A few weeks ago, I was invited to go to an 80th birthday party. Among the select group of fellow guests were important political figures, judges and lawyers. Now, one would naturally assume that this distinguished assembly of New York City notables would have preferred something equally elegant, say a staid steak house or an upscale Italian eatery. Nope. The destination of choice was, wait for it, a ‘Cruise to Nowhere.’ That translated to one night on the Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Gem, a massive modern ship that normally sails to the Caribbean, Canada and the Bahamas. On this voyage, however, the ship simply goes a few miles out to sea – and back. Enough distance, though, to be able to gamble and shop at a duty-free store. Who knew that sailing to New Jersey (or at least safely offshore from the Garden State) could have such lucrative advantages – and be considered “international” waters?
There was one minor problem, though — I have been known to get seasick in a hot tub if the jets make too many waves! So I was understandably hesitant to accept this invitation. But then I read the trip’s description on NCL online: “Leave all your cares on land and slip away for a cruise to nowhere,” it beckoned. “Enjoy dinner and dancing, take in a show, win big in the casino, party the night away or spend some time in the spa to relax and rejuvenate!” It had this overly stressed journalist who hasn’t had a vacation in years at “leave…” So off I went – with my own Lawyer in tow (not that he needed a lot of convincing to take part in something that pretty much promised an open buffet for the entire time). Besides, I was determined to prove to my readers that it is possible to go on a cruise – and return in shipshape, no matter what the temptations. While 18 hours on board isn’t much time to get out of shape, I still considered this an opportunity to test the waters for the longer lasting versions. Detective Beauty was on the case!!
We have all heard horror stories about these types of trips. As one would naturally assume with something informally known as a “booze cruise,” they either attract the college crowd who stay up all night and drink wherever they are, or those who could be deemed the “Real Housewives of 7-Eleven.” And upon boarding and looking around, I had to admit that this particular excursion lived up to that reputation. There were drinks of every form offered on practically every deck – for an extra fee. Even though it was only 1pm in the afternoon, it seemed as if many cruisers had already had a few — or ten. Of course, when somebody dressed in a full dolphin costume came over and put his or her (hard to tell) arm around me to pose for a ship photo and I happily submitted; smiling broadly at the ridiculousness of it, it no doubt appeared to others that I might have knocked back a few myself.
Let’s skip to lunch. Unless you want to go to a specialty restaurant onboard, which is also extra, it’s basically what you’d expect for cruise food – and lots and lots of it. That means unlimited amounts of whatever is on the menu, much of it not terribly good for your health. Suffice it to say, though, that The Lawyer was in seventh heaven. Restaurants with All-You-Can-Eat buffets, you see, usually have to check with their bankruptcy counsel whenever he and our sons descend upon them. “Jane, should I have a steak?” he asked, knowing that I was sitting next to him and would kibosh the order, but decided to see if I mellowed in the negative ions of the ocean air. Here’s a tip: Look for the options with checks in front of them signifying that they are ‘heart healthy.’ Okay, maybe not what you would get at, say, Sweet Greens organic salad bar, but good enough to not gain ten pounds or fill any arteries left unclogged. And order triples on vegetables. That was all I actually ate, but the waitress nonetheless commented that I had a “hearty appetite.”
There is a long list of possible activities that my group of women and I scanned during our meal. I strongly suggested for them, and for those of you who follow this nautical path, a visit to the gym and spa. Every top-of-the-line ship has them and they are a perfect way to while away the hours instead of going to a bar or playing afternoon Bingo. The gym is open from 6am to 11 pm and offers everything from Thighs, Buns and Tum hour, to Fab Abs, yoga, Pilades, body shaping and all things in between. Everything you would find at a full service gym is right there. I loved the TRX workout, a revolutionary method of suspension training that is brought to us by the Navy Seals, and will make it a point to find a class here in the city that offers something similar. So take advantage of a unique opportunity to try different exercise options.
Finally, visit the spa. This cruise had a particularly gorgeous one — the Mandara. Splurge on a hot rock massage, an oxygen facial, acupuncture, or a cleansing thermal wrap. (And if you’re not Gwyneth Paltrow, how many of us realistically have all those hours to devote to detoxing?) I knew where The Lawyer would be – undoubtedly at the afternoon buffet — so I didn’t have to worry about him honing in on my “me” time. I still remember one year when I was certain that he was at the marina of a French resort taking note of the topless human condition, I called down to the hotel spa to arrange for a treatment. “Impossible, Madame,” was the reply. “Your husband is at this moment on the massage table about to start the very last appointment.”
Yes, I was a little sick to my stomach; but it was because the waters were particularly choppy, not the fact that I caught the dreaded Norovirus. But, at the end of the day, I disembarked the morning after looking and feeling Better Than Before. And if you just plan your cruise activities accordingly, you can, too. As for The Lawyer, he’s still annoyed that I didn’t let him eat any birthday cake.