On June 1, we finally put a checkmark by that picture when we boarded the $315 million Carnival Fascination in Jacksonville, Fla., and set sail for the Bahamas.
As we cast off, the low-pitched sound of the horn vibrated my chest.
As the giant vessel, which is almost as large as three football fields, inched up the St. Johns River toward the Atlantic Ocean, dolphins danced in the water next to the boat. We took this as a good sign.
People on the lawns of million-dollar houses stepped to their piers and waved at us as we passed.
That first night after dinner, Jilda and I headed to the stern to watch the sunset.
The pool was buzzing with men wearing flowery trunks, and women in swimsuits with less material than my handkerchief. There were people swilling beer from iced buckets and gyrating to the reggae music blaring from speakers.
It was quieter on the back of the boat and there were only a few people there to watch the setting sun. I leaned over the deck rail to get a better look at the ink-black water slipping past us.
The droning engines left torrents of water bubbling in the wake.
Clouds as grey as gun barrels threatened to make sunset a non-event, but I knew in my heart that Mother Nature would not be so cruel as to deny a couple of hicks from Empire, Ala., a show on the first night of their first cruise.
I was right. The sun over the water and the clouds put on a show.
It's easy to see why people love cruises.
The sights are spectacular; the food is remarkable and unending.
The people we met were interesting, and there's always something going on.
But being on a ship takes some getting used to. You’re surrounded by water with the only lights on the horizon coming from ships passing in the night.
On the second day at sea I found myself feeling a little out of place and looking longingly toward home.
Being disconnected took some getting used to. Normally I check my email a zillion times a day.
I understand that’s not healthy, but it's a habit I've fallen in to, and I found myself fondling my iPhone.
But after a few days, I missed connectivity less, and I found myself reading more. I'd taken about 50 books on my tablet. (I know, I’ve said I’d never use one of these, but I lied).
I finished two books and re-read Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. I'd forgotten how remarkable that book is.
When we stopped at Nassau, some folks headed out to parasail, some to swim with dolphins, but Jilda and I headed to the Straw Market and other areas to get a feel for the island.
We talked to some locals to ask for directions and to buy a few souvenirs.
We discovered they’re delightful people. They spoke English, but the tone and rhythm of their voices was melodic.
Our taxi driver gave us a crash course on Bahaman history and drove us by some points of interest.
I could have spent a lot more time there, but I wasn't fond of the thought of swimming home, so we made our way back to the ship.
We had a great time on our first cruise, but Jilda and I have a tendency to meander when we travel.
Our itineraries are open and flexible, and being on a cruise ship hampered our style a little.
One couple we met had been married 47 years and they'd been on more than 30 cruises.
We enjoyed the experience, but if asked today when we’ll take our next cruise, I'd have to say the jury is still out.