I was sitting at the bar in the karaoke lounge on the Carnival Fascination when a 30-something woman buying a glass of house red introduced herself.
Her name was Tracey, she was from Virginia, and she was on this weekend cruise with 10 other woman. All had left husbands and kids at home for a moms' getaway.
''Are you going to sing?'' Tracey asked.
''There's not enough liquor on this ship,'' I said.
''I have a good voice. I was going to sing,'' she said. ''But after that'' -- she motioned to a young woman singing The Greatest Love of All in a voice as lovely as Whitney Houston's -- ``I can't follow that.''
Five hours after leaving the Port of Miami, Tracey was well into her vacation groove, while I was still waiting for mine to start.
I've always been more interested in destinations than in getting to them, and cruising seemed a remarkably inefficient way of getting there that cheated me of time to explore an exciting new place.
But on this weekend, I was determined to change my mind-set. I would regard the cruise ship as a floating resort where the destination was incidental, even optional. Since I was already well acquainted with Nassau -- our only stop -- I would not feel deprived of the opportunity to spend more time ashore. At least that was my plan, though at this point, I still thought of the Fascination as transportation.
The itinerary: The ship would leave Miami at 4:30 p.m. Friday and arrive in Nassau around 6:30 a.m. Saturday. It would stay in Nassau almost 24 hours, then spend Sunday at sea, returning to Miami early enough Monday for me to get to work at my usual hour.
The Old Me groused about the day at sea. Surely the ship could have made it to Freeport, giving me an opportunity to explore a new island. The New Me was pleased about a day with no onshore temptations and time to loll about with a book and a fruity drink with an umbrella in it -- forced relaxation.
My husband was content either way. He would spend most of the weekend in the ship's casino or watching NASCAR on TV.
And so, as we cruised out of the Port of Miami on a cold February afternoon with choppy seas, I resolved to let Carnival entertain me for the weekend.
We had started early, boarding about 1:30 p.m. and settling at a poolside bar with those fruity drinks.
We'd been assigned to the 6:15 dinner seating, but that was too early for us. Instead, we fortified ourselves with a snack from the sushi bar, then went our separate ways.
My first stop was the karaoke bar, where my new friend Tracey was getting up the nerve to take the mike. She bounded up to the stage and launched into an off-key rendition of a Shania Twain song, interrupting it to cry: ``Let's hear it for all the moms!''
The other moms-at-sea applauded her as if she'd actually sung like Twain. I slipped out before she could ask me how she had done.
ON THE PROWL
Besides, there was plenty of action elsewhere:
In the Palace Showroom, I watched singers and dancers in an '80s revue perform to music from Flashdance, Fame and the Eurythmics, then went to check what was going on elsewhere. When I returned, a giant Rubik's Cube hung over the stage and two men from Miami were breakdancing.
In the piano bar, a not-so-good singer and piano player entertained a dozen passengers, all of us well over 40. A group of 30-ish men -- a bachelor party at sea -- took seats, quickly got bored and left. So did I.