Setting sail from New Orleans.

Written Sunday, December 20 – Travel Day + New Orleans, LA

The beginning of our trip was a bit rocky. My plane out of GSP was delayed twice, to the point that I was worrying about missing my connection. Fortunately, I was able to switch over to another plane to CLT and catch my connection to New Orleans (MSY). It was a tumultuous morning! I met my mom at her gate, since I arrived slightly before her, and we caught a taxi to the Port of New Orleans, which is downtown.

Our first time in New Orleans, and I have a headful of preconceptions built around Katrina, the Superdome, stories from friends who have been, and the French Quarter. We drive downtown past some epic graveyards and into downtown New Orleans, which is very orderly and straight, streets radiating north from the Mississippi River. I saw a line already forming outside Mother’s Restaurant, which I understand is one of New Orleans’s mainstays, and also glimpse some of the lovely historic buildings along the way. I’m looking forward to exploring it when we come back!

It took us a lot of queuing and scraping around to get to the cruise, but finally, we manage it! We’re sailing on the Norwegian Dawn for seven days. When we took our first cruise four or five years ago, we also took Norwegian, and I have the vague impression it’s a little bit better than Carnival, which we did last year. It’s a seven-day cruise to Mexico and the Central Americas. My mom has been to Cozumel before, but neither of us have really done Costa Maya, Belize City, and Roatan, Honduras, which are the other destinations. Generally, we’re probably just going to do a lot of snorkeling!

Our cabin this time is an Obstructed Oceanview stateroom, which happens to be an accessible stateroom, much bigger than most of the ones I’ve seen, to allow a wheelchair or mobile chair to maneuver around. We could easily fit a full-sized bed in the space between me and my mom’s bed, and our bathroom and shower are both gigantic. Pretty sweet! Our obstructed view looks out onto the lifeboats that we’re supposed to use in the event of an emergency.

Food is slightly better on this cruise. Right off, I was impressed by our lunch and dinner selections. There were lots of different kinds of breads, even pretzel breads, and the presentation of what they had was even better. My mom and I both load up on salad anyway! We discovered at dinner that they even have an Asian food buffet counter, with lots of Indian food – aloo mutter, dal, chicken curry, and some other favorites. Even chapatis. I was pretty excited, and that made up for the chocolate soft serve machine being out for the evening so that we couldn’t get seconds. Oh, well.

Leaving New Orleans, we emerged on deck to explore our surroundings. We left from the Port of New Orleans around 4 pm, and the sky was already beginning to darken into night (after all, it was 5 pm Eastern time). We emerged on the deck into a brisk wind, which made it quite chilly to be walking around. But we explored a little bit, and I saw a nice pool in the center with several hot tubs nearby. Near the bow of the ship, there were many sun chairs stacked up and all ready for when we get to sun ourselves. Mom and I also took many pictures of the surroundings. After the ship left port, we still had many more miles of navigation down the Mississippi River before it emptied into the Gulf of Mexico. For all it looks like it’s surrounded by water, New Orleans is actually amidst several large lakes, none of which connect and spit you into the ocean, so you actually need to navigate much farther before you are in open water. There was not much on the river except for some industrial looking boats. On either side of us, there was green forest, and in some places, houses (which looked distinctly below the waterline) and what we thought were some oil refinery plants too.

We spent our evening exploring the ship. We always like to see the library, because I like to borrow books but also because sometimes they have puzzles. My mom will reminisce fondly, at the drop of a hat, about how much they loved their Holland America cruise up to Alaska in late April two years ago. They had the best puzzles, and people would come by to piece together a little bit at a time. Unfortunately, Norwegian is rather lacking in that regard. Not only did they have no puzzles, but they didn’t even have large tables to put together the puzzle. Fortunately, I had brought one in my luggage at her request, and we spent our last hour or two before bed piecing together the outline on the vanity table in our stateroom.

Other highlights included the casino. Last year, I was pretty gung-ho about watching how people played blackjack and roulette, which are two of the most reasonable games in there. I mean, if you want to play a game where the odds aren’t stacked up against you (like slots), you should try blackjack or roulette. The latter is probably the fairest. This year, I’ve had enough of it. It was interesting to see, but I’m probably not going to be frequenting that room a lot more. We also went by the Pearly King’s Pub, which is the sports bar on the ship. There was a large crowd in there watching the end of the Broncos vs. Steelers matchup, and some awfully loud noises of dismay at the interceptions that were happening. We watched for about fifteen minutes, and I found myself having to explain a little bit about what was happening to my mom. Personally, I was rooting for the Broncos, hoping that Brock Osweiler would keep having a good run. Even though they didn’t win in the end, they were tied up until the last five minutes!

We ended our day at the gym, which we had looked in on right after dinner. I introduced my mom to the elliptical, which became her favorite. We spent a while on there, and I even managed to catch some of another football game. We also went on the cycling machines, and checked out the weight machines. I think we’ve discovered a way of balancing all the desserts on this cruise! We enjoyed it a lot, and then came back to do puzzles and prep for bed. Tomorrow is our first day at sea, which means we’ll be taking it slow, and hanging out on the ship. I foresee some walking, hitting the gym, some swimming and sunning, and even reading. (YAY!) I miss my books. I may even hit the Internet café because I did not thoroughly research all the other places we’re going to be looking at, like Costa Maya, Belize City, and Roatan, so I know where we need to go snorkeling. I’m a little tired, just thinking about a whole action packed day!

Written Monday, December 21 – At Sea in the Gulf of Mexico

Today wasn’t as action-packed as it could have been. I smile a little bit at my exuberant self from last night. Mostly, it was because the boat has been very rocky. There is a perpetual side-to-side motion as we make our way through the Gulf of Mexico to Cozumel, our first stop tomorrow. It has meant that my mom and I who are both slightly prone to motion sickness, have been unable to engage in as many fun activities like putting together our puzzle, which required much intense staring at tiny pieces of fuzzy green and blue. We even cut short our gym trip since I almost tripped on the treadmill when we swerved to one side. It also means that we’ve had a few more naps – napping is one of the ways to make the nausea go away. Somehow, I’m still pretty exhausted, and it’s only 11 pm.

When we emerged on deck after breakfast, the weather had changed from being chilly as we left New Orleans to quite warm and humid. The sky was sunny, and it was almost 80 degrees as we sailed into the Gulf. We sat in on a shore excursion presentation in the morning, and decided to opt for a private island retreat on Roatan in Honduras because it seemed to have good snorkeling all around. Kind of exciting!

My mom and I love to discuss the people we meet on the cruise. We both stared a bit longingly at some families on the cruise – I kind of love seeing three generations – mom and dad with grandma in tow and a few kids – taking the trip together. It’d be nice to have my dad with us too, but he doesn’t really get vacation until Chinese New Year in February. We also definitely talk to each other about what families are Chinese. On the Carnival cruise last year, there were tons of Chinese families. This one, not so many, but they’re still there. We don’t really make conversation with them, but it’s kind of nice to fun to know they’re there. None of the “kids” are as old as I am, of course. That reminds me – on the flight down from GSP to CLT, I sat in the exit row. You have to verbally consent to be willing and able to assist in the event of an evacuation. You also have to be at least 16 years of age. So when getting our consent, the attendant stopped and asked how old I was. I replied twenty-seven with a big smile, and he smiled back and thanked me. It’s nice to be mistaken for being sixteen occasionally. My mom laughed when she heard this story. She’s mistaken for being pretty young too, but doesn’t get her ID checked at bars as much as I do. Of course, she also never goes to bars. That may account for it.

In the afternoon, we laid out on some beach chairs on Deck 12 to enjoy the sun and the music. I read most of my book Marriage Markets, which combined some of my interests in gender theory along with theories on how inequality affects marriages. After a while, my mom and I respectively ended up in the pool and the hot tub, which was a nice way to round off the afternoon. We ended up in the gym to do some running and elliptical before taking the second nap of the day, and then heading to dinner. Dinner was a delicious seafood themed sort of thing. We have finally settled into the our preferred side of the twelfth floor buffet, which happens to specialize in Asian food. I keep getting a lot of Indian food, which my mom disdains, but there was enough stirfry and some chow mein to keep her satisfied too. My new dessert of choice is pieces of banana bread dunked in chocolate fondue, which just tastes like chocolate banana bread! After having dinner to our satisfaction, I left my mom trying to do a little more puzzle in the stateroom, while I headed to the Pearly Kings Pub to watch the Monday night matchup between Lions and Saints. It was pretty sad from the beginning – though New Orleans fans were in the majority, this being a cruise that departed from NOLA, the Lions scored multiple times. Drew Brees had a hard time completing those passes, and they came away with a number of bad breaks – kept getting flags on their touchdown passes or things like that. Most everybody left around halftime, but my mom joined me around then so we stayed, and I shared photos of Stella and Steve’s family in Greenville. It was a nice family evening, and now we’re back here. I need to go to bed soon since tomorrow we arrive at our first port, Cozumel. We’ll be disembarking to take a ferry ride and then a bus ride to the Tulum Mayan ruins, which my mom has visited before on a trip to Mexico. It comes highly recommended, so I look forward to it! More to come…

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