I took my first ocean cruise: down the coast of California, to Ensenada, Mexico. And the upshot? As pleasurable as parts of it were, I don’t need to take another cruise anytime soon. Not until someone reminds me how much fun I had, and like childbirth (which I’ve never experienced), I’ll probably end up remembering only the good parts. Meanwhile, excerpts from my onboard musings:
Monday, April 9, 2018: A Princess Cruise Line trip is one gargantuan TV commercial, accompanied by goods and services to sell. And sell they must, or the weak-selling crew person might be thrown into the brig for failure to achieve. It’s like being aboard one large floating condominium info session — the kind where you get a $75 MasterCard for enduring. Even early afloat, there are so many arms being twisted to buy every possible thing (just one more product after your facial, madam), we’ll come out looking striped with tan lines from all the twisting.
All this selling is done in a multitude of accents from the dozens of countries represented by the beautiful crew. So it feels un-American not to buy because you don’t want to hurt international relations by saying no to those smiling faces from the British Isles, Nicaragua, India, China, Peru, Lagos, the Maldives, Australia, Brazil, Japan, Germany, South Africa, the Philippines, the planets Saturn and Mars. What a great sense of humor these kids must have to continually serve 2,200 passengers, hand and foot, 24 hours a day. I love the crew. Especially Pinna, from Serbia, who just brought me an ice cream cone and a Diet Coke.
On the other hand, the massages and skin treatments I’m having at the Lotus Spa are among the very best I’ve had. Except for finding hours to sit on a deserted deck and stare at the sea, the spa is my favorite place on this ship. That and the free ice cream cone stand on Deck 14.
Later in the morning: I ran into Shirley Jones while waiting for the elevator midship. Her cabin must be on the Dolphin Deck, too. It’s odd to run into sweet, tiny Laurie from Oklahoma 50 years later and realize how old we’ve all gotten. She was very cordial and sported that cruise-ship smile. Poor wonderful actress: her face will be frozen into that smile for days to come.
Tuesday, April 10th, 2018: With my travel companion ashore, and no spa treatments scheduled for today, I luxuriate in the unplanned hours stretching before me. Writing, reading, sunning are on my agenda, along with some more eating. These are my cherished hours. The sea and me. It’s the aged and infirm on board today, as people with walkers and wheelchairs have no way of using the tender to shore. I feel I am with the crowd who are just my speed, stoked on enough sugar from breakfast to be happy. I will roam and get lost until I find my perfect deck chair. I met a woman named Carol this morning, who even after her fourth voyage on this boat still gets lost. Just yesterday, I learned the difference between port and starboard, which means I am able to find my stateroom now. This ship is like a skyscraper lying on its side. No kidding.
I just moved from the amplified disco party around the pool (wheelchairs and walkers rocking out), to peace on the Conservatory Deck. It is gorgeous now, in brilliant sunshine, with gentle breezes blowing. I am alone except for a few Chekhovian seagulls.
This is the cruise I love.
So far, I’ve met Kirsten and Crystal and their preteen daughters; Larry the piano technician and his blind wife, Ariel, plus her service dog Amor; verbal Phil the schoolteacher and his wife of 45 years, Carolyn; Angie and her writer-husband Colin, at dinner last night, along with a spry couple from Tennessee who have been to Barter Theatre many times, and think they remember seeing me perform there. Everyone is so warm and friendly, so relaxed, because we are not flying 35,000 feet in the air.
I’ve enjoyed the company of Kelly and her policeman hubby, Steve, who entertained with his views on the rule of law; a waiter from India named Hilton, who was so much fun I’m surprised we didn’t pay an entertainment charge; and many others whose names have drifted. I am good with people, easily chatty, but I feel like I am constantly in a theater lobby on opening night of a show I’m not in. Tedious. I keep seeking quiet.
And so it went, day after day: People, food, quiet times, and crowded ones.
Which brings me to the subject of the shows we attended, but I’ll save that for another column.
Suffice it to say: sequins, rhinestones, talent, plus very large smiles are safely afloat, plus I admire the energies and courage of those who danced on a wavy floating stage without ever falling down.
So. I’ve lived to sail again. I notice there’s a voyage to Alaska next April on the same ship — shall I book it?
Well, at least I should know where my cabin is by then.