CRUISE Part 3: I’ve Never Done THIS Before

January 6, 2012

I have a feeling this post will set a new Keep It Up, David record for having the most photos. No time for dilly-dallying – let’s get started!

I had the pleasure of trying a bunch of new things I’ve never tried before on this cruise. Let’s jump right in, because all of these activities (and there are four) were documented photographically.

Did you miss my first two cruise recaps? Read about how I ate healthy on the ship, and then read about how I burned calories.

1) Stand Up Paddle Boarding. We rented a stand up paddle board for an hour at the beach in St. Thomas, and all six of us had a turn giving it a try. I wasn’t too familiar with Stand Up Paddle Boarding, although I knew the general idea: you stand on a surfboard-type thing and use an oar to paddle around. My cousins took to it like they’ve been doing it all their lives. Here’s Camille, on her knees, which is how you’re supposed to get started:

Then you shift to a standing position, as demonstrated by Olivia:

And then you take off and paddle yourself wherever you like, as demonstrated by Isabel:

And then there was me. Let’s just say I didn’t take to paddle boarding like my cousins did. In fact, I didn’t like it at all. I couldn’t even manage to transition into a standing position:

I paddled out a few dozen yards, then turned around, paddled back to shore and got the hell off. I was on it for a few minutes, tops. It sounds so weird to admit, but I didn’t feel safe on it. The board messed with my sense of balance and it made me really uncomfortable. It’s silly, because I’m a great swimmer, and I’d be fine if I fell off, but I still disliked it. No, I hated stand up paddle boarding (or, in my case, kneeling paddle boarding), and now I know I hate it. And like they said at the end of every episode of G.I. Joe, “knowing is half the battle.”

2) Rock Climbing. Our ship, Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas, had a three-story rock climbing wall on Deck 14, and during our first day at sea, Isabel and I went to check it out. I had to pretend to be her father to sign her waiver, since she’s 13, which made me realize that I really could have a 13-year-old daughter – if I knocked up some girl when I was 18. And who’s to say I didn’t?

The rock climbing wall looks tall when you’re standing directly under it!

It’s on the back of the ship’s smokestack, so it curves slightly over your head, which makes it more intimidating.

Rock climbing is one of those activities that had never really entered my mind as something I’d ever want to try. Only when I saw a 60 Minutes story a few months back about a certifiably insane 26-year-old guy who climbs sheer cliffs with no ropes or harnesses did I think, ‘yeah, I don’t need to try that.’

And yet here I was, spending a week on a cruise ship equipped with a rock wall. When in Rome, right? So I went rock climbing.

I put on special shoes, and they strapped me into a harness and helmet, and we went to the base on the wall. I had the choice of four upward paths, each marked with different colored foot- and handholds. I chose the easiest path, blue. I was advised to push myself up with my legs (as opposed to pull myself up with my arms), stay close to the wall, and always be moving.

It was fun! Halfway up the wall there’s a bell – it’s below my right elbow in the picture on the right – and after ringing it, I kept going to the top, where there’s a second bell.

And I made it! I’m ringing the second bell in the picture to the left.

Rock climbing is a freakin’ intense few minutes, and a great workout. It was hard for me to resist pulling myself up with my arms, and it wasn’t long before both my arms and legs were shaking and burning.

I rested for a few minutes while Isabel ascended the blue path (very quickly and monkey-like), and then I tried the next path, in order of difficulty: yellow.

OH! I forgot the best part! You don’t have to worry about climbing back down – they lower you down in your harness!

The yellow wall definitely seemed more difficult: the foot- and handholds were slightly more spaced and a little trickier to navigate. I was slightly past halfway when trouble arose: my hands got really sweaty, and the problem was exacerbated because I had, about 30 minutes prior, coated them with sunscreen. I started to slip from the handholds. It got difficult to hold on.

So I bailed out of the situation. I called down to the nice staffer that was monitoring my harness that I had to come down, and she lowered me. I later learned that climbers use chalk for situations like that one, but I didn’t see chalk lying around, and didn’t know to ask for it before my ascent.

I vowed then and there to return to the rock wall before the week was up to conquer the yellow, and, a few days later, that’s exactly what I did, with the help of some chalk. Here I am seconds before ringing that second bell:

Woohoo! And you’re welcome for all the photos of my ass.

3) Ice Skating. Our cruise ship had, of all things, an ice rink, and one night we saw an ice show there. It was called “Hot Art, Cool Ice” (it was vaguely art-themed), and it was pretty impressive: they had 10 or 12 professional figure skaters doing spins and lifts and jumps all over this rink that was 1/8th the size of a standard rink. One skater did hula hoops tricks, at one point keeping about 20 hoops going at once while skating. Not too shabby!

The rink was open during the days for passengers to skate, and on our second day at sea, Isabel and I headed down there, with my Uncle Philip on hand to get some photographs. Ice skating is new to me – it’s something I’ve never had the desire to do. My general feeling is that I’m enough of a klutz on my own, so strapping anything to my feet, whether it’s an ice skate or a roller skate, seems downright stupid. An engraved invitation for a broken bone or a cracked skull.

But that “when in Rome” mentality won out, and I found myself signing the waiver and strapping on skates. First, I asked one of the pro skaters (who ran the open skate sessions) for some tips. “Hold on to the wall, and just move like you’re walking or marching.” Philip joked that if my ice show had a name, it’d be “Bad Art, Hard Ice” – and the sequel would be “No Art, All Pain.”

I’ll be honest: I was terrified when I stepped out onto the ice. I don’t think my hand left the wall for the first 2 laps around the rink:

But as I felt slightly more confident, I ventured away from the wall for short bursts:

That’s Isabel to the right, who must’ve been positively bored at my glacial pace. My confidence continued to grow, although I did have my moments where I felt a fall was imminent. Here I am, mid-flail:

But I never fell! Ever! I challenged myself to go the entire length of the rink without touching the wall, and I did it! Then Isabel challenged me to do a complete loop without touching the wall, and lucky for all of us, because Philip switched to camcorder mode, so my shining moment was captured on tape.

This video of me ice skating is embarrassing. After I successfully completed the loop, Philip goes, “That was painful. All that’s missing was a walker, because you look like a grandpa.” And it’s true. Take a look for yourself, and try to decide if I’m even moving at all, or if it just appears that I am due to, oh, I don’t know, continental drift:

Laugh if you want (I am), but hey – I ice skated. I’m an ice skater now. I spent about 25 minutes out on the ice, and now I can say that I’ve done it. And I never have to do it again.

4) Horseback Riding. Confession time. I have ridden a horse before, on Mackinac Island in northern Michigan, but not in over 20 years. I’m lumping horseback riding in with the other activities in this post because it’s something I’ve never done in my adult life, and something, up until very recently, I probably wouldn’t have been able to do, because of my weight.

A general rule of thumb is that if you’re going to ride a horse, for the safety of you and the horse, you should weigh no more than 20% of what the horse weighs. A 150-pound person, therefore, shouldn’t ride a horse smaller than 750 pounds. A 400-pound person (which is what I weighed a couple years ago) shouldn’t ride a horse smaller than 2,000 pounds – do they make horses that big? The ranch we went to in Aruba had a rider weight limit of 250 pounds, so I squeaked by with only 14 pounds to spare. (Keep it up, David!)

Meet Ringo. He’s a Paso Fino horse, and he was my best friend for about two and a hours:


We got a brief lesson (5 minutes) at the ranch from our guide, Judith, on how to ride, then we all got on our horses and took off. We wound through some residential streets before starting on a narrow trail. We soon found ourselves winding our way up a beautiful hill covered in cacti and shrubs:

We crested the hill, and on the other side was an amazing view of the ocean – a beautiful rocky coast, nearly untouched in every direction:

We descended the hill and headed towards the coast. So. Beautiful.

Once we were all out in the open (our group had around 15 people total), we got the horses moving, and Ringo and I cantered a couple times (that’s faster than a trot, but not quite a gallop). We ended up at a beach that had a natural bridge…

…and one of the guides took a picture of all six of us:

From left to right: Isabel, Philip, Camille, Mary, Olivia, and Yours Truly.

We trotted/cantered down the beach a little ways to some ruins, were we tied up the horses and took a 20 minute break. This is where I got one of my favorites pictures from all week:

Then, back on the horses, back over the hill, and back to the ranch.

Horseback riding turned out to be much more physical than I was expecting. Judith summed it up at the beginning: “It’s not the reigns that keep you on your horse, it’s your legs that keep you on your horse.” My legs were sore the rest of the day! And it was a blast – both being on a horse, and being on a horse in such a gorgeous part of the world. I’m so thankful that Philip and Mary invited me to join them and their daughters on this cruise, and I’m so proud of the hard work I’ve done that have allowed me to make the most of that week. It crossed my mind, during each of the above activities, that two years ago I would’ve only been a spectator.

I don’t want to be a spectator ever again.


PS. Did you make it this far? This post has nearly 2,000 words, 19 photos, and 1 video. Phew!

PPS. Tomorrow: My final cruise recap, including my run-in with… a 5-foot nurse shark. AND I’M NOT KIDDING!