Since we returned from our recent 18-day cruise I have been asked by a number of people what it’s like to be on a ship for nearly three weeks. These individuals preface their query with a suggestion that they feel they might not like it very much. That question holds a guarded judgment that suggests that maybe something is wrong with me if I did like.
Well, to hell with them. I not only liked it. I liked it very much. It’s a kind of Agatha Christie adventure with incidents, characters and, while no murders took place (to my knowledge) there were probably incidents of wretched excess, adulterous liaisons and maybe a few vicious fights.
But, what really makes a cruise worthwhile is the people. Let me introduce you to some of our co-passengers on the MV Zaandam with whom we shared room, board, and visits to exotic locales.
*Jim and June: They were partnered with us one night at dinner. They had been on something like 4,365 cruises. They were a long-retired Norman Rockwellish couple who lived in the US Midwest. He was, surprisingly enough, a former USAF fighter pilot. I say surprisingly enough because he was shaped like a daffodil bulb. But, the Tet Offensive was a long time ago. She looked like the president of her local ladies aid society. They were stultifyingly uninteresting. They never seemed to book any of the shore adventures and they occupied the same chairs in one of the lounges every day, all day. He read and she ‘tatted’, or whatever the hell it was that she was doing. There level of conversation was about a D-plus. Not nasty, just uninspiring.
*The Redneck: From Pittsburgh. Yep, worked in a steel mill. I guess there are some still working. Rough diamond – we thought, until he proved to be a zircon. It went OK until he opined about the African American who was handling their luggage at San Diego. With a single utterance he made Paula Deen sound like a member of the NAACP. “I was ambivalent about the guy until he opened his mouth,” said Wendy. “Then immediately I decided I had to hate him.”
*The Englishwoman: I know she was English because I heard her in conversation with her equally UK female cruising companion. Initially I thought perhaps she batted for the ‘other team’, as it were and which is absolutely OK in my book. But then I noticed on many occasions she was watching me. You know that feeling you get when you think somebody is looking at you? That was it. And I’d look up and it would invariably be her, and she would immediately avert her eyes. It was quite funny, really, and I was oddly flattered a little. She marked the extent of any bad behavior on my part.
*The exquisite bus girl: An Asiatic lass of some sort with looks that could get her a role in Bollywood epics any time. The brightest smile I think I’d ever seen and just utterly damn adorable. She devoted much of her time to helping the more senior types on the ship and they obviously adored her in a grandparental manner. I bet her tips were huge at the end of the journey.
*The Neighbor: We had a balcony stateroom – the only way to cruise, in our esteem – and we had neighbors on both sides. And one is want to take air on one’s balcony quite often. The neighbors on the right side were quite pleasant. Saw them on a few occasions. The one on the left, however, seemed to be traveling alone. Chain smoker and her fumes wafted plentifully. She was also given to propping her balcony door open and turning up her TV full volume so she could sit outside and smoke, and drink and watch the tube, just like at home. Wendy saw her once in the corridor. “Lotta miles on her and she’s closed down a few bars for the night I’ll guarantee,” she said. The ‘do-not-disturb’ sign was in place at her door often until 2 in the afternoon.
*Mrs. Robinson: Nice enough, pretty enough 60-ish lady who just oozed money. Loved to watch her chatting up the dashing young dude at our favorite coffee outlet. Later, when I was looking through the photos the ship’s photog had taken, there she was with her arms draped around the young guy. At my age I kind of envied him just a little.
Many, many more, but this gives a bit of sampling. Hey, maybe there’s a book in this. If only there had been a murder, then I could have done my full Poirot. The closest we came to that was the poor sod who had to be medivaced from the ship off the coast of Oregon two days out. High drama as the chopper homed in and I hope everything turned out OK for him. Some vacation.