While unpacking the last few boxes from my move I came across some notes from my cruise from New York City to Bermuda with the family in the summer of 2001. I don’t remember them being particular well-written, and I definitely was trying to put across a David Foster Wallace vibe.
07/22/01—Just completed compulsory life jacket training. I wonder if there’s enough time for me to escape the ship and disappear into the jungles of New York for a week. We sail in 15 minutes; I’ll bet I can make it.
Life jacket training was fun; on our side it was led by an impossibly tan woman from LA. We’re talking Magda from “Something About Mary” tan…
The crowd so far has been unusual. I expected older couples, but there seems to be quite a range; families like ourselves, young couples (there was one couple at life jacket training that had more tattoos and piercings than I did), among others. I also noticed that a lot of people are really, really fat. Fat guys, with fat wives and fat kids. Emblematic of American overindulgence, I guess.
The ship next to us in New York Harbor (a Norwegian Cruise Lines ship, I think) just sounded its sailing signal; a series of earth-shattering blasts. The one-man-band playing “send off” music said we should “ignore that ship with the gas problem.” I’m currently in the shade of deck 9, called “The Sun Deck.” All decks have names. My cabin, A394, is on deck 5, or the “Aloha” deck. It’s on the port side, and it’s an outer cabin, which means I have my very own porthole.
The one-man-mand is currently on his version of “Kokomo”, which is fairly poor.
Checking in was fairly annoying… confusion as to where the bags go, etc. The whole dock situation is very strange. These huge ships in the middle of NYC. I’m looking over at the West-Side Highway, and I don’t think I could be any further from St. George, which is our first destination. We haven’t sailed yet. I could still run, leap over the side, and hit the pier running; a quick subway ride to Central Park West, and stay with my friends Aimee and Jim for a week; climb in the Gunks, go clubbing, etc.
There are quite a few men wearing Hawaiian shirts… don’t they know this is a Bahamas cruise?
A 1.5 L bottle of spring water costs $2.95, plus a 15% gratuity. I wonder how much of a water tab I can ring up by the end of the week.
16:20—The throb of the ship’s engines is shifting from a slight tremor, sensed rather than felt, to a more perceptible rumbling. We must be backing out. According to the ship’s newspaper, “The Princess Patter” (gag!), we back out, turn to starboard, and head down the west side of Manhattan, past the Statue of Liberty, and out to open sea.
The OMB is trying to get a thoroughly unattentive audience to do “the chicken dance.” The poor bastard.
There’s a section of the manual that was in my cabin that deals with “Courtesy”. It states that “cover-ups must be worn over bathing suits in public areas.” I’ve already seen a handful of people that will need to be reminded of this before week’s end.
My cabin steward introduced himself pretty much the minute I got to my cabin. His name is “Manny” and I’m not sure where he is from, although I would guess someplace in Central America.
16:50 Passing the WTC towers now. We’re getting buzzed by a lot of smaller boats; sailboats, double-hull catamarans, million-dollar fishing yachts. One thing they all have in common thou; if there are people on deck, they wave at you. I wonder if that’s for all cruise ships or maybe just because people recognize “The Love Boat.” [ed. The boat we were on was the Pacific Princess… the actual boat filmed on that show. I think our cruise was one of the last for the ship. It was sold to some Greek guy in a private sale soon afterwards.]
23:45—We met our head waiter for the week (Fred) and our assistant waiter (Paul). They are both Romanian, and both very nice and funny. Food was tasty, but unremarkable so far. Maybe I’m spoiled by how well I eat, or maybe most people on cruises normally eat at McDonalds and Chi Chis and Bob’s Big Boy, but since the food is such a huge selling point of the cruise experience, I have to wonder about the gastronomical standards people have.
Went to the on-board theatre to watch “13 Days” after dinner, but only made it through one hour. Something about political movies w/Kevin Costner; they put me right out. It’s playing again tomorrow at 14:30, so I’ll try and catch it then. Sleepy now.
12:30—No, wait, 13:30—New time zone. Woke up this morning to some rainy weather; apparently there was a storm last night. Noticed a couple of interesting things. First, there’s no alarm clock in A394; I suppose to keep that whole vacation mentality going. Second, the water out in the open ocean is much bluer than what you see at the Jersey shore, or certainly NY Harbor (my stepfather says it’s “much less chunky”). I guess the water in Bermuda is really that impossible blue-green you see in Corona commercials. I’ll see in a day, I’m sure. Third, I think I know for sure that the OMB doesn’t actually play anything. He stood up on deck 9 (sorry, “The Sun Deck”) with a Les Paul guitar, strumming along in time and singing, but the problem is that there was no sound resembling a guitar coming out of the speakers; all just MIDI sequences.
Visited the gym this morning; crappy equipment, not worth finding.
Rented my tux for the evening. Wahoo.
Ow. Ow ow ow. Formal night was annoying; I’ve never worn a more ill-fitting tux. To make up for it, my sisters and I went to “karaoke night.” Started off slow, but by the end, I was drunk enough to get up and sing with Laura on “Let’s get it on”, by Marvin Gaye, that I managed to turn into a gospel hymn by the time I was through butchering it. Struck up conversation with several of the crew, who all seemed to congregate at this bar that night. Met one woman who was a nurse on the ship, and met her fiance there. She told me a little bit about what it’s like to work on a cruise ship, and how she was trained, even about labor unions in hospitals in the UK (there are 3 different nurses unions, and most all hospitals are unionized).
We landed early this morning at St. George in Bermuda. There’s only one way to get into the Bermuda islands, through a very narrow channel. We sailed right through the channel, having natives wave at us from the shore. Once we docked, I took a walk through St. George, down to the beach. Quaint town, nice beach, but of course it’s not my thing.
Went out in the evening to a bar on the island with my sisters. Had a lovely conversation with a little goth girl who stuck out like a sore thumb in the land of the tan and blonde. She worked on a different ship that was also docked in St. George. She gave me all sorts of good dirt about working for the cruise lines: how when you work there, leaving your key in your stateroom door is an open invitation to sex, how the Romanians onboard would fuck anything that moved, how most everyone who worked on a cruise ship was running from something. Fascinating stuff.
Interesting day today. Almost immediately after I got up, my mom, my sisters, and I went on a snorkel trip to a shipwreck site and a coral reef site. I wasn’t really into the snorkeling; didn’t want my mom to see my piercings and tattoos. The excitement happened when we were riding in the boat to get to the wreck. Another boat, a glass-bottom one, had anchored to the mooring that was placed there specifically for the boat we were on. The other boat was being piloted by a guy who had previously worked for our boat’s captain, and had been let go for showing up for a charter drunk and high. I guess this was his way of giving a not-so-subtle “fuck you” to his former boss. Our captain, Jimmy, flew into a rage, yelling at the guy to slip his boat from the mooring. It was the equivalent of taking someone’s reserved parking spot, but even more, in that parking in that spot was your livelihood.
If Jimmy was angry, his son Mark was livid. He put on swim fins, jumped off the side, and swam right over to the glass-bottom boat. He was going to until the boat himself, but then decided to just back off, and drop anchor, which is technically illegal, since it could damage the underwater coral.
While everyone was snorkeling, Jimmy gave me more dirt on the guy; he had worked for every other major water tour company in Bermuda, and had been fired from all of them. He had even tried to buy a boat and start his own tour company, but he did something stupid with the exhaust and the boat caught fire and sank.
When Mark got back on the boat he called his tour company secretary (his mother), and told her to draft up a letter to the other tour company, charging them $500 for the one-time use of their mooring.
I was tired at night, and didn’t go out after dinner.
Sailed to West End this morning. We landed around noon. Once we landed, I got off and walked around a little. The West End is pretty boring. After dinner there was some big “Tropical Festival” with a dessert buffet. It was hellish, with people doing “The Electric Slide” and “YMCA”.
My sisters and I beat a hasty retreat out of there, and went to the one nightclub in the area, but it wasn’t really my kind of music, so I went back to the ship and to bed shortly after.
One note: I noticed one woman on this cruise who has worn a different shirt every day, but they’ve all been made with “The Bedazzler”.
Well, that’s all i had in my notes. It was actually a lot of fun to be with my family, but the cruise ship setting wasn’t my favorite. I had a much better time a few years later when we all went to Antigua for a week, and it was a lot more free-form and casual.