By Monte Lazarus
Cruising ain’t for sissies. What?
Let me explain
I’m addicted to cruising. Being on the high seas and able to relax away from daily cares is one continuing tonic. The ports of call are almost, but not quite, incidental to the joy of being on a beautiful ship surrounded by miles of ocean. You are pampered, fawned over and constantly fed. Your bed is nicely made every day, there are lots of towels, extra pillows and a cabin person slobbering over you. There’s always something to do – ranging from art auctions to trivia games – even including some excellent lectures. So, why the sissies comment?
In the first place, checking-in can be a pain in the neck. Some cruise lines do not have streamlined procedures, and you can be in one of those Disneyesque lines for what seems like hours. When you finally stagger up the gangplank, the obligatory photographer wants you to pose with a silly grin. I just cover my face like a common criminal. Finally! The cabin looms. Sometimes the luggage is there; sometimes not. You wait and hope it arrives. Once, my poor wife had put her life-preserving prescriptions in checked baggage. When it did not reach the cabin I raced hither and yon (that’s maritime talk for “luggage room to main desk”) and was on the verge of abandoning ship. At about two minutes before sailing, the stuff appeared and our lives could go on without additional panic.
Meals range from a challenge to a joy. Every larger ship has a Lido Deck for cafeteria type eating. That’s a challenge. Some of the people in line seem to think that the food will run out in the next eight minutes. Naturally they engage in the famous game of “push and mutter”. First they shove, and then they mumble about the long line. Finally they get to the food stations and cannot decide what to eat. You load a tray and then you search for a quiet table. Good luck. The competition is on. Eaters lurk alongside occupied tables hoping for someone to leave. The poor Brits, who are used to queuing up, don’t have a chance.
At dinner you are well advised to ask for a table for two, four, six or eight, tailored precisely to the number in your party. If not, there is an excellent chance that you will be seated with (1) a complainer (e.g., “the food was much better on the last cruise”), (2) a dominator, who does not let anyone else get in a word edgewise, (3) a scowler, who does not say a word throughout the meal, but just scowls or (4) a couple of teeny-boppers (they always travel in pairs or more) who giggle and otherwise make pests of themselves to waiters and tablemates.
Unless you have a suite your cabin is usually adequate, but not very large. The bathroom is small about the size of a tiny closet. In that wee space they’ve put the famous “spin shower”. It’s the size of one of those ancient red British phone booths. To shower you run some water, praying that adjoining bathrooms are not flushing so that you may set your perfect temperature. Then you carefully spread soap on all the shower walls. Step in and spin like a top! It’s too small to lather up any other way.
Don’t dare put a toe into the Jacuzzi. Every cruise article says that shipboard Jacuzzis spread every disease from anemia to yellow fever.
Land tours are usually pretty good. But, lining up to get on a tour bus can be a challenge. Each tour has its characters. We wound up with “The Penguin”. He was a genuine wimp who insisted on being first to board every bus, and always sat right behind the driver. He actually tried to evict someone who got there first. That someone was me…just for fun. Why was he “The Penguin”? Simple. He looked and walked like one with bobbing shoulders and a matching shuffle.
If you go to the spa, beware! Your shipboard account will wind up with a charge approximating the national debt.
The ship’s theater usually looks great. Be careful what you go to see! On the South China sea we were victims of a show by Chinese acrobats. That sounded wonderful since the Chinese stage spectacular acrobatic shows. However, the ship neglected to inform anyone that the acrobatic troupe was a group of young apprentices. They stumbled, they fell, they wore wrong costumes. It was more a comic routine than an acrobatic show.
Finally, the cruise is over. Now the joy of disembarking. Depending on whether you are catching a flight or wandering off on your own, you can wait anywhere from a half hour to two-and-a-half hours to leave the ship. As you walk the last mile you think back fondly. Despite all the pitfalls there’s nothing like a relaxing cruise. That’s why I’m still a junkie. The biggest problem is getting back to the “real” world. You’re on your own. Don’t forget your passport.