Every four years or so we find it necessary as a familial unit to escape the borders of this great country of ours and venture out into foreign lands by way of some sort of ridiculously monstrous cruise ship. (The fact that such excursions coincide with Presidential Party Convention Season is purely coincidental by design.) This year found us battling Hurricane Isaac (named for the affable Love Boat bartender) while trolling about The Bahamas, a chain of islands off the coast of Florida best known for their mamas and the Utterly Unaffordable Atlantis Paradise Resort.
It used to be that when one thought of ‘cruising’ it was about driving one’s ‘muscle car’ up and down a ‘strip’ in search of ‘chicks’ to ‘ogle’ and ‘whistle at’ in hopes of initiating a ‘meaningful relationship.’ This type of cruising is now passé thanks in large part to feminism, smart cars, and civilization. Nor is ‘cruising’ any longer considered watching a marathon of “Rainman,” “Cocktail,” and all four “Mission Impossible” movies. Nowadays when someone says they are ‘cruising’ what usually comes to mind are ships, sand, surf, sunburns and cellulite. This is why when my dad would tell me growing up that I was “cruisin’ for a bruisin’,” it sounded kind of fun — until one gets to the “bruisin’” part.
Cruising is a relatively recent travel phenomenon that began around the previous turn of the century. It started with ‘ocean liners’ traveling point to point for the purpose of transferring passengers from one port to another and has evolved into ‘cruise liners’ which travel in a circle for the purpose of transferring funds from your bank account to their coffers.
The cruising industry struggled in its infancy due in part to the movie “Titanic” and the various Roman-Numerated wars that were popular during the 20th century. Like myself, it really did not take off in terms of popularity until the 1980s as travelers found they had purchased way too many Jams shorts and needed someplace to wear them without being laughed at. Passenger counts have since skyrocketed with ships growing to look like floating Trump Towers and competing to claim the most fantastically absurd amenities like full-service spas, basketball courts, miniature golf courses, movie theaters, water slides, rock walls, formula one races, space launches, etc. One cruise ship even has a wave machine, which doesn’t make any sense because it’s already on the ocean and surrounded by an infinite number of waves. Really, Cruise Ship Designers?! That’s like appointing someone who cheats on their taxes to be Secretary of the Treasury.
If you have never cruised before, or if you have but are at work and have nothing better to do but read further, allow me to act like an ‘80s sister act and offer you some pointers (I’m So Excited!).
When booking a cruise, it is wise to realize that the total expense for the trip will run approximately twice that of the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price. This is due to port charges, taxes, gratuities, excursions, and the new wardrobe purchased by the female member of your party.
Once you actually book the cruise it is perfectly normal to panic at the sight of one’s corpulent pasty whiteness and seek out a reliable tanning and/or weight-loss program, since commercials and brochures display the clientele of your cruise as significantly more attractive than you. Be advised that this is not necessary; the actual patronage of said cruise will bear no resemblance to the made-up beautiful TV people and will exhibit sufficient plumpness as well as a noticeable orange hue from instant spray tans such that the pool deck will resemble an autumn pumpkin patch.
When checking in for your cruise, you will be issued an alliterated cabin key card. This is a sure sign of the apocalypse as it enters you into a cashless society where everything on the ship can be purchased with the simple use of this card combined with your unreadable signature. Then, on your final morning on the ship, a ream of paper is somehow maneuvered under your door that itemizes each transaction and provides legal proof in any court of law that you are a gluttonous gambling drunkard who is addicted to Dramamine.
After you check in, a photographer takes your picture in front of a backdrop that is cheesier than any Sunday at Lambeau Field. This can be later purchased in the photo shop for about $20 in order to prove you used to be thin because once you board the ship, your mid-section becomes distended from constant caloric intake. The buffet is open during all waking hours and dinner has more courses than a Pinehurst Resort. Combine that with a midnight chocolate buffet and a self-serve ice cream machine and no one escapes without resembling Mike and Molly.
Once you actually board the ship, it is worth taking some time to familiarize yourself with your floating metropolis, as activity venues can be harder to find than Whoopi Goldberg’s eyebrows. Also, get to know your DeVito-sized cabin before your luggage arrives because once it does you will not be able to fit inside.
Cruising with children can be difficult as they have a tendency to cramp one’s proverbial style, but keep in mind that most ships will allow you to sign them over to be monitored by complete strangers in the middle of the ocean. (Sweet!) Cruising can also be educational for children as they learn things like navigation, volume displacement, and the fact that Americans don’t dance.
That’s all for now. If you have any further questions, please direct them to your nauseatingly extroverted cruise director whose lost dream of being a game show host is your gain. There I go again, still cruisin’ for a bruisin’.