Monday, November 18, 2013

Cruises: A Binary Reaction

I blame Dr. Cohen.  Steve Cohen was my history teacher in high school. In 11th grade, we discussed Disney World and Dr. Cohen, who leaned a little left of center, said that theme parks were a terrible illusion, that took people's hard earned money and gave them only a glimpse of a false utopia, with happy people and clean walkways and constant parades.  I never passed Exit 7A on the Jersey Turnpike again the same way.  Thanks a lot, Dr. Cohen.   I was reminded of that lesson when I took a 7-day cruise to Bermuda courtesy of my job.

Now before I get into the cruise, let me say that none of my previous jobs have ever taken me on a cruise before and so I am incredibly grateful that Allyson and I could go on this cruise.  I have learned that cruises are a binary experience.  You either love them or you hate them.  There is little in between.  This very much depends on the kind of travel person you are. Do you like visiting cities and walking until you get lost or riding public transportation in those places to get a feel for the average citizen?  Yeah, cruises aren't for you.  Do you like your alcohol colored blue with umbrellas and plastic flamingos in it?  Getting warmer.

So, let's get into this, shall we.  The ship, you don't call them boats, was the Explorer of the Seas, and she sailed from Cape Liberty, NJ.  Cape Liberty doesn't exist, but it sounds better than its actual name, the Bayonne, NJ waterfront.  The ship is one of the largest in the world, and carries over 3,100 passengers and over 1,000 crew.  To put this in perspective, it is larger than the USS Intrepid, which is the aircraft carrier that most NYC kids know from field trips.  The voyage was to take 7 days, with 2 getting to Bermuda, three in port, and two returning.

This is not really a ship, or a boat.  It had an Irish Bar and a rock climbing wall, and 6 hot tubs, and an ice skating rink.  It was like a floating city.  But not a city you would want to live.  More like a floating Branson.  The problem with all of these opportunities are that they are just okay.  Don't get me wrong, seeing an ice show while sailing along the Atlantic Ocean, is wild.  However, when you take the experiences and put them side by side, the shine dulls a bit.  Let's take the food.

One of the reasons people go on cruises I've learned is to eat.  Not so much eat, as shovel food into their gullets and eat two bites of everything and throw the rest away.  The main dining area has two seatings.  6:30 and 8:30PM.  The room feeds about 1,500 people at once which means that all of your meat is cooked well done and the logistics of serving all of these meals is far more impressive than the actual dishes being served.  The other dining option that most people go to is the Windjammer, which is the giant buffet that's open for most of the day.  This is where you see the professional eaters.  This also is where you see the absolute fear of the cruise lines about Norovirus, and the lengths they go to have you wash your hands.  There is a gauntlet of Purell dispensers blocking the way into the buffet and a woman yelling "Washy Washy", which I still hear in my nightmares, at you as you enter.

See, people come on the cruise to be gluttonous and cruise lines are all about helping you fulfill your goal.  The buffet has many mediocre varieties of food, ranging from hot dogs and burgers to "build your own pizza".  And it functions much like any other buffet,  whether in a casino or strip mall.  You get all kinds of different food, eat a bite of each thing, and then throw it all out.  The most popular thing offered at the buffet was the Mongolian Grill.  Which proves my point about cruises.  When offered culinary options, the masses choose a meat and veggie concoction that is covered in a sweet sauce meaning it tastes the same regardless of whether its beef, chicken or rubber.

I think cruises depend greatly on where you choose to go.  If you choose a Caribbean or tropical destination, just know that the companies put their largest ships on this route with all the most attractions, from bumper cars to projected movies of the sea so inside staterooms feel like they have windows.  I'm not kidding.  These voyages are filled with people who want to drink and eat and tan.  These are the ships that allow you to do zip line and drink mai tais in Haiti . But a piece of Haiti behind miles of razor wire so none of the drunks realize that they're paying $10 for a daquiri in the poorest country in the Americas.  Do you go on vacation to escape, as Dr. Cohen would ask?  Then cruises allow that.

There are smaller ships to Europe or the Greek Isles, and those ships are smaller with less of the attractions which put more of the focus on the destinations.  This is how I may cruise again.  May. It will need to be a little while before I think about setting foot on a boat.  I still can't get this damn song out of my head.


Anonymous said...


This is your 11th grade history teacher.

I'm glad our days of "cultural/historical" analysis have stayed with you!

Who knew, then, that we didn't know the half-of-it!!

Poor Mickey and Minnie!!

Great to see you're alive and well.

If you're ever out on the North Fork of Long Island, drop in, we can have a beer together.

Steve "little left of center' Cohen

Anonymous said...

was "washy washy" also mentioned before the cruise masseuse provided a rub 'n tug?

Hero to the Masses said...

Dr. Cohen,

First, I'm so glad to hear from you. I will take you up on that beer. A few classmates have asked how to get in touch with you.

And thanks for commenting. That was super cool. Hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving.