Note: The "Trooper" in question is not actually in the military. It's a metaphor, people.

September 6, 2007

Cruise Ship Sociology 101

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!)



a&v said...

Oooh. Fascinating. I've never been on a cruise and think I would react similarly--kind of with a fascinated horror. (Love your parallels between the Cruise Director and a certain leader of our country ...)

Michele said...

My hubbie and I were on a cruise at exactly this time two years ago ... our honeymoon. And I have to say, we had a fabulous time. All the trying to get us to shop shop shop did get on my nerves but we decided to see and do as many things as we could cram into a week and we succeeded. It was by far the best trip I've ever taken ... so hopefully you and Wine Guy will get to go on a cruise something together ... I think the people will annoy you a lot less if you have a hottie by your side : )

Anonymous said...

I hate to admit that I have been on a couple of cruises and have one planned in December. I do not like them. I am in the minority of the family. They are so contrived and especially in the Carribean, the ports are same old, same old. I would soooo much rather just spend a week at a resort. Sadly, cruising is sooo inexpensive, that staying in even a mid range resort would probably be twice the price.

So, I put aside my reservations, have low expectations, and than have a good time. Our next cruise has a pretty exotic stop and I am already looking into excursions for us to avoid the typical crap at the port.

coffeesnob said...

i read somewhere that the black monolith on "2001" was supposed to be an evolution accelarator, speeding up biological and technological devleopments. well, something of the sort applies to those cruises where everyone is under 35. there the normal process of meeting someone, establishing some connexion, and bonking is radically abbreviated to a matter of minutes. and is repeated with astonishing rapidity over the duration of the cruise.

Lucy said...

They are now doing comedy shows and club (dancing) nights on cruise ships. I don't think I could be sequestered in one place for so long. I would feel trapped. And you could never escape the creepy guy that allows seems to find you at every club.

Samuel Sleath said...

I absolutely agree with you, cuz I like cruises most of all in my life! Last year my brother and I went to for a holiday and new impressions.It was truly an unforgettable!