We pulled out of Galveston on our maiden cruise at 4:30 p.m. on a Thursday. The liner, Carnival Triumph, a venue we were later to discover was akin to a small city, one neighborhood stacked on another twelve stories high.

That first day out, Gayle and I were like the proverbial mice in a maze. The only problem was, we had no scent of cheese to follow, only our instinct, and when we passed the same spot three times in thirty minutes, we realized even our instincts were numbed by such a vastly different environment.

Let me insert the observation here that everyone we encountered was very friendly. Why wouldn’t they be? We were all lost or turned around, searching for a destination that invariably would turn out to be at the other end of the ship.

On our third effort to get somewhere we hadn’t been, we ended up at the entrance to Club Monaco, Glory be! Finally we found something familiar. We could relax. In fact, we relaxed there until midnight before venturing into twelve decks of hostile territory once again to seek out our stateroom.

Eventually we found it despite getting turned around three times and passing the Vienna Café twice.

The second day, things started to look up. We found our breakfast dining room on the first try.

Later that morning, we learned the Ninth Deck was the Lido Deck. Lido is Italian for beach, a logical expression for according to my count, it housed four swimming pools, about five or six food areas, three bars, a hundred-yard twistee water-slide that only covered around a hundred linear feet, and seating for about five hundred people. The other twenty-five hundred passengers were elsewhere on the mammoth cruiser attending an eclectic assortment of activities including a dignified hairy chest contest, which I would have won except at my age, my chest has sunk too low.

Since we were in a sight-seeing mode, we made our way to the Tenth Deck where the elevators stopped. The remaining two decks were accessed by stairs of which I’d had my fill the day before when we were stumbling around like lost sheep. My left knee is slightly arthritic, but from the previous day’s climbing, it had swollen somewhat

The top deck held a kids’ playground, a basketball court, a mini-golf course, a jogging track, all of which were surrounded with chaise lounges for sunning. I have no idea how anyone managed any kind of game up there for the wind was ferocious.

And yes, there were actually people exercising. Can you believe that? All that money for a five-day cruise, and all they want to do is exercise? I don’t know, maybe my priorities are out of whack. I didn’t spend any money for the cruise, and I still wasn’t about to waste it jogging. If they wanted to jog, they could jog to the Club Monaco.

But, looking out over the sea, I couldn’t help thinking of Coleridge’s words from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” “Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.”

Now, there wasn’t really much to see up there except a heap of sea, but never having been out like that, we were both struck by the beauty of the blue water. I’ve seen clear water at the Florida beaches, but I had never personally seen water so blue as that surrounding us. “Almost black,” my physician commented during my last visit. And he was right, a deep blue-black.

And the foamy white wake trailing out behind us provided a sharp contrast with the deep colors.

The next morning, we docked at Cozumel, upon first glance a sleepy little village, but once you entered town, the one-time sleepy folks morphed into persistent pursuers of your money, and I mean persistent.

Our first introduction to their enduring determination to separate us from as much of our funds as possible came before we even reached shore.

You see, the concrete pier extended west of the island about three hundred yards, then cut northwest for another three or four hundred. This last dogleg is where we tied up, and hiked to shore.

Connecting the pier to the shore was a hundred yard long Customs Building packed with alcohol, perfume, jewelry, clothing, and at least a hundred hawking salespeople. Our own personal gauntlet, every last one of us had to pass through it.

Anyway, we made town, which was three steps beyond the Customs Building. We shopped; we took pictures; we oohed and ahhed at white garbed guitarists who serenaded us; we laughed at the lady who deftly twisted balloons into hats and animals; and  – well you get the idea.

And then the rain fell, and fell, and fell.

Our last resort was refuge in Fat Tuesday’s, a thatched roof harbor from the weather. Now, observing that ages-old caution in Mexico, “don’t drink the water,” we were forced to resort to Bud Light beer. It was unfortunate that our favorite beverage, coffee, was made out of water. And although we spotted a dozen corked water jugs in racks behind the bar, we opted to take no chances on the source of that water. Just be on the safe side, you know.

So there we were, eight hundred miles from home, sitting in a thatched-roof beer joint with three sides open, some rain spray gusting in; forced to guzzle Bud Light to quench our thirst; and unable to continue shopping to spend money.

I tell you folks. Life doesn’t get much better than that.

The weather lasted a couple hours. I felt sorta, kinda sorry for those who’d spent a chunk of change for a six-hour tour of Mayan ruins. One of the explorers was a new friend who insisted they made the best of the trek that was partially rained out by huddling under the flimsy top of a golf cart and fortifying themselves with the old standby, Bud Light.

By four-thirty, everyone had poured themselves back on board and we eased away from the pier, heading home.

The next day and half was much like the first. Relax, enjoy uninterrupted time with each other, meet new folks, discover a new dead end.

Looking back, some of my major concerns were without merit. Case in point. I couldn’t figure how they would unload–whoops, I mean, “disembark” three thousand people without mass confusion.

They managed. As long as you followed their system, things moved quickly. Their methods worked so well, we walked down the gangway twenty minutes ahead of schedule. And thank the good Lord we got our passports, you know the ones I fussed over last week about the expense.

Those with only birth certificates and driver’s license were in one line, passports in another. We zipped through customs, grabbed a shuttle, hopped in the car, and waved at some new friends still in the big line as we swept past the pier.

Would we go again? Yeah. Now that we know the ropes.

And as long as the cruise line had an ample supply of Bud Light.