Saturday, March 08, 2014


Today was the first of this cruise’s “At Sea” days, during which the ship doesn’t make landfall. That means that I’m trapped here with every single one of the other passengers.

When Jean-Paul Sartre said that, “Hell is other people”, he was obviously on a cruise liner with a bunch of elderly Europeans.

The passengers on this ship have only two modes. The first is the treat this floating palace as a post-apocalyptic wasteland, where every morsel of food may be your last, and if you give up your sun lounge for even a moment you may be suddenly devoured by zombies. There is no such thing as respect, politeness, dignity or kindness. There is only themselves, and whatever stands between them and their third helping of chocolate mousse.

Which brings us to the other mode. That is to treat the ship as a vast, empty space, without any other people in it. So if you just stop in a doorway to ponder the mysteries of the universe, or shuffle erratically in random directions through a buffet area, or pause to take half a dozen selfies on a narrow staircase, or just stop and have a long pointless conversation about how good the chocolate mousse is with your friend in the middle of the running track, it doesn’t matter. Except for the other three thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine passengers on the ship, of course.

Perhaps it’s because there are so many languages and nationalities around here that people feel released from the normal niceties of their home cultures. It’s easy to feel that other people don’t matter when they speak gibberish and don’t understand your unwritten laws about simple things like passing someone on the stairs or queuing for the ice machine.

I passed the day doing whatever felt right at the time. I had a nap, relaxed in the spa, battled my way through the buffet, had a mid-afternoon bellini slushee on the pool deck, read a book, lifted weights in the gym, took photos of Admiral Ackbar, saw a show in the theatre, and listened to music on my iPhone. I even ironed some shirts, when I didn’t feel like eating, reading, drinking, listening exercising or sleeping.

Tonight is the ship’s Gala night, and to be fair, almost all of the passengers have made an effort to dress up for the occasion. Unfortunately for many of them “dressing up” means changing out of the sweat pants into outfits that only a hooker would wear, if she was being deliberately, grotesquely, ostentatiously trashy as part of an ironic meta-joke for the annual Hooker’s Convention. They have hair extensions that even my goldfish could pick as polyester, and if their fake breasts were shoved any higher they’d be catching on the smoke detectors.

Meanwhile their menfolk have changed into shiny suits with contrasting shirts that only emphasise their massive paunches, and finished the look off with glowering sneers. It gives the impression that the ship is one giant, ill-lit street corner where a gang of low level managers are negotiating “dates” with a similar number of sex workers. There’s no winner in all of this. Except perhaps for the herpes virus.


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