Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Cruising Life

I have just completed my first cruise experience aboard Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas. As you might imagine, I'm feeling like a beached whale right now after eight days and nights of feast and indulgence. Because of various activities, I don't think I gained any significant weight. But I've already started my detoxification program, and a week without meat or sweets should get my blood fat and sugar levels back to their regular state. Well, maybe a little bit of meat. But no midnight crepes. What remains to be seen is how long it will take to stop feeling like I'm on a rocking ship.

There are many people who swear by cruises as the best possible vacation experience, and most of the people on board were multiple cruisers. Prior to the cruise I wasn't really sure how I would enjoy staying on a boat (sorry, a ship) for that long, but I've been won over. The ship has everything you could possibly want from a vacation resort, and what you don't find on the ship you'll get at the shore stops. There's nightly entertainment, planned activities all day, and plenty of facilities to use at your leisure. You never go hungry, and your room is always clean - with a chocolate on your pillow every night. And if, like me, you're not much of a drinker, it's really quite affordable. But if you need to wet your whistle to get prepped for those karaoke contests, be prepared to be sobered by the bill.

There was one part of the experience that left me uneasy. Maybe I'm overly modest about such things, but I didn't feel totally comfortable with the high level of service I received. This is a crazy thing to say, seeing how this kind of service is what draws people back to cruise ships time and time again - and what they are paying for. Perhaps the greatest appeal of cruising is that people who aren't particularly wealthy can afford to experience luxury and pampering. But I'm not a limousine liberal by nature, and the class separation between myself and the people serving me made me feel uncomfortable. I don't envision myself living in an "Upstairs, Downstairs" world, but that is, essentially, the cruise ship experience. For a lot of the people who work on cruise ships it's a tough life, living in the bowels of the vessel and working for months without a day off. As Nellie McKay put it, "I don't think Fritz Lang was a fantasist. Metropolis exists." Don't get me wrong - I realize that it's a choice, and that many of them are able to make a decent living over time, and a better living than working elsewhere. But I'd be lying if I told you I'm comfortable being treated like a master and being called sir all the time. Having said that, it's very easy to get spoiled by the service and the decadence. Fortunately, having only been on one cruise I haven't been spoiled by expectations.

Now my vacation is over, and it's back to work. And winter. And a diet. And an election tomorrow. You didn't think I'd be able to get through this post with bringing up the e-word, did you?


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