack Sparrow, who also spent time on a ship and faced many adventures that did not go as planned; “The problem is not the problem.  The problem is your attitude about the problem.”  What story do you want to tell when you get home?  Make it an amazing one since you get to write it, problems and all.      

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