JoCo Cruise Crazy 2016

This was the first cruise my wife and I had ever been on. We weren’t sure what to expect. Would I get seasick enough to ruin the trip? Would we spend the trip as wallflowers, since we didn’t know anyone else that was going? Would our clothes for Formal Night be formal enough, despite our lack of fezzes?

Thankfully, everything turned out better than we could have hoped for.

Our good luck started before we even got on the boat.

While waiting to get into the terminal, we struck up a conversation with another Sea Monkey couple that had been on the cruise before. They were funny, friendly, and more than willing to share advice on how to navigate the new world we were entering. We had lunch together that day, and they introduced us to Redneck Life, a game they thought we’d appreciate since we live in Arkansas (we did, the game’s hilarious).

We ended up spending a lot of the cruise together; they already feel like good friends we’ve known for years. Thanks to them, we never felt lonely or out of place during the cruise. Can’t wait to see them again next year, so we’re already making plans to go visit them before then :)

Our second stroke of incredible luck happened when we found an interpreter for my wife. She’s what I refer to as “suburban deaf”: not hard-core inner city deaf, just living on the outskirts of the community. It’s enough so that concerts and stand up performances – in other words, the majority of the nightly entertainment on the cruise – are really hard for her, and she misses most of what’s said or sung.

But not this time. On the second (?) day of the cruise, another Sea Monkey introduced herself after watching my wife sign. She said she was an interpreter, and would be happy to sign for my wife during the shows if she wanted.

My wife accepted, of course, and the two became really good friends over the course of the cruise. She ended up signing for my wife for all the Main Concerts, and most of the side events my wife wanted to go to. At each one, she commandeered two spots near the front, and reversed one of the chairs so she could face my wife and sign.

She’s an amazing interpreter, with a very expressive face, and a great sense of storytelling through sign. She made the performances available to my wife for the first time, and it was amazing seeing her so happy: able to laugh at the same jokes as me, without me whispering to her or using my non-fluent sign to get the meaning across.

These were the two biggest instances of kindness we received during the cruise, but the entire Sea Monkey community was amazingly friendly and welcoming.

In the game room, you could just walk up to any table and ask to play. If you hovered instead, they would invite you to join.

In the dining room, you could share a table with perfect strangers and end up making new friends.

My wife and I decided to try organizing a couple of events ourselves, and not only did they get on the schedule, they were welcomed and successful.

I’m taking a lot of memories away from the cruise – performing stand up for the first time in 2 years, the view from the top of Blackbeard’s Castle in St Thomas, my wife going to dinner with a tiny fez pinned to her hair – but the best memory I have is a feeling, the warm glow of acceptance and support I felt from everyone while we were there.

It’s an incredible community, and I’m honored to have been allowed to join it.

Ron Toland @mindbat