Afloat On A Boat
Saturday July 17th, 2010 - Miami, FL
Well, I made it through my first day of life on a cruise ship. Here I thought I’d had more travel experience than just about anyone else walking, but I was wrong. I felt like a rookie and realized this is a world that’s been thriving for years and I’ve completely missed it.
I shut my mouth and observed, trying not to get in anyone’s way or be a pain in the ass. I’m new, and I knew it. In the future I’ll probably laugh about how overwhelmed I felt as I wandered through the bowels of the enormous Liberty cruise liner, but I did. I felt lost in the first two minutes, and everyone I asked had a thick foreign accent I couldn’t decipher.
They were all friendly, but then they’d point and mumble something inaudible and I’d be right back to not having a clue as to where I was supposed to go or who I was to report to or where my luggage was. I felt like I was dropped into another world and left to figure things out on my own. It was like a live action mystery puzzle, and rather intimidating.
I was up way too late yesterday trying to catch up on emails and pack for something I’m really not familiar with yet. I knew I wouldn’t need a parka or long johns, but what should I bring for five days in July nearer to the equator than I’ve ever been in my life? My list of guidelines said I’d need to dress ‘formal’ for two nights and I assumed that meant a suit.
I bought some nice short sleeve Tommy Bahama silk shirts that look classy but not like a Caribbean pimp. I also brought along a couple of long sleeve dress shirts and a jacket in case they enforce the ‘formal’ rule. I do own a tuxedo, but I didn’t want to haul that down here and have to wear it in this heat. I’d feel like a baked penguin soaked in sweat gravy.
I did manage to catch my plane out of Chicago, but I left super early to get to O’Hare in time to not have too much stress. This was my first trip, and I didn’t want any unpleasant surprises. I had my passport and ID and paperwork and everything went smoothly, except the fact I had to take a middle seat between two people who overlapped into my seat area.
Sleeping in that situation is always hellish, but my eyelids were heavy so I couldn’t help but nod out almost immediately. I snore like a leaf blower, and several times I felt myself wake up suddenly with a jerking head motion that I know must have annoyed the hell out of the two people in my row, not to mention everyone else who could hear me snoring.
Sorry, people. Hey, I could have had gas. We landed in Miami early, but then I had an unexplained delay catching a shuttle to the cruise line port. Miami is like a war zone, and my driver didn’t speak six words of English. If he had any reason to want to do me in, he could have sold me for parts and they never would have found my carcass. I was polite.
Eventually, the shuttle ended up at the port. I don’t know how he did it, and the route he took seemed to be long and complex, but I didn’t complain out of fear I’d get dropped off and have to hitch hike. I was completely at his mercy but he came through, and the cost of $20 was reasonable for as complicated as it seemed. I was just glad to see that giant boat.
Wow, what a scow. I guess I’d never seen a cruise ship up close - not this size anyway. Most things I’ve seen in life under delivered. Not this. Mount Rushmore was a lot smaller in person than I’d pictured in my head, as was the St. Louis Arch. This ship is a monster.
I eventually found where I was supposed to go and checked in. I had to have a name tag made so I can get meals, and fill out more paperwork. They kept my passport and said I’d get it back when I left the ship, which I thought was odd. There must be a reason for it but I didn’t ask. Nobody in the office spoke English well, and I didn’t want to cause trouble.
The main woman I had to deal with was a Latino love goddess - an absolute stunner. If I had to pick a design for the perfect beauty, she’d be pretty close. I love brunettes, and this woman was a cross between Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek. Yeowza! I had a hard time keeping my composure as I listened to her directions. She was hypnotically exotic. Wow.
Hotel clerks in Des Moines don’t usually have that kind of allure, so I took it as a sign I made the right choice by taking this gig. Another lady from Australia showed me how to find my cabin, and even though she wasn’t a heart melter, she was friendly and I was able to find it with no problem. I’m staying in crew quarters, out of sight but near passengers.
I’d always heard how tiny the cabins were on ships, but this one was actually larger than I’d imagined. My standards aren’t that high, and I’ve been living in basements and renting rooms my whole life so I can handle just about anything. There’s plenty of room for me.
There are two bunks, a desk area with a small TV, a closet and a bathroom. I don’t have any windows so I can’t tell if it’s day or night, but I don’t have it at home either. I can live with it, and for five days I’ll have to. Oh, and I have a phone too. Who do I need to call? I have no idea, but they give me one anyway. I think it’s so the cruise director can call me.
I was scheduled to be part of a welcome show held in a big theater called ‘The Venetian Ballroom’. Again, all I can say is wow. It’s a fantastic 2000 seat theater - on a SHIP. It’s a spectacular facility, and I introduced myself to the cruise director Butch who is originally from Minnesota. He was very welcoming and put me at ease right away. That’s a relief.
He hosted the show, which was a sample of things the ship offers. There was a talented group of dancers and then Butch interviewed some passengers and did a really nice job of putting everyone in a good mood. He got a newlywed man and an old fart who was on for his 50th anniversary and the comedy wrote itself. I see why they do it and it totally works.
After that, the other comedian Jim Brick came out and did ten minutes. They only need one of us for the ‘teaser show’, and it was Jim. That’s fine with me, and he did a fantastic job of calling back to what Butch did. He’s a veteran of the ships and knows how to do it.
Jim and I hung out after the show and he showed me a few ins and outs of where to go and what to do and he was very helpful. I told him I’ve mentored tons of people in clubs, but this is a whole new ballgame. I appreciated his help. Tomorrow we start doing shows.