The last day on the high seas. Or the medium seas. The cold seas, it seems.

“The water on the beach was so cold,” said the woman at the table out in the back deck where the smokers congregated.

“The Atlantic is cold,” said the man at the table, with great certainty. I must have been looking his way, because I was aware he was looking at me. “Are we in the Atlantic or the Mediterranean?” He asked me.

“The Atlantic,” I said, wanting to add “actually, the Caribeterrian.”

“Right, the Atlantic. The Atlantic is cold, the Pacific is warm.”

It wasn’t that cold. I got up early, had a light breakfast - I’m more or less done with Big Ship Breakfasts after day five - and went to the tender. Listened to conversations that seemed depressingly banal, but I suppose most are. They just talked and talked about nothing in such amazing detail. On the facing bench were two old birds who had their faces set in scowling disapproval of the world and all its works, eyes behind sunglasses; they looked angry at being alive.

We motored to the island, which is owned by the cruise line, and exists for the sold purpose of providing the customers with a top-quality beach on an island where the revenue capture is 100% and there are no grifters or con artists, and everything is perfect. I love this place. I’ve been here three times? Four? There’s nothing there. Just beach. The best sand. The most amazing water.


Nice paths into the scrub where you can explore safe things - which I did, once, with Daughter in 2010. And now I come back here alone with the memories of that trip a ghost unraveled in the hard silent squall in the back of my head. When I called up pictures of the trip on my phone, I saw her photobombing my panorama:

Later that day she texted me: she had to give a speech the next day in front of students and parents in Portuguese! Couldn’t talk now but wanted to let me know.


Because she still wants to share those things, and that means everything.

So I laid on the chair for a few hours and read novels and left before the scene to get the last few tenders has that helicopter-on-the-roof mood. Spent the afternoon in desultory ship mode, reading, sunning, having a coffee, picking away at a dessert, chatting. Packed, more or less. Napped, a bit. Made sure to catch the last sunset.


The last dinner: a surprising number of Minnesotans. Great raucous chat that veered wider the more people, er, drank. Liveliest table I had, except for the one that was all guys and devolved into locker room talk by dessert. As is the custom, the kitchen staff came out to sing us The Song of Their People. This used to be accompanied by the Baked Alaska Parade, wherein the kitchen staff and waters carried Baked Alaskas through the dining room while everyone whipped their towel in a circle over their heads. No more, it seems. WHICH IS FINE; was never crazy about Basked Alaska. Look, it’s cooked ice cream! Okay. But I am a traditionalist, so I whipped my towel over my head anyway, and encouraged others to do the same.

Up to the Crow’s Nest for the last visit. It was surprisingly loud; thought it would be dead, everyone back in their room packing. Odd how many people hadn’t packed. I mean, we’re up and out. Dock at seven, disembarkation starts at 7:30. Had final handshakes and hugs, then on the way out John Yoo asked why I didn’t like the new Star Trek, and I gave him eight reasons as we descended nine decks.

Goodbye, later, see you in Canada, up eight decks for one last pass through the Lido deck,


. . . up to my deck, which was 6. Passed all the stewards babysitting the luggage.

“Something going on tomorrow?” I asked.

“A suitcase party,” said one. I like that. It’s a cool phrase, if you apply it to something else. “Oh ain’t this a suitcase party,” or if it’s threatening, “we’re going to give him a suitcase party.”

Went back to the room, undressed, stowed the shirt in my backpack. I have perfected the whole wardrobe-toiletries routine for transitional days. The secret is to reject entirely the idea of consulting your suitcase. Your secondary bag is everything.

So how was it? Marvelous. One of my favorites. All my tables were great; no mummies. I did three panels and was proud of them all. I earned my keep, I think - I try to talk to as many guests as possible. Some of the internecine annoyances that bothered me before didn’t bother me this time, because it doesn’t matter. It’ll all be forgotten soon, by all - the photos posted to Facebook, the gift-shop magnets stuck on the downstairs fridge, the swimsuit put away, the sand caught in the dryer line trap when the suitcase clothes go into the wash. Back to normal, quite soon, too soon.

But not yet.












Let's take a look at the Oosterdam. The picture above is my stateroom on the fifth day, thank you; I like things squared away. This is the room I have occupied about nine times. It's a bit refreshed from previous years - carpet, new flatscreens, different art. I like it.

Next: the ship's art. Either you're the sort of person who looks at it once and ignores it ever after, or you become increasingly interested in the details, until eventually you're old friends.

So . . . what, exactly?

The plaque explains that it's a 19th century Japanese print depicting Dutch people making merry.

One fellow tootles away while another does . . . the Crucifixion Shuffle, I guess.

This was my favorite, I think. Dutchman and his servant, it said, but there's something more going on here. The tall Dutchman looks at the local guy, who seems to be high status; he's looking with amused indulgence at his servant, or friend, who's been caught playing with the telescope.

Reading the eyes tells everything.

This looks distorted; this is how the print appears.

Over the course of the week the hands began to unnerve me a good deal.

This poor fellow was on the bathroom wall.

It's Authentic Nautical Art from another era! An era in which you could get away with rudimentary skill.

I don't know what that thing is.

I had to go to the front desk a few times, and this took me down to Deck 1. The least-expensive rooms are down here, but they have a compensation:

It's a big open space that rises three decks, with handsome appointments:

Somehow it avoids the confused look of modern styles, where things don't seem to know why they exist, and look differnt for the sake of looking different. The furnishings, the front desk, the atrium - it gives the impression of living in a stylish hotel. Compensation for having to climb several decks to see the sea.

Mind you, no one wants to stay in their stateroom - not while the clubs are open and playing dance tunes!


I could go on and on; there's not an aspect of these ships that doesn't interest me. I'll leave you with this entrance.

Spa . . . or Orgy Room?



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