Tuesday, November 02, 2010


One of my sanity requirements is to get out of town during Spring Break in March, and furthermore, to go somewhere warm and sunny: and even morefurther, to go somewhere warm and sunny with good snorkeling.

Hence our last four trips to Hawai'i. The problem with Hawai'i, though, is that any trip includes two full days of flying, which really feels more like six full days of flying, given how much fun flying is these days. I don't mind that much -- I get a lot of knitting done on those flights -- but they're pure torture for Gary, who's claustrophobic and has very long legs.

We are, of course, now in love with cruising, but that's mondo-expensive, especially during Spring Break week, and especially because Gary insists on a verandah suite. I'd take a broom closet, but I see his point: if you're going to live on a boat for a week, do it right.

Since our Alaska cruise in May, we've been getting sale e-mails from Holland America roughly every two weeks. I've been obsessively checking the March 12 Mexican Riviera cruise. For lo, these many months, the prices haven't budged, no doubt because that week is Spring Break.

Today, they budged. The prices on the least expensive verandah rooms had dropped two hundred dollars per person. When I signed in with our Mariner numbers, that fell another hundred per person. I comparison-shopped Big Island packages (car plus flight plus hotel), and the prices seemed pretty comparable, especially since food's included on cruises and mega-expensive in Hawai'i.

So we've plunked down a deposit on a Mexican Riviera cruise over Spring Break.

I'm simultaneously thrilled and slightly nauseous. This is expensive, and times are tough (and we'll have a hefty bill from our Christmas in San Francisco, too), and I fervently hope that I'm heading into a sabbatical year, which will entail definite belt-tightening. On the other hand, the please-God-let-it-be-upcoming sabbatical also means that this may be our last change to splurge for a while. The alternative's to stay home -- which I know from experience is very bad for my mental health -- or to find somewhere warm, sunny, and snorkel-friendly for less money, which seems fairly impossible.

I don't know if we're being wise or irresponsible, but the usual cliches suffice. We only live once, often for not quite as long as we expected. Looking back, we usually regret the things we didn't do more than the things we did. Carpe diem. Make hay while the sun shines. We could all get flattened by a rogue asteroid tomorrow. Etc. and so forth.



  1. Anonymous4:51 AM


  2. Whatever works for you, just as long as you get the cruise!!

  3. There's nothing wrong with going on a vacation you can afford and enjoying it - although I find this particular post a bit at odds with the banner in the corner of your blog that says "Help Make Poverty History."

  4. Jo,

    Heh! Good point! And I have to admit that -- as much as I enjoy the super-luxury of the cruise ship -- I'm also ambivalent about that very thing.

    However, it's not immediately clear that not going on a cruise over Spring Break will end poverty. I donate monthly to four different charities (plus church), three of which directly address poverty issues. (The fourth is the Humane Society; what can I tell you? I love animals.) If going on a cruise kept me from doing that, it would be much more problematic.

    Gary and I agonized a fair bit about the social-justice aspects of cruising when we took our Alaska cruise: there are certainly real issues involved. To the extent that cruise lines employ a lot of people and also help local economies in the places they visit, one can argue that they're beneficial. (The cruise line automatically charges a tip per passenger per day, to be distributed to the crew: we made a point of increasing ours.) On the other hand, reading cruising through a lens of post-colonialism gets pretty uncomfortable pretty fast. The same issues apply in most of the hospitality industry, though, so is the only solution not to travel at all?

    One could, of course, only camp, but that carries its own environmental issues, and in any case, we don't enjoy camping. Eco-tourism of other kinds has its own baggage, and is often more expensive than what we're doing.

    I think the lesson here is that it's very difficult, if not impossible, for any of us to lead completely pure and virtuous lives. I donate to charities; I volunteer in my community; I try to speak up about poverty issues; and yes, I also enjoy fancy vacations, partly because I've learned that warm-water snorkeling once a year helps me maintain the energy I need to do the other stuff.

    Sometimes the best we can do is to try to remain aware of the ambiguities and paradoxes involved in what we're doing, and to thank the people who remind us of them.

    So thank you!


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