Sharing Mana‘o

Adventures at Sea: Part 2

Last week’s column was written aboard the NCL Pride of America as my mother and I joined some 2,500 guests and over 900 crew members for a weeklong tour of the islands. We’re back on Maui now, still feeling the afterglow of a nearly perfect staycation at sea.

I was surprised to find myself dealing with the “sea legs” phenomenon, still feeling the motion of the ocean even after a couple of days on dry land. Mom hasn’t felt it; she attributes her perfect balance to the continuous use of her walker aboard the ship.

Besides the advantage of having four extra legs, with wheels, her sturdy red Rollator provided benefits beyond the obvious. After we attached a pair of brown felt reindeer antlers and a big red nose to her walker, Mom generated smiles and cheery comments everywhere she roamed. “Rudolph, with your nose so bright, won’t you guide our ship tonight?” and “I heard Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer – but not this one!” People stepped out of crowded elevators and buffet lines to let her go first, and fidgety children stopped whining when Mom encouraged them to pat Rudolph the Rollator’s red nose. It didn’t take long for her to become an unofficial ambassador of good cheer. After all, she twinkles with positivity, year-round.

Most of the people we met wondered why local residents would choose to cruise interisland rather than traveling farther away, but we discovered more than a dozen other kamaaina vacationers on board. One couple from Oahu sails on the PoA every couple of years. Like us, they were lured by the shipboard amenities and the prospect of seeing the islands from a different perspective. I’d been looking forward to seeing the lava flow into the ocean on our way from Hilo to Kona, but the flow had stopped a couple of weeks earlier. The breathtaking sunset sail along Kauai’s Na Pali coastline more than made up for our disappointment, though.

We didn’t take any shore excursions or sightseeing tours. In fact, Mom only got off the ship once, on Kauai, where the Alu Like kupuna gather at Nawiliwili Harbor to greet disembarking passengers with live music and fresh flower lei. Mom and I hung out for about an hour, talking story and singing along with the seniors. It was one of her favorite experiences of the week.

For me, the cruise felt like a working vacation. The Pride of America has been my Sunday evening workplace for the past three years, so even after finishing the Polynesian shows Sunday night, I found it difficult to shed my onstage/onboard persona. For the rest of the week, I walked around smiling and greeting everyone with “Aloha,” just like the staff at Maui hotels and resorts. Passengers who recognized me from the show just assumed I was a member of the cruise staff, and because I was already familiar with most of the production and activities crew, I was able to answer many of the guests’ questions.

Of course, I danced at every opportunity: pool parties, late-night discos, anywhere music was being played. I spent a lot of time coaxing others onto the dance floor, just as I do when I host the Friday Town Parties around the island. I even sang at the karaoke party and with Jimmy Mac and the Kool Kats at the poolside barbecue. At the end of the cruise, the activities staff thanked me for my informal hospitality work.

But my proudest achievement of the week is that I didn’t gain any weight; in fact, I actually lost 3 pounds! How do you lose weight on a cruise while still indulging yourself at the fabulous buffets? Three simple tips from your unofficial cruise staff:

1. Book a cabin as far away from the buffet as possible. Every time we went to eat, Mom and I had to walk the entire length of the ship.

2. Use the stairs. With Mom’s walker, we had to use the elevator, but whenever I was on my own, I took the stairs, no matter how many flights I had to climb.

3. Dance all night.

* Kathy Collins is a storyteller, actress and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is