Royal Caribbean's Most Passionate Cruisers
We set sail on a Royal Caribbean ship to figure out what about the mega-line floats so many cruisers' boats.
Matt Pascarelli and Lauriel White set off on their first cruise together with a strict schedule in mind: Eat, sunbathe, nap, drink, and dance. Joining the couple—he's an accountant at BNY Mellon, she's an account executive at a pharmaceutical company—were Matt's parents, who were celebrating their 30th anniversary, and his three siblings and their mates, all from upstate New York. This was everyone's first time on RCI (some had taken a Disney cruise before), but it wasn't long before everyone fell into a groove. Each morning about 11 a.m., the group would descend upon the pool deck to lounge on towel-covered chairs and enjoy the ocean views. Every evening, they made the most of the ship's nightlife. Matt and Lauriel belted out Billy Joel songs at the piano bar ("Hey, no need to be too cool," says Lauriel); Matt and his father came out $400 ahead at the blackjack table. And as a capstone to an incredible trip, Matt's mom and Lauriel had their own bonding moment: doing lemon-drop shots until 4 a.m.
Best Tip Turn on the TV. "There's so much happening on the ship, you can't get to everything," says Lauriel, "but events like the belly-flop contest and the kids' pirate parade get recorded, so you can watch them right in your room."
Melvin, 81, and Betty Luce, 80, of Ridley Park, Pa., at the ship's Schooner Bar
It was a passion for The Love Boat that inspired Betty Luce to book her first cruise with husband Mel back in 1984, and it's been smooth sailing ever since. This Explorer of the Seas trip was the couple's 45th cruise, their 32nd aboard Royal Caribbean. Over the years, the Luces have tested the waters on several lines, passing through the British Isles, Greece, Norway, Hawaii, Alaska, and all of the Caribbean in the process. But when RCI started sailing out of New Jersey in 2004, just two hours from their front door, it became their favorite. Along the way, the Luces have found a rhythm: Betty reads novels on the balcony while Mel walks the ship ("The helipad is always the best forward-looking view except for the bridge, and almost no one knows about it"). And they usually book their next cruise before the end of the current one, a clever loyalty tactic that earns them a $250 discount and a $100 shipboard credit per person. Even dinner—always the 6 p.m. seating—has its own comforting routine: "We don't have to look at the dessert menu," says Mel. "We get ice cream every time: two scoops of vanilla for me, two scoops of chocolate for Betty. What can I say? We know what we like."
THE RAUCOUS RETIREES
Sue, 62, and Mike Boyd, 61, of Parkersburg, W.Va., with seven fellow recent retirees
They streamed onto the ship in matching fluorescent T-shirts. The retirees, as they called themselves, all live in Parkersburg, W.Va., where 9 out of 10 worked for the Wood County school district; several, including Mike Boyd, the director of secondary schools, and his wife, Sue, a seventh-grade geography teacher, had wrapped up their careers just days before. Along with Mike's niece and her entourage of family and friends, the party topped 39. At breakfast, Mike, Sue, and crew would look over the ship's broadsheet, the Cruise Compass, and plan out their activities (trivia contests, stand-up acts). Naturally, the educators couldn't help but absorb some new lessons, such as how to uncork champagne without creating a pop. On the last day in the hot tub, chanting, "No more Mondays, every day Sunday!" they reveled in the fact that this was just their first taste of a very bright future.
Best Tip Pay the extra 20 percent for a balcony room, advises Sue: "The water view from your bed reminds you that you're on the ocean."
THE FAMILY AFFAIR
The Nooitgedagts, of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, on formal night: Heather Zaleski, 27; Hippy Nooitgedagt, 72; Colton Hummer, 15. Center: Pete Nooitgedagt, 39; Gavin Hummer, 9; Nanci Nooitgedagt Hummer, 44. Bottom: Griffin Hummer, 12; Janet Nooitgedagt, 70; Bill Mills, 32