Too Much Time — Too Much to Do

Today is Day 3 of seven consecutive sea days as we cruise from the Bahamas to Madeira, a Portuguese island group west of Morocco. I think most people cruise to visit distant ports, but transatlantic crossers know that the sea days can be special, too.

My first transatlantic crossing was in the mid 1990s with my friends Sue and Daisy. You may recall from an earlier blog post that we were good at doing nothing. That was the first of five annual crossings I did on the Wind Star ships, small ships carrying about 80-100 passengers for the 14 days it took to sail from Portugal to Barbados. We spent our days reading and chatting with our fellow cruisers, many of whom sailed the same crossing every fall with us. We knew the days with “nothing to do” would have driven some of our friends crazy, but we loved them.

Crossing on a large cruise ship is very different. The Cruise Compass, Royal Caribbean’s daily bulletin, lists dozens of activities from which to choose.

Some people move from activity to activity, only taking short breaks for coffee, drinks or meals. Today they might walk the jogging track after breakfast, attend a lecture on Rescues at Sea, compete in table tennis or morning trivia, climb the rock wall, preview art that will be auctioned later in the day, take a crafting or Portuguese class, attend a talk on upcoming port Gibraltar, try their hand at watercolor or watch the movie Hope Springs in the theater. And that is just a third of the scheduled options before noon! Venues like the miniature golf course, pools, spas, fitness center, library and Internet center, shops and bars are always open during the day.

There are always a few who spend the days lying in the sun by the pool. (You know who they are by their leathery skin.) Others huddle in the shade to read and nap.

The coffee shop, bars and restaurants always have groups of people chatting – some obviously are traveling together and others are new groups of friends. Others play cards and board games.

I don’t think I am as good any more at “doing nothing” on these sea days. Perhaps when I had a stressful job requiring 50 or 60 or more hours weekly, I needed those two weeks to rest and recharge. Now, I come aboard with a list of projects for the sea days and am lucky if I get through half of them.

I brought an external hard drive that has almost 24,000 digital pictures. I typically download pictures but don’t take the time to sort through, organize and delete. That’s a project for this trip. I also would like to finish the photo book of my last cruise, and maybe even begin one for this cruise.

I started sketching when I went to Paris a few years ago, so I brought a tablet and some pencils, along with some scanned instructions for improving my work. I haven’t even seen them since I unpacked.

The most recent issues of a dozen magazines are on my iPad, and the Kindle has several books. I might finish my first book in a couple of days (and this is day 7 of the cruise). I also have two seasons of The Borgias, most of the first season of The Americans and most episodes of Top of the Lake to watch if I want. I’ve seen just two episodes so far.

And then there is exercise – an activity that doesn’t come anywhere near the “100 Things I Want to Do on a Cruise.” But with a fitness center just four decks above my stateroom, a jogging track in the fresh sea air and classes several times a day, I will never find an easier time to perhaps build a habit than the 30 days of this cruise. My immediate incentive is to be in better shape for a hiking trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota that awaits me two weeks after I get back home. I’d like to no longer be the slowest person in the hiking club.

I could probably sail all the way around the world before I ran out of things to do on sea days. But then I meet another interesting person and chat for an hour. And remind myself that I should not schedule every moment, but sometimes just settle back and enjoy the ride.

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