We have been on the repositioning cruise of the Gap Adventures M/S Expedition for a month now, and it has been a pretty great experience:
- Gorgeous sunrises and sunsets every single day, though no two alike.
- Up close and personal visits from sea birds, dolphins, and flying fish
- Blankets of stars covering the skies at night
But how is the everyday life – eating, sleeping, general living? Is it easier or harder on a boat, and would we choose this form of transportation again?
(Click here if you don’t see the slideshow below.)
How life is different on a ship
The ship moves. That is probably the biggest change from regular life. Things have to be put away, bolted down, or set on little rubbery mats to keep them from sliding off into the floor. Think of all the things in your house that would fall to the ground if your house moved up and down or side to side only a few inches either way.
Walking is done with a more wide-legged gait and you learn to sort of bob and weave as you go to stay balanced. It isn’t something you actually practice; rather your body finds this rhythm naturally after some time. You learn to always have one hand free just in case you need to steady yourself, and it all becomes second nature.
Doors always need to be closed properly or they will rattle and bang as the ship moves. This is also the reason you never leave your hand resting in a door frame.
I don’t know about you, but having every meal prepared and served by someone else in a formal dining room with a view of the ocean is not what we usually experience. The food is top-notch and the staff is eager to please, so it makes it very easy to overindulge. You can have dessert for every single meal if you like, in addition to mid-afternoon tea and cookies. I tell you, it can be dangerous to your waistline.
We are on a first-name basis with the chef and the baker.
One thing we are not fond of, however, is eating alone. Sure, we normally do that anyway, but in the setting of a restaurant with other people. It is a little bit weird to sit at a table in an empty dining room with a server waiting on your every need.
Thankfully over the time we have been on the ship we have become pretty friendly with everyone and many of them come by during meal times to say hello, share a drink or dessert, or even join us for meals. Last night we had a full table, and it was wonderful to have a proper dinner with other people again.
No doubt about it, the beds are comfy. We are in a suite now, since we are the only passengers, and we share a queen-sized bed with our own individual duvets. (This is a genius move for anyone who sleeps with a blanket hog or someone with a different body thermostat. You still sleep together but you get to adjust your own warmth without disturbing your mate.)
There are giant windows in our room with light-blocking drapes, so we can let in as much or as little of the nighttime moonlight or early-morning sun as we want.
The biggest adjustment for sleep is the ship’s movement. Most nights it is a gentle rhythm that is hardly noticeable, but some nights it can be a bit of an effort to actually stay in the bed. Under each bed are foam wedges that can be inserted under the mattress to create a little sloped wall to keep us in bed. It takes a little bit of practice to get this just right, but after all this time only the stormiest of seas keep us from a sound sleep.
I mentioned the gym before, and it is quite good. There are weights, benches, a treadmill, a stair machine, a bicycle and a rowing machine. But just like the sleep section above, the rolling of the ocean can make working out difficult.
But then, we all use any excuse we can not to exercise, right?
What I think we miss most is the ability to get out and hike. This ship is 105 meters long, but it is designed for viewing wildlife and scenery in cold conditions, not power-walking or jogging around the deck.
So yes, I could be on the treadmill every day if I really wanted to. Or say no to some of Elmirante’s desserts. But living on a ship is such a visual and sensual workout that it is easy to overlook getting the actual physical workout.
This is the interesting part. At first I thought being in the same space with the same people would drive me crazy. After all, I am a strange combination of social butterfly and extreme hermit – I need my time alone and also like to meet new people. I could not imagine how the people who live here for almost a year at a time cope with this.
Turns out I worried for nothing. Life on the ship is like living in a dorm at college or with roommates. Sure, there is plenty of togetherness, but there are also areas for privacy if you want to be alone.
People end up functioning like a large family with the more social ones gathering during their off time to play music, watch movies, or talk, and the less social ones typing away on computers, reading books, or staying in their cabins. When the weather is nice, like on this repositioning cruise, you can find people on the deck outside talking, smoking, and laughing with each other just like any other warm night in every place in the world.
As a couple, I have found this ship to be almost the perfect setting for our trip. We are actively traveling without having to pack and unpack. We get plenty of time together and can also easily find time alone when needed. We can enjoy each other’s company as well as make new friends separately and together while on board.
We can work at the desk in our room, read in the library, watch a movie in the lounge, have a drink in the bar, stand at the bridge with the officers, count the stars at night from the top deck, picnic on the aft deck in sunny weather, lean over the bow to watch the fish and dolphins swim by, or sit back and watch the wake and think (one of my favorite activities).
The days always end faster than we think they should, and we are a little surprised that the trip is almost over already.
For every person who has asked us if we are bored yet: NO. If you are the type that needs to be entertained you might find it difficult to stay on board long-term, but if you are even the least bit motivated you can always find something to do.
Could you live on a boat?
We leave in just a week, and in some ways this is exciting to me as that means there is another adventure to come. But if we weren’t landing in a week, would we want to stay on the ship? The surprising answer is yes. I can see what draws people to this kind of life and why they would stay so far away from home. It is not just the money; it is the adventure, the sense of living in a way few people still do. It is actually quite a romantic way to live.
Any day on the ocean we can see something amazing – dolphins, whales, a giant storm cloud moving over an endless sky – and it makes us feel a little bit like the early ocean explorers.
If they had their own sauna, that is.
Do this sound like the kind of life you could get used to, or are you a confirmed landlubber?