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Family Cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas: Cozumel, Cuba, and Gratitude

Day 4: Another day at sea. No working out this time, as that desire dwindles with each passing day on vacation (PLUS the fitness center is packed on days at sea – it’s like going to the gym right after New Year’s resolutions have been made. I think I’ll just wait until I’m back at home for some yoga and zumba). Instead, I eat, nap, read, lay out, repeat.

It’s also on this day that I come to the conclusion: 6,000 passengers on board and not one of them is a single, attractive, twentysomething male. I hope this is not an accurate statistic for real life, or else I might just be doomed as a twentysomething single female.

I did, however, manage to find a frog prince on the carousel with Alli:

 

Day 5: Cozumel We made the mistake of spoiling ourselves on a private tour in Jamaica and then settling for a group tour in Cozumel – “Snorkeling from a Catamaran”. Had the individuals in charge of naming the excursions been thinking clearly, they would have called this one what it really was: a booze cruise. Four hours of sitting next to Corona-hat wearing rednecks who belched louder than I can even scream and who took advantage of the complimentary beer and margaritas beginning at 9 AM, which, in Mexico, is two hours past the acceptable starting time for tequila. I would be less judgmental had the margaritas not been poured from unlabeled 2 liters and I’m positive that those bottles were probably less sanitary than the re-used snorkeling equipment passed out on the tour. Thank goodness we brought our own snorkels and masks, I just wish I had brought my own margaritas, too.

So. Many. People.

 

Day 6 – Our last day at sea

Until 5:30 today, our day at sea was nothing out of the ordinary: eat, sleep, read, repeat.

As we’re sitting in the room, about to get ready for our dinner reservations, Lauren calls to tell us to go look out from the balcony. “The ship’s turning,” she says, “there are people out there.”

We’re in the middle of the ocean, which has been intensely calm today, like a lake, and in the distance is the silhouette of a small, smoking figure. It could be a boat, could be a raft, it’s almost impossible to tell.

Others have heard the news and sit on their balcony, cracking jokes back and forth.

“Are those pirates?” the balcony above asks.

“How close are we to Somalia?” I joke.

“…how close are we to Cuba?” someone counters.

We watch as a speedboat departs our behemoth ship, Royal Caribbean sends its ambassadors to face the smoke in the distance. The balconies continue to clamor – we could be saviors or we could be fools for going out to this unknown vessel.

The speedboat circles the figure and we hear the familiar ding-ding-ding of the PA system. This is our captain speaking.

He announces the circumstances: 18 Cuban men on board a raft, heading to Mexico (their actual destination would later be a subject of debate amongst passengers). They have asked for no other assistance than food and water. We are sending both their way.

In the meantime, our ship drifts closer to the figure. It comes into full, heartbreaking view. The raft bends at the edges, it dips under the weight of being well over-capacity. The men on board are full-grown bodies, God knows how long they have been out here or how much longer they will have. The picture gives new meaning to the word desolate – they are a speck among the expansive sea, no land in sight in any direction. Their story could end in a number of ways, but the odds are not in their favor.

The clamoring from the balconies has grown silent – six-thousand pairs of eyes watch the raft as eighteen pairs watch us back.

Are we not an over-indulgent symbol of what they’re sailing for? A floating city at sea, the American Dream in outlandish, cruise ship form.

This realization makes my heart swell, simultaneously with gratitude and shame. Never have I had to put my life on the line for freedom – never have I had to put my life on the line for anything.

As we wait for our boat to bring forth its goodwill, the Norwegian couple beside us grows bored. We hear the flip, flip, flip of their playing cards. Despite the scene, some people will remain unaffected in their apathy. We continue on our cruise, we choose what we’d like to eat for dinner, we travel in comfort back to the shores of freedom, which we never actually left.  The next PA we hear tells us about the deck party and karaoke competition.

This impacts me more than the children in Zimbabwe, who are given hope thanks to Singita. At the end of this experience, there are no smiling children waving us goodbye – instead, we watch them putter away into the endless horizon, smoke shooting high into the air from the failing engine. Most likely, since Royal has alerted the Coast Guard, they will be escorted back to their homeland for an even crueler fate.

I have no political commentary on the matter but I do have to say it broke my heart coming face to face to such a controversial subject. It was one of those moments that makes you feel so small that it took you so long to realize what really matters.

As we sat around Chops Grille for our final dinner onboard, I realized that what really matters to me is this family I’ve been blessed with. We can only take things for granted for so long until something desperate wakes us up. It happened today with the freedom that I’ve never stopped to be grateful for and it happened two months ago when I came so close to losing my grandmother due to a massive heart attack.

As I sat across from her at dinner tonight, surrounded by the people I love the most, my heart could not have been fuller. We were given a second chance with her for a reason and that is an opportunity that we will not – and have not – take for granted. I’m so thankful to my wonderful grandparents, for loving us enough to give us such a wonderful gift this past week – and so thankful to God for keeping us all together to enjoy it.

Lindsey Epperly

My name is Lindsey Epperly and I’m a travel consultant and owner of Epperly Travel, a national affiliate of Century Travel. I’m most passionate about building lifelong relationships with my clients and suppliers, discovering the globe in a way that makes me a better agent, and celebrating with my team when we reach a new milestone. One of our core values at Epperly Travel is to create fun and celebrate constantly – and I’m fortunate to be in a career that allows me to do just that. I’m proud to announce my recent achievements: landing a spot on Wendy Perrin’s WOW List as their Caribbean expert, being nominated for Virtuoso’s Rising Star Award and receiving a place on Jezebel Magazine’s Trailblazing Ten list.

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