I thought I was too cool for cruises.
Not yet 30, I figured I was at least 40 years too young to be included in the demographic usually associated with this type of holiday.
I also didn’t like the idea of being stuck on a boat with thousands of other people, eating at the same place, swimming at the same pool, drinking at the same bar, dancing at the same club.
Cruises aren’t for everyone, but there’s no denying operators go above and beyond to make sure people don’t get bored on board.
And the increasing popularity of cruises means people can select one according to their budget, interests and schedule.
That’s how I found myself packing an overnight bag with my preconceived notions for a short weekend cruise on board the Carnival Spirit, the only ship of its kind based in Australia.
I’d surprised myself and some of my nearest and dearest by agreeing to take part in a friend’s birthday celebrations.
“I’d rather die than go on a cruise” is an accurate description of how I felt about the matter.
So why did I do it?
I blame veteran ABC journalist Quentin Dempster.
He wasn’t there to push me onto the ship, but when I heard Dempster telling radio listeners one morning that he’d been on many cruises and enjoyed them, I was floored.
Never had I imagined one of Australia’s most respected journalists lining up at a buffet wearing a Hawaiian shirt and Crocs.
That’s because there’s different types of cruises, and not all of them are about overeating.
That’s a good thing according to Biggest Loser trainer Shannan Ponton.
The 37-year-old fitness expert seems an unlikely ambassador for Carnival Cruises, but is candid about why he’s converted.
“In my head, I was thinking of (a) kitsch, 1970s Love Boat-type of cruise,” he says.
“But you’re really spoilt for choice, and I had an amazing time.”
I found sailing on the Spirit akin to being in a giant, floating RSL club.
Most Australians have a soft spot for their local, and the Spirit doesn’t disappoint with different bars, lounges, and restaurants from which to choose, as well as a theatre offering Las Vegas-style shows.
The ship also comes with a fully equipped gym that looks out to sea, as well as a steam and sauna room, a water slide, outdoor basketball court and running track.
The real stars, though, are the people who make it all possible.
Feeding 2,500 people and keeping them entertained is not easy, yet the crew manages to do it all day, every day with a smile.
When it comes to food, there’s plenty of it, as well as the “go hard or go home” attitude of some cruisers.
“I’ve seen people just determined to make hundreds of dollars worth of food disappear in the first sitting,” Ponton says.
“It’s almost like some psychotic craze – ‘right, buffet, I’m going to make you pay’.”
“It’s wonderful for business,” he jokes.
“When I watch people fill their plates with food, it guarantees a healthy, prosperous future for all personal trainers.”
I’d like to say I proved him wrong during our cruise, which departs Sydney on Friday afternoon and docks at Circular Quay on Monday morning.
But by the time I step off the gangway, I’m about four chocolate melting cakes heavier.
And let’s not talk about the wood-fired pizzas available 24 hours.
I did make it to the gym, but only to enjoy its view of the water and offer moral support to my friends.
That’s the best part of cruising: egging on your friends when they um and ah about the next round, or cracking jokes and sipping wine on the deck while the sun goes down.
Do I still think I’m too cool and too young for cruises?
But that didn’t stop me from having a good time with my friends.
IF YOU GO
The Carnival Spirit is based in Sydney. Itineraries include voyages to New Zealand and the south Pacific islands, or short cruises in Australian waters (carnival广西桑拿,广西桑拿网,)
* The writer travelled at her own expense.