This is the first in a series of four blog posts I wrote the week of June 19, when my wife and I were on a cruise. I intended to post them from the ship, but internet access and bandwidth weren’t quite what I’d hoped for. So instead, I saved them, and will post them throughout this week.
I find it mind-boggling that there are four thousand passengers on this ship. And something like two thousand crew. I don’t feel like checking those numbers, because connecting to the Internet takes just a little more effort than usual, and I don’t feel like expending that effort.
I’m on the Norwegian Breakaway, sailing from New York to Bermuda. We’ve been on the ship now for less than twenty-four hours, and I am amazed at how different this feels than my last cruise. Five years ago, my wife and I cruised for the first time, and I was cranky about it. It hadn’t been my idea; in fact, I had an idea in my head that cruises were hedonistic and selfish. It felt like swimming in a pile of money, instead of using that money for something better, like giving it to church or another charity. It took me at least half of that trip to get over that feeling, and frankly, I made my wife’s vacation much more stressful and annoying than it had to be.
But this time, it doesn’t feel like that. Why not? What’s different this time? I don’t know. I actually feel fantastic right now. I feel relaxed, more relaxed than I’ve felt in weeks, maybe months. I’m sitting on a comfy chair in a hallway on deck eight, just typing on my iPad. Less than twelve hours ago, I was sitting in this same hallway, drinking beer with a good friend and reminiscing about college. (My wife and I are cruising with another couple, both of whom are dear friends of ours.) And now this morning is dedicated completely to reading and writing.
A few thoughts:
- I’m on “deck eight,” not “the eighth floor.” The reason for this is simple. We’re on a ship, and as such the floor is arbitrary. It’s only the floor as long as the ship remains upright. If the ship tilts (or “lists”) 90 degrees, the floor will become a wall. If the ship flips, it will become the ceiling. And that would make conversation confusing. Referring to this level as a deck instead of a floor alleviates that ambiguity. It’s comforting to know that the terminology will remain constant even if we hit an iceberg or a hurricane, and capsize. At least we’ll still have clear language as we all die.
- The hallway I’m in is lined on the walls (well, they’re walls as long as the ship is upright) with maps and paintings related to Scotland. In fact, just next to my head is a small portrait of “MAC DONALD OF CLAN RANALD.” You’ve got to be kidding me. Mac Donald of Ranald? They’re playing classic rock over the speakers in this hallway. Ranald and I are jamming to “Spirit in the Sky.”
- I’ve seen more crew than passengers this morning while I’ve been sitting here. They’re all so friendly. I often wonder if it’s just a façade to give us passengers the “experience” we pay for. There also seems to be a “backstage” of sorts that runs throughout the ship, doors that lead to a phantom ship behind which all the secret work is done that creates this illusion we experience here. Reminds me of DisneyWorld, which apparently has an underground backstage, through which all the staff travel when they’re not on the surface with us Eloi. (Eloi, right? Isn’t that the name of the effete passionless lazy beautiful people in H.G. Wells? Again, Internet takes a bit more effort than Ranald and I feel like exerting.)
- Now they’re playing ELO. Sheesh. Why am I staying in this hallway? Because I’m too lazy to go anywhere else.
- ELO. Eloi. Freaky.
- “Eloi” is one of about eight Aramaic words I know. It means “my God.”
- My God, this bulleted list is getting out of control. It needs a bullet to the head. Or at least a boot.
Where was I? That’s right…I can’t believe there are something like six thousand total people on this boat. Six thousand. That’s the population of a midsize borough in Pennsylvania. And I don’t like crowds. I don’t like being around people. But I’m enjoying myself here so far. Why? What’s different about this trip? For one thing, it’s not the unknown like our first cruise was. For another thing, I’ve been pretty comfortable of late with the level of our financial giving, so I didn’t carry that burden onto the ship. (I get into moods sometimes when I feel I should give away all my possessions and give them to the poor. Some dude named Jesus came up with that idea, and every now and then I feel convicted that I haven’t done it. I was definitely in one of those moods, or modes perhaps, the month leading up to that first cruise five years ago.) There’s also the fact that we’re with another couple. I think my wife and I can get into a feedback loop of frustration when it’s just the two of us for too long. Mostly my fault. But having extra friends with us can be kind of an escape valve for that. Plus, I’m on different meds now than I was five years ago. Plus, I’m a little more mature. Plus, it was a much less stressful trip this time to get to the port.
Either way, I hope this feeling remains. Come on, Ranald. Let’s go exploring.