Tuesday, February 25, 2014

the camp with the difference

Remember summer camp when you were a kid? The anticipation as the school year came to a close. The agonizing, yet exciting, ritual of deciding what to pack. Eight weeks worth of activities (both fun and strenuous), meals and new friends. Small, cramped sleeping quarters with all of your belongings neatly crammed into bedside shelves — t-shirts and underwear unnaturally co-mingling. But you were a kid and that's what you did.

Well, that's essentially what a cruise is — summer camp for adults. And because we are adults, we don't have a spare eight weeks to set aside for such frivolity. We have to get back to our jobs, our families, our lives. One week will do just fine. Give me one week to gorge like a pig, soak up some sun, see a foreign country and meet some new people that I will develop a close bond with, then probably never see again. Yep, one week should do it.

My wife and I just returned from our second cruise. Last year, at the end of our first cruise, I was surprised by the good time I had, but I expressed to Mrs. P that any subsequent cruise would be exactly the same. And, with very few exceptions, I was right. Of course, there was food — and a whole lot of it. The most noticeable difference between this cruise and the last one food-wise, was the presence of self-serve soft ice cream machines in our recent ship's buffet. I took full advantage of this, having consumed somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty cones in one week's time.

"Is that a pole right outside
your cabin door? It sure is!
Our ship, the enormous Norwegian Breakaway, followed the same itinerary as last year's Norwegian Gem. The Breakaway is the fifth largest cruise ship in the world, and it boasts a passenger count of 4000. That's right - four thousand people. The puny Gem was about half the size and made for a more intimate trip. Although we latched onto several "ship buddies," we found ourselves marveling at the hordes of unfamiliar faces on-board on Days Five and Six. "Were these people here all week?." we thought. "Did they just board this morning, in the middle of the ocean?"

The activities aboard range from wall-climbing and zip lines to trivia contests and towel-folding demonstrations. Mrs. P and I, however, grit our teeth and dove headfirst into the most adventurous activity we have ever participated in — karaoke. I am a show-off, by nature, but I am very aware of the fact that I cannot carry a tune in a bucket. Mrs. P, on the other hand, can sing, but shuns the spotlight like a mole. We are the last people who should be having the karaoke experience. But, we figured, what the hell!, we're never gonna see these people again. Our new pal Chris, a young man from Sheffield, England who was the same age as our son, was a karaoke aficionado. We watched him perform several times, cheering him on with wild applause. He was no Pavarotti, but he had a pleasant voice, that obviously got better with every beer he (and the audience) downed. And he was a bit self-conscious, asking, as a participant warbled out a horribly strained and off-key rendition of Bon Jovi's "Livin' On a Prayer," "Am I that bad?" We assured Chris that he was not. That no one was.

"Offer me solutions, offer me
and I decline."
As Chris presented his version of "Bohemian Rhapsody" in his charming British accent, I perused the song list and selected REM's anthemic "It's The End of The World (As We Know It)," with which to serenade the crowd — or clear the room. Before my name was called to perform, we watched a man playfully belt out "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter." We sang along in our best/worst mock British accent, innocently dissing poor Chris.

The DJ announced my name and I took the stage, grabbed the mic and stumbled my way through the onslaught of Michael Stipe's lyrics, as they quickly flashed across the screen. Some incorrect words tripped me up a few times, and I lost track of the tune, but, no one ran out screaming, so I considered it a success. After some real singers (including a lovely, yet totally hammered, young woman offering a heartfelt rendition of "At Last" to her expressionless husband), Mrs. P. joined me again onstage for a drawn-out take on Marty Robbins' cowboy ballad, "El Paso." We were terrible and we didn't care. We capped the evening with an abbreviated version of the epic "American Pie," even forcing poor Chris to make us a trio.

Did we have fun? Sure, we did. Will I cruise again? I suppose, but, again, I can't see the experience being any different than the last two.

What's that? Mrs. P is already making plans.....? (Mrs. P went to summer camp. I didn't.)


  1. Replies
    1. No tape could possibly hold it.
      Besides, only dogs would be able to hear it.