Trip, Day 1

“The universe was created. This was widely regarded as a bad move.”

These were the first words of the book “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. If you haven’t read it, you need to. If you’ve only seen the movie, it doesn’t count. Let’s be real though – you’re not here for quotes from deceased British science fiction writers, you’re one of approximately half a dozen people who are looking to see how I’m doing as I go on my vacation to the Bahamas…don’t worry, I’m getting to that.

A vacation was booked. This may well have been a bad move. No, not really…and if you’re the individual who was the one to foot the bill on this, keep an eye on your mail. I’ll spare everyone the details regarding going through security as it was basically uneventful, though I do remember thinking that it was strange that, despite this being my third cruise, I have no recollection of boarding any of the other ships. Regardless, after boarding and walking around to find out where everything is, I found myself with “analysis paralysis” – what did I want to do? Growing up, dad was pretty good about having our days scheduled down to the bathroom break. When I went to Germany and London in 2012, I was was either on a company’s time (and thus went along with their schedule), or trying to visit friends who lived locally and thus had schedules of their own, which I needed to work around. Amongst the reasons why I was looking forward to this trip was the ability to do whatever I wanted, not beholden to the schedule of another. The educational part of this trip was the fact that I would need to actually spend the whole week making decisions between equally-good options, a situation described in the movie “You’ve Got Mail” as the primary reason for which Starbucks exists. Meanwhile, Pastor’s message this morning at church made reference to the idea of living an outward-bound life. Given my relative freedom here, amongst my objectives is to do whatever I can to make the crew feel appreciated. Let’s be real – they spend every day dealing with a group of people who can very easily devolve into spoiled rotten children, and are usually treated as servants. Here’s to hoping that going out of my way to extend appreciation is an effective expression of that.

The staterooms I’ve remembered staying in were usually described as “functional, but clearly designed to be slept in, and little else”. This room is actually pretty spacious – a multi-room suite it is not, but there’s actually enough room for me to make a mess. However, I spent some time actually putting my clothes on hangars, in drawers, and other variants of ‘away’ that don’t involve ‘still in the suitcase’. In fact, my plan is to use my suitcase exclusively for dirty laundry, thus concluding the week with a basically-packed suitcase. Why have I never thought of this before? Oh well. It was an efficient use of my time. Also, I have a balcony. It fits two people, two cups of coffee, and nothing else…but even so, it’s twice as large as it needs to be, given the quantity of occupants involved here…and actually watching the Statue of Liberty drift out of view from my own room is incredible. I look forward to being able to watch a sunset from my own room…tomorrow though – it’s still a bit chilly, and while I packed my leather jacket, a sweatshirt somehow managed to not make the cut. Yes, everyone who has just facepalmed, I know.

The crew seems to have a good sense of humor so far, more so than the passengers. My mustering location happened to be where the crew was assembled for their briefing prior to the drill, and they ran a few minutes over while also having called us there a bit early. Two ladies, independently of each other, remarked, “Why did they call us here if we can’t go in? I could have been drinking more!” Look, the ability to consume large quantities of ethanol without having to worry about driving home is certainly one of the selling points of a cruise…but I’m pretty sure it’d cost less to take a week off work, go to a liquor store specializing in larger bottle sizes, and spend the week completely plastered for about ¼ the price of a cruise, keeping in mind that, once again, we hadn’t yet left the dock when this statement was made. The individual who ran our evacuation drill, on the other hand, definitely had a sense of humor. The Asian gentleman started off by saying that we had the best group, because our drill was being led by Jackie Chan. He had to ask about 20 times for people to shut their phones off (and no, I wasn’t one of them; I was listening attentively), at one point saying, “If you don’t turn off your electronic devices…well, we can’t throw you overboard, but we will give you a spanking. [about a ten second pause] Sir, please don’t make this awkward.”. Later, he stated, “Don’t worry, we’re not carrying a nuclear bomb onboard”. Common sense will tell me that if one must make an announcement that otherwise be assumed, one must question its necessity. The first officer attended, and told me that unfortunately it’s no longer allowed to view the bridge as a passenger…and when I told him that I wondered how many pallets of wine were loaded, he laughed and emphatically said, “A lot”.

They say that not all who wander are lost. I’ve got a pretty good idea of what’s where on this ship already. I can get to my stateroom from literally any point on the vessel, have a good idea of all the different places to eat and play on the ship, and while the major counterargument is that there’s a bathroom in basically every stateroom, I’m pretty sure I’ve passed more bars than bathrooms – once you’re out of the stateroom areas, it’s a project to be more than maybe 75 feet from a beer, making the meager bathroom count seem to be a recipe for trouble down the line. Maybe it’s the lack of anyone to talk to thus far, and maybe I’ve seen Wall-E too many times (and thus associate the Breakway, its crowds, and its amenities with those on the Axiom), but I just felt this sense of emptiness, like everything was utterly meaningless, and why am I even here…at which point I became poignantly aware that I was thinking about everything way too much and just needed to try and find something with which to enjoy myself.

They had a “solo travelers gathering” at 6. Although a nice thought, it was unclear who was at that bar because they were a solo traveler and were looking to meet other solo travelers and I happened to have gotten there too late to understand the appearances, or whether I’m actually the only person here who’s by myself. Given the thousands of passengers on board, I highly doubt I’m the only one, but it is for this reason that I am starting to second guess myself here. Oh well. They’re having a kickoff party tonight. Perhaps I will end up with better luck then.

My mother is notorious for her “thrifty nature” – she has successfully turned the concept of living within one’s means into an Olympic sport. She regularly accuses me of spending unnecessarily, while I counterargue that she has a tendency to spend an inordinate amount of time saving a seemingly small sum of money. Somewhere between us, there is a happy medium. Given how I was feeling about..basically everything, I decided to embrace my inner Psalm 33 and “taste and see that the Lord is good”. Why didn’t God (through David) say “look and see that the Lord is good” or “hear and see that the Lord is good”, or “smell and see that the Lord is good”? Simple: because food is delicious. I’m sure there’s a deeper theological meaning behind it, but I’ve just spent a paragraph poetically saying, “I decided to go to one of the paid restaurants on my first night”, so I’ll leave the in-depth Bible study for you to do on your own time.

While my mother would undoubtedly give me grief for doing what I did, ffind me somewhere else you could get a filet mingnon dinner for $33…though to be fair, I learned that a wedge salad without the bacon or bleu cheese was basically 1/3 of a head of iceberg lettuce – lesson learned on that. Even so, the food was thoroughly enjoyable, well presented, and served its purpose.

I caught the last half of the “welcome to the big honkin’ boat” inaugural show. The longest married couple on board was 56 years, and they won a bottle of champagne and a diamond necklace. Not bad. Neither the comedian nor the magician were terribly impressive, but let’s be real – they’ve both got their own shows later on this week, so it’s common sense to stick to the simple canned tricks that wouldn’t fool Penn & Teller, rather than start so strong that it’s neigh impossible to follow up well. Once that was over, back to my room, as I was a bit tired.

One of the nifty things about planning to go to a club on a cruise is the fact that it’s practical to do something that is a great idea that’s nearly impossible to do in Manhattan – take a nap first. I woke up around 1:30, put a nice outfit on, did my hair, and headed out. When I got there, it was empty. Literally, empty – only the DJ and the two bartenders were there; I was the only other person there. Yes everyone, you guessed exactly where this was going – the DJ and I started chatting it up, talking software, music, hardware, different events we’ve done, and the fact that, apparently, Norwegian doesn’t like to pay to have their DJ gear kept in great shape. He and I walked into the doorway where it was a bit easier to hear each other and continued talking. Another passenger from the casino came in and started talking to me. He clearly had a few drinks already, and wanted to do shots. I was like, “bro, they just cleaned off the bar, so you’ll be ‘that guy’. He didn’t seem to care, so I sat down with him and the bartender asked if I wanted a shot as well…so, because peer pressure and because free drink pass, I was like, “sure, I’ll do one”. He did two more after that, bragging to me about how he has a government job, and spends 2-3 hours a day actually-working, which is 2-3 times more than everyone else in his building, but since his dad does the budget for the building, he’s guaranteed a job for life, making about twice as much as me, to not-work…because it makes me feel so much better that my tax dollars are being spent that way (/rant). Ladies, I’m certain you’ve all ended up getting stuck in a conversation at a bar with that one guy who Would. Not. Shut. Up. This guy was ‘that guy’, and the fact that he went to the casino to break a $100 bill and didn’t come back was something that, honestly, didn’t upset me, and poignantly reminded me that sometimes being alone with my thoughts is the more desirable thing to do. The DJ and I talked a few more minutes (him explicitly stating that he appreciated the company), after which I went back to my room and played Mass Effect until I fell asleep.

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