Disembarking from the Love Boat

And thus this intrepid drunken sailor did return to a land-locked existence.

The Love Boat, aka the [tag]Carnival Glory[/tag] (actually, the [tag]Love Boat[/tag] was the Pacific Princess, if you absolutely must know), this floating Vegas casino/suburban mall complex, returned to its port in Florida this past weekend; its occupants disgorged back onto dry land and real life. No one is relieved more than my liver, with the possible exception of my bank account. For souvenirs of my trip, I brought back a tropical print shirt and a cowboy hat with a crooked brim made out of hay or some such fibrous, organic material (both bought on Nassau), as well as a sore throat and a mild fever. This last was no doubt brought on by the seven days of partying on board, which surely compromised my immune system. At least I had access to fruit on board ship, and was able to avoid scurvy.

Someone in my party of 20 asked me during the last day of the [tag]cruise[/tag] if I would ever do it again. I told her that I would. I probably wouldn’t bother to book a cruise of my own accord, to be honest. I can think of many other ways I would rather spend a week’s vacation. But I would be happy to go on another cruise if I had occasion to do so in the future – another friend getting married, a significant other wishing to indulge in floating drunkenness, etc. On the whole, I can say I had a fun time. I found a review of [tag]Carnival Cruise[/tag] Lines here, and this seems a pretty apt description of the experience I had, for the most part. A couple of things I would quote and note:

Bring some heavy-duty sunglasses; thanks to the boundless imaginative (some would say hallucinogenic) designs of inventive designer Joe Farcus, Carnival ships are fervently garish.

Um, this is putting it kindly. There is a plaque to be found on board the Carnival Glory, commemorating its completed construction in 2003. As my friend Vern (the brother of the groom) observed, he assumed the ship was older, as the décor perfectly recalls the sets of a late 70s or early 1980s era, cocaine-fueled pornographic movie. Lots of clashing primary colors, gold chrome, neon, etc.

Now that I think of it, many of our fellow 3,000 passengers seemed to have also escaped from a porn set a la 1983, or at least from the audience. There were more than a few empty trailers, as well as more than a few Camaros and Trans Ams sitting vacant, while their mullet-headed owners went to sea last week. I’m not knocking them, don’t get me wrong, just merely making an observation. As the aforementioned review mentions:

You’ll encounter a very wide range of passengers, from singles, to the retired, to multi-kid young families …

That’s putting it mildly. But this is a good thing; it certainly makes the cruise more interesting. But, as I said in the previous post, I have to say the most interesting and attractive people I found on board were the crew – seems nearly all of the service staff on the ship were from overseas, principally from eastern Europe and Russia, or from Southeast Asia. As for my fellow passengers, I’ll just say this: future cruise ship travelers, be prepared for large numbers of nearly-naked, fat hairy guys in line at the buffet. I don’t have a problem with this out on deck, by the pool, etc. More power to them, if they are secure enough to flaunt it. But I don’t want to see it when I’m sitting down to eat, quite frankly. I don’t make you look at mine; don’t make me look at yours. If you really need any more evidence that we Americans are the fattest people in the world, take a cruise …

Also, if you do take a cruise, spring for a cabin with a private balcony. If you prize time by yourself, a cruise such as the one I was on proves difficult. It was extremely hard to find time alone away from the teeming masses out on deck, regardless of where one went, unless it was very late at night/early morning. But who wants to sit in the cabin and read when there is a warm tropical sun and ocean breezes to be had? Not to mention the um … romantic possibilities, shall we say. If I ever go on a cruise again, I’d definitely spring for the private balcony.

One other thing I would mention: if you are prone to [tag]motion sickness[/tag]/[tag]sea sickness[/tag], if your room slowly rolling and creaking all night interferes with your sleep, a cruise may not be for you. Me, I found it one of the best parts of the experience. The night we had nine to 14 foot waves, I found myself wishing for it to be even rougher – not deathly rougher, obviously, but this is really the one novelty on board a giant cruise ship: being at sea. Take away the ocean, and you might as well be in a casino/hotel in Vegas or Atlantic City, or even at your local mega mall. Feeling the deck rock under my feet as I watched the ship sail across a moon-dappled ocean, with waves stretching from horizon to horizon in any direction – that was the highlight of the trip. Well, that and our charming, lovely Thai waitress, Kittiyaporn (yep, not making that name up). In fact, I think I begin to understand the romantic attraction to a life of travel at sea; if I can say I miss one thing about the cruise, that was late night walks on a deserted, open-air deck before bed. I found myself wishing more than once that I was on a much smaller craft with considerably fewer people, with no where in particular to go, except somewhere beyond the horizon …

Perhaps the [tag]Little River Band[/tag] summed it up best, with their seminal 1979 classic, Cool Change:

If there’s one thing in my life that’s missing
It’s the time that I spend alone
Sailing on the cool and bright clear water
Lots of those friendly people
And they’re showing me ways to go
And I never want to lose their inspiration
Time for a cool change
I know that it’s time for a cool change
And now that my life is so prearranged
I know that it’s time for a cool change

Well, I was born in the sign of water
And it’s there that I feel my best
The albatross and the whales they are my brothers
It’s kind of a special feeling
When you’re out on the sea alone
Staring at the full moon, like a loverTime for a cool change
I know that it’s time for a cool change
Now that my life is so prearranged
I know that it’s time for a cool change

I’ve never been romantic
And sometimes I don’t care
I know it may sound selfish
But let me breathe the air, yeah
Let me breathe the air
If there’s one thing in my life that’s missing
It’s the time that I spend alone
Sailing on the cool and bright clear water
It’s kind of a special feeling
When you’re out on the sea alone
Staring at the full moon, like a lover

Time for a cool change
I know that it’s time for a cool change
Now that my life is so prearranged
I know that it’s hard for a cool
Cool, cool change

It’s time, it’s time, it’s time
It’s time, it’s time, it’s time
For a cool, cool change
Oooooh, I know it’s time for a cool
Cool, cool change
Now that my life is so prearranged
Well, I know, I know, I know, I know
That it’s time for a cool change
Yes it is, yes it is, yes it is, yes it is
It’s time for a cool change

Furthermore, if your idea of fun is exploring foreign cultures, don’t expect to do that on the typical big boat cruise. I’m not complaining here, again merely making an observation: the stops one makes on a cruise in foreign ports of call don’t even last long enough to scratch the surface of the local culture. You’re only there long enough to see the local [tag]tourist[/tag] traps, shop duty free, or play on the local beaches that cater to tourists. Again, nothing wrong with that; I like playing on the beach. But when people ask me how [tag]St. Maarten[/tag]’s was, I have to answer honestly: I don’t know. Other than the few things I learned from our cab drivers (how come the Carnival literature didn’t mention the brothels that were available?), I really didn’t get much of a taste for the local culture. But I wasn’t really expecting that, being there for just a few hours. I think if I go on a big cruise like that again, I’d be tempted to just walk off the boat, negotiate with a taxi driver for one rate for the day, and just follow my whims, or his …

One more piece of advice. If you find yourself on a cruise that stops at Nassau, go to the Straw Shop (you can see it from the cruise ship dock), and ask for David Nixon. He can hook you up with anything. Anything, apparently.