I grew up taking vacations, one almost every year, but I’d never taken a cruise and not until this week did I comprehend the difference. Flying somewhere, maybe staying in a condo or hotel, going to the nearest beach or resort means seclusion and autonomy; you’re one of fifty people enjoying the waves and the wind blowing across the sand, but that’s it. I have no more connection to the other guests at
The first thing I noticed when we arrived at pier 6 in Tampa and made our way up the gangway of the M.S. Veendam was that Andrew and I were traveling with the same group of people. We’d all been through the check-in process, filed onto the ship and headed to the same deck for our staterooms, some of them had followed us across the country as our flights connected from
After three days I came to “know” these strangers in a pseudo-relationship, like the tall, older couple who were the only ones dancing as Danny and the HALcats played “Hot Hot Hot” at the Sail-away Party. They were thin and about the same height and go everywhere hand in hand.
There were two enormously large men traveling together. One of them I swear is the Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons: ponytail? Check. T-shirt? Check. Beer belly? Check. But they don’t speak to each other, not a smile, not a chuckle, they just move along the same horizontal plane traveling in the same direction. There must be more story there because why would you choose to take a cruise with someone to whom you had nothing to say? Are they friends? Brothers? Partners? Game show contestants? The only time I heard them interact for any sustainable time was when Comic Book Guy accidentally stepped on Large Man #2’s foot on board a catamaran in
Then there were the grandparents. My guess is they’d brought their son, his wife and their granddaughter along with them for a family cruise. The young wife dressed very stylishly—I admired her pink and green trimmed capris with the rhinestone buttons and matching pink-and-rhinestone flip flops--but she seemed uncomfortable around her in-laws and I often saw her alone. The grandmother couldn’t get enough of the baby, bouncing her around in exaggerated, swelling motions, cooing and talking in a high pitched voiced, emoting in great amounts. I wondered how fun this cruise was for the young wife, if she liked her in-laws or if she was merely tolerating them because they paid for her vacation.
There was a spry old man with his round grumpy wife who followed us ever since our connection in
And Bono. Did I tell you Bono is on the ship? Or rather a man who is Bono at 65. Chin-length graying dark hair, pointed chin and square jaw with a rather tight cheeky grin, buggy sunglasses and a black beret. It’s him I tell you—or rather it’s a glimpse into the future for my favorite Irish rocker. The only thing that gave the imposter away was his companion for I imagine Bono wouldn’t be cruising with an aging flower child, one whose long gray hair flowed freely down the back of her pink muumuu while her flip flops made smacking sucky sound on her chubby feet as she walked.
And there I sat with my husband on the teak deck in vintage deck chairs of the quaintest distressed variety with the
Each of the 1285 passengers on this ship will consider this week one of the highlights of their life, something to photograph and savor. For one week each of us traveled to the same places, ate the same foods and experienced the same beautiful sensations yet we’re still strangers. Of all the 96 billion people that have lived on the earth, on Monday October 30, 2006 I was at 19 degrees, 48.56’ north, 86 degrees, 18.04’west bearing due south toward Belize with 1285 other souls whom I’ll never see again but who will be in the silent figures in the backgrounds of my photographs forever.
Yes, if you’re a people hater, a cruise may not be the vacation for you because wherever you go, there is another one of your 1284 closest friends. But if, like me, you could sit for hours watching the world’s population go by and never tire of looking for the details, consider a cruise. It’s a fascinating way to travel.
My caption for this photo would be: "Where pirates go when they retire." (check out his glasses).
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