Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Babymoon Part 1

At the suggestion of some wise friends, my wife and I decided to take one last trip before our son is born. Seeking to couple thrift with excitement, we settled on a four-night cruise to the Bahamas. Our trip began in the typical fashion with me making lame jokes and my wife mumbling something about her child “not having a father.”

While my wife was directly ahead of me waiting to pass through airport security, she was asked by the nearest TSA officer to enter the body scanner. Concerned about the effects of backscatter radiation on our unborn child, she asked him if the scanner was safe for her since she was pregnant. At her pronouncement I feigned shock and loudly exclaimed, “You’re what!? You said we were just going on a trip together!” As the assembled travelers began to stare, a middle-aged gentleman behind me said, “Oh my God! Are you two even married?” to which I gravely replied, “Well chief, it sure looks like that’s where we’re headed.”

At that point my wife and I were both placed in a separate line and I never saw the guy again so I can only assume we left him with a story to tell. With any luck he is an evangelical pastor and we are being used as an anecdote in an upcoming sermon titled “The Moral Decay of America.”

Once we finally arrived at the dock and began the check-in process, my wife happened to clear her throat while speaking to the cruise representative and we were both immediately presented with a “health questionnaire” to complete. The questionnaire was an attempt to weed out those with communicable diseases and prevent shipboard epidemics utilizing about a dozen questions that can easily be whittled down to three:

  • Do you have diarrhea?
  • Do you have a fever?
  • Have you, or anyone in your party, been bitten by a primate?

Once cleared for departure, we began four nights of fine dining and people-watching. For those that have never been on a cruise, here are a few regulars to watch for:

Casino Lurkers – This group is inordinately comprised of mobility-challenged chain-smokers over the age of 60. They tend to favor slot machines over human interaction and their dedication to the craft is either admirable or depressing depending on perspective. They can sometimes be seen outside their natural habitat during evening bingo in the Otter Lounge.

The Sales People – Like most cruise ships, our was equipped with several jewelry and watch emporiums promising rock bottom prices on name-brand items due to their exemption from United States tariffs and taxes.  Each evening, there would be a $10 “flash sale” on various accoutrements that no one ever wanted ever. I saw two women come close to trading blows over a matching wrist-watch/iPhone 4 case/business card holder combo that probably began its life in a coin-operated game called “The Treasure Claw.”

The Duty Free People – On the last night of the cruise, there is a mad dash for cigarettes and alcohol in the general store. It is the only time in my life I have seen a five-carton carrying case for sale. While waiting to purchase a Twix, I was sandwiched in between a woman holding two gallons of Grey Goose and a gentleman dropping a car payment on enough Marlboro Reds to satisfy a Turkish militia.

The Staff – They are predominately foreign, infinitely courteous, and supernaturally efficient. Almost all of them have three or more functions on the ship. For instance, our muster station officer also rented beach umbrellas in between her performances as a dancer. She may or may not have also served as 1st mate.

The captain was somewhat interesting but tended to ramble. He used his Columbus Day address to remind passengers that his countryman Leif Ericson still did not have a federal holiday despite pre-dating Columbus by several centuries. While his observation (and perhaps indignation) was valid, I am not sure it merited use of the PA system.

Truthfully, I have been on several cruises and I have seen the allure of the captain’s address. It is generally timed to interrupt afternoon naptime and conveys information readily available on the in-room televisions. If the ship has suffered a hull-breach or someone spotted a Kraken off the starboard bow, by all means please make an announcement. However, if the most riveting portion of your speech involves wind direction you might be best served just steering the ship and eating dinner with the passengers. 

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