Sanna's Bag

“I never seem to have what I need when I need it. I’m going to make a belt-bag that’s bigger on the inside than on the outside, and just carry everything with me.”

Friday, April 25, 2014

homeward bound

Days at sea, for passengers, are like ropes fastened at one end , swinging loose at the other.  For the staff, the days are ropes stretched taunt, both ends fastened securely in schedules, tasks, hours of work and hours off.  I have no idea what day it is.  With the time changes as we move east toward the west coast, I’m not even sure what hour it is.  There is a daily ship’s schedule placed in every cabin every night, but the print is so tiny that I have to put on my glasses and squint and even then I get things confused.  I, who excel at sloth, am in my element in these loose-swinging days.  I’m drifting in blissful peace, enjoying the passing experiences, eating when hungry and sleeping when warm and full.  If you want to create the comforting structure of a schedule, there are regular daily trivia contests, arts and crafts classes, and lectures. Every day I see groups of people gathered to play dominoes or cards or some game with dice.   People have their regular time in the gym and the scheduled massage or facials or mani-pedicures.  Kyle and I meet Linda and Gene most evenings at 6:30 in the dining room for dinner.  Other than that, it’s mostly a blissful whatever.
Yesterday though, we had a fixed point.  We took a guided tour “behind the scenes.”  We got to see the theatre, the galley, the laundry, the engineer’s control room, the staff and crew dining rooms and public spaces, and the bridge. Wow!  I don’t have words that are big enough. Just, freaking wow!
 I’ve been in big kitchens before, though never this big.  They have separate walk-in freezers for poultry, fish, and meat.  They have to store, keep track of and use up hundreds of thousands of pounds of food a week.  Every restaurant I have ever worked has a neglected corner hiding a freezer-burned box of tenderloins and the bosses emergency cash stash wrapped in foil and buried in frost.  Not this place fer darn sure!  Every shelf gets cleared and cleaned every seven days without fail.  There are two monster dishwashers that are big enough to clean a motorcycle if you put it on its side. There are many purposeful people going about their precisely rehearsed tasks, taking just a moment to smile and say hello as they pass.  It’s a tightly choreographed dance, and when dinner hits, I imagine it’s rather like those close-order mounted drills where the horses race headlong toward one another and then slide through the openings that materialize at just the right moment. 
The laundry rather blew me away with the speed and quantity of material they process.  They have three hundred pound washing machines.  They have a mangle where two guys stand at the front, pulling wet sheets out of a bin, stretching the sheets between them, and sliding them between the rollers.   Forty seconds later, the sheet pops out dry and FOLDED, and another guy picks it up and stacks it neatly on a set of rolling shelves.  The hundreds of pool towels are washed, dried, and run through “Towelzilla” which folds a towel every three seconds.  The bath towels are all folded by hand, but I bet they’ll figure a machine for that soon. All the laundry for the whole ship is handled by twelve people working two twelve hour shifts, seven days a week, for six month contracts.  Uniforms for the crew, tablecloths, napkins, bedding and towels for over two thousand guests.  O.M.G.
The engineer’s domain was all computer screens and monitor lights.  I sort of glazed over with the number of kilowats and mega gallons of heavy fuel oil and statistics that engineers revel in.  The second engineer was more of a showman than the first engineer.  He kept saying that the bridge was the brains of the ship, but the engines were the heart, and that means they are the most important.  He was a curley-haired, bright-eyed Sicillian, so when we left I stopped to ask him, “If the brains are in the bridge, and the heart is here, where are the cohones?”  He laughed, blushed and said, “We got them right here too!”
Staff and crew life all goes on below the water line.  We saw their dining areas and the spaces where they can hang out.  Human Resources provides on-line classes for anyone who wants it.  There are bingo tournaments and ping pong competitions and even an occasional swap-meet.  They get medical and dental care, training in their chosen job, and even counseling for personal problems.  Human Resources helps them with resumes, career planning and keeps them as entertained and happy as you can manage with people from 27 different nations who are all working ten hour shifts, seven days a week for six month contracts.
The bridge, again, was all computer screens and monitor lights, but they have a much better view and snazzier uniforms.  The captain is a charming Italian fellow who told us about the North Pacific Gyre, through which we were sailing.  It’s a trash patch the size of Texas, eddying in the middle of the Pacific.  Plastic and Styrofoam,  debris from the Japanese tsunami, abandoned boats and bits of docks.  It doesn’t cover the surface of the water in a thick layer, but you can see bits of floating garbage anywhere you look.  He was quite passionate about how bad it was.  We got our pictures taken with him afterwards.
Today, Kyle and I packed clothes we know we will not be wearing again.  Shorts and sleeveless shirts and so on.  It’s chilly today, and the staff and crew have changed from their tropical whites to their Alaska cruise sweaters.  It’s harder to get in my steps now.  When I was strolling the deck in the warm breezes, it was grand.  But from here on in we will be struggling into a stiff headwind in ever colder climes.  And if someone places a warm chocolate melting cake in front of me, I will eat it, no matter how little exercise I have gotten.  (I have also gotten the recipe for the warm chocolate melting cake.  Now if I can just find 24 ramekins, I can serve it for the ladies’ tea.   I’ll start checking Goodwill.)  So the weight watching is slipping.  I can avoid the frozen yogurt machines now, but I have discovered the gluten-free grahm, grits and rosemary bread and it is SO delicious that I have had a slice every day.


  • At 6:27 PM , Blogger Delighted Hands said...

    Thanks for all the info! I have never been on a cruise so this was fascinating! Sorry about the cooler temps, though!

  • At 9:01 PM , Blogger Timothy Young said...

    Amazing, now I want to see a towel folding machine.
    I'm not sure I would enjoy the idle time.

  • At 8:42 AM , Blogger Galad said...

    Fascinating! Thanks for sharing your tour information.

    Keep warm and carry on (with melty chocolate)

  • At 7:35 PM , Blogger Rose L said...

    It is so interesting to see behind the scene of areas and how they work. I am certain it will be something to remember.

  • At 4:51 AM , Blogger Donna Lee said...

    One of Stephen King's scariest stories (to me) was called The Mangle. Can you imagine cleaning out your frige every week? I'm doing well if I do it twice a month.

    I am very good at being a sloth. I might enjoy cruising like that for a short while. You certainly sound like you're having a great time.

  • At 5:29 AM , Anonymous benita said...

    Ahhh.. Roxie, only you could make a sailor blush. He'll never forget you, that's for sure. :)


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