Hell came to the Norwegian Jade around 10:27, when the shows let out and the Chocolate Buffet opened up. Nothing like the Chocolate Buffet to show you how order and decorum would disintegrate during a sinking. Stampede to the Garden Cafe, where all the confections were arrayed at six stations; dark lights, a spotlit ice sculpture, and the tribe of MOAR MOAR ROOOARRRRH CHOCOLATE stomping around with plates and the kids darting around like minnows and the thin Europeans with well-balanced plates and the lumbering manatees and womanatees dropping the reins on their inner Kraken: EAT EAT EAT EAT EAT Oh God. I took a few items and retreated to my stateroom like a lower-order jackal going off into the bush to suck the marrow from a bone the alphas discarded.
Afterwards we were to meet at the upper lounge for The Quest, an “adult” game. Which means: sexy time.
It was amazing. Really, you expect the worst, but this was quite sophisticated. One couple, strangers both, did a tango; one woman did a strip tease but could only remove two items - she chose her glasses, and shoes. Brought the crowd to their feet. And so on, with devious subtlety and a true sense of “adult” behavior.
Hah! Kidding. “Adult.” Which means “drunk” and “announcer says ‘boobies.’”
Which means: young drunks with eminently punchable mugs preening and demanding applause because they are wearing three bras on their heads. Which means: a table of women who ran aground on the shoals of middle age jumping up to show the host their piercing or tattoo. Which means: lots of WHOOO and more WHOOOOOO! and Aren’t-I-Outrageous faces as they willingly engage in whatever form of self-abasement the MC commands. Which means: a drag contest for the finale, in which the men are wearing bras, women’s shoes and adornments - including lipstick - parading up and down catwalk style. Which means: a vast doughy creature who had the pectoral flab to fill out a D cup and had been strapped into a C, strutting around with his jiggly parts bouncing high and low to the music, a gross and hairy expanse earning the boundless accolades of the crowd. Annnnnd cut.
We left and walked out past the pool, sloshing in the dark, and into the Garden Cafe where the Chocolate Buffet had been held. All clean. All bright. Not a crumb. Five men were removing the ice sculpture. Curt orders, one-two-three LIFT, and the worst day of their week was over.
After a day at seat the cruise was over. We docked and vacated. With pride I strode to the cavernous barn where the luggage was stored; I’d attached a locator beacon that BEEPED when I pressed the button, so I didn’t have to prowl the aisles looking for the bags. Pressed the button.
It was two feet away.
Dragged the bags through the terminal to the water’s edge; crammed into a water-bus that made a Japanese subway train look like the annual convention of the More That Sufficient Elbow Room Enthusiasts’ Club, and enjoyed the view of the massive tubs dumping their thousands into Venice:
It’s the worst day for the crew, I imagine: clean it all up for the next batch, which streams in just hours after the last batch left. As a passenger you always think the ship was just sitting there for weeks before you got on board.
We checked back into the Hotel Firenze, greeted warmly by the cheerful Desk Attendant, who I hoped did not try to sell my wife on the Three Island Tour again. Oh, it would probably be fine, but I remember how he mentioned it the first day, and swung a monitor around with the sign-up instructions already loaded. Almost as if the hotel gets a cut.
Well, it’s possible.
We walked to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, since this was Art Morning. Wife shopped for some gifts for people back home while daughter and I took in an exhibit of work collected by a fellow who was stinking rich and no doubt debauched as hell, because it was all disturbing on one level or another. The rest of the museum was Modern, and all the greats were there - the most potent and condensed example of modern art I’d seen in a long time. I wished I liked it. A few pieces, yes. Daughter unimpressed. We argued about Mondrian. She recoiled at Dali, although she recognized him as the melty-watch guy. We dissed Picasso. All in all, better for the time spent together discussing art than the actual art itself. But! The admission had a coupon for another museum up the street, a five-room palace that held mostly Renaissance art. Would you like to walk from the museum to the Palazzo Cini? Of course you would. Do try not to get lost.
Found it? We didn't. At least not the front door. Took a bridge to a fondamenta - the sidewalk on the edge of the canal - and entered by a side door - to the great surprise of the attendent, who couldn't stop giggling about how we had missed the main entrance.
And here, I am proud to say, she was happy. As was I. A Bronzino. A Fra Fillippo Lippi. Turned the corner, draw in the breath: a huge Botticelli. The day was complete. Back to the hotel to confirm the airplane reservations before the rest of the day unfolded, whatever that was -
- annnd the website didn’t recognize my codes. No reservation. I ended up standing on the roof shouting into my phone on a horrible connection to confirm our flight, and learned that we couldn’t check in because of Security, specifically new procedures put in place after July 8th by the US in response to unspecified things you shouldn’t worry about, not at all, but we had to be at the airport three hours early.
That meant leaving at 6:20 AM. You can’t just hail a cab, you know. But I’ll get to that.
Whew: at least we were going to get out of here. Now what?
Wife had tickets for the three island tour!
The first was Murano, where you see artisans make the famous Murano glass. Actually, you saw a guy make a simple vase, and then make a horse. Then you had gift-shop time. I had no interest and was a complete and utter grump about the whole thing. Back on the boat, where the tour guide yelled rote memorized text in five languages; next stop, Burano. Another leaning tower: