This is the third in a series of essays.

Now, “at sea” on a huge cruise means very different things, depending on your age, motivation or anxiety level. Somehow I had the notion of sitting on our little balcony, reading one of those real books that contributed to my luggage overload and drinking a room service latte or pinot noir, depending on the hour.

Mais, non.

An activity sheet for the next day appeared on our bed every afternoon, often accompanied by yet another towel animal, It would be impossible to do even half of things on the list starting at with a Vitality Stretch at 7am or Indoor Cycling at 9am in the Fitness Center and on to a live champagne Art Auction at 1pm and a Red Carpet Hair Package for that night’s formal dinner (which, thankfully, are not black-tie any more.) I counted nearly 80 separate activities daily, which included a highlighted box for Music and Dancing and yes, Karaoke at 9:30 and a Texas Hold’em Tournament in the Casino at 11 pm.

On top of all this, our travel agent, who happened to be on the ship with her own group of 24, arranged “games” for all of us mid afternoon on these days “at sea.” The first day I had to give up my Pilates class, which was scheduled at the same time as her Trivia contest (Oh, gee, darn) and we made our way to the 12th deck to conjure up useless information from our cluttered brains. Dick and I, nightly Jeopardy watchers who smugly yell out correct answers at home, thought we would clean up. However, the questions were way trickier and it was often a mental coin flip or a wild guess. Like, on a No Smoking sign, does the diagonal line go up to the right or to the left? Or how many matches are in a matchbook?

The most fun, however, was a scavenger hunt which took our team all over this floating hotel in a mad quest for 28 ridiculous things. We had to take a photo of each and one of us had to be in it. I discovered that my friends of over 40 years have no shame when it comes to asking strangers for favors … and amazingly, each stranger obliged.

“Can you hug in the hot tub for us?”

“Will you pretend you’re sleeping on this lounge?”

“May I take a photo of your seasickness patch?”

“You look like Santa Claus! May I take your photo?”

We were stymied by “someone in a speedo” because it was a cool day on the Baltic Sea and there were few sunbathers. So, we lost the contest to some youngsters who did find one after stalking a robed possibility and who bribed a crew member to take them to the forbidden gangplank for a photo op.

These silly things only took up a couple hours of our days at sea, so I often took advantage of our “drink” package to have Erik make me a frothy latte or a cafe mocha at the Café Latte-tudes on the fifth level. Then I would find a little table near the balcony overlooking the Centrum as my designated happy people-watching and writing place with my trusty Ipad. Yes, I actually watched from my perch on the eighth level, a demonstration, by an unlucky crew member, of creating towel animals!

To be continued ... Scandinavian excursions, at last.

Yvonne Ransel lives in Bristol and occasionally writes essays for The Elkhart Truth.

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