Got back this weekend from a four-day cruise aboard the Disney Wonder, a gargantuan ship that sailed from Port Canaveral, Florida, to Nassau, Bahamas, and Castaway Cay, a private postage stamp of an island owned by Disney.
My wife and I were celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary by sailing beyond the reach of cell phones, the Internet, weblogs, and responsibility. We didn't even have to decide where to eat -- meals were covered by the ticket, and everything was so decadent that if you didn't order the specials, they'd bring them anyway so you could try them.
One more day of that, and they'd have to tow me behind the ship like Herbie the Fat Fury as we headed back to port. The staterooms got smaller with each meal.
As a practicing neurotic, I couldn't help but think of the Titanic, which was 83 feet shorter, 14 feet thinner, and held around the same number of passengers (the Wonder's maximum population: 3,325). Standing on our veranda at night, all you could see were rolling, pitch black seas and the distant lights of the Carnival Fantasy, a ship following roughly the same path.
As it turns out, comparing your cruise ship and its nocturnal companion to the Titanic and Carpathia is a poor way to go back to sleep.
The ship was crewed by hundreds of people, most of whom were young, foreign, aggressively chipper, and worked like galley slaves. (One of the current stage performers has a LiveJournal.) According to our Indonesian waiter -- every guest has staff who follow them from meal to meal -- they work a six-month contract of seven-day weeks, return to their countries, then hope for good customer reviews to get rehired.
The bayfront shops in Nassau were a reminder of home. I could pretend I was on St. George Street by stripping the word Bahamas off row after row of knick-knacks, replacing it with St. Augustine, and paying taxes on my liquor.
There was one striking difference between the towns and their assortment of tourist merchandise: a Nassau shop sold a barrel-wearing, spring-loaded carved man who turned out to be anatomically correct.
Having never been on a cruise ship before, I was awestruck by the insane engineering genius required to turn a 2,000-room hotel on its side and float it around the world. It's only a matter of time before they strap rockets on one of these, fill it with battered calamari, key lime pie, alcohol, and tourists, and send it 'round the moon.
On the final night of the cruise, I was hopped up on Beck's and Killian's Irish Red, trying to bust a move old-school on disco night in the Wavebands nightclub. It wasn't easy to lift a foot, then look for the floor's new location before putting it back down.
I must have been a gruesome spectacle, because each time I tried to leave the floor, a pair of attractive young women I didn't know yelled "dance, gray hair, dance!" When the DJ started playing music like Pearl Jam's "Evenflow," I knew he was throwing everything he could into making me stop the Elaine Bennis-like gyrations before I broke a hip.