Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Aboard the Solstice

Cruising is like this. You get on the ship, full of energy and raring to go. Then you have a couple of drinks, eat too much, stay up late on the first night and fall asleep like a baby in a cradle as the ship rocks you.

The next day - a day at sea - is dedicated to the fine art of doing nothing, or at least not very much. You sit on the deck, the temperature perfect as the breeze cools you. You read, maybe have a Bloody Mary, read a little more. By the end of the day, you have officially entered veg mode. And it only gets worse after that.

Even writing these posts has seemed like work. But today I am snapping out of it. Oh, not enough to write a proper post with a beginning, middle and end. But at least a few notes about our first few days on the Solstice.


We had only been aboard the ship a few hours when I heard someone yelling my name.

I ran the company in Australia for nearly 20 years. I was the host and a speaker at international conferences the company held for the past 10 years. And I come from a large family - nearly 50 first cousins. I wasn't expecting it, but I wasn't surprised that with more than 3,000 people aboard, someone who knew me was on the ship.

When I turned around to see who it was, it was my old friend Jinn. I last wrote about her on September 9. In case you don't feel like looking it up, Jinn is a card dealer in the casino of the ship we took in the Mediterranean. Turns out she had been transferred to this ship in time for its Caribbean season.

That's right. It wasn't former colleagues, old friends or family that recognized me. It was a casino dealer.

"See, Donald," LK said, "they remember you."

I told her I wasn't sure it was saying good things about me to be remembered by the casino staff. On the other hand, there isn't much I can do about it. And it is nice that here I am on a strange boat and within hours I hear my name shouted out. Even if the next thing she said was, "Shuffle up and deal!"


Single guys, I've got a tip for you. Buy a Kindle and go on a cruise.

After years of buying the Next Big Thing in technology, LK has finally hit on a crowd pleaser. Every day, someone asks us about them. There is so much interest in these e-readers that I cannot imagine them being more or less standard gear within a few years.

In the meantime, people not only ask you about them, they then tell you the types of books they read, the business they are in, their favorite authors, and lots more. I'm telling you, single guys, you don't even need a pick-up line - just show 'em your Kindle.


And finally, some good and very bad news about the ship.

The good news is that it is a lovely ship, the restaurants and bars are very nicely done and our room is spacious, comfortable. No complaints.

The bad news - there is a disgusting pig aboard. On Tuesday I went to the men's room by (where else) the casino. I opened the stall door and saw what I now refer to as the Turd Tornado. Believe me, you don't want any further description, and I don't want to remember it in detail. Let's just say it was one of the biggest gross-outs I've ever seen.

I left the men's room looking for a staff member, and the first I saw was the maitre d' just inside the restaurant door. It wasn't a time for service, and he was organizing his staff for the dinner hour. I went inside; he looked at me, and because he was a maitre d' and because it wasn't time to eat, he did what nature intended. He ignored me and walked over to his staff.

There may have been a time when I could be cowed by a snobbish maitre d' but I am way past that. I followed him around the corner. He was talking to three staff and did his best to ignore me. However, I am retired and have become a patient man. But I am still competitive, and while waiting I decided that I would see if I could out-maitre-d' him.

When he finally could not resist taking a little peek to see if I was still there, I raised my hand in the classic gesture of maitre d's the world over, and flicked my hand to indicate he should come over. Surprisingly, his previous training as a waiter must have been so ingrained that he responded like one of Pavlov's puppies.

As he approached, I merely said to him. "The men's room next door is filthy and more disgusting than anything I've ever seen."

"That would be maintenance that would take care of that," he said.

"Fine," I said, "then that's who you should call." I turned on my heels and walked away.

The turd tornado was gone when I checked an hour later.

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