Posted by: Ali Davis | March 31, 2008

Sunday, March 30

I didn’t get off the ship today.

That’s a weird decision, and one I said I wouldn’t make this contract, especially since we only go to each of our Caribbean destinations three times.

But today was the day I could get in to see the acupuncturist at a crew discount and I had a meeting this afternoon about the new entertainment paradigm that’s rolling out fleetwide, and we were tendering in to shore, which is charming the first couple of times you do it, but then no matter how wide-eyed an innocent you are, all you can think of is “To hell with this exciting new island culture.”

Tendering is not where you see people at their best. There are more than 2400 passengers on the ship – that’s 400 more than on my last ship, for those of you playing at home – and tenders take maybe 300 people at a time if we’re using a tender from the island in question, and only 200 people at a time if we’re using the ship’s boats. (The fact that I know that little bit of information means that I will get at least one (1) question right if the Coast Guard quizzes me during the upcoming drill. Mostly I’m planning to hide.)

It blows my mind that we sometimes use the lifeboats to tender jolly sunblock-coated passengers to their drinks and souvenirs – it just feels so cavalier. But, hell, I guess it’s efficient, and definitely a way to make sure they work and don’t have holes and stuff. (The boats, not the passengers. The passengers don’t work and do have holes.) Mostly I’m thinking about other things when we tender, but every now and then I notice the panel with the rations behind it or the instructions for collecting rainwater and I catch myself figuring out which passengers I’d kill first for the good of the other survivors.

So anyway, there are tender tickets to deal with and lines and people who freak out about the lines and whether they’ll get on even if they already have tickets in their hands and the people who have tickets for later tenders that won’t leave for an hour but they stand there and gum up the waiting area anyway and, again, my strategy is to go anywhere else and hide because otherwise I’ll make the Scowly Face of Death and that won’t be good for our reputation as the cheerful jesters of the ship.

OK, that’s not exactly our reputation, but it’s close. My fellow crew members see Second City as a pack, which I don’t mind, and thanks to both the last cast and this one, they see us as fairly easygoing and fun. But also as people who might make vagina dentata jokes when your guard is down, so, you know, arm’s length and stuff.  OK, a short, warm arm’s length. People seem to like us in spite of the fact that we puzzle them, and that’s all we can ask for,

But back to the tenders, where the passengers are not at their best. Some people flip out over choppy water, as though that is the fault of either the island or the cruise line, and some people can’t do the big-shipload-into-small-boat math and fume and huff over the fact that they have to wait for anything ever when they paid for this cruise, and some people just go with the freeform bad behavior. Mike and I spent our last return tender watching a guy spit tobacco juice over the side. Theoretically the juice was going into the ocean, but he wasn’t paying attention and I’m pretty sure a fair amount ended up on the side of the boat. Thanks for your hospitality, Grand Cayman!

More entertaining was the drunk-off-her-ass college girl with the recently acquired Caribbean braids. We were waiting for everyone to get off the tender (and, as crew, we really do wait for everyone to get off the tender before we can) and our section was at that point where we were clearly not going to be able to really get in the line and go anywhere for several minutes, but people were standing up anyway like they do on airplanes.

College Girl not only got up and couldn’t go anywhere, but had made a disastrous tactical error and was now separated from the boys she’d been hanging on. So she went back into the seating area, but was still separated, so she decided to climb over the seats and rejoin her party. During the hurdle, though, she was struck by the thought that maybe her ass looked good all bent over like that in her Daisy Dukes. So she stayed there, elaborately feigning nonchalance while at the same time furtively trying to look around and see whether people were noticing and how her ass was going over if they were. I think my valiant efforts to not laugh out loud may have caused some internal damage, but it was worth it.

And missing today’s port was sort of worth it too, though I hate to say that. Today’s stop was Samana, in the Dominican Republic, which is sort of the Grenada of this route for me. No one can quite figure out while we stop here, though I hear some of the shore excursions are great. But I didn’t go on one of those when we came here last time, which meant I got off the tender and was suddenly in a panic situation because I can’t buy EVERY shell that the children are selling for a dollar, but the local economy seems to be depending on it.

We did enjoy the Whale Museum, though, which featured a nearly complete skeleton from an ill whale that couldn’t be saved and some shards of pottery and carvings from the long-lost original residents of the Dominican Republic. (Just in case your guilt engines aren’t already going full blast, the handy ship’s guide to the D.R. notes that Samana is yet another place in the Caribbean where the Natives were displaced by American slaves and we triple-dog dare you to keep reading this paragraph and tank your entire day, white folks.)

The woman in charge of the Whale Museum was wonderful, giving us a brief personally guided tour in a lovely Caribbean lilt and beaming with pride when we declared the flowers outside beautiful and the whale bones inside cool. She also mentioned that the female whales who come to Samana to give birth mate for life and bring their “boyfriends” back with them, which charmed us all.

But this trip I skipped it all and if I were a better person I might feel keener regret about that.

I did, on the other hand, spend 40 minutes with an acupuncture needle between my eyes, so while I might not be the terrific, nonjudgemental, culturally sensitive person I’d like to be. I at least got to feel like something of an enlightened bad-ass. And some days that’s all you need.

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