OUR BUCKING BRONCO CRUISE
Rob and I signed up for a cruise, not a rodeo. We supposed we could walk across our living room in Oceania’s Vista Suite without lurching from doorway to chair to table . . . without staggering from bed to bathroom . . . without leaning heavily into the sink as we brushed our teeth . . . without gripping the closet door in a kind of spasm as we lifted out a pair of slacks. We quickly learned you dared not pull off a long-sleeved shirt without sitting down first. Four seconds standing up with both hands buried in sleeves could spell disaster. The same sounds kept bursting out of each of us . . . “Oh! Oh!” or in Rob’s case, an additional, “Damn! Son of a Bitch!”
“Mom,” said daughter Tracy on the third day, “your place is making me seasick.”
Well, that’s what we got for signing up for the luxurious Vista Suite at the prow end of the ship, with its well-appointed living room and gracious veranda adorned with table and chairs. Rob sat out there once, in a hurricane, clinging desperately to the paper he was trying to read. From that day on the chairs and table were secured with rope tied to the ship’s rails, and nobody ever sat there again.
Still, the nineteen days on the Oceania cruise had plenty of positive events, and even some great moments. The trip was Tracy’s 60th birthday gift, and included her Paul, plus son Chris and Betty-Jo and son Kenny and Melanie. While the eight of us all convened for some lunches and each night for dinner, in between everybody did his own thing: among us we read some nine books and about thirty newspapers. The exercise aficionados worked out in the gym on treadmills and stationery bikes, or hiked the perimeter of the ship—when it wasn’t dipping and curtseying like, um. . . the Mayflower.
The itinerary included on-shore events relished by most of our gang: electric bicycles on which they traversed most of an island, stopping only for swims and a luxury luncheon; an ATV mud-ride, so exhilarating they couldn’t stop raving. And, more modestly for Rob and me, island explorations by car, glass-bottomed boats, and by a submersion submarine. Even our Tahiti hotel included a “Lagoonarium,” where we swam in the lagoon with hundreds of tropical fish—more than most of us had ever seen in one place.
Back on ship, Ken and Tracy competed with each other in spectacular games of ping pong—with shots retrieved from the far edges of the table or occasionally missed altogether when the ball soared away in the wind. A number of points involved so many incredible saves that Rob and I were breathless, just watching. Every game worked its way to a near-end tie, and eventually the two played some twenty-plus games.
Meanwhile, other family members competed in shuffleboard or card games like Golf, or that ancient game of cards and pegs, Cribbage.
The Oceania Regatta had some great special days . . . a carnival where the passengers competed on deck for prizes in such events as speed-dressing mannequins, sniffing and identifying various containers of different smelly items, tossing rings over bottles, maneuvering sticks into other bottles, and identifying geographic locations from maps. The morning event became a circus, with contestants racing around from one event to another. Eventually, the hardest-driving among them ended up with fistfuls of tickets whose numbers were drawn for decent prizes. Rob and I got there late—but just in time to see that, as always, the name Wills has a secret meaning (“mad competitor”), so of course our gang won some nice stuff.
Which brings me to Rob, Kenny, and me . . . and “Team Trivia.” Within two days we’d become part of an eight-person team, “The Fun Bunch,” and every afternoon at 4:30, rock and roll be damned, Rob and I and Kenny appeared in the Regatta lounge to probe our brains for answers to 20 assorted questions. Happily, we’d joined some smart people, including Marshall and wife Lucy, who seemed to know something about nearly everything. Thanks to Marshall, Lucy, Kenny, and Rob . . . and scattered answers from the rest of us. . . among the fifteen or more teams, we ended up in third place three times and first place twice. (You’re bound to do well with such as these--two fact-driven lawyers, a theater aficionado, and an engineer.)
The rest of the cruise was all food. Huge breakfasts, plentiful (and delicious), choices for lunch, gargantuan dinners. For Rob and me—especially me--accustomed now to two meals a day, the food became a negative. I simply couldn’t respond well when my dinner plate (usually in a specialty restaurant), or even someone else’s plate, overflowed with a slab of nearly-raw meat. I kept trying to duck all that surplus eating, though I was too often swept away—and on to stomach aches. Reading this, other family members will respond with a boo/hiss, telling me the food was fantastic and nobody forced me to swallow any of it.
Okay, then: agreed that Oceania has great food. Everyone but me and Paul (who exercised faithfully), came home with extra pounds. My weight stayed the same, but it took several days to get over the stomach aches. At heart I must not be a cruiser.
The exceptional good news: given a gazillion balance-rattling jostles, neither Rob nor I ever fell down . . . and our suite was so far from everywhere (all dining rooms were on the stern, a city block away), we did a lot of walking. We had a cheerful butler who brought us whatever we required—breakfast in the suite or canapés for the cocktail hour. Beyond him were waiters and servers in the dining rooms from every imaginable country, but with one thing in common—all were so much fun and so gracious, a number quickly became family friends. Rob and I already miss them.
Plus it was great being with all those fun and funny family members. Our late-afternoon cocktail parties in our ever-heaving suite were highlights of the trip. Also highlights were about six other couples who became good friends and sometimes joined us for canapés and drinks.
The final highlight was arriving home to a house that was actually standing still.