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Dance Fun Salsa Dance Cruise: Part One

 

** Read Part Two Here **  JOIN US ON OUR NEXT CRUISE - Register Now! - Referred by SalsaCrazy.Com

 

7 day Mexican Riviera Cruise aboard

Carnival Cruise Line’s ship the “Elation”!

 

Part One, Posted, 2-15-03 by Nadine!

 

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7 day Mexican Riviera Cruise aboard Carnival Cruise Line’s ship the “Elation”

 

The idea of a cruise conjures up images of retired folks, newly-weds, couples celebrating anniversaries, family reunions, or people wanting to escape their dreary lives. Not exactly the mix of people I'm itching to hang around with for 7 days. So, when Marcelo, Salsa Salvaje (www.salsasalvaje.com) instructor, announced that John Riddle of DanceFun (www.dancefun.com) asked us to teach on the cruise, I was skeptical about how much fun I’d have.  Would it be worth the money I’d be spending to just get on the cruise?


I consulted friends about what to expect on cruises. Responses ranged from, “Aren’t you worried about the virus outbreaks on that cruise line?” to “I’m jealous. Salsa, sun, water, Mexico, sun, food, pampering, sun. What’s not to enjoy?” (Credit first quote to co-worker Elizabeth. Credit the second quote to Salsacrazy himself.)

 

After a bit of research, I discovered that 1. I didn’t need to bring a lot of cash with me (a good thing since graduate student life leaves one with no disposable income) and 2. the virus outbreaks were mostly in Florida area cruises and that they were contained, but if I kept to bottled water and cooked foods, I’d be pretty safe from catching something that would give me diarrhea. On Hallie Kuperman’s (www.centuryballroom.com) suggestion, I bought bonine, which is a milder form of dramamine, to prevent seasickness. I also packed my little vial of White Flower Oil, a Chinese ointment that smells like eucalyptus and is a cure-all for everything from headaches to nausea.  As a last thought, I brought a piece of ginger with me in case I felt sick.

 

Before I bombard you with my day-by-day account of the cruise, here’s a summary of the trip.  Over 100 people attended the DanceFun event. People came from Seattle, Oregon, the San Francisco Bay Area, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego.  Our small but significant group was less than 10% of the 2000 people who were on the cruise ship.  The cruise set-sail from Los Angeles, spent the first 2 days at sea, the next couple of days at different ports in Mexico, and the last day or so back at sea returning to Los Angeles. 

 

During days at sea, DanceFun organized several hours of salsa workshops at all levels for each day.  Privates lessons were available and arranged independently between students and instructors.  Each day, DanceFun organized a salsa dance social, DJ’d by Tony “El Tigron” Gomez of Los Angeles.  Some of the highlights for the salsa socials included a 70s theme social, birthday and anniversary celebration night, and prizes for the best cabin-door decorations.  Aside from the organized socials, some of us die-hard salsa dancers got a hold of a boombox (thanks Alma!) and danced to salsa CDs late at night in one of the ships clubrooms.  The floors inside the ship were marble and were a little sticky for dance sneakers. Floors outside on the deck were wooden and great for dancing in either dance sneakers or dance heels.

 

Dancers ranged from raw beginners to professionals, with about 15% at the beginner range, 15% at the professional range, and bulk in the intermediate-advanced range. Ratios of gents to dames on some nights seemed to favor the ladies, and on other nights definitely favored the men.  One of the best things about DanceFun events is that everyone has fun dancing with everyone and getting turned down for a dance is rare.  Intimidation factor sinks to near zero when you get a group of people who are real and not egotistical and just love to dance. It’s one of the characteristics that makes DanceFun’s well-organized events so successful.

 

Now on to the details of my salsa cruise experience:

 

Day 1 – Sunday

5:45am. With barely 90 minutes of sleep the night before, I drove to pick up Naomi at 6am. The Salvaje crew met up at Marcelo’s pad at 6:15am. Michael drove us to the airport, and while he and Marcelo were discussing the pros and cons of buying your own pad versus paying rent, the rest of us dozed or watched a dark and drizzly Seattle whiz by.  The flight itself was uneventful.

 

10am.  When we landed in LAX, we faced a long, unmoving line for the shuttle to the port.  After standing in that line (and not advancing) for what seemed like hours, the five of us ditched the line and decided to catch our own taxi-van to the port. Heh heh, we beat the lines to the port. Or so we thought.

 

12:30pm.  At the LA port, there must have been over a 1000 people trying to check-in to the ship.  That line was probably the longest line I’ve ever stood in.  Despite the long line, people were all very patient. We all must’ve been eager to get the vacation started.  The trip officially began when, after checking us onto the cruise, just prior to boarding the ship “Elation”, crewmembers took the first of our many cruise photos.
 

3pm.  Once on the ship, we dropped off our luggage in our respective cabins, and made a beeline to the buffet at Tiffany’s. Boy was I starving!  On my second plate of food, I finally exhaled a sigh of relief, inhaled the relaxing air of the ship, and looked out the window.  It was then that I noticed no lines on the pier.  Mental note: next time, check onto ship after 3pm. 

 

5:30pm By this time, the ship had just started to set sail. DanceFun hosts John and Anita greeted the group at our first salsa social. We received name tags, salsa canvas bags, and a convenient little schedule of events for the week that we could tuck into the plastic nametag holder. Our hosts welcomed us to the event, introduced the instructors, and let DJ Tony spin the salsa while everyone worked off their giddiness on the dance floor.  Excited to debut my sexy new dance shoes from Jim Hadley’s Experience Store (www.salsapromotions.com), I stepped onto the dance floor.  Whoa. It was gonna be a little trickier dancing on a floor that was moving at who-knows-how-many-knots-an-hour in the ocean.  Even with the ship’s anti-rocking vertical stabilizers, yes, you could feel the ship move.  The experience reminded me of the nights I danced on one of those salsa cruises around Elliott Bay that Claudio Valentino organized every Friday night in the summer.  I had to focus to hold my balance (or more like regain my balance after losing it!). It definitely would be too tricky to Argentine tango on a cruise.

 

8pm. The formal dinners were outstanding, with a different 4 course menu selection each night. Vegetarian, seafood, and meat options made the nightly decisions tantalizingly difficult.  We were shy about ordering stuff on the first night. But boy, on the second night, when I realized we could order more than one appetizer/entrée, well, then the feasting commenced.  Thus began my nightly pig-out sessions.  

 

11pm.  After dinner, our group checked out one of the clubs on the ship called “Jekyl and Hyde.”  The dj’d played top pop hits, a little hip hop, 80s music, and other clubby dance stuff. Needing to work off our dinner, we busted a few moves on the dance floor.  Rather than let the bronze pole in the middle of the dance floor be an obstruction, Paula took the opportunity to exhibit a sultry pole dance.  Then, so did a few other ladies. Yes, we have footage captured on video tape.  We also have footage of people doing the electric slide, dancing salsa to non-salsa music, and simply goofing around.  It was hilarious! Or maybe we were delirious from how little sleep we had the night before.

 

Working up a sweat, we thought it would be perfect to jump into one of the Jacuzzis on the boat.  Unfortunately, we found out the jacuzzi’s were drained after something like 9pm each night.   While on deck, though, we noticed how pleasantly warm the night air was.   We then wandered to club on the ship called the “Cole Porter Lounge.” There, a band of Filipino men were doing an amazing job covering old hits like BeeGees tunes or Smokey Robinson’s stuff.  In between sets, they let us play a salsa cd, and the dancers took over the floor. After their final set was over, we were still not ready to turn in for the night. Alma Frey went to her room and brought up her boombox. Voila. As long as the music kept playing, we kept dancing. By the end, there were only about 5 of us left. The person with the most endurance must have been El Tigron, who, as it turns, out, is a Seaon Stylist dancer.  While he was patiently showing us a few cool shines on 2, one by one, we sat down, exhausted and without enough brainpower to continue absorbing new footwork.  Now that’s the way a night should end!!

 

 

Day 2 – Monday

The next morning, Paula got up around 6am. Naomi and I probably wouldn’t have known to get up if she hadn’t returned at 10am.  Ours was an indoor cabin, with no window, so it was pitch black if no lights were on.  Groggily, Naomi and I got ready for the day as Paula gushed about how warm and sunny it was outside, how she had already gotten a chance to do a power walk on the track on deck, lay out in the sun, and jump in the Jacuzzi. Our first workshop was going to begin soon, and we had just enough time to dress, grab some breakfast, and head off to teach our first lesson.

 

Workshops on Monday ran til about 5pm today. Several workshops ran simultaneously in different rooms. Each room was wired for sound, and the instructors had wireless headset/microphones to speak into. The workshops were well attended.

 

Immediately after the day’s workshops, we had a salsa social.  After that was over, a few of us headed to the Jacuzzi for a much needed soak at the end of a long day! While relaxing in the outdoor Jacuzzi, we spotted an orbiting satellite above us.

 

That night was the cruise’s formal dinner night.  Everyone on the boat was decked out.  I mean tuxes, ties, suits, cuff-links, up-dos, manicures, etc.  And then there were the salsa dancers…in our finest salsa wear, some in black dance sneakers and all. 

 

After dinner, several dancers met up for late night salsa and reportedly took over the Jekyl and Hyde club til 4am. There was a mix-up about our room key so a few of us crashed in another room.  With all the buzz in the room, it was bound to be another sleepless night.

 

Day 3 – Tuesday

After a private lesson, I headed over to where our first workshop was.  In today’s workshops, Marcelo and I got to teach a meringue and then a salsa class.  Marcelo felt a bit sick and had to run out of the meringue class for a second. He caught whatever Rachel had the night before (which she got before getting on the ship).  By the end of the night, though, Marcelo was back up to speed. We hit the jacuzzi again at night before heading out to dinner. At the social dance tonight, John and Anita called out all the people who had birthdays and anniversaries in the month of January. Each of the celebrants received a birthday card and t-shirt. What a great way to recognize individuals.  Stacey and Francisco then led us into a birthday dance tradition. All the guys formed one circle. All the ladies formed a second circle. In the middle of each circle were the dancers of the opposite sex who were celebrating something.  While the DJ played a song, the people outside of the circle got to dance for a few bars with each of the people in the middle of the circle. It was very cool. Not sure what else we did tonight, but we might have gone to check out the ship’s nightly big show and then to Tiffany’s for the crepes at the midnight buffet before calling it a night.

 

Next: The salseros land – Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas -- READ PART 2 NOW!

 

           2-15-03 -- by Nadine!

 

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