I want to go back to grad school just so I can write a dissertation about human interaction aboard a cruise ship.
This was my first cruise and I now understand where the oft-heard term “first-time cruiser” comes from. When you step on board your first cruise ship, you are asked to leave one world and enter an entirely new one - a vastly different culture and way of life in just one short step off the pier. A new pace, language,currency trade, gastronomic habits (not to mention portion sizes), dress code, standards of polite societal interaction, what qualifies as a “good" stage show” ….basically every single thing about “regular life” is gone once you enter the cruise ship society for however long you signed up. In my case, it was one week.
This may sound like a good thing to many of you. It is a vacation, right? Aren’t vacations supposed to be all about putting aside your regular life for something entirely out of the ordinary? Isn’t that supposed to feel like escape, like freedom?
Well, it didn’t for me - and I was even on a “freestyle” cruise, which I quickly found out means no fixed meal times or style of dress. And it wasn't just the whole claustrophobic “there are too many people on this small, closed off ship” thing either. Yes, that bothered me for the first day or so. But once I got over it (martinis help), I still felt closed in. Trapped by the space itself with several thousand strangers, many of whom are likely the types of people I’ve spent my life avoiding.
I know it sounds like I had some sort of panic attack on my cruise vacation. But I didn't. Instead this ominous sensation turned from scary to giddy...right about at the moment when I realized that not only was I going to see some spectacular Alaskan scenery, but I was in for the Super Bowl of People Watching -- one of my favorite activities.
So, back to my dissertation. First let's discuss the system of governance aboard a cruise liner.
The poster-boy "President" was Brad, our harmlessly handsome, bubbly, ingratiating --yet surprisingly stern when needed--Cruise Director. Brad welcomed us to every possible occasion over the loudspeaker with a chirpy "AaaaND, goooooOOD [morning, evening, afternoon] ladies and gentlemen. Hope you are having a faaanTAstic day so far!"
And just like in our off-the-ship reality, this President was not the one really running the show. Nope. Brad was a sham. A smiling puppet of the taciturn nordic Captain who graced us with his presence on two occasions: when his disembodied voice announced our highly anticipated arrival at a glacier, and his stage appearance for a Q&A about the running of the ship - which was very brief and largely intended for show over substance. Sound familiar?
But even our Captain wasn't running much more than the vessel itself. Again, just like the world I'm living in right now, 4 days after disembarking (a little cruise ship lingo for ya), it's the Corporation that really makes the decisions. And we - the passengers- are nothing but the little minions feeding the corporate machine, with Brad eagerly encouraging us to hand over our money to buy all the little "extras" the ship offers that would ensure we will have the absolutely FanTAstic vacation that we deserve.
OK, so you can see my thesis forming now, can't you? (I know, it's starting to sound more like a manifesto - sorry). But that is just the bird's eye view of the society. I am eager to dive into the fascinating subcultures that function within - and around - this world. Namely, couples.
But that will have to wait til next time. Wine Guy is almost finished toasting my yummy tuna melt and I can't write when the stomach's growling (it still thinks I should eat like I'm on a cruise ship. Those days ended when I disembarked, baby!)