Thursday, May 27, 2010

Goodbye to All That

Our final day on the QMII will no doubt resemble the preceding ones. Quickly we fell into a pattern of lethargy punctuated by occasional bouts of activity. Like the famed nineteenth-century Russian character Oblomov, our greatest decisions revolve around food, drink, and leisure: what will we have today? What will we do with ourselves? Oh, the monumental decisions that await!

Yesterday was particular shocking: we slept in, had a bit of breakfast, read, lunched, and then napped. Our evening was equally sybaritic: dinner and then an hour musical revue (surprisingly decent), followed by a nightcap and jazz at one of the onboard bars.

I love people watching on the QMII. Last night at the bar, I watched amused as one of the leggy girls from the revue, a gorgeous blonde hailing from the Ukraine, made an undulating entrance, well-heeled man in tow. He looked like he had been hit by a 2 x 4, which in some sense is probably true. A handsome young American couple, scrubbed and shiny as new pennies, gazed adoringly into each other’s eyes, most likely celebrating their honeymoon. A bankruptcy judge we had met at lunch sat with his partner, the two of them exchanging confidences and knowing looks as they too gauged the spectrum of humanity. A rich English dowager, bejeweled and expensively coiffed, entertained her much younger guests with stories from her youth. It was like being in an Evelyn Waugh novel or on Agatha Christie’s Orient Express.

The last two days we have been blessed with interesting dining companions. At dinner we are seated with a very nice couple from Savannah, Georgia. Warm, homey, and kind, they embody a kind of American character all too infrequently seen—or at least represented in the media—these days. They are fiscally conservative but socially moderate (certainly liberal by Sarah Palin standards), the sort of Republicans I remember from my youth. Two nights ago we had drinks with another couple we liked. He’s a retired French engineer; she’s an American editor. They own an apartment on the French coastline near the Spanish border that we might consider for a future rental.

While both Rod and I have enjoyed ourselves immensely, the thought of a conventional cruise makes me want to jump overboard. We’ve met an extraordinary number of people who are cruise junkies (that ghastly woman I blogged about previously is hardly unique in this regard). It is not uncommon to find folks who have done 30 or 40 cruises, a phenomenon that crosses ethnicities and nationalities. Yesterday in the laundry room, for instance, I chatted with an older white woman, recently widowed, who does a yearly round-trip Atlantic crossing on the QMII in addition to other Cunard voyages; an Asian woman who cruises with her husband 2-3 times a year; and a middle-aged African-American man who has taken 35 cruises (“I have to do something with my time now that I’m retired”).

Admittedly, the QMII is a great way to get to Europe: one arrives relaxed, Circadian rhythms adjusted, rather than stumbling half-dead off a plane at Heathrow, Charles de Gaulle, or Frankfurt at 6.00 a.m. I will do it again if prices remain affordable. But living on a cruise ship for 10, 17, or even 22 days (as many of these passengers do) while disembarking for a few hours at some port of call, well, that would drive me nuts. Maybe when I’m 80, I’ll feel differently, but for now, donning a good pair of walking shoes and exploring on my own is how I want to see the world.

No comments: