I instantly knew what she meant. It wasn’t just that they were conversing, but that they were doing it without the constant reference to a mobile device, seemingly grafted to their hands.
It is very refreshing to see teens talking to each other unaided by devices. Call it one of the unintended benefits of a cruise vacation.
Internet access on a cruise is expensive. As the father of a teen, I say great. It provides me with an excuse to just say no to connecting online. I told my two girls on the cruise they could have the scrap minutes at the end of the cruise after I had used most of my package for work.
Once, telecommunications were so difficult at sea that disconnecting was a universal experience for cruise passengers. That has gone away as connections got more reliable and prices for service came down.
So adults can no longer hide from the office, take a break from clients or escape from everyday interactions by taking a cruise. That has its upsides, of course, but not a few of us would willingly trade them away.
As parents, however, one of the worries we have with our teens is whether they will squander the chance to see the world and experience new things because they’re glued to their phones 24/7.
Like the time a few years ago when I drove through Rocky Mountain National Park only to find my daughters’ eyes feasting on a 2- by 3-inch screen instead of the 12,000-foot vistas and overlooks.
My kids make friends with other kids from all over the world on a cruise. My older daughter spent the cruise comparing lives with new friends from England. My younger daughter is still in touch (via social media, of course) with a group from California she met last year on a Holland America cruise.
I like to think that one reason for that is that they are out of touch with old friends long enough to make new ones. Of course, the minute we make the dock, they’re eagerly scanning the waterfront for an Internet cafe.
So far cruise lines have focused on improving Internet quality, rather than reducing the price of a profitable service. But Royal Caribbean International is about to up the ante with the imminent debut of O3B on Allure of the Seas, which promises “land-like” connection speeds.
For now, access is expensive enough that I can keep my kids off the grid on a cruise. I hope it stays that way. Call me old-fashioned, but there should be some place where face-to-face communication thrives, and if it is on a ship, so much the better for cruising.