Who is that sleeping man on the PA system?
When the ship’s fun people have something they want you to know, for example, “HEY HEY GOOOOOD MORNING NORRRRRRWEEEEEEGIANNNNNS! It’s Dan Dan your kaaaaruuuuuzediRECtorrrr… Today at 10:00 we have BINGO in the Hardevik Lounge for $50 a card. Jackpot today is 50,000 Hemnes Ikea beans in your choice of dressing… At 10:07 we will begin our CaSSSSSSINOOOOO shuffle time elkhound runabout! IT’s all the rage! Cruiser contestants arm wrestle in frozen spent espresso grounds for Big Prizes like a Carton of Cuban Cigarettes attached to the end of a leash… when you catch the elkhound, you win the tobacco! The lighter is not included…” or “At 11:12 in the Watermelon Seed Pond it’s Kiddie DJ Dance Up Splash Down…”
The message’s preceding “Bing Bong” tone which sounds exactly like the Washington DC MetroRail “Doors Opening” chime, will play in the open areas, outside the closed door from your cabin. So everything sounds like it’s underwater.
It’s challenging enough to have “Ayyy Norrrweeeegiaaaannn tallkeeng tew yew very laoud on a small spicker outsaiide yewrroom,” but to have the door closed adds another layer of difficulty.
What’s worse? I’ll tell you: BINGBONG (inside your room, so you know it’s official and they’re not trying to take your money because those in-room announcements comes from the bridge) “Goodmorning passengers, this is Captain Mikal speaking from the bridge. Today we are headingsouthwestbynortheastinaroundaboutdirectionand. We anticipate40footswellsandgaleforcewindsbringing arcticblastsaccompaniedbyvolcanicash. Aftersurrenderingyourfirtsborn, nnngngnzzzzgngng….As a resultwehavedecidedtosuspendallactivitiesontheropeszzzznnzngngggggg…. and thenaswemakeourwaythroughthesixthringof zzzzgngngggggzzzz Dante’sInfernowewillbeginservingespanikopita, So whenyouseethespanikopita, Youwillknowthat it is then time…..nnnngngggnzzzzzznggggg…. ”
That. That’s worse.
When we first left NYC, we were escaping by a few hours a late-season (as in “it’s no longer winter”) snowstorm in the Northeast Corridor. The captain was on the PA system and I do recall hearing him talk about travel conditions. Because he eats the microphone and it descends toward his duodenum, it’s hard to understand him, but I do recall having to decide whether he said “fourteen foot swells” or “forty foot swells.” I also remember him saying either “35 knot headwind” or “55 knot headwind.” No matter, because the ship was indeed afloat in some active water and you could feel it.
I’m not sure what happened, because by all accounts and according to the ship’s own “Navigation Channel” we were heading south and around 9pm that same Sunday evening, there was SNOW ON THE DECK. It was colder than cold and windier than windy.I’m guessing by that point, we were somewhere outside the Chesapeake Bay because the sea water was clean. My son and I were intrepid though, I said to him, “Show me this ship,” because he’d already been all around it.
You don’t hear from the captain every day. It only happens when you leave somewhere or are on the approach. Seeing as how you would spend at least 24 hours at sea without stopping, hearing from the bridge was a novelty, and I guess a good one because as they say in the biz, “no news is good news.”
A couple days later, my husband and I were remarking about how we hadn’t heard from him and that when we do, we can’t understand him. He is actually JUST LIKE the Swedish Chef.
But then we started waxing apocalyptic about all the things the captain would say and that we’d not understand, “Goodeveningdisisyourcaptainreportingfromthebridge. Wehavebeencommandeeredbypiratesandaresurrenderingyourwives andchildrenfirstzzznnnnzzggnggngg… ” things like that. “Onyourstarboardsideyouwill nnnnnggggzzzzgngngn…. seethatwehavebeenovertaken ggggnnnzgzzzgznnng… byalargeandheretoforeunknownseamonster whichwewillcalltheBreakawayDestructor…”
All this said, driving and piloting a massive ship like the Breakaway is no small feat. When we pulled into Nassau a day early, the ship had to be backed in to its slip.And it’s not like when my son drives the SUV, the last thing you feel before your neck snaps isn’t vehicle’s bump into the concrete abutment of the parking space. You don’t even know the ship has stopped moving by the time it’s all said and done.
If I owned NCL, I would add this to the its onboard iConcierge app post-haste: a daily report from the bridge, a little map of where we are and where we’re headed by the end of the night, the evening weather report and stage of the moon for skygazers and constellations. But that’s because I’m weird and I like my brain and I’m into educating my kids. I’m not wondering what the drink of the night is, nor am I totally into winning “the beeeg priiiihze at the guess the dessert-in-the-bag-o-rama…”
BRING YOUR OWN WATER BOTTLE / PACKAGES / DRINKS / GRATUITIES – JUST DO IT
When we boarded, I thought I was at Costco. I saw cases of water on top of peoples’ personal luggage. I asked my husband, “Is this a joke? Are people this stupid?” He had no clue. We honestly didn’t understand why people would do this.
First: just bring your own reusable water bottle from home. I didn’t. I wish I had because a liter or Aquafina, which is just water from a Pepsi plant, is $5.50. But I bought only one bottle and washed it out (yes, with a soap-like product) every time I refilled it. My son did bring his own water bottle. Never used it. Bought a liter. Almost left the water bottle, a $23 glass water bottle which I REALLY love on the ship. But he didn’t. I made him go back for it.
You can also refill the bottle with lemonade or iced tea or a combo or make iced coffee… it’s silly not to bring your own bottle. Just make sure it’s empty before you get anywhere near pre-boarding US Customs.
And as for beverages while on the ship: just buy the beverage package. I’m not sure how much it was per person, but I am sure you can work an angle; make the adjustment on the ship if you need to because any soft drink handed to you by another human being who works on the ship will cost you. I’m not a boozer, but my liver probably freaked out and wondered if we were back at a wedding when in college by Friday.
One day I had a margarita at 1:00pm and I thought I was going to fall asleep. I don’t know how people do it, drink in the middle of the day. I had one while reading on my chaise lounge (which I liberated from a fraudulent practice of predawn hangover squatting by a gang of EuroTrash stowaways, more on that later) and would’ve easily taken a nap if it weren’t for the amazing DJ who was playing all manner of House Music from 2008, “Wobble” by V.I.C. and “Jump” by House of Pain (one of my favorites, actually) almost nonstop. Another favorite was “Firework” by Katy >Ack!< Perry.
At one point I was so OVER the house music and the sixth mixed round of Wobble that when the DJ played “Emotional Rescue” by the Rolling Stones, I almost stood up and clapped. The sound quality coming from real instruments after listening to the hissing Katy Perry restored my sanity. Sadly, that song was… you guessed it: interrupted by yet another raffle announcement on the Burgdagord Funtimes deck and it DID NOT resume playing. The Black Eyes Peas did. You know, that band from 2010…? Them.On certain mornings, say at 8am, you’re just not in the mood to hear “All the shorties in the club let me see your chest…” as you wander to the Garden Cafe on the exterior deck of the ship and I wondered, what happened to Frank Sinatra, or The Beatles, or John Williams movie scores, or show tunes soundtracks… or I don’t know: nothing? Outside the rooms, they play anesthetizing dentist’s office music.
Why can’t they tone that shit down in the morning?
I know the tired woman I saw with the messy hair wearing the tiger-print halter top and white leather pants, who not wearing her high-heeled strappy sandals, who was nursing a sweaty Heineken, and who dragging on a long-ashed smoke in the designated smoker’s pen at 8:30 in the morning would’ve appreciated a little less volume.
We’ve all been there.
I was also thinking about what a waiter said one night, that most of the time, the cruises have older people on them and that it was fun for the crew to have college kids and young families on board because most of the staff is in its 30s-60s so they miss their own families.
I saw one Golden Anniversary-ish couple onboard which I had the pleasure twice of witnessing them not speak to each other at all over the course of an entire dinner one evening until the woman broke the silence when she reached into her purse and handed her husband a pill that he had “to take with this drink, not that one.” My guess is that someone booked the wrong week for that couple.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE HOME: DON’T BOTHER GETTING YOUR HAIR DONE
Don’t. Just don’t. I did. I lost half a day. The point of this is that you’re on a floating hotel and that everyone looks like they just woke up, want to go to bed, can’t find their bed, woke up in the wrong bed, or fell out of bed. People are ready for the pool. People are coming out of the pool. People are simply not looking their best. They’re not looking like death warmed over, but if you’re a chick, your hair is going to get blown all over the place because the Atlantic is a windy place and the ship is really moving. I saw more baseball caps than in a dugout.
PACK A SMALL PHARMACY
Pack a small pharmacy because you never know when your husband will stub his toe and need a bandaid. Nor do you know when your son will feel sick and need a Pepogest. Nor do you know when you won’t be able to stop sneezing and a benedryl is the only thing that will help you sleep. Because you left the Xanax you requested, for the first time ever from your GP, at home. Because you’re bloody brilliant.
What to put in this pharmacy?
- aspirin (it helps reduce my nasal sniffles)
- pepto bismol
- pepogest (enteric-coated peppermint oil for the stomach, it’s awesome)
- eucalyptus oil for the feet (congestion)
- oregano oil for immunity support (3 drops in an ounce of OJ once a day)
- ear plugs
- gas-x (let’s not kid ourselves, you’re going to overeat)
- anything else you think you might need, but in sample size.
TAKE THE ELEVATOR IF YOU WANT TO WAIT ALL DAY
If you like waiting, by all means take the elevator. Our room was on 9. The cafeteria is on 15. It was a walk every day, of course, to get to the food. There was something glorious though about feeling your heart pounding and your breath deeper and heavier right before you dive into a platter of bacon and french toast.
As the days wore on, it seemed more people opted for the stairs. The elevators are fast, so that isn’t the trouble; it’s the volume of people using them. Often I saw people board on one floor and then after I reached the floor first, they got off the elevator on the same deck.
I’m that fast.
I didn’t have to lift a finger for ANYTHING on that cruise. I didn’t make my bed, Imade (“Ih-mah-day”) did. I wanted to secretly call him “Look at what” and then “Imade” but I didn’t want to be disrespectful. It reminded me of how I treated new neighbors I didn’t like who moved in immediately after my favorite neighbors, the O’Keefes, moved out. I called them “UTBOKs” for “Used to be O’Keefes.” I missed the O’Keefes so much I didn’t bother getting to know them. They were pleasant, but they were in over their heads. They lived there less than 2 years; they had to foreclose on the house.
But Imade did it all. He is a lovely man and I’ll write about him and the other crew members we met and spoke with later.
KEY CARD / DETACHABLE LANYARD / EXTRA CARD / HOLE PUNCHER
Just yes. Either make or buy a lanyard here on terra firma now or pay $6 for each one on the ship. The most practical lanyard would be the kind which unclips the necessary parts from the
rosary other half around your neck. Of course, I didn’t understand the utility of the detachable lanyard until four days into the cruise when I’d been taking off my lanyard to present it to a server for a drink, or a purchase at a coffee shop, or buy a pack of playing cards at the mediocre gift shop (MGS), or a meal at a restaurant, or to get into my room, or to turn on the lights in my room, or to use the vending machine, or to disembark, or to embark……… I’m embarrassed it took me that long to realize I could simply unclip the lower part and give that to the requesting party…
Bring your own single-hole puncher or send your husband to wait in line for 20 minutes on day 1 to get the family’s punched. Then use the key-ring part of the lanyard to attach your cards, not the flimsy clear-plastic sleeve that comes with the $6 lanyard purchased at the MGS. Why? Because that sleeve will rip by day three and your 12-year-old son will lose his cards.
Also, if you book multiple cabins, get an extra / guest card for each cabin because
you will your children will forget theirs.
I’ll be back with more insights, highlights and ideas soon. I have to go now though because there’s a soaking wet elkhound dragging a carton of cigarettes from a leash roaming outside my house and he’s being followed by that woman in the tiger print halter and white leather pants.
ps — I still feel sea wobbly but not nearly as robust as I did when I first wrote about the cruise on Tuesday. I have faith my balance will be restored.