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
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.
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
We took a guided tour “behind the
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!
don’t have words that are big enough. Just, freaking wow!
I’ve been in big kitchens before, though never
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.
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
Not this place fer darn
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
The laundry rather blew me away
with the speed and quantity of material they process.
They have three hundred pound washing
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
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.
The engineer’s domain was all
computer screens and monitor lights.
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.
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
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
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.
cover the surface of the water in a thick layer, but you can see bits of
floating garbage anywhere you look.
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
(I have also gotten the recipe
for the warm chocolate melting cake.
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.