Taking a cruise with my mom.
Princess cruises.

The 7-Day Caribbean Cruise With My Mom That I Didn’t Think I Wanted

Line-dancing in my bathing suit? Who knew?

There are cruise people everywhere; I am not one of them. This is what I thought before I went on a seven day eastern Caribbean cruise with my mom. In fact, when I was first given the opportunity to go on a cruise I sort of clutched my imaginary pearls and thought I am not a cruise person. But my mom is a cruise person. And I am her person. And so here I am, barefoot in my bathing suit and cover up on the dance floor in the lounge, line dancing to “Achy Breaky Heart” with her at my side. And I’m having fun. Not even ironic fun but pure, actual, I’m-into-this kind of fun.

The Caribbean Princess, my mom, and me.

My mom lives many hours and many states away from me, a place where she knew no one and she is the kind of person who wants to know people. She wants to have her fingers in all the pies and keep snacks for neighborhood kids in her kitchen cupboards and take care of people’s chickens when they go away on holiday. I couldn’t really give her that. But I could invite her to sleep in a twin bed mere inches from me on the Caribbean Princess for seven full nights. She said yes and she wasn’t even upset about the twin bed thing and so I wasn’t upset about it either. Especially since the beds were shockingly comfortable. We met in Fort Lauderdale to head off for seven days together. On a cruise ship, yes, but also to the Bahamas to hang out on a private island and have a barbecue, walk the cobbled streets of old San Juan, Puerto Rico, and finally take in the views from Villa Botanica in the mountains of St. Thomas.

The first night started off auspiciously. After doing a little fashion show with each other to share our cruise outfits, we went up to the Lido deck for some shockingly excellent wood-fired pizza at Slice (voted the best pizza at sea by USA Today!) with a side of crispy fries and some wine from the Salty Dog Grill. We then ditched the cute outfits and swam under the stars all alone.

The high/low of it all.

The beauty of this Caribbean Princess cruise was the choose-your-own adventure element of everything. While we opted to upgrade to a balcony room, budget-friendly travelers can choose an interior room for as low as $754 per person. This includes meals at six restaurants and non-alcoholic drinks, and all of the entertainment in places like the cinema and casino.

We really leaned into the high/low approach on this vacation, and it was made so easy for us. Breakfast was sometimes just a little yogurt and fruit and coffee delivered to the room, sitting on our balcony in our twin robes with feet propped up on the railing like we’re teenagers or something. Sometimes we’d head out for a full buffet breakfast at the World Fresh Marketplace, the kind of spread with so many options that we found ourselves walking in circles past the fruit, the omelet station, the baked goods (my God, the baked goods). We missed lunch most days, just helped ourselves to a snack at the International Cafe or enjoyed a fun cocktail at one of the many, many bars, and then really busted out for dinner.

We were fortunate enough to be invited to both the Caymus Winemakers Dinner and the Chef’s Table Experience, where we were treated to a multi-course dinner/wine pairing with 10 other cruisers over several hours. We even got a tour of the kitchens, which gave my mom and I both slight cases of PTSD from our years as servers. The lemon sorbet shaped like a lemon, with a cool edge that we cracked with our spoons, was perfection. I think about it once a day at least.

Every night with my 70-something mom ended with a cocktail and music. Drinks at Crooner’s Martini Bar after gorging on seafood pasta at Sabitini’s Italian Ristorante, listening to jazz as we met with a woman in her 90s named Beryl who really considered her cocktail before telling us all about her dead husband. I can’t explain why, I never laughed so hard in all my life.

The lobby bar was for dancing after steaks at the Crown Grill, yacht rock delivered with such passion that we could not help ourselves. A little Michael Buble-esque music at Outriggers, the melancholy kind that had us talking about our family back in Canada.

Excursions that are like a little amuse-bouche.

I’ve never been to Puerto Rico or St. Thomas, and I’ll be honest… I’m not sure if I feel like I’ve been there after this cruise. We chose the History and Cuisine of San Juan as an excursion, and it did feel like something of a taster of the island’s history. Walking the cobbled streets, getting a sense of the history of Old San Juan was a nice way to stretch our legs. The same held true for our visit to St. Thomas, where we took in the views from the mountain tops and Villa Botanica. It was like dipping our toes into a pool where we wanted to swim for hours. Which is, I assume, the nature of cruises.

Getting our sea legs.

For me, the real fun was being on the ship. Watching the sun set and the moon rise over the ocean. Early mornings at the gym even, just because of the incredible view. An afternoon spent at the adult-only pool when the waves were high enough to turn it into a wave pool. All of us strangers suddenly kids again, laughing and screaming as the waves knocked us around and we tried to hold onto our cocktails. Going for a long, decadent, perfect massage at the Lotus Spa. Spontaneous line dancing in our wet bathing suits. Losing mightily at afternoon trivia.

Falling asleep to reruns of Frasier, one of the few shows we’ve always agreed on. My mom’s soft breathing in her bed beside me. After all these years, after becoming a mom four times over myself, there she is, just being my mom. I found her again on this cruise.