Aboard the SS Gluttony

This is how you know I’m a first-time cruiser: I brought snacks onto the boat.

In the universe of worst-case scenarios I might have imagined — capsizing in a hurricane, Honduran pirates, forced Macarena — I jumped right to “Might be a bit peckish” as the most likely emergency to plan for. As it turns out, this cruise ship is basically a 24-hour floating all-you-can-eat buffet, so this is easily the longest that any quantity of beef jerky has survived in captivity in my luggage.

Day or night we can visit any of 17 restaurants here aboard the Norwegian Dawn to explore cuisines ranging from French to Brazilian to Japanese to Indian, all prepared and served by what I believe to be the entire population of the Philippines. Ironically, we had considered visiting the Philippines for this vacation, and I’m glad we didn’t because apparently everyone from there is on this boat. I think the last person to leave Manila was Shirley, our perky trivia host from last night.

I’d intended to blog daily while on this cruise, but we’ve been exceptionally busy keeping up with our rigorous schedule of eating. Also there’s been a lot of trivia. The capital of Nepal is Kathmandu. Glenn Frey sang “The Heat Is On.” You’re welcome. I don’t mean to brag, but there were audible groans from the other contestants when Hadas and I walked into the Pearly Kings Pub yesterday afternoon for 2 p.m. General Knowledge trivia. We tied for first, despite barely being able to understand the questions posted by Maria, our gawky, energetic and heavily-accented Romanian host who sounds like the bride of Dracula doing open mic comedy down at the local Chuckle Hut.

Meanwhile, we’ve been having probably 500% more fun than we expected to. When not eating we’ve been enjoying the nightly shows in the giant theatre near the bow of the boat — Singing! Dancing! Aerialists! — reading by the pool, listening to live music, watching cheesy onboard game shows or working out in the well-appointed onboard gym. We also did a day excursion into Cozumel called Salsa y Salsa where we learned how to make five kinds of salsa, how to salsa dance, how to make strawberry margaritas and how much alcohol it takes to turn Andrew into an extrovert (approximately 1/4 teaspoon).


We haven’t just been enjoying each other’s company, either. After a few days on the ship we’ve had a chance to develop some deep and meaningful loathing for a few recurring characters who keep showing up at meals, activities and events. There’s the belligerent woman with the walker who was at a 5 p.m. knitting social and then reappeared at trivia the next morning. There’s the odd coot in the plaid shirt who heard us practicing improv games on the ferry ride back from Belize City and decided it would be perfectly appropriate to approach us with his favorite dirty joke immediately upon returning to the ship. And there’s the gentleman who, upon learning we were also from the Pacific Northwest, decided to catalog for us the history of every sports team he has ever rooted for — college and pro — dating back to the Minneapolis Lakers.

We’ve decided that cruising is basically Very Short Attention Span Dating. In the course of an evening we can spend 15 minutes in a piano bar listening to Lisa York cover Neil Diamond tunes, then slide over to the local pub for 15 minutes of 80s trivia. Then a quick hop into Spinnaker lounge for bit of dancing to a 70s funk band and then a short stroll into the theater for a 45-minute magic show. There’s no cover charge, no lines, no pressure to buy drinks, no valet parking and no dress code. It’s like channel surfing your life.

The crazy thing about all of this is that we’re on a boat, and every morning we wind up in some new exotic port. Tuesday we had the aforementioned “Andrew Dangerously Operates a Mortar and Pestle While Drunk” experience. Wednesday we walked around Belize City and enjoyed its gritty charm, which is to say we hightailed it back to the ship when we discovered that the ratio of grit to charm was about 97-3. Today we alighted in Roatan, a long island in Honduras, where we had a fabulous snorkel tour to see amazing schools of fish, barracuda and stunning coral in warm, crystal clear waters. Easily the highlight of the trip so far, just ahead of learning that Mr. Minneapolis Lakers used to be an L.A. Raiders fan.

The other thing about being on a boat — sometimes it rocks back and forth like a boat. The first time this happened, on day three of the cruise, neither of us were sure if we were feeling the boat moving or the after effects of a morning of salsa-adjacent margaritas. We were sitting in the Stardust theatre awaiting the start of that evening’s aerial act, and the rope hanging down from the top of the stage was swinging to and fro like a pendulum in an earthquake. As entertainers ourselves, we appreciate the added degree of difficulty of performing on a stage that’s gimbaling wildly.

This trip has been unexpectedly fun, and Hadas is already on a reconnaissance mission, asking frequent cruisers aboard this ship which other cruise lines they recommend, by which I mean which ones let you eat all the things all the time. We’ve got two days left on this sailing, including one more land excursion, and then it’s back home. I expect that we’ll spend most of the time in the ship’s gym, not because we’re working out that intensely but because you are literally forced to walk through the all-you-can-eat buffet after the gym. Whoever designed this boat is a certified genius.


You can read Hadas’s blog about Cruisefest 2014 here.

Day -1: Packing by Candlelight

Flames from the burning electrical transformer licked at the powerlines behind the house. Acrid, oily smoke blew toward the sliding glass door on the deck, where I’d been watching branches blow free from the trees during this winter wind storm, spiraling down and then sparking as they hit the power pole. The lights in the house flickered. Another gust of wind blew hard, and the powerlines exploded into flame. A blinking arc of fire raced across the powerlines behind my house, jumping into the neighbors’ yard, and into the yard two houses down. Now the trail of flaming powerlines extended as far down the street as I could see, bathing the trees in a dangerous light, while burning electrical sheathing fell in angry clumps of fire to the ground below.

I pulled out my iPhone to call 911, but I started shooting video instead. I may not be the person you want to rely on in case of an emergency.

Slowly the fires began to burn out, dimming to an orange glow and then fading to black. The lights in my house did the same, fading out as if someone had put a dimmer to the entire electrical system. The last to go was the light on my stereo, which steadfastly shone a bright red until it too winked off and died. The house was dead.

It was right about then that I realized I still hadn’t packed for the next day’s cruise vacation.

I went into the basement and grabbed our emergency preparedness kit, which was well-stocked with food and water, flashlights and torches, first aid essentials, blankets, flares and a backup electrical generator.

Just kidding. Our emergency supplies consisted of the flashlight on my iPhone, which was currently at 22% battery and draining fast, as I was still taking video of myself stumbling around the house like a seasick cat burglar. I lurched around the darkened house until I found the key to the truck and I drove to Home Depot, fighting my way through rush hour traffic made worse by non-functioning stoplights. Branches littered the road, making a thunking sound on the bottom of the truck as I rolled over them.

At Home Depot I spent 20 minutes in the flashlight aisle trying to decide what to buy. I am the extremely useless combination of indecisive in emergencies and a very careful comparative shopper. Eventually, after painstakingly evaluating relative lumens, beam spread, battery life and pricing, I bought two flashlights and a pack of AAA batteries, though I would like to point out that I could have gotten them for cheaper with free shipping at Amazon.com.

On the drive back to the house, Hadas called to tell me that she had gotten into a minor fender bender while engaged in the dangerous activity of “Driving While Hadas.” This is only slightly notable, as at this point I’ve lost count of the number of times that Hadas has crashed her car, motorcycle, bike, etc. It will be a major upset if our cruise ship doesn’t inadvertently run into some unexpected object, such as Honduras.

Back at the house I loaded up the new flashlights with batteries and also realized that I already owned two powerful headlamps for nighttime running, so my trip to Home Depot had essentially been superfluous. I also remembered that there were emergency candles in the bathroom towel cabinet, because you never know when you’re going to have a bathing emergency. For all I know it’s entirely possible that I was also forgetting a kerosene-powered backup generator stored in my sock drawer. Like I said, I’m not great in emergencies.

Now well-illuminated with flashlights, candles and a headlamp, I packed my travel backback. Then I took everything out and re-packed it all in my roller bag. Then I texted our housesitter and explained that our house might not, technically, have electricity for the next couple days so he might want to just stop in from time to time and check on the cats rather than stumble around in a dark, freezing house. Then I took a few minutes to curl up into a fetal position while Hadas gently reassured me that leaving the cats the next morning in a house with no power and still-smoldering electrical lines was going to turn out a-ok.

Hadas made dinner by headlamp and we ate before piling into bed for a good night’s sleep before the next day’s early-morning flight. The last thing I remember before drifting off to sleep was Hadas reassuring me that she wasn’t going to stay up all night reading her book and she’d try to get some good rest before our trip.


Next Up: New Orleans and the San Diego Airport