Saturday, May 19, 2012


Right before I got back on the boat, after passing aisles of knick knacks and cheap souvenirs stacked in haphazard heaps, I stopped and bought a Cuban cigar.  On board, I spent twenty minutes smoking it in the wood-paneled library-esque cigar lounge situated just off the casino.  In addition to being the best twenty minutes of my cruise (except for the part where I was almost hit by a mock pirate ship while snorkeling in Aruba), it also gave me a chance to reflect on the strange feeling I had experienced a couple of days before that, a feeling that only be described as one of death, creeping up on me.

No, nothing to do with the mock pirate ship that almost ran me over, snorkel and all, while the tourists on board snapped pictures and pointed.  This feeling came upon me slowly, after a trip to the panoramic gym situated at the bow of the boat, after I had returned to the private area aptly called the "Sanctuary", which separated us from the other passengers by at least two barriers and one attendant.  Sitting in the extra-plush chair, looking out through the (strangely) blue tinted glass at the ocean beyond, a feeling of minor dread washed over me.  It was as if a small piece of my spirit had just detached, and floated away into the ether to rejoin the energy force that separates this world from the next.

Or, more likely, it was just  the norovirus kicking in.  You see, there was an outbreak on the boat.  Dozens of passengers who were naive (or ill) enough to see the ship's doctor about their condition were being quarantined in their rooms, while the rest of us whistled merrily on our way while working the posterior muscles through repetitive clench exercises.  Once I noticed that my stools had adjusted to our watery surroundings by imitating their consistency, the thought of exacerbating my already-horrendous cabin fever by getting detained in my actual cabin was enough to overcome any minor feelings of guilt I might have had about spreading the virus.  I was convinced that everyone and their convalescent mother (who was probably the source of the outbreak, bless her grubby little fingers) had contracted the virus, but wasn't telling.  Why then, should I?

Back in the cigar lounge, which ironically was probably the cleanest place on board the ship and therefore the least likely to exacerbate my rinovirus (bet you can't say that while keeping a straight face), I puffed away on the best $8 dollar cigar ever, and wondered how I had ended up on a cruise in the first place.

To be honest, I never expected to find myself on a cruise.  I always thought that the best depiction of people who go on cruises was the spaceship in Wall-E where people ride around on floating chairs and spend all of their time eating.  It's not that I hate the bourgeoisie - I have a communist cousin who has elected to represent our family at those events - but I do hate anyone who treats another human poorly, and cruise ships are rife with guilty parties.  At one point my wife and I were sitting at our lunch table watching a woman, another passenger, try to get the attention of the server, who was taking an order at another table.  As if she were a character on Downton Abbey, the hideous woman repeatedly pestered the server, who was obviously helping other passengers, until she finally put down her pen and walked over to the woman's table.  When the server reached the table, the woman arched her back and said shrilly "Do you really expect me to shout to get your attention?"  It was as if I was watching a very bad play, about very bad people... and it was a scene that repeated itself time and time again over the seven day voyage.  By the end of the trip I was tempted to start coughing on the desert tray on purpose (although I did not), to provide some needed oomph to a karmic power out there that obviously wasn't doing its job.

The funny thing about the outbreak (for those of us with sufficiently dark senses of humor) was that it happened simultaneously with what the Captain of the boat described as the "worst weather in 20 years of sailing the Caribbean."  It was truly awful.  If you spent half your morning in your room on the porcelain chin-rest (yes, it was a nice boat), it was hard to say whether it was due to grandma's germs in the jello, or because the boat was auditioning to be the Costa Concordia.  Although I don't get motion sickness, in hindsight I might have gotten some relief - and still avoided being imprisoned in my room - had I gone to the medical center complaining of wobbly legs, rather than wobbly buttocks.

Although I'm long over the norovirus, the memory of the cruise lingers on (notably in the injury I suffered to my leg in that gym with its blasted panoramic views).  I appreciated the opportunity to experience a cruise, but sometimes the memory of gazing out through those blue-tinted windows comes to me like a whispered word, mostly in the evenings, often accompanied by a feeling of homesickness and missing the ones that I love. Even though it would have been interesting to go out (dramatically) by being run over by a mock pirate ship, I think I'd prefer to end up aging slowly, at least to the point where I can be taken on a (second) cruise, and create my own norovirus outbreak by sneezing surreptitiously in the casserole, then watching in delight as the bourgeoisie succumb, and the staff smile knowingly as the boat rocks back and forth, while I puff slowly on my cigar and enjoy the moment.