If you are just joining the fun, the previous entry was here. The last full Bleat with all the links and updates is here - new patrons of the site are kindly enjoined to visit to see what this site is usually like.
This all seems like a long time ago, because it is brutally cold here in Minnesota and I am not happy about it. Because last week I was here, and wrote the following:
Nassau. The State Department issued a warning about this place a few days ago, due to violence, theft, knavery, assault, and assorted lurking miscreants who haunt the beaches and run devious schemes on the hapless trusting tourists. Not a word of this was mentioned on the ship; indeed, folks streamed off the ship this morning to go right to Atlantis, the locus of perfidy. So the ship should be a little less crowded tonight.
Actually, it’s not crowded at all. The pool area had plenty of open chairs this morning, but that might have been due to the steady rain. For a while there was sun, and I sat in the rays with contentment, thinking how I’d been shivering in Fargo just two days away. Then the rain came. With the sun still shining. If this had been an amenity - gentle intermittent rain keeps you cool while the sun heats things up! - it would have been okay, I suppose. Ah, technology. But when it’s real weather you don’t know where it’s going to go. This turned into one of those episodes of tropical rain that’s not going to dribble a few desultory drops then wander away; it got thick and serious, and I can hardly see the shore. It could do this all day. I hope it doesn’t.
Just ran around the corner to the Park Cafe for a cup of coffee. To get a cup of coffee on most ships of this dimension, you have to go to the buffet where all the steam table are laid out behind sneeze guards, tended by a phalanx of beaming Philippinos. Here you have innumerable free coffee options, and it’s brewed, not coffee-juice reanimated with hot water. They will sell you espressos here and there, and of course there is a Starbucks. Of course there is a Starbucks.
The Park Cafe is in Central Park, the open-air green-space. Since it’s open-air it is wet. People are walking around in the middle of the ship in a ten-story atrium wearing umbrellas. Last night as I walked through Central Park I heard crickets in the shrubs. Recorded crickets, probably. Or not: given the care and craft it’s possible there’s someone who wrangles the crickets every morning and puts them in boxes and lets them out at night, leading them around on gossamer leashes, and they all wear microchips for easy inventory control. I did see a bird. A real bird. Or a robot. I don’t care.
Anyway. There’s a resort nearby, Atlantis. Sorry: the fabled Atlantis. Your Bahama adventure begins here, apparently, and from the grim reviews online ends here as well, often in a cove menaced by water-ski rental agents. But the sight is impressive.
Because from a distance you cannot hear the wails of people who are paying $600 a night to stay in a room that looks like a 1997 Holiday Inn.
A mild day of no excitement; the rain stopped, I walked around a lot, read, then slept like the damned, a glorious two-hour nap that caught me up on everything from the time I left for Fargo. Now I’m going to walk around the deck a few times - I think it’s sixteen miles per circuit - and enjoy the sunset and the waves. The sea is the least part of this, I hate to say. The ship turns it back on the sea. It has the same relationship to the sea a snowplow has to the snow.
After the ad: the grand tour.
THE NEXT DAY
Overcast and rain, again. Decks closed above because the inclement weather might sweep someone over the rail, and it is impossible to turn the ship around in time to get them. I have no doubt they have sensors embedded in every deck that calibrate the weight of the passengers and sound a klaxon if it suddenly diminishes by an amount suggesting the loss of a customer, and infrared beams rake the waves for waving arms.
So, no sun. Again. Not cold, and that counts for much. The haze diminishes vacation enthusiasms, but on the other hand the passengers seem content to prowl the atriums and enjoy the spectacle of the ship itself and its incessant entertainments. As I was walking from my stateroom to the cigar area I saw a Shrek Parade down in the shopping area. LADEEEES and GENNLEMEN, POOOOS IN BOOOTS!
And Puss in Boots made a circle around the Starbucks.
Yesterday I discovered an area of the ship previously unknown. It’s that kind of ship. Most ships you can suss out in an hour. This one had an area called the Boardwalk that has the immensity of a professional sports arena.
Here’s the whole thing, hyperlapsed for modern attention spans. Behold: the Alluuuure of the Seas. I think this might help provide context for all this. Edited in haste with my fingertips, so don't expect the highest level of polish.
It has a Johnny Rockets.
It has a donut shop. It has climbing walls and a surfing area. For some reason I found it all elating - the scope and size and audacity of it all. You expect to overhear someone say "God Himself could not sink this ship, because He would just think it was so awesome."
Suited up around eight, went below to head towards the dining room; came across another spectacle in honor of Formal Night. (Half the passengers in suits, free flutes of bubbly for all.) A big blue ball above opened up and a walkway extended over the crowd; the lights flashed and the CAPTAIN came out, walking the plank, and gave a speech.
Cheers! Glasses hoisted in good fellowship! The band erupts! Tedious introductions of other crew members about whom we care little! Part of the modern captain's job involves some retail politics like this, and he seemed to enjoy himself - but you know that when he first took to the sea, he wasn't thinking "some day I'll be walking out on a motorized plank over a shopping mall introducing the chief engineer with a glass of liquor in my hand."
Met up with JG - no, the other JG, the genial and amusing Irishman - and we ambled towards the massive hall where dinner was to be disbursed. Another steward with a tray: more free champagne. Why not? Why not? Walking around with a drink is what you do on a ship at night. It’s the rare passenger who is not walking around with a drink, often something with a tropical hue and the cliched umbrella. No one knows what to do with them, and you have to remove them or they poke out your eye, but vacation alcohol must be accompanied by a vestigial umbrella.
Off to dinner; great fun. Fellow next to me had a copy of “Regrettable Foods” to sign; schlepped it all the way from Chicago.
After dinner I ran to a dining spot and fortified with coffee; up from deck 4 to 15 to consult a small cigar and formulate my opening remarks. Hit the stage at 10:30 - actually a raised platform on the fargin’ ICE RINK, because of course there’s an ice rink on the ship. The speech went well and we retired back to the Champagne Bar, which has now been firmly established as Home Base in the evening, even thought there are 37 other bars. I am not exaggerating. There are small bars within large bars. There is a bar outside the dining room in case you want to have one before you go inside and have another.
Chatted until 1:40 - and if you’re thinking we had high-flown intellectual conversation, I was trying to answer Podhoretz’ challenge to name the a 1970s disco movie directed by the woman who played the mother on “Rhoda” and “Mary Tyler Moore.” (AND SOLD BOUNTY TOWELS, I pounced, before he could say it.) Then a slice of pizza with some other stalwarts at the 24-hour pizzeria - which sells drinks - then bed. Damned fine day.
Odd that today’s entry is mostly about yesterday, but nothing happened. If te chronology of all this seems a bit muddled, that's because I'm in the Cruise Zone, wherein time exists all at once as well as in its usual sequential form. Right now I’m here:
It’s 5:30 PM. Not many people in Central Park at night; muted conversation, insects cheeping crickets in the foliage. A few drops of rain, which is surprising until you realize it’s open above, and I'm sitting outside.
Three hours to kill until dinner. Perhaps I’ll walk around. With a drink!
Every entry shall end with a sunset. Here you go.
See why I like this? Even when it's like this:
By the way, this trip was an experiment: all pictures and video came from the iPhone, and all photos were edited and adjusted on the device as well.
To repeat what I said earlier: the last full Bleat with all the links and updates is here - new patrons of the site are kindly enjoined to visit to see what this site is usually like.