Friday, July 13, 2012

The King of the Cruise Collectors

As some of my five readers may know, last year I took a cruise to Bermuda and was baffled by the subculture that is the cruise ship. I quickly learned that cruise goers are in fact collectors, racking up trips like more sophisticated people might rack up original art. Not only do these collectors show off the number of cruises they’ve been on, vessels they’ve boarded, destinations they’ve ended up in and days at sea, they also feel the need to compete with other passengers by asking “how many?” (For more on this past trip and categories of collectors, read my post from last year.)

Well readers, you will be happy to know that this summer I embarked on cruise number 2, officially launching my career as a confirmed collector. No more would I lower my eyes in shame when asked how many I’ve been on.

Or so I thought. The piano lounge of the Norwegian Star, my recent Bermuda-bound cruise ship (I can now say I’ve “done” Holland and Norwegian), was filled with cheesy cruise goers. Everyone came to hear ‘The Piano Man’, an incredible piano player who sang everything from Billy Joel to Elton John to . . . well, whatever, you get the idea. Each night after my three course meal and bottle of wine I’d stop in to listen before the onboard entertainment started. Being increasingly anal with age, and distraught over the fact that Norwegian has no fartin clocks anywhere on board because we are supposed to be “off the clock”, I leaned over into the space of the large old man next to me and tried to read his watch.

“You’ll never see the numbers,” he said, unclasping the monstrosity from his wrist. “The face is transparent . . . check it out.” The five-pound watch was subsequently thrust into my hands. Panicking over the sure spread of norovirus, I did an obligatory look over and handed it back.

“It’s REAL porcelain,” he said proudly. “On my last cruise my watch got wet and broke. Nothing is going to break this sucker. It can go under 100 feet of water.” My eyes widened.
“Where did you get it?” I asked, feigning rapture.

“Home shopping network,” he said, making a face as if I should have known that. Where else? My interest in the watch opened a can of worms and the next thing you know, he’s asking the magic question. “So . . .uh . . .how many?”

“Two!” I say, excited that I can say more than one. “Last year I did Holland.”

“Pfft, that’s an old person’s cruise,” he said, dismissing me with a wave of his hand and obviously unaware of his own advanced age.

“Well, how many have you had?” I asked, crestfallen.

“This is my 64th cruise,” he said. No readers, no typo here. SIXTY FOUR FAHREIKEN CRUISES.

“Holy shit,” I said, forgetting my manners.

“I am a VIP on this ship. When I get onboard, the waiters know my name. You wanna know who I had dinner with last night? The captain, that’s who. I don’t pay for a single drink on this ship. All of them are on the house. Guess what happened to me last night? The captain asked me which I like better, Norwegian or Holland. I say, and this is the truth, I like Norwegian better but Holland offers king crab on their menu. Guess what I get delivered to me tonight at dinner. You’ll never guess.”

“Um, King Crab?”

“You're goddamned right.”

“But how does one rack up 64 cruises?” I asked, bewildered and feeling inadequate.

“I take one a few times a year. And then there are “repositioning” cruises. When the ship makes its way to a destination to start a new trip. You get BONUS points for those,” he says, raising his eyebrows. “My grandson is five, he’s already been on five cruises. A few months ago I got home from a Caribbean cruise, stayed a week, got bored and tired of snow, called them up and said, put me on another.”

Leaning toward me, winking like a used car salesman, he moved in for the kill.

“If you listen to me and take my advice, you take those repositioning cruises, become a member, and take advantage of their onboard kickbacks for booking next year’s cruise, soon enough you’ll be at my level.”

My eyes light up like a slot machine as a voice inside my head says yes . . . one day you can be at his level. On your 64th cruise. Showing off your home shopping network watch to a cruising newbie while your seemingly mail order bride half your age and size sits primly beside you, letting you regale other ladies in the piano lounge with tales of your great sea adventures.

Let me end this tale by issuing a Cry for Help. Please readers. If you ever hear me bragging about hitting double digits . . . if I start to reposition, demand king crab for dinner or spend more time on a boat than on land . . . help me. Oh lordy, help me. And organize an immediate intervention. Preferably on ‘Royal’– I haven’t tried that line yet.