In January 2009, I was given the opportunity of a lifetime. My grandparents gave me a fully paid for cruise vacation for my sixteenth birthday and invited my best friend of eleven years as well. We were both immensely excited, planning for the trip months in advance. We thought getting out of cold, snowy Michigan for a week and heading to the Bahamas was possibly the greatest thing that would happen in our young lives.
We flew into Orlando, Florida, where we stayed for a night before heading to Jacksonville, the port our ship, the Carnival Fascination, would depart from. The ship was absolutely phenomenal, totally living up to the gorgeous pictures on the Carnival website we had bookmarked the second our plans were made. What we didn’t expect was the lack of teenagers to hang out with; we were two of the five teens on board. Trying to find someone close to our age to bond with, we eagerly joined Club O2, the one designated ‘hotspot’ for kids like us. Much to our appreciation, the other three teenagers were male. We immediately made plans to stick together for the duration of our vacation.
My grandparents, who had taken my brother on a similar trip a few years earlier, let us roam around by ourselves with the catch-all rule: behave. My best friend and our three new cohorts decided to explore the unknown of our temporary home. After eating way too much of that delicious all-you-can-eat pizza our brochure had promised, we decided to make a game of striking up conversations with every person we met. This is something I never would have done at home. I wouldn’t describe myself as shy, just selective of whom I let loose with. With my best friend and the guys, I felt I could step out of my comfort zone.
Our first stop was Key West. Being sixteen, we weren’t so excited about the one thing Key West had: bars. It rained for the entire three hours we could bare to be off the ship, and it was only about fifty degrees, a sorry improvement of Michigan’s thirty. We looked around the gift shops and headed back to the ship, eagerly awaiting our arrival in Nassau. We had a day at sea, which included us goofing around some more and having elevator races. When we finally docked in Nassau the next day, we were ready to go crazy buying souvenirs with the money that had been burning holes in our pockets the whole week. After a full day in the sun, the ship turned around and we started the journey back. The route the boat would take was different, making it take less time to get home than it did to get to the Bahamas.
Our last day aboard was spent hanging out with our new friends, exchanging phone numbers and promising to stay in touch. After teary goodbyes we stepped off the Carnival Fascination and were lulled into the after-vacation laziness for our plane ride home.
Nine months later, I still talk to one of the boys. We had a special bond from the beginning, and I have a feeling we’ll stay friends for a very long time. The memories that were made during that vacation are going to stick with me forever. It was a once in a lifetime kind of thing, and I’m glad I got to share it with my best friend. You only live once; it’s important to step out of your boundaries and keep your eyes open for some amazing new friends to share your life with.
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