Monday, May 24, 2010

Monday Morning on the QMII

One of the pleasures of dining shipboard is the chance to meet new people. Unlike our trip last year, when we were assigned to the same table for lunch and dinner, we are now in a class of service—somewhat lower—that allows for “open seating” at lunch. And, due to some confusion over our table assignment for dinner, we have had various dining companions in the evening as well.

As might be expected, they have been an international bunch: Canadians, Brits, Europeans, Americans, and South Americans. So far, my favorite is a Venezuelan named Rafael, a gregarious and charming screenwriter who divides his time between Montreal and Paris. He works largely in the Francophone film industry, with a self-professed interest in “drama and comedy—no thrillers and certainly no action movies.” Last night we chatted with a Canadian couple from Victoria, British Columbia, who regaled us with stories of trips into the Indian desert.

Then, too, there is the occasional annoyance, no doubt to be expected when dwelling among three thousand people. As I write this entry, a pushy Canadian woman asked for my desk in the library. She likes the spot and claims that the power cord to her laptop won’t extend to the nearest outlet (not the case). I politely refused.

Then there are the loud, obnoxious folks. On our first night of dining, at a lovely table near a window, we were accosted by the braying laugh and piercing timbre of an extraordinary American woman nearby. She held my fascination throughout the meal. Like something out of Auntie Mame, she was larger than life: too loud, too effusive, and far too painted. In tow was a mummified man she referred to as “my fiancĂ©.” Not once did he utter a word. She spoke for him throughout the meal, while Rod and I, horrified and entertained, stole looks at his frozen, glassy-eyed demeanor. Was he drugged? Suffering from dementia? Or simply overwhelmed? His dress and appearance were equally compelling. The cut of his suit suggested money, but he wore a ring in his ear—perhaps somewhat strange in a man well into his seventies—and a very bad toupee (is there any other kind?). As the meal progressed, our bemusement turned to irritation as madam’s stream of commentary intensified in volume and frequency. After 24 hours in her presence, I would have resorted to arsenic.

This morning I am working on publication projects, putting the finishing touches on an article and fleshing out a book chapter. I am sitting in my favorite spot on the QMII, the wood-paneled library. Dotted with windows, it offers a wonderful view over the bow of the ship, where one can look beyond the railings to the Atlantic. Window-side seats abound, as do desks and even some sofas. It is a very popular spot. Passengers like to curl up and read or, like me, write at their laptops.

Speaking of reading, I expected to see lots of Kindles and iPads on this voyage, but so far, I have espied only one person using a Kindle and nary an iPad in sight. I wonder in part if the paucity of e-readers is generational: Cunard cruises tend to attract an older crowd, many of whom seem tech-challenged, if not phobic. Several times while working on Rod’s laptop—we brought along his new 13” MacBook Pro, a snappy, energetic little machine—I’ve been approached by folks who are having trouble signing on to the ship’s very good WiFi. Cunard provides good support—a tech specialist is available around the clock in one of the computer labs—but I suspect some of the older passengers are too intimidated to approach a young, obviously tech-savvy, younger male in his twenties. As a middle-aged woman, I probably appear a bit safer, closer to them in age and presumably more sympathetic to their technology woes.

As for me, I would have loved an iPad for this trip. I am tired of lugging around bulky books while traveling, but, as advised by Al3x, I will wait until the next generation appears.

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