My family and I attended the Spartan Cruise after scoring a free ride. I admit to a strong bias against cruises as well, so I reckon these two facts canceled one another out. After being on the ship for 20 minutes I was ready to leave. I like to keep an open mind about things. The cause of my distress was the first buffet exposure. After sampling the fair, I was sure I’d lose weight on the cruise. Then I found the soft serve machine. I decided to gain 20lbs instead. Truthfully, every meal after the first was quite good. There were six different restaurants on the Norwegian Sky where you could eat with no additional cost. They had turkey burgers. If that isn’t enough to convince you to go next year, then you need to take a hard look at your life.
Our room was tiny and efficient. It reminded me of Japanese Capsule hotels with a bit of extra width and a toilet. I loved it. From our porthole we had a lovely view of forklifts loading mattresses onto the ship. These must have been the extra soft ones shipped in for the Spartan Pro Team. The hallways on the ship were so long that you first think it is a trick or a scene from The Shining. However, this floating resort was staffed with the nicest, most professional, attentive staff I’ve seen anywhere. There were staff of all sorts everywhere on the ship ready to help you with anything you needed. It was a top notch experience.
Right off the bat there were a series of speakers and training sessions with all kinds of fitness folks famous in our circles and beyond, and a great sail away party. This was hosted by Joe De Sena and consisted of all passengers completing forced burpees and being informed that booze was prohibited and that celery would be the only menu item henceforth. There were a number of small pools on the top decks and four hot tubs arranged like leaves on a clover. For some reason, one of these hot tubs had 30 people in it at all times. The partying on the ship was a bit subdued the first night as we steamed towards Stirrup Cay and the first Spartan Race in the Bahamas.
In the morning we were taken out in stages on tenders to the Cay. It was sunny and in the high 80’s, so those of us from Boston were perfectly prepared. At the start of the first wave it was announced again that the top 50 men and women from the day would win prize money. The field was tremendous. Albon, Atkins, Vidal, Yatsko, Pak, Kraker, Blegg, Wetzel, Watson, Kent and many others toes the line. There were also a number of elite athletes from other sports including Ninja Warrior, ultra-running and parkour.
The race was just over three miles and it was very well done in terms of the terrain and obstacles. Spartan added a Lily Pad obstacle which is similar to the Island Hopping seen at World’s Toughest Mudder. Most of the old favorites were represented. There were some excellent single track trails through tropical forests and along shark infested canals and natural rock formations. It was a very picturesque race, certainly the most beautiful Spartan race I’ve done to date. There was a great deal of swimming, more than I’d seen in SR over the past few years.
Unfortunately, there were two big problems. The first is that course refs were not present throughout the heats. As everyone was eligible for prize money, everyone should have been held to the same standards. Secondly, there were two out and back sections on the course both of which were easy to miss accidentally or “accidentally,” and each of which could save you five minutes or more. As the elites finished in around 30 minutes, such an error could make a huge difference. Personally, this did not take away from my enjoyment of the course or the day as a whole. There was a great atmosphere on the Cay throughout the day as the race went on. We learned that the gates we saw in the canals were to keep the sharks out. However, the race course took us in the water on both sides of the gates, so they were actually keeping the food in as well. We also learned that drunk people suck at Jenga, no matter how big the pieces are, and that no one can traverse around an entire hut using only their hands when the shingles are a thousand degrees. Later, as we headed back on tenders to the ship, Paul of Mud and Adventure was attempting to swim back and climb the anchor chain back into the ship. Sadly they were intercepted by canal police on a jetski who suggested they hitch a ride unless they wanted to be eaten by hammerheads.
That night on the ship was great fun. There was an entertaining award ceremony and auction, hosted expertly by Matt B. Davis himself, and Isaiah Vidal (Men’s winner) donated his entire purse of $3,000 to purchase an item in support of Project 431, an effort to help get kids off the couch and into healthy lifestyles. Very generous! After this, all kinds of fun broke out. There were parties all over the boat from the casino, to the theater, and of course the endurance hot tubing continued. Michael Wardian made his first attempt at breaking the world record for a 50k on a treadmill. Yes, his first attempt. There was some late night arm wrestling also, but of course they waited for me to go to bed first.
Sunday morning we woke up to the news that we’d be unable to head out to the island due to rough seas. There was some initial disappointment, but folks made the best of it. The entire day aboard the ship was a festival. There were handstand demonstrations, parkour tricks, more arm wrestling (with me this time), yoga, and lots more soft serve ice cream. 30+ people remained in that hot tub. Michael Wardian successfully beat the 50k record on his second attempt. Quite amazing!
The ship had a fantastic kid’s zone that our son didn’t want to leave. It was free until 10:30pm and really made it easy to enjoy the ship without worrying whether your son is walking on a railing somewhere. Definitely expect to pay for drinks throughout the trip. And take out a second mortgage if you wish to use Wi-Fi aboard. The good far outweighed the bad on this trip and I would definitely do it again. Give it a shot if you have some extra loot and don’t freak out if you don’t get a special medal and t-shirt. It’s just stuff, right?
*Photos By: Spartan Cruise and Joshua Grant
Catch ORM’s video recap of the race here:
The Spartan Race Cruise culminated with a Sprint in the Bahamas, in addition to running on unique terrain and swimming in the ocean, they also surprised us with a smaller target for the spear throw, what do you think–does size matter?
Posted by Obstacle Racing Media on Wednesday, March 18, 2015