Monday, May 18, 2009

Day 9: Cruise Observations

I’m sorry to say, God is not a Carolina blue fan. He’s not a Duke blue fan either. My guess is God put all his best blue work in the Mediterranean. We were advised to request a room with a view of the sea, and we’re glad we did. Every day we wake up to a fresh view of the ocean. Today has been the rockiest of days on ship – weeble people wobble but they don’t fall down – though I was nearly tossed into an unsuspecting decorative palm tree. We’ve spent time in the Aegean Sea and on the Mediterranean, and both have provided fabulous palettes of blues.

We were vaguely familiar with international travel but not at all sure what to expect on a cruise. Since we are not visiting any locations today it gave me a chance to consider what “going on a cruise” has meant for our vacation.

On Fellow Cruisers
If I were an anthropologist this would be a hotbed for geriatric activity. We’ve met some wonderful retired couples mostly from the States and one Canadian couple, but that compliment is a set-up for a little bit of dishing on behaviors we’ve observed – particularly on the shore excursions.

· “That’s it?!” (Comment made by a woman to our host after the Turkish traditional dance during our lunch in Ephesus. Earlier she had ordered orange Fanta even though she didn’t know what it was and made some comment under her breath about “my Fanta, your fatah”….something to that effect….lovely.)
· “You know, they really need to work on the climb up. It’s really dangerous.” (Comment by a man after trekking up the marble walk to the Acropolis – my first thought: you’re right, we should tear up marble work that is thousands of years old and insert an escalator. Didn’t you read the excursion description about a lot of uphill walking on marble?)
· Same man bought a Diet Coke, despite the fact that he and his wife had camel packs from which they were regularly slurping water, took one swig then proceeded to dump the rest out of the bus while we were stopped.
· On the way to our evening entertainment one night we got behind three men who had just exited a movie on the ship – two with canes and British accents and one who proceeded to scratch his back on the wall like a cat might do on a post – haven’t seen a person attempt that before.
· We’ve met two men at two separate times that have given us the same one-liner of introducing the woman they’re with as their first wife – or saying they’ve been married to their first wife for some number of years while the woman we’ve assumed to this point is their wife is sitting next to us. Must be a book somewhere.
· This submitted not from someone touring with us but an overheard conversation while lunching in Santorini: a woman walked into the small café, sat across from the man I suppose was a tour guide who was talking with a man about philosophy while the man’s wife painted. The woman’s cheeks barely touched the chair before she started, “I’m done. I’m not a painter. I’m not a photographer. I’ve taken all the pictures I can. I want to do something else. I want to join the other tour group to the wine country. Can you arrange a taxi? I’m done.” The man lazily attempted to problem-solve and empathize before handing her a beer. She mellowed after that.
· And, heaven forbid someone talk during a tour or other organized event – it’s disruptive! However! When we sit in a couple chairs in a typically restful environment to read books, write and enjoy the view (i.e. quiet activities), it’s perfectly ok for them to have the equivalent of a family reunion in the same space. I can say this with assurance because we were not the only one’s throwing glares in their direction.

My youngest sister, Rachel, and her appreciation for the older generation would be close to heaven. For the few that stand out as noteworthy specimens, such as those above, there are greater numbers who have graciously taken pictures for us, shared meals and waved hello as our paths have passed.

The older guests are not alone in their capacity for providing entertaining soundtracks and visuals: the people watching on a cruise is spectacular! As in any public venue there are the tens and hundreds who provide the basic guideline for “normal” and there are the rare exceptions who make you stop to wonder what goes through their head on a daily basis.

· Consider the woman who sat across from us on the tender from Santorini back to the boat. She was in her 50-60’s with leathery brown skin; long-curled fingernails, three of which she shot straight into the air when snapping a photo of her red-Ferrari-hat-wearing-companion; a fire-engine-red-rhinestone-bedazzled hat that she wore jauntily to the side showing the Velcro strap in the back; and, a black lace shirt that ruffled down to her black pants.
· We’ve seen the hands-down best mullet: there’s no business in the front, party in the back – it’s all party.
· One man sitting out by the pool had a nice, round gut with a t-shirt that said “Well Rounded”

For the hours not spent in a port, cruises provide a wide range of opportunities for careless indulgence, occasional learning and pampering. We’ve enjoyed a few of these options when we were not nestled in our favorite reclining chairs in the “Crows Nest” on the top floor overlooking the water.

· I went to see a demonstration on the art of carving fruit and vegetables. I might be able to replicate a tulip from a carrot with some practice, but the rest of it was far too advanced. The chefs who were giving the demonstration were from Indonesia and explained that they first learned in a nearby village known for its woodcarvers. After they had mastered the art of carving on wood, they could transfer their skills to more malleable fruits and vegetables.
· We also watched a Disney movie that was started as collaboration between Walt Disney and Salvador Dali. While the visuals were expressly Dali, the soundtrack and thematic components provided Disney’s influence on the piece. The piece was called Destino. The program coordinator gave an overview of Dali’s life (which I was not familiar with) in the beginning and then showed the short film (6 minutes) as a way to generate excitement for the opportunity to purchase 6 of the Dali frames and the short film for $10,000 (that was with a 50% reduction of the actual cost).
· Last night we went to a flute recital by Vivian Guzman. We heard everything from Carnival of Venice to an Argentine Tango to Tequila! and Lord of the Dance on flute. She had an impressive collection of flutes from around the world that she also used in her performance to demonstrate the differences in tone and sound. Most impressive was her use of a Hungarian flute that was basically a hollow tube. Through the use of her tongue and her breathing she produced short, quick, high-pitched tones and more mellow notes without fingering.
· Today I took part in an Indonesian tea. I had a black spice tea with a couple irish-spring-soap-green accompaniments. I believe the server said they were made of panda leaves, but I need to look that up – we asked a couple times to clarify, but that doesn’t sound entirely right. In any case it was deliciously sweet.
· The ship soundtrack has included at various times Nirvana, Barenaked Ladies and Bryan Adams – we’ve also heard renditions of Cher, Handel’s Messiah, Nirvana and Simon and Garfunkel.

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