Sunday, August 15, 2010

Boat blog 4. The voyage Home

No Bermu-duh

Friday afternoon castoff was anti-climactic as we were all bermudone already. The constant threat of rain and the pre-shabbos rush made the whole afternoon seem well...who am I kidding? There was no cooking to be done and cleaning would wait so it was chill as chill can be. The weather, drizzly but warm with a strong breeze, was fine. The whole family scarfed down a dinner and I made my way to davening.

Remember, while we were eating kosher “meals”, we were not part of the group which had booked together, davened together and basically, it seems, spent every waking moment together. Hen I got to the Cinema where davening was called for, I was alone. OK, I'm used to being early so no worries. Slowly but surely the place filled with people looking for mincha. A few introduced themselves and I promptly forgot who they were. The ship was making way and I was still full from dinner and wanted to get to my reading and sleep. What got to me was that by the time we got into kabbalas Shabbos (1) the place had near 35 guys and probably a similar number of women. Now I have been on this boat since last Sunday and have been walking around and doing stuff but I haven't seen these people before. And trust me, with the number of black hats and peyos (2) I would definitely remember seeing these people. So the options were limited. Either the frum of the seas stayed only with themselves and didn't engage in the too-worldly life on the boat (and were there as mashgichim (3) or some other religious function so they weren't really involved in the cruise part, or they have been spending more time in the casino than I. The others were the more modern orthodox looking people which means that if they weren't eating or davening or in classes with their group members, they were eating treif food by the pool assuming that no one would recognize them. And at the casino, but that's understood. Now I'm no religious zealot, but I am visibly Jewish when I walk around a boat. I have a kippah on all the time (I bought a bathing suit with a pocket so that when I went Snuba-ing, I had it in my pocket for right when I finished) and I don't shy away from being an obvious Jew. I'm not judging but it seems that unless the people were streimel wearers all the time, they were religious only at shul times and at others, you couldn't spot them amidst the throng of thongs. OK, I AM judging. Hell and damnation on all of them and a pox on both your houses (the one on Long Island and the one in Boca).

After a nice davening, I went back to the room, made kiddush and motzi, then Julie and I went to go read for a few minutes. The wind and rain were too strong to allow us to go out on deck and the constant rocking of the boat made going to bed a much better option. I awoke (for the 5th time) a few minutes before 9AM. The clocks had been moved again (either forward or back, I don't remember, but the one where we get an extra hour of sleep) so I got ready for shul pretty much refreshed. My breakfast was the usual pill cocktail plus extra dramamine. The boat rocking had moved from gentle and soothing to something out of the X games. While it was interesting when half asleep, it was downright nauseating any other time. I noted to Julie that when I was lying down, the motion of the boat was uncannily like the sense of the room spins after drinking way to much and then lying down. And when I stood up, the sensation was uncannily like the room spins also. The captain, it seems, was trying to answer the constant question “why did it take us 2 plus days to get TO Bermuda, but it is only taking us 1 plus day to get back?” Apparently the answer is that on the way back, the captain is taking some back country road as a shortcut because he has found the only patch of ocean with potholes. As we pursued the Dukes of Hazard approach to boatsmanship I sincerely felt occasional moments of weightlessness. Now that was all well and good except that the food in my stomach kept saying “more more, higher higher” while the rest of me was trying to return to earth. Shacharis was interesting to say the least. I stood still and let the boat shuckle (4) around me. Seriously, there were points during which I thought I was up my chuck imminently. I davened while the various other group people regaled each other with stories of last night at the raffle or in the casino, or about life back home in Chicago or Merrick or wherever. I just wanted to lie down.

Bizarre side point. At the beginning of davening (before I turned a particularly Bermudan shade of green) a man walks over to me and introduces himself. His name is not important (or at least it must not have been because I forgot it before he had even finished saying it) but he then asked [I kid you not] “So, are you here on the cruise?”

Now, I know that there are many ways in which I could have understood either his intent or his meaning, and many ways I could have answered but at the moment, I was so taken aback by his absolute stupidity that I, shocked, simply said “well, I'm here on the boat.” I don't know what I meant but it was good enough to get him to leave me alone. I want to break down what he could have meant and why there was no way in which this could have turned out well.

A. “Are you a passenger on this boat?”
answer – “No, I just walked over from the other boat.”
answer – “Yes, but not right now.”
answer – “No, I'm a stowaway and I'm hiding out by pretending to be a Jew. No one ever picks on the Jews.”

B. “Are you part of the Kosher Cruise group?”
answer – “Well, you haven't seen me at a meal or other Kosher Cruise event for the last 6 days...what do you think?”
answer – “No; I'm not even Jewish. When does the movie start?”

C. “You are on this ship and didn't join the Kosher Cruise – How Jewish are you?”
answer - “My ancestors hated your ancestors because they were pompous conspicuous consumers just like you.”
answer - “ Maybe I just like eating food out of plastic.”

Anyway, I staggered my way through davening (didn't get a kibud (5)) and wandered back to the room. Julie and the girls were suppsoed to go on a tour of the bridge and I was hoping that they went and asked the captain to stop trying to impress some hottie by popping wheelies. The girls had gone somewhere but Julie was still in bed. The rest of the afternoon was a series of kids and Julie (and eventually me) napping, waking, going in and out of the room to do a whole lot of nothing and then napping again. Funny lines include Maddie's offer, when Talia had closed the bathroom door [the bathroom was our only source of illumination] to be the Light in Shining Armor.

Just to remind you, we had an interior stateroom. If you imagine an airplane with two aisles, the center set of seats has no access to a window. Our room, therefore, was crazy dark when the door was closed. This is great when trying to fall asleep or stay asleep in the morning, but it makes it impossible to know what time it is (the room had NO clock in it) and difficult to convince anyone to stay awake when there is no light at all. For all those people who say that you spend very little time in the stateroom, that was not so true today. I spent hours in there until I went to the poolside to rest. I got thrown out of there when they had to move all the chairs in order to wash the deck so I returned to the room.

We planned out the evening. We hadn't ordered much for food but we have the La Briut meals (they are self-heating but taste horrible so Julie calls them self-hating) and some last minute crackers and peanut butter. Our room has been packed up so our 4 main pieces of checked luggage are already gone and we have only the 13 carryon pieces to schlep out bright and early tomorrow.
On the whole (and I may change my attitude after we have one more night's sleep and disembark in the morning,) I just don't get it. We spent 3 days in a floating hotel, then 3 more in Bermuda and now another floating, but for what? So we can go to the beach and the aquarium, watch cheesy entertainment and snorkel, plus get seasick and be too close together? Yes, there were very relaxing moments but there were also moments of incredible tension and frustration. Sure some of the events were fun both on and off the boat. But having to worry about schedules and finding stuff and arranging details and all that trivia is just really annoying. We could have spent 3 days at the shore or in a hotel in NYC and seen as much, but eaten better. I know I'm not a good tourist and I know that this was really a trip for the kids and not for us, but I just don't get it and I hope that the kids remember this for a long time, cause it isn't happening again.

So between the album I'll make of receipts and selected photos, the blog and the online hundreds of pictures, I hope that everyone gets a real comprehensive sense of this trip so that you can avoid taking one yourselves. Glad I could throw myself on my sword for all of you. I can't wait to see what Bayonne has in store for us tomorrow morning.

Home sweat home

Well, we made it. The morning was the usual rush of last minute details and checking every drawer so that we weren't leaving the staff anything worth selling. We had been told to assemble in the theater by 8:30 so we woke up and got everything together nice and early. Then we sat. I guess the saving grace was that even though we were in the theater, there was no one performing so we were spared that final indignity. In the 9:15 range the crew member punished by having to be around us started calling out luggage tag numbers and colors. This was our first cruise and no one told us that were supposed to take note of the color and number so we didn't and we had no idea which of the various color/number combinations was ours. We took our best guess and worked our way downstairs. Even though we ate much of our food, we somehow had MORE carry on luggage than when we started. Between that and the time difference in the travel back, I believe that the laws of physics were suspended on this trip.

We moved off the ship and went to claim our luggage. It was sectioned off in a rectangle area like some sort of bad puppy behind an invisible fence. We claimed it and told it the worst was over and we would never let it get hurt again. I got the car from the unmarked lot, snaked my way through the traffic to the loading area, and then we drove home.

A few very final thoughts. First, there is a factual mismatch which I have been trying to reconcile:
fact A: the pants I brought fit at the outset of the trip
fact B: the food was horrible except for the ice cream and cookies so I couldn't have eaten much
fact C: the pants don't fit anymore

I conclude that I gained weight and I blame this squarely on the cookies and ice cream. Not on my eating them, but on their mere existence because that seems to have had a pronounced effect on my waistline.

Also, two things that have stayed with me have been the sun burn and the vertigo from the movement of the ship. These things cannot be bought in some store and, unfortunately, cannot be sold in some store. I need meclizine just to get through the evening. I'm doing lines of aloe off of a mirror. If I really wanted to get the room spins and sunburnt, couldn't I have just drunk too much vodka while lying in my own back yard this week? Did I have to spend upwards of $4,000 for the same result? If I want airplane food, I can just eat an airplane.

Well, it is done and I can now look ahead to my next vacation when I crawl across the Sahara and let fire ants eat my brain so I can avoid having to get on another boat.



(1)I'm not explaining this. Google it.
(2)Come on. I didn't explain the other one. I'll give you a hint, it is a plural word.
(3)What do I look like, a dictionary?
(4)Op cit (and I don't even know what that means)
(5)turn to page 34.

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