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A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I took a week-long cruise on the Norwegian Cruise Line’s ship the Gem. We learned how to bowl on a moving ship, and a few other things, too:

1. Kids do not care how cold it is if there are pools and fake palm trees. The ship left from New York (awesome for northerners who didn’t want to fly with their kids!) and it was…let’s just say “chilly” on the way down to Florida. While the adults walked the decks in our winter coats, the kids were already in their shorts, making their way to the hot tubs. This is a view of the deck on a sunnier day:

2. The ship will leave without you.
When they say “departs at midnight,” they do not mean 12:03. Happily, we didn’t learn this the hard way, but other people did. And because I’m an obsessive watch-watcher, it was a very big relief to be on official NCL “shore excursions” (Kennedy Space Center one day, a bike tour of Grand Bahama Island another). It was someone else’s problem to get us back on time. Nice, right?

3. It's really fun to get mail when it isn’t bills.
Every night when we got back to our room, there’d be all these little notes about what was going on the next day on the ship (everything from bingo—surprisingly intense, by the way—to Wii play). NCL’s big thing is “Freestyle Cruising,” which means you get to pick when you eat, what you do, and who you spend your time with. We actually met some great people, but, you know, what if we hadn’t? Ugh.

4. I only think I do a lot of laundry. This is what the washing machines look like on board: