Close
Conde Nast Traveler Concierge.com

« Next Stop...America | Main | What Cruise Buffets Can Learn from a Pack of Wolves »

May 21, 2007

Back to the Surreal (Cruise) Life

Funentertainment_80days
Anyone for a game?

Day 77: Over the course of the past 75 days, I have slept on a communal bed in rural China, witnessed the slaughter and butchering of a sheep in Mongolia--a sheep whose liver, kidney, stomach and lungs I helped eat one hour later--and danced with a 76-year-old grandmother in the hills of Cilento, Italy, while her husband serenaded us with bawdy songs on his accordion. These are events we would consider far from the mainstream, and yet, at the time, they didn't feel strange or out of the ordinary. In each case, I was struck by the fact that I had never done any of these things before.

Getting back onboard a cruise ship, it turns out, is a return to the surreal. It begins at the cruise terminal in Southampton, where 2,507 people from around the planet have come together of their own choice to coalesce into a gigantic lineup. I took my place among the multitudes. Next to me stood my brother Erik, who flew in from New York to join the herd. There we were, waiting. A gap would appear in front of us and we would shuffle forward to fill it in. This was the cruise's first event.

Getinline_80days
Are we having fun yet?

The second was the emergency drill. An alarm is sounded, passengers snatch their keyhole lifejackets from inside their identical closets and congregate at various prescribed points around the vessel to listen to instructions. This ship has a formal English feel, and the captain's voice, which booms over the PA, is no exception. It is a study in clipped restraint, with just the slightest hint of caddishness belied by the contrived inclination towards formal verbiage.

The captain's emergency instructions contained a few choice lines such as "Take to the water only as last resort" and "In an emergency, it is possible that the incident may last for some time. It is therefore our policy to muster guests away from the elements in one of the lounges." The speech was, for the most part, smooth sailing, but the captain stumbled badly over the phrase "will direct the correct number" and he never quite recovered. Still, the thought of being mustered away from the elements in one of the lounges is one that I won't soon forget.

Outoftheway_80days

As the ship got underway--towed by three tugs down Southampton Channel--passengers congregated on the front deck, bidding goodbye to the receding line of wavers back on the concrete peer and then turning their heads into the breeze. Not far ahead, a car ferry was steaming directly for us. It was carrying a full load-cars and people--but was nevertheless a midget compared to the hulking, luxurious mass of this 150,000-ton ship. The cruise liner sounded its horn, and the blast was of a sufficient magnitude as to suggest what an impact might actually be like: a dull clang of hull hitting hull on impact, the car ferry listing badly, cars spilling over the side and splashing into the channel, passengers screaming. Nautical disaster, you realize very suddenly as the wind howls in your ears, happens anything but suddenly. The car ferry, which was sailing under the Red Funnel brand, turned abruptly to starboard, motored out of our path, and resumed its course up the channel. As it passed, the people on board stood on deck and waved. Hardly anyone on the cruise returned the greeting. Such is our size.

Posted at: N 45 49.842  W 023 00.075

Comments

Mark,a couple of suggestions.Have lunch at the pub and try the chicken with pineapple salad.Also the Grand Marnier souffle is a must.Not as exciting as sheep guts,but tastey just the same.

Please tell us the daytime and nightime temperatures you are experiencing on the cruise right now. We are trying to figure out what kind of clothing to pack for a cruise departing Southampton, England June 4. I understand it is quite windy?

Dude, I just returned from my first cruise. Surreal? Yeah. Also awesome and wonderful. My own blog on the topic starts at http://www.paulcilwa.com/blog/2007/05/12-Flight_To_Tampa.asp

I'm glad to see the archives include all of the posts. I suppose you did have to edit it somewhere, but on some of the posts I got as big a kick out of the comments as your delightful blog. Long live the memories of Russian Train tableau and Monaco!

click to post a comment >

About this blog
The editors at Conde Nast Traveler answer questions and share travel secrets, tips, and dispatches

Twitter: CNTraveler
RSS: RSS Feed
Email: Daily updates

WEEKLY TOPICS
RECENT COMMENTS


UPDATES ON TWITTER

TRAVEL BLOGS
Featured in Alltop

Prices and other information were accurate at press time, but are subject to change. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

EXPRESS SIGN-UP Sign up for one of our exciting panels and receive the latest news, travel offers, and event invitations from Condé Nast Traveler and our valued advertising partners.

http://www.cntpromo.com/ex.asp
Traveler Magazine

My Concierge.com

Advertisement

Advertisement

I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its User Agreement, Privacy Policy, and Mobile Terms and Conditions.

 
iPhone App:

Create personalized postcards out of your favorite travel photos!

Learn More ›
Subscribe to our free RSS feeds:

Get the latest destinations picks, hot hotel lists, travel deals and blog posts automatically added to your newsreader or your personalized homepage.

Learn More ›

Special Advertisement

Contests, Sweepstakes & Promotions