"They greet you with all sort of fruity drinks, people playing music," says passenger Sandra Richardson.
Three days later, at 5 o'clock in the morning, the Richardsons were woken up by an unsettling message.
"Alpha team, alpha team. Engine room six, alpha team," says Richardson.
The captain informed them that there was a fire. Moments later the electricity was out.
"Everything just went dead basically. So we headed out on the deck just to see what was happening. And that's when we saw the smoke coming out of the big smoke stack," she says.
It would be five long days without consistent plumbing or electricity and plenty of free time.
"Visited with a lot of people on board and standing in lines. And just made the best of it, really, it's all you can do," says Richardson.
Her attitude wasn't shared by all passengers but for her, the incident put things into perspective.
"There's so many people that live in those kind of conditions all the time and have it way worse so it certainly wasn't something that you couldn't survive and you couldn't make due. Really, I met a lot of people and had a lot of jokes. A lot of jokes," laughs Richardson.
When Sandra finally arrived back at Brownwood Middle school, she thought she'd play a practical joke on her fellow co-workers, wearing her lush rope and bringing her bio-waste bag.
As it turns out the joke was on her.
"The staff had this prepared for me. They worked overtime to make sure i was ready for my next cruise," says Richardson.
From cucumber sandwiches to souvenir posters to her personal favorite....
"So my best friend Wilson over here we get to take along on our next cruise if we wanted."
It was another surprise but this time it was welcomed.