A few weeks ago, my wife and I were home watching the movie Titanic when she suddenly hit the pause button and said, “I think we should go on a cruise.” I suggested she might want to wait around and see the end of the movie, and then rethink the idea. But her mind was made up and the next day she began booking a weeklong cruise to Mexico. She pointed out that in those waters the chances of smacking into an iceberg would be slim.
I knew my wife really wanted a vacation, but I privately wondered why we were wasting our time and money on a frivolous cruise. Luckily for me, my long years of marriage suggested that I should keep my frivolous trap shut on that score.
If the idea of a vacation is to get away from crowds, traveling on an ocean liner might not be the way to do it. The ship we were on carried 3000 passengers and 1200 crew. It was like a floating city minus the garbage trucks, bicycle messengers and Wal-Marts.
If you desire, it is possible to eat continuously for the entire week – food is available 24/7. I ate so much the first day at sea, a crew member asked me to spend more time in the center of the boat so it wouldn’t list as badly.
We were traveling with some great friends, Paul and Julie, who were staying in the room next to ours. We’d opted for outside cabins so we could always see the ocean view from our respective balconies – and so we could lean around the adjoining partition to see what each other was up to. As a result, I accidentally saw Paul in the nude several times. Maybe it was just the angle, but he looked like he’s been working out quite a bit lately.
The ship had several bars on board that were always crowded. It also had a library that almost nobody used. Last I heard, the cruise line was thinking of turning the library into a bar.
For the physically inclined, there were exercise rooms, a basketball court, a couple of golf cages, a swimming pool and a shuffleboard area. In the kind of oxymoronic scene that could only happen on a cruise ship, I saw two guys playing one-on-one basketball, while smoking cigarettes. I later saw them doing the same in the golf cages. But they couldn’t manage to keep the things lit in the swimming pool.
At night there was always lots of entertainment, including a guitar player singing tunes in a lounge. In a romantic mood, I put in a request for a song for my wife: “You Are So Beautiful”. But the singer didn’t know it and played “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” instead.
Elsewhere, in the main theatre, there were dance revues and magicians. One night, during particularly choppy seas, we watched a juggler desperately trying to do his act while lurching from side to side. After he spent most of the night dropping every object he tried, I imagined the conversation he later had with his agent:
JUGGLER: “No more cruise ships, OK?”
AGENT: “Right. By the way, I got you a booking next week on Amtrak.”
We stopped at several Mexican towns along the way – just long enough to go ashore and purchase several important items such as bottles of vanilla, cheap jewelry and tequila shot glasses with eyes painted on the bottom, reading “Here’s Looking at You.”
I also couldn’t pass up buying three – yes, three T-shirts for just ten dollars! What an amazing deal! All three fit me wonderfully. Then I washed them. Now they might fit Barbie’s boyfriend.
Of course, much of the preceding in this account of our journey is pure exaggeration, if not outright fiction. But the following part really did happen, and I’ll never forget it.
On the last day of our cruise, while preparing to leave our cabin for some time on the top deck, I noticed what sounded like crying coming from outside. I walked outside and saw that it was indeed someone weeping – a woman on the other adjoining balcony to the left side of ours