I gained so much from voyaging through the Caribbean on an O, Oprah Magazine Adventure of Your Life cruise. Being my first cruise, I chose to leave all expectations behind on land and boarded open to anything.
Here are the lessons each day brought as I discovered what life on a cruise is like:
Day 1: The early bird gets the worm
Board the ship early and take advantage of the open buffet, pools, and view. I boarded the Holland America at 12:30pm, was able to go straight to my cabin to drop off my bags, and by 1pm was enjoying a sustainable ahi Cesar salad poolside.
PROTIP: Don't forget the champagne!
Cruisers are allowed to bring one 750 ml bottle of unopened wine or champagne per guest on board - perfect for that Bon Voyage moment!
Day 2: Practice healthy habits
It didn't take long for me to realize that when the Captain of the Nieuw Amsterdam didn't shake my hand, it wasn't that he was trying to dim my star moment. It was that he was safeguarding his health. Aboard a ship with thousands of passengers (2,100 in this case), lots of precautions are practiced in keeping everyone on board healthy. Hand sanitation stations are posted everywhere (though I tend to think they reduce our healthy microbes), signs on the bathroom doors instruct you to use paper towels to open the door, and food is served to you from behind cough guards.
Day 3: Gratitude attracts abundance
As one might think, being on an O, Oprah Magazine cruise means a lot of extra perks! Morning meditation and yoga lead by fitness experts, special appearances by O editors and thought leaders from The SuperSoul 100, and a book signing with Oprah's Book Club pick, Award-winning Author Tayari Jones. Each night, we'd find a postcard resting on our pillow with an inspirational message from Oprah and some kind of free shwag like a giant, colorful Lands End beach towel. I'm certain that Oprah is grateful we signed up for her cruise!
Day 4: Bluetiful is an actual color
I was told by one seasoned cruiser that the ports we’d be seeing, Grand Turk, Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic, and Half Moon Cay, Bahamas, were the best in the Caribbean. There's a reason why there's a Crayola color named Bluetiful and why people refer to this special hue of turquoise as Caribbean Blue. In this part of the Caribbean, the waters are nutrient-poor. They lack the green-pigmented phytoplankton (marine algae) that give water a green tint. Since water is actually clear, fewer phytoplankton mean clearer water. The water appears blue because red, orange, and yellow (long wavelength light) are absorbed more than blue (short wavelength light). When white sunlight hits shallow water, it gets reflected off the seafloor and we see it as blue. The characteristic shimmering variations of blue come from differences in depth - shallow water with a white sandy bottom will reflect a lot of light, making the water appear light blue where as deep water with no seafloor to reflect light off of will appear deep blue. I gladly invite these blues into my life any day of the week.
PROTIP: Go snorkeling or diving
Whether it's through the Explorations Central office (as it's called on Holland America) or an island outfitter, take the opportunity to go snorkeling or diving in these clear waters. Clear water is usually a sign that there are corals and other organisms living on nearby reefs pulling in the nutrients. Coral reefs are the underwater rainforests of our planet and to observe the life within these reefs is to play witness to nature's artistry.
Day 5: Be flexible
The cruise schedule can change at any point as determined by the Captain. Unlike airline travel, weather affects your travel and destination plans. We had to bypass Amber Cove, Dominican Republic due to high winds that made it unsafe for us to dock at port.
It wasn't such a loss as I happened to catch a Humpback Whale breaching out of the water four times and waving it's perfectly white pectoral fin at me as we headed towards our next stop.
If the seas are too rough and the Captain deems it unsafe to dock, we keep cruising. This is of no inconvenience though as the staff is quick to make arrangements for on-board activities and meals to keep everyone entertained and happy while at sea.
Day 6: Be a great dinner guest
It behooves you to be nice to everyone. There are lots of dinning options onboard but my favorite was the open seating dinner option in the main Dining Room. It's like a surprise dinner party waiting for you every night. You have no idea who is invited, but you know the food will be good and healthy - with picks from Oprah's first cookbook, Food, Health, and Happiness - and even sustainable.
Holland America follows a Responsible Seafood Program for their restaurants!
That being said, there's no escaping the cranky, arrogant dinner mate for whom nothing is going right so don’t get into any heated discussions with this "Donald Downer" because you’ll be running into him over and over again while onboard. But, when you do open yourself up to the unknown, you also open yourself up to getting seated with a witty O Mag Insider and her fashionista bestie - you'll be high fiving on the dance floor every night!
Day 7: Leave a lasting impression
There's nothing like spending seven days cruising the Caribbean only to stop at tropical islands to mediate on the beach, snorkel the clear blue waters, play ukulele, laugh, sing, and sip on a Rum Runner with some spirited, bold, like-minded women (and men) aboard the O, Oprah Magazine Adventure of Your Life cruise.
Having a feeling I'd connect with some amazing people, I brought along blue marbles to share along the way for three reasons:
1) To show my gratitude for them entering my life
2) To introduce them to the Blue Mind movement led by Dr. Wallace J Nichols
3) To give them something to remember me by
Bringing along something to share leaves a wonderful lasting impression because it's not expected. It creates a meaningful moment that activates a ripple effect of gratitude. Next thing you know everyone from the wait staff to the Captain to the Beauty Director at O, Oprah Magazine is waving and saying hello every time they see you - and it feels phenomenal (true story)!
I learned a lot about cruise life and every day life while spending seven days at sea and I'm looking forward to voyaging on another cruise soon. I hope you too have gained some new insights so you can get the most out of meaningful cruising.