Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Grumpy Summer Vacation, Day 6

This morning, with plenty of Diet Coke on hand, I didn’t want coffee for breakfast. This pissed off the hotel’s breakfast lady to no end, as she kept coming over to offer me some, and made it sound like she’d gone out at 2:00 a.m. just to buy it for me. She even recruited the kids in trying to convince me to have a cup of joe (perhaps it was poisoned). After we checked out and drove off, I kept absently looking in the rear view mirror for her following us.

Today we met my parents and my sister’s family, and headed for the harbor. This year my Dad decided to take me and my sister’s tribes to Alaska on a family trip aboard the S.S. Smorgasbord. So between 3 cabins we have (literally) a boatload of people.

In the terminal my father had paid extra to have “priority check-in” on the cruise, and was told there was a special waiting area for this. I think he was under the impression this was a separate area of plush chairs, quiet fountains, a classical music quartet, and stunning, nubile serving girls catering to your every whim.

He was clearly disappointed to find it was simply a section of standard airport-style row seats, in the center of all the other waiting people, surrounded by a bunch of those rope barriers they use in movie theater lines. The provided entertainment was yesterday’s newspaper (with the sports section missing). The closest thing to a serving girl was an overweight guy named Harvey who kept yelling at people not to lean on the ropes. It’s my parents’ first cruise, and it clearly wasn’t starting the way he wanted it to.

My initial Alaskan cruise was several years ago, with a company I’ll call Non-Consumable food Lines. Mrs. Grumpy and I went without the kids. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, that trip would become a noteworthy experience for me and my blog followers.

There was a talent show on the last full day of that cruise, and Mrs. Grumpy asked me to enter it, doing comedy based on my practice. Since it also fell on her birthday, I couldn’t refuse.

So I got some of the material I’d been saving together, and did a 3 minute stand-up routine. For better or worse I was beaten by an 88 year-old clog-dancer. But that experience eventually contributed to the creation of this blog (and who’s gonna read a blog called grumpy88yearoldclogdancer.com anyway?). I think she got the sympathy vote, just in case she didn't make it through the cruise.

Back to 2010.

When we found our cabin it was hot as hell, in spite of the AC being on cold. So I called to complain. The lady who answered the phone assured me that an “air-conditioner fixer specialty person” would come soon, and so he did. The guy walked into our cabin, pulled the plastic cover off the AC control, blew dust out of it, whacked it with the side of his hand, and left. It worked fine after that.

While Mrs. Grumpy unpacked, she told me to either get the kids out of her hair, or kill them. So I dragged them upstairs. They made me stop for ice cream, apparently out of fear that they would go into a hypoglycemic coma so soon after lunch. After getting there Marie decided she also desperately needed a grilled cheese sandwich, as it had been nearly 30 minutes since lunch. So she made friends with Ajay, master of the S.S. Smorgasbord’s grill.

Then we went off to golf. Marie, picking up right where she’d left off on our last cruise, started by knocking over a lady’s daiquiri and shattering the glass (I guess it’s hard to play when you’re trying to hold a club and ice cream cone in one hand and a grilled cheese in the other). When someone came over to clean it up, she began wailing that it was Craig’s fault for talking to her while she was teeing off.

To prepare for this cruise, I read a great book called Cruise Confidential, by Brian Bruns. He wrote the book while working as a waiter for Carnival, and it gives a remarkable view into the lives of the ship’s service crew.

Basically they work hard and party hard. In fact, from reading the book you get the impression that when they’re not working the crew are either sleeping, drinking, or screwing (they also have to guard their silverware from other waiters). It notes that Mr. Bruns is the only American (as of the time of the writing) to have survived a Carnival tour-of-duty. I’m surprised that the book hasn’t recruited more American college-aged guys to the field, as it sounds like the lifestyle of mindless labor, alcohol, and frequent sex would be quite attractive at some point. Carnival even provides condoms to the employees.

After reading the book it’s impossible to walk around the ship looking at crew members and not wonder who’s banging who.

I also became aware that, like everyone else out there, the crew has to put up with some remarkably stupid questions. An example from the book is “What do you do with the ice sculptures after they melt?”

And that's it from the S.S. Smorgasboard.

17 comments:

Miss Kismet said...

I worked at Glacier Nat'l Park the summer of 1992, and at the end of the season, the corporation hosted a job fair. Carnival had a booth, and they were quite popular considering the recruiters were a super-hot guy/girl team and they had tales of boozing and schmoozing aplenty. I applied and was hired to work in one of the shops, but my family made me turn it down due to the stories THEY heard about the boozing and schmoozing. Plus I had that pesky college thing to do. If my time at Glacier was any indicator of what working for Carnival would have been like, I would likely be in liver failure by now :D

middle child said...

Seriously? A coffee girl was stalking you? Ah,...you need to go cheap seats. At La Quinta, the gals got to know me pretty quick and they were always kind enough to take my thermos in back and fill it. 'Course I went back there with them just to be sure there was no poison involved. Alaska must be beautiful. Look forwark to hearing more.

C said...

Hope your ship is stopping in Ketchikan. Beautiful place. Go visit my friend Becky in the mall there. She has a specialty cupcake place that is a childs dream, and support a Coast Guard wife. KTHX.

Anonymous said...

After you get back (and decompress), read David Foster Wallace, A Supposedly Fun Thing That I Will Never Do Again (1997) about his experiences on a Caribbean cruise. It convinced me to avoid cruises, but I'm glad that you and the crew are getting along.

RSDS said...

Most cruise lines hire from third-world nations in preference to hiring Americans, since they can then pay them less than the US minimum wage.

RSDS

Cheryl said...

I love your blog so much. A bright spot every day. Would love to have seen your standup routine.

Jacqueline said...

Yussss!!!!! No Grumpy Family Vacation is complete without a cruise!!!! Can not wait for the stories!

Mugdha said...

After reading much of this blog, I'm gonna have to side with you on the fact that 88-year-old clog-dancer definitely got the sympathy vote.
I say if you ever get out of medicine, stand-up would not be a bad option haha

CrownedwithVictory said...

I agree with Cheryl. When my mood is low I head over here to see if you put up anything new. You brighten my day! Wish I had a coffee stalker...that would be tops!

terri c said...

I think Marie is a Force of Nature and I cannot wait for more tales. The Grumpy Family = terrific vacation stories! Have you used the pancake mix yet?

Anonymous said...

*wants a coffee stalker*

The Mother said...

We have done cruises, with and without the kids. Without is definitely preferable. It's fascinating how, even in paradise, with unlimited food and activities, kids can complain.

Amanda said...

It is killing me that I'm going to be leaving for vacation so soon and will be missing the rest of your vacation stories.

I think I'd rather keep reading about your vacation than go on mine. I probably have the wrong attitude about this...

Persephone's Maiden said...

I dated a guy who worked as a dive instructor on one of RC's private islands. I got really, really tired of listening to him complain to me (little tech in the psych unit) about how much it "sucked" to work on the beach. Of a private island. In the Bahamas. Alcohol provided and "connections" that provide real Cuban cigars. Cry me a river.

Fizzy said...

Wow, you were in a talent show doing a stand up routine? That's pretty cool. I always wonder if people who are funny in writing are also funny in real life, and I guess you are :)

Anonymous said...

Dr. Grumpy,

Of course I had to check out the book Cruise Confidential at the library yesterday after reading your blog and stay up till 1 am reading it. Good recommendation! I'll be in Alaska next week on a pharmacy rotation in Anchorage. Glad you are enjoying Alaska! I haven't been back in 8 years and miss it greatly. Keep up the great posts!

~Kim

amy said...

I'm also reading Cruise Confidential based on your blog mention. I never want to go on a cruise, and I'm only 1/3 way through the book!

 
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