Mr. D and I decided to try our first Couple’s Cruise—4000 Lifestyle folks on Royal Caribbean Ship. We left from Tampa and visited Grand Cayman and Playa del Carmen. As veterans of Desire, I was hesitant to go anywhere else. So I found myself constantly comparing the experience to a Desire trip. Overall, the cruise was a fun experience, but I think it took one trip to get a sense in terms of rhythm regarding how to make the most of the trip. Hopefully our insights can help some of you.
Clientele. While the ship was large, it had a broad range of demographics. The numbers of compatible people were way smaller than 4000. The majority of the ship was over 50. The ship included nudists. It also included a BDSM community; they stayed away from poolside and played in the dungeon instead of the playroom. We rarely saw them unless someone in a sensory deprivation suit was being guided through the hallway.
The under 45 crowd was so small that a series of meet and greet swinger activities were arranged just for us. These meet and greets were poorly organized, however. If they were held poolside in the afternoons, I think they would have been well attended. Instead they were held during the dinner hour or an hour before the disco opened. The younger crowd isn’t apt to be EARLY to the disco. Bad timing all around.
Factoring in age, compatibility, and interest, I’d estimate that Mr. D and I had only about 50 couples that could possibly work for us. For the 45 and over crowd, I’m guessing that the options were much broader. For us, they tended to be the couples by the pool during the day and at the disco late at night. We were surprised that it was quite easily to find people from “our crowd.” We were worried that with such a huge ship it would make it hard to find people again. But we were disappointed that the actual number of compatible couples was in fact smaller than a Desire trip or even a big night at our local lifestyle club.
Weekly rhythms. Not all days are the same on a cruise. The week breaks into days at sea and days at port. For lifestyle activities, these two types of days lead to very different lifestyle opportunities. Days at sea tend to be big days for socialization. Meeting people by the pool. Making plans for dinner. Shows in the theatre at 10, an aerial show in the atrium at 11:15, then theme nights the disco. (It’s also worth noting that the 10 and 11:00 shows make for a late night since the disco doesn’t start hopping until 11:30).
We made the mistake of trying to be just as socially active on port days. On those days, most couples are waking up early, spending the day engaging in an exhausting activity—touring ruins, riding zip lines, swimming with stingrays or dolphins, and so on. Most couples tended to come back to the ship and take a long nap. Few people were coordinated enough to make a dinner plan with others. The level of energy at the shows, bars and discos in the evening is decidedly lower than other times of the week. We learned that it would have been better to keep expectations very low on those days. It’s easy to get in a fight with your partner when you’re tired or just feel weird energy from other couples because they are tired too.
The last night of the cruise seemed to be an “all in” kind of experience. It’s a sea day. And everyone is trying to squeeze final moments of fun out of an ending vacation. Everyone seemed to be at the disco, and lots of great energy was found everywhere. We were very disappointed to find that the ship staff did not share in our enthusiasm. Rather than allowing us to party all night, everything closed early on the last night. The playrooms closed at 1 instead of 3. The late night buffet closed at 2 instead of 4. And on the night that we all wanted to stay up later than usual. It was all going to be over in the morning anyway. Very disappointing, Royal Caribbean!
On the whole, I found the cruise experience to require a lot more energy than Desire, where the days are the same and it’s easier to slip into a rhythm of when to rest, when to play. The shifting between port and sea days made it hard to find a rhythm for us and instead we had this feeling like we were missing out on things. We never fully found our groove. Perhaps a second cruise would be easier to find a rhythm because we would know what to expect.