Music, trivia and a #8216;ship on a stick#039;

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 14, 2006

It’s Sunday as I write this. Call it &uot;back to reality&uot; time for Benny and me.

This past week, we took a much-needed and long-overdue (as in six years) vacation together on the MS Holiday out of Mobile.

We love cruises. This was our third one. We knew from the start this ship would not be the &uot;knockout&uot; experience we’d enjoyed onboard Celebrity’s Century and Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas.

The Holiday is a smaller ship (albeit one that still holds about 1600 passengers and 800 crew members) and it lacks the fabulous public spaces and some of the amenities featured on larger, newer ships.

A cruise on the Holiday is definitely not the elegant, sophisticated experience with gourmet-level dining you will find on some other ships.

However, as billed, it IS fun. A vacation aboard the Holiday is a boisterous, lively experience with lots of music, games and merriment.

You can’t beat the value for the money.

The ship is very family-friendly with its Camp Carnival program for the kids and teens. Skip, the cruise director, pointed out there were some 400 children on board, a number that surprised us. Obviously, the camp counselors do a fine job keeping the kids busy, happy (and out of their parents’ hair).

We aren’t really into gambling or drinking (our bar tab for the five-day cruise? $13.50) but we do enjoy live shows and good music and the cruise offered that. From the musician playing pan drum music by the pool and the Highlights Band performing golden oldies in Doc Holliday’s (one of the several non-smoking establishments on the ship, hooray!) to the excellent Holiday Orchestra led by Keiran Gray, the tunes kept me humming and tapping my toes throughout the vacation.

I’ve never won any type of athletic event in my life, but I am pretty good at the brain power stuff. So I tried my luck at the ship’s version of the &uot;Who Wants to Be a Millionare?&uot; game. Imagine my surprise when I won the whole thing. And no, I didn’t get to take the money home, dang it.

I was presented with the typical prize on board, a bottle of champagne and a genuine plastic gold-colored trophy, known affectionately as the coveted &uot;ship on a stick.&uot;

The passengers were also playing against each other in a friendly competition new to the ship and known as &uot;Carnival Colors.&uot; We were on Team Blue and my win brought our team another 200 points.

I came through for my sisters during &uot;The Battle of the Sexes,&uot; allowing the ladies to steal the first question from the guys and go on to win the first round of the epic battle (hey, I KNOW my Raggedy Ann and Andy – thanks to children’s librarian Jean Bauer).

I am happy to say Team Blue went on to win the whole shebang. The prize? All the fun and camaraderie you experienced working for those points, of course.

I always enjoy people watching. On board I saw people from every walk of life, it seemed. Young, middle-aged and old, there were all shapes and sizes and colors and &uot;types.&uot;

One afternoon a couple of young guys with shaved heads, tattooed biceps and piercings were musing over the giant chess board on the Lido deck. An dapper elderly gentleman strolling by stopped and pulled up a chair to watch.

On the surface, it seemed like an odd trio (and what were these skinheads with tats doing playing the cerebral game of chess?), and yet it didn’t.

In a certain way, a cruise is a great equalizer.

You will see the young and fit stopping to chat with an elderly person in a wheelchair. Strangers of different races, ages and backgrounds strike up friendly conversations.

You’re all in the same boat – why not make the best of it?

Maybe that’s a good lesson for life, too.

Angie Long is Lifestyles reporter for The Greenville Advocate. She can be reached at 382-3111 ext. 132 or via email at