Soon after my first celebrity sighting, the life vests were stowed away for the next inhabitants of our berth and forgotten by me. It was time to get to know what was essentially going to be my home for the next week.
There are a couple of things about the way I am that make life both difficult and deeply enriching. For what ever reason, my mind tends to ascribe a personality to inanimate objects. I tend to see things less like a piece of machinery, a structure or what have you and more like a bona fide being. The lesson that rooted too deeply in my mind is “how would you like to be treated?” and I have a bad habit of attaching that lesson to most things in my path. Selling a car, for instance, is hell. This same mode of thinking however, means that I get a real sense of pleasure and affection from most things in my life. Not a bad way to live, but it does make you a pack rat. I’ve gotten better about this, but when I was a kid, I wanted to save everything.
Being on this ship now, I was easily understanding why we called them “She” and spoke about them like they were people. To me, being underway and feeling the gentle roll of the deck felt something like being carried along on the back of a very well appointed whale. The movement of the deck made her breathe. Now, I wanted to know what made her work. It was time to explore.
Another goodie that I discovered was that as a kid, being on a cruise also meant freedom. With pretty much the only stipulation being “Don’t fall overboard.” I was left to my own devices. There weren’t many other kids on board. Back then, a kid on a cruise ship was an oddity. To be honest, I don’t recall any other kids there at all. There must have been some but I didn’t notice and really, that was fine. I’m rarely bored and easily self entertain and so, I immediately got down to finding out as much as I possibly could about this floating home away from home. Two discoveries were found that would have made the trip an success if nothing else had gone right. The first was the movie theater. It ran pretty close to continuously and being part of the cruise package, it was free. I watched a lot of movies in that theater. The second find was akin to Nirvana for your average 10 year old boy. As I walked down an otherwise unimpressive corridor, I came upon a small room, unlit and unmarked. I quietly stepped inside and tried to figure out what I was looking at. Then it dawned on me. It was an aquarium… full of bikini clad vacationers.
What I had here was a series of tiny portholes spaced every few feet that went around the entire pool up on deck giving views from below the water line. What ten year old boy wouldn’t thank God for a gift like that.
My day of discovery turned up a few more gems. An arcade was found, ensuring that I wouldn’t be weighed down by those pesky quarters, the bars dispensed bottomless glasses of Coca-Cola, and if you stood still long enough to actually take in where you were, the views were really quite spectacular. The whole thing felt special and grand. I was really coming to like my ship.
Dinner was a lot of fun as well. It was the only organized meal of the day and the equivalent of eating out at a fancy restaurant where the waiters knew your name and preferences. I can recall on person vividly. His name was Zane and on the wait staff pecking order, he ranked pretty low. Not quite a busboy but most definitely not a waiter. He perhaps eighteen and from Micronesia and had a smile that when flashed, had the same effect as opening heavy curtains on a sunny day. When Zane was around, it was always sunny. It was he who, between dinners and desserts, taught me origami. I can still make a frog thanks to his lessons. His good heart was obvious and he and I actually remained pen pals for some time afterward. Like most friendships, we’ve long since lost touch with each other.
Other than Marla Gibbs, the only other “celebrity” on board was some writer/poet whom I’d never heard of. He was a big guy and bald and I think fancied himself a sort of Shel Silverstein. The performance, if you can call it that, that he put on was a reading of some of his works and a talk which was mostly one sided. Pretty boring stuff to a kid. I can, however recall a few lines of a poem that he wrote especially for the crew of the ship. It was made up of nothing but stupid questions that they must hear a thousand times a year. The poem was called, “What Time is the Midnight Buffet?” and part of it went…
What time is the midnight buffet?
Does the crew sleep ashore?
Do those stairs go up or down?
and what’s the little white bag for?
is dinner in the dining room?
is you job really paid? And,
I’d like to change my cabin to the side that’s in the shade.
Not exactly Emerson, but hey, it’s stuck with me for over two decades now. Not too shabby.
All in all, the food was fantastic, the people were wonderful, and the young ladies of the crew sunbathed topless where they thought no one could see. The freedom it granted a young kid was beyond dreaming about. I never wanted to leave. The destination islands that we went to impressed me far less than the ship did. I would have been pleased as punch to stay aboard the entire time.
When our time came to a close aboard the Norway, I was heartbroken, but also determined. I would be back. I would ride on her again… and I did, this time with The Doctor…
Filed under: 70's, family, Food, Helpful People, Humor, Kids, Nostalgia, Ruminating, Travel, Writing | Tagged: cruse ships, crusing, family, fun, norway, ships, ss france, ss norway, Travel, trip, vacation |