Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Mix well, then enjoy

Caribbean cruise perfect holiday for blended family

  • Print

MY father had a name for it: a mulligan. Not a golf shot, but a meal -- one where you pull together all available foodstuffs, toss them into a pot, add some spices, heat and hope it all turns into a tasty stew.

A mulligan was on the menu for our Caribbean cruise. The ingredients consisted of a broadly blended family of travellers: me; my wife, Isabella; our six-year-old daughter, Julia; and joining Isabella's sister, her 15-year-old son, plus her new husband and his two sons, aged 22 and 24.

The boys expected a week of food, drink and sun. Julia had other plans.

"They can play Polly Pockets with me," she said with a giggle as she packed her mini-dolls.

"Or I can paint their toenails pink," as the giggling grew.

"Or I can make them put on Mommy's bikini and tell them they have to wear it around the pool," she roared, now rolling on the floor.

The boys would never know what hit them.

Luckily, they were all good sports and hold much affection for our little girl. Greg, the 22-year-old, even agreed to bring her pink stuffed bear onto the plane for her.

"Takes a big man to carry pink," quipped the guy at the gate. Greg did not bother to explain.

The ship made a nice juxtaposition to our mulligan crew.

The MSC Poesia is part of an Italian-owned line that specializes in Mediterranean cruises. Every winter, they send one ship to the Caribbean, bringing an alternative product to a crowded market.

"The only way to beat the competition is to offer something different," the Poesia's guest relations manager, Alessandro Bellantuono, said as we chatted in his shipboard office.

The difference is an atmosphere that is much more international than the others. While Americans were the largest single group on the passenger list, they were the minority: 25 nations were represented, and the crew boasts natives of 42 countries.

Ship announcements were made in five languages by the astonishingly fluent cruise director Anna Werner.

If you are on an Italian ship, you expect to eat well. And we did, with a different Italian menu every evening, along with a so-called "Stars and Stripes" selection for those palates that preferred American fare.

"We try to accommodate everyone," Bellantuono said. "But it's not easy. Spanish people don't necessarily want to eat at the same time as Americans."

As for our polyglot group, everyone seemed to find his or her own way. Julia met a similar-aged girl to play with in the kids club, sparing the boys the pink toes and bikini ordeal.

But somewhere along the way she developed an infatuation with the 24-year-old Dean, constantly asking where he was and when he was coming and whether he would go swimming with her in the ship's pool.

When it was time to say good night to the group, she would give him a hug and stride right past the other male members of the team as though they were invisible.

Isabella attempted to do the older guys a favour with girls their own age, chatting up two fetching Argentinian women in the ship's hot tub and explaining she knew two nice boys.

"They were beautiful," she told Greg and Dean at dinner. "But I think they're probably out of your league."

Their shoulders drooped while I roared in sympathetic laughter.

"I meant they were OLDER than you," she said, in a belated attempt to soothe their wounded egos.

She made up for it later in the evening, introducing herself to an Australian mother of two, who helpfully brought her daughters over for an introduction. A new tactic for meeting girls: Get your step-aunt to befriend the mother.

A late night of dancing ensued. The stops offered a nice blend of attractions.

In Key West, I appreciated seeing Hemingway's house while the boys made a stop at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Café.

In Ocho Rios, everyone tried to hike up Dunn's River Falls, although I broke off early to hit a snack bar for a patty and Red Stripe beer.

In Georgetown, Grand Cayman, my sister and brother-in-law hired a wave runner, but somehow managed to get lost -- they tried to orient themselves on a blue house on the beach, not realizing until too late that Seven Mile Beach is full of blue houses. Wave runner rental guy eventually chased them down, but his scowl disappeared with the production of a $20 bill.

Aboard the ship, we made generous contributions at the casino most nights, although Greg showed an uncanny talent for winning money at the roulette table -- except when Isabella gave him money to play for her.

On our final leg back to Florida, we joined other passengers crowding the railing for a fascinating and disturbing sight: Two young men were bobbing alongside in an inflatable raft. It was the open sea, 30 kilometres off the coast of Cuba, so we presumed they were Cubans trying to get to the U.S. Abiding by maritime law, the Poesia came to a halt and sent out a boat to bring the two aboard.

Others who had a close-up look said they appeared to be terrified. Who wouldn't be with a giant cruise ship looming over your dinghy? A couple of hours later, they were handed over to a U.S. Coast Guard cutter, which appeared to be full of other would-be migrants.

My six-year-old daughter got an unanticipated lesson that day, as I struggled to explain the concepts of communism and refugees.

I am not sure if it sunk in. But the cruise certainly taught her about what it was like travelling with young men. Not long after our return, she created a Valentine's Day card for Dean. Somehow the other boys did not rate a similar gesture.

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 28, 2012 D7

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Stuart Murray announces musical RightsFest for CMHR opening weekend

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A golfer looks for his ball in a water trap at John Blumberg Golf Course Friday afternoon as geese and goslings run for safety- See Joe Bryksa’s 30 day goose challenge- Day 24– June 15, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Winnipeg’s best friend the dragon fly takes a break at English Gardens in Assiniboine Park Wednesday- A dragon fly can eat  food equal to its own weight in 30 minutes-Standup photo- June 13, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should Manitoba support the transport of nuclear waste through the province?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google