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Cruisin’ For A Soothin’

October 6, 2010

I confess: I love cruises. Shelley and I hadn’t had a real vacation for over a year, and we were ready. But I’d always considered cruises to be bourgeois indulgences for the old, the bored and the boring. But after taking our second one, this time on the Celebrity Line, to the West Caribbean, I was once again surprised at how good it could be.

When I bid Bon Voyage back in 1960 to my grandparents when they set sail from New York on the Queen Elizabeth, all they had was shuffleboard, bridge, ping pong and a pool. But the boomers have come along and have optionized the experience: We had a gym; a full service spa; all kinds of cafés, bars, clubs, ethnic restaurants; a wood-paneled library; a cigar room; Wi Fi; (and a computer room offering classes on the fine points of iPhones and iPads); a casino; a green lawn on the top deck; hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms; live shows (a la Cirque du Soliel) and entertainment of all sorts; lectures; room service at no charge; an ongoing glass blowing demonstration; and a Greek Captain who should have been a standup comedian.

On one day I had a great massage with a cute little Philippine woman who kept accidentally (I think) brushing her hand against my penis. Later on, I was reading Ed Sanders’ Tales of Beatnik Glory, reliving his version of the Summer of Love in a story that took place right outside the apartment I was later to inhabit, while sitting out on our private balcony, watching the clouds go by in beckoning cotton candy playland formations. I felt like I was in heaven! (Hey – when you get to survive past 60 you can read a book and relive your glory days while creating some new ones. Ageing has its perks!)

Later that night, they put on a sixties show they called “Groove”. The title made me wince, but we decided to go check it out. It started with professional singers in costume performing songs from Hair, plus four volunteers from the audience decked out in mop tops  lip-synching Beatles songs. But then the DJ turned up the volume and started spinning some dance records, and that’s when the party really started. The marble lobby in the center of the ship was suddenly a dance floor, and hundreds of boomers (including Shelley and I) were rockin’ their butts off to Jumpin’ Jack Flash; Hang On Sloopy; Respect; Doo Wah Ditty; Satisfaction; Soul Man; and on and on. It was wild and wonderful to see the old tribe get down once again.

There was another nighttime surprise for us. We were assigned a table with 3 other couples, which we would be dining with every night. A liberal Jewish couple from Atlanta; a Republican couple from Phoenix; and a lovely pair from Toronto – boomers all. That I truly liked and seemed to fit in with all these very straight, upper-middle-class people was as pleasant as it was disturbing.

Further, when we docked in Cozumel, I decided to try Scuba Diving for the first time. This was a little scary at first, with this big Aussie telling us for 90 minutes not to worry, “just do what I say and everything will be hunky dorrie”. I’m glad he didn’t mention that once we went down, he was going to keep us down for 50 minutes! But to breathe under water is an uncanny experience, like being in a dream where I drowned, but am reincarnated as some kind of masked fish. A truly altered state.

(Puerto Costa Maya, Mexico: Author runs for his life from vicious man-eating birds)

For me this cruise was an easy series of dreamy days over sun-speckled waters; light conversations; sensual experiences; and a total lack of significance. It was just a break – no more and no less. It was what Shelley and I needed, earned, got. Nothing very important or transformative. Just easy living. In Honduras, our cabbie drops us off at the beach, and waits for us (for 3 ½ hours). The clouds roll in; it rains. We duck under a large umbrella at an outdoor bar, and drink. The clouds roll out, and we roll back to the ship, and then back to Florida, and NYC, and our lives.

There was one significant thing I did learn, however. That Toronto couple at dinner showed us how to remove a cork from an empty wine bottle using only a table napkin.

My favorite conversation for the week was with a couple in their 70s I was hanging out with in a hot tub. This was probably their 30th cruise.

“Which one was your favorite?” I asked.

“The best cruise,” the man answered with a smile, “is the one you’re on.”

5 Comments leave one →
  1. roy alexander permalink
    October 6, 2010 10:34 am

    Sign me up! Charley, you should be working for their marketing department. Roy

  2. October 6, 2010 9:06 pm

    I guess the point of “important and transformative” experiences is to learn how to enjoy simple moments.

  3. October 7, 2010 2:58 am

    In the earlier stages of my Mom’s Alzheimer’s, we took her on a cruise, and as you pointed out, we were assigned a table in the restaurant for the 6 of us that would remain constant daily. Yet after eating there every night for 3 nights, on Wednesday evening we walked in, and my mother looked around and said, “I can’t believe they are this busy on a Wednesday night!”

  4. Elizabeth permalink
    October 7, 2010 10:11 pm

    Awesome! Glad to hear you both had such a wonderful time!

  5. murray permalink
    October 17, 2010 2:45 pm

    i love the last line. great perspective. every moment can be precious .

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