Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Life Aquatic

I may have been a little hard on ol’ Steve yesterday. This cruise thing may be growing on me. A little. Maybe.

Don’t get me wrong – It’s still taking everything I have just to tolerate having so many people around me at all times (I spent a good part of the morning shouting “Keep right except to pass!” at people who clearly should have already known this, and I’ve gotten stuck in numerous traffic jams behind people who decided that the middle of a walkway would be a grand place to stop and look at the ceiling), and it was definitely harder to keep myself entertained on this “fun day at sea” than I think it should have been, but I may be growing accustomed to the eccentric rhythms of this iron leviathan. It’s certainly nothing remotely resembling home (and even if it was, I’d refuse to acknowledge the fact at this point, out of sheer principle), but the urge to throw myself overboard or sit at the bar for the next 4 days is certainly dwindling.

At this point, I could go on about what I did today and how This Atlantic Life is so different from life on land, but anyone who’s been on one of these boat rides in the past already knows about all that, and everyone who hasn’t won’t really care about things like the quality of the food and the fact that you can order 2 lobster tails and all the desserts at dinner (I’ve been on the receiving end of such soliloquies numerous times in the past). Instead, I’ll go back to this blog’s roots and talk about what I’ve learned so far about this asylum carnival funhouse.

I’ve learned that this place is a melting pot – if the only ingredient you add to the pot is people with a southern accent. There are families from Alabama, couples from Louisiana and Texas, and loud drunks from Florida (of course). Any signal I might be throwing out about where I’m from is totally lost on them. While a Texas v. Oklahoma debate raged during trivia last night, my Red Sox hat hasn’t raised a single eyebrow. I’m back in the pattern I found myself in a few months ago, when I was surrounded by people with whom I had nothing in common. Time, then, crept by very slowly as I counted down the hours until I could be around people I could talk to again. The same was true today, although it probably didn’t help that there was apparently an unusually light schedule for a “fun day at sea,” so I had to entertain myself. Because I only brought enough yarn to make 2 hats (which should usually keep me busy for days), the iPhone version of Taboo bore the brunt of this responsibility.

I’ve learned that a certain late-December religious holiday largely does not exist at sea. This is a huge advantage that being here has over being anywhere in the United States. Although the only seasonal songs I’ve heard have been the terrible Mariah Carey and Berl Ives kind of garbage, the throng onboard all but drown it out anyway. For fear of offending those of us who don’t celebrate this particular holiday (because, you know, it’s about the birth of a god which my people and others do not, have not, and will not worship), Carnival seems to have adopted a policy of refusing to mention it by name (a policy I will happily apply to this post, as well). As an aside, for anyone who insists this is not a religious holiday, I’d like them to explain why every iteration of CNN today showed live coverage of the Papal mass. Last I checked, the Pope doesn’t give masses for secular holidays like Labor Day or Valentine’s Day. Anyway, I’ll be interested in seeing how the holiday is celebrated in Mexico – a process much less painful because I’ll have a manger-free refuge on the Carnival Flagellation.

I’ve learned that even mediocre Caribbean sunsets are not too shabby. I’ll take the 360-degree golden hour views, even if it means there’s no real foreground to include in pictures. The clouds, alone, provide enough interest to keep things balanced. Tonight’s sunset had the potential to be spectacular, but fizzled just before it had a chance to light up the clouds from below. Even so, I got about 5 minutes of a pretty good show that most people onboard seemed to miss.

I think I’ve come to the conclusion that any time one can see the sun reach the horizon in this part of the world, the results will be fairly incredible, regardless of the cloud situation.

I’ve learned that I like the Carnival Emancipation (or whatever it calls itself) much better after dark. Then, I can avoid most of the crowds, who are either drinking like it’s their job or sleeping. The top deck, in particular, has been a great source of quiet enjoyment so far, even though it can get pretty spooky after dinner.

At least I can (finally) be 100% confident that I can stay outside after dark and stand absolutely no chance of being eaten by some wild beast. Plus, at the very front of the boat, the various windows and bridges block most of the light from the rest of the boat, so there’s some chance to see the stars and hear yourself think. 

I’ve learned that these boat rides would only really work for me if I was with a large group of friends whom I could talk to for hours on end, and that I could rotate through so no one gets too tired of me. Otherwise, people stare at each other all day. Gets very boring…

Fortunately, tomorrow should not be a day in which I need to invoke the albatross from The Little Mermaid again. Our iron leviathan will finally reach our first destination, where we’ll promptly board a steel horse and drive through the jungle to Chichen Itza. Hopefully I’ll do some learning there too – without feeling too much like a tourist or a head of cattle.


  1. See why I knit and hide on my balcony to watch the view and read when forced to go on one of these things? And, I will remind you, I am a fucking extrovert. I can not imagine what this must be like for you.

    After a day or two I horrify my family who discover that I pass the time making up strange life histories when talking to strangers. If forced to attend shows I randomly yell out things to the performers. Em and Noah were at the juggling show when the juggler asked some question or another and I leaped up with faux over the top excitement and shouted silly inanities much to the jugglers delight and my kids eternal mortification. I also enjoy walking along the corridors, stopping at random "art" pieces and pontificating on them at length. None of these coping mechanisms will work for you, stick to the bar.

  2. I am so glad you warmed up to Steve and the boat so quickly. I love cruises. They are so destressing.