Is there anything kids look forward to more than summer vacation? No school, no homework, no schedule…total freedom. It’s like paradise! Well, for a few weeks anyway. Until you hear the inevitable “Mom, I’m BORED.” I dread these words, because they mean the end of Easygoing Summertime Mom and the return of her manic alter ego: The Cruise Director.
If you’ve ever watched The Love Boat, you know exactly who I’m talking about. The perky young woman with the white uniform and the clipboard? Believe me, she knows what it’s like to be stuck at sea with a bunch of restless passengers, so she does whatever it takes to ensure that everyone is continuously entertained. She also understands that the line between relaxation and boredom is razor-thin and feels compelled to keep her young travelers on the right side of that line until the ship returns to its home port. Or at least until Labor Day Weekend.
The Cruise Director begins with a calendar. After all, summer vacation is no three-hour tour and long-range planning is essential. There should be eventful weeks, balanced by more leisurely weeks. There should be a wide range of activities to fulfill the social, physical and intellectual requirements of each vacationer. For maximum effectiveness, these should occur in both indoor and outdoor environments and in both group and individual contexts.
For example, the Cruise Director regularly organizes shore visits at various ports of call. (Mainly so her passengers don’t spend all day playing Minecraft in a darkened third-class cabin.) These outings give the travelers a chance to experience the unique sights and sounds of the local area. Some visits are cultural, highlighting a library or museum. Others are more active, involving swimming lessons or soccer camp. The Cruise Director has even been known to accompany her passengers to amusement parks and video arcades, despite their detrimental effect on her sanity.
Often, travelers express an interest in visiting friends who live near the port, and the Cruise Director operates a complimentary shuttle service to and from these locations. In addition, she frequently welcomes guests aboard for afternoon or overnight visits. The Cruise Director recognizes that meticulous planning is necessary when more than one passenger is hosting a guest. If managed properly, teenagers can binge watch a TV series on the Aloha Deck while younger kids ride scooters around the Lido Deck and middle schoolers do makeovers in the Salon. Careful attention to the flow of activity ensures that sibling conflict is kept to a minimum (and that her 8-year-old doesn’t accidentally get hooked on Pretty Little Liars.)
Like many cruises, summer vacation includes unlimited food and drink, so the Cruise Director goes ashore each week for provisions. She maintains a constant supply of rainbow-colored popsicles, trendy carbonated fruit drinks and alarmingly spicy tortilla chips. She also prepares and serves dinner nightly at the Captain’s Table, to which all passengers and guests are invited. Afterward, she swabs the deck and checks her clipboard app for the following day’s itinerary.
Sometimes, as the Cruise Director runs laps around the ship early in the morning, she thinks about her own childhood summers. She remembers lying by the pool reading Nancy Drew books. She remembers drinking powdered Country Time lemonade. She does not remember feeling bored. Then again, that was a long time ago – back when Aaron Spelling was the King of Prime Time – and those simple pleasures would never satisfy today’s more sophisticated travelers.
No matter. She reminds herself that September is on the horizon. And that the Acapulco Lounge is open around the clock.