Tag Archives: explorer of the seas

Leaving Bayonne – Dinner Guests Pt 1


Enter with me now as we glide past the heavy glass and oak doors of the main dining room entrance. We’re greeted by 4-5 waiters with wide smiles. The expanse of a three story atrium dining room is breathtaking, considering we’re on a ship in the middle of the ocean. Gold, brass, wood and gilded plaster adorn every crevasse and corner. The lighting is perfect. The setting sun streaming through the windows just adds to the rich calm and beautiful atmosphere as we’re seated at our ornately dressed table. The waiter flips the cloth napkin sitting on your plate with a flourish and drops it onto our laps. It’s truly an exceptional–

“I was in WWII and we had these Japs come out of the forest and we shot two and then had to bury them right there.”


“One grave was a bit short and the Jap’s knees stuck out!”


“Can you believe it? We laughed. This poor bastards knees sticking out of the ground!”

Welcome to dining aboard the Explorer of the Seas.

I sat most of the trip beside a tiny 83 year old man by the name of Rudy from (shock horror) New Jersey, who was for the most part entertaining and a great time to talk to. The above exchange was one of our first conversations. I shrugged it off due to his age. But after day 7 he started to repeat himself unabashedly, prefaced with “I think I told you this…” and would still recant the story I heard a couple days before. Rudy spoke as if I knew his family intimately. His first story I learned of how his grandson’s neighbour’s son had come over and cleaned out his driveway with an old snow blower that he borrowed from someone and then the next snowfall Rudy offered the kid $40 (by the end of the cruise it was up to $60) to do it again but then Rudy went and got out the old snowblower in the garage that hadn’t been turned on in years and it started on one go. One go! And then he gave the kid the snow blower. Or something.

You get the gist of the thread of Rudy’s conversations.

He would start each conversation the same: leaning in to get your attention (he was nearly deaf on my side) and with hand to mouth as if to tell you a secret, Rudy would impart some beautiful gem of wisdom. Though the fingers by his mouth were splayed open, killing any hope of audio directional help or audio privacy, he kept his hand up by his mouth. It was a weird gesture but funny none the less. After he made his statement he would make a “Feh!” tip of his hand which today would be misconstrued as a symbol for gayness but to him it was a non verbal “Fuggedaboutit”. It was cute.

But Rudy had his set ways and seemed to be trapped in a post-war patriotic dream. One night we were discussing trips to Hawaii and the subject of the sunken memorial of the Arizona came up. A dinner guest mentioned that even today, a Japanese couple were ostracized during the sub ride down to the wreckage. Rudy went off on that:

“You have to watch what teachers are telling our kids. One time my daughter, who was I think 15 at the time, came home and said ‘what a horrible thing it was that we dropped the bomb on Japan’. I was so mad! I told her that if we didn’t kill those Japs, she wouldn’t be here today. I mean really! What are teachers telling kids today, huh? I’m glad that couple were treated that way, what with all those dead kids down there in the wreckage.”

I looked down at my napkin and I think I was wringing it so hard I nearly tore it in two. I didn’t say another word to him that night. I couldn’t. I think due to my silence he sensed that he stepped over some sort of conversational line and didn’t speak the rest of the dinner. The next night he was his old self again and the last night’s faux pas was forgotten. The rest of the cruise he was civil and the final memorable exchange was this:

Rudy: (leaning in) You know what’s a killer?
Me: No. What?
Rudy: Sugar! (Fugeddaboutit hand gesture). You know with all these medicines we’re living longer. I swear we’re living longer.
Me: We’re living in a modern world, Rudy.
Rudy: (Pause) Then again… (leans in closer, faux hand secret over mouth with splayed fingers) I haven’t had an erection for years.
Me: I think there’s pills for that.
Rudy: (Laughs)

Rudy’s wife was a pip. Even though she sat on his right and we never really spoke that much I could tell that she was sharp as a tack. SharkBoy told her that she had exact hair as Rita from Coronation Street. but she didn’t know the show.

(Fugeddaboutit hand gesture)

Leaving Bayonne – The Best Excursion

Personal Bits, Travel

SharkBoy and I left the ship at every port. For all but two of the ports we did ship sanctioned excursions where we were assured that we’d have our asses back on deckchairs, drinks in hand before the ship left the dock. One woman experienced the horror of not getting back to the ship in time and experienced having the entire 12th deck chant her name as she ran down the pier (the PA system had been calling for her for 15 minutes). From that day, SharkBoy said he would never be “The Susan”.

The excursions were fun and well worth the extra couple bucks for “The Susan” insurance. We visited Water Island where the hotel in the book Don’t Stop the Carnival was based and where I was attacked by a hibiscus eating iguana. We did ATV carts along a St Maartin highway which just sealed my desire to purchase a Vespa in the future. We did a waterfall tour in Dominica, which I’ve mentioned that the road led straight up into mountains with a dizzying drive.

One unsupervised trip we did in Barbados where we were met by my Mom, who is wintering in an ocean front villa. She picked us up at the port with her two neighbours and were toured all over the island. We then went back to her villa and were fed like good Italian sons should be when they visit mama. We also met more of the villa-gers, one of which SharkBoy and I instantly liked due to her Guyanese accent (British and East Indian coming from an East Asian woman, tanned like all get out) and her no nonsense attitude and warmth. Loved. Her.

However, the best excursion, for me, was the trip to Prickly Pear Island off the coast of Antigua. Here’s a map:

View Prickly Pear Island in a larger map

As you can see, it’s small and remote. But according to Wikipedia the island held 12 islanders, 6 of which contracted an annoying case of thyroid cancer after WWII, due to the spent fuel rods stored in bunkers in the middle of the island.

We were told this by our dinner mate who we tagged along with to the island. Just as we set foot on the pristine coral white sands. Thanks.

I think we’ll be ok. How bad can 4 hours of radiation exposure be?

We were given free drinks, a BBQ lunch and snorkeling equipment to look around the reef/coral that surrounded the island. I took to the water like a fish with my underwater digital camera in hand. Pics here.

Teef!I went out snorkeling a few times, more than SharkBoy (he got a cut on his knee and was too worried about bleeding into the ocean – Sharks, you know) and for my efforts, we discovered that the 60spf sunblock worked well. There’s a white border all around my back tattoo which is suitable for framing. The rest of my back is flaking more than a dried tuna sandwiches your drunk mom would send you to school with.

The last time I came back I think SharkBoy was suitably drunk. I sat and settled into my lounger, we shared a quiet pause and he spoke up:

“I watched you out there in the ocean. I know you’re having a great time because you keep popping up and going under again. I can tell you’re happy.”

And I looked at him sideways and thought “Where the fuck is this coming from?”

And then I thought “Holy shit. I AM happy!”

When I was 10-12 yrs old I use to go out into the lake where our cottage was and stay out there for hours. I would wear rubber boots because I didn’t want to get leeches on my feet. I would go through swim suits like they were underwear. My parents were utterly cool with me being out in the lake and would leave me unsupervised to play with my plastic boats and floaty devices. SharkBoy’s comment sent me right back to those days where I would turn brown in the sun within seconds and take to the summer lake like it was my fish oxygen.

After he tells me this and I have a moment where I relive this memory, I’m overwhelmed with emotion. I pause and compose myself.

“You’re gay,” I say, keeping a brave face.

Leaving Bayonne – The Jersians


A tame version of one of the many

How was my trip?

Before I start I just want to say that I’m going to write some seriously scathing things about a group of people in a broad and general manner. I do so in 99% jest. I do so because it happened to us almost every time we came in contact with this particular group of people. I do so because these fuckers nearly ruined a perfectly good vacation.

If you belong to that group of people I’m going to mention, if you have an open mind and you find yourself amused (hopefully), then we’re cool. If you’re from that group and you’re pissed, fuck off.

My trip was great except for the roving packs of New Jerseians that seem to not understand the concept of decorum or social graces. There. I said it. I officially hate most of the population of New Jersey. I know this hate-on for a single state of people is probably shared with quite a few New Yorkers, but it’s new to me. I’ve not been exposed to this kind of rabble before. Nor do I think I wish to do so ever again.

Why this sudden slamming closed of my open mind? I’ll start at the beginning, shall I?

SharkBoy and I get to the port in Bayonne, NJ and enter the snakey line into the security screening area for the ship. As the initial excitement of getting on board faded while we stand in line for the metal detectors, I begin to notice things about the people that we’ll be sailing with on the 3300 passenger ship:

  1. Everyone is grossly obese. I’ll talk about that later.
  2. The majority of the crowd was well over 55. This wasn’t so much a problem for socialization as it was for mobilization. Often during the trip we found ourselves behind slow moving flesh mounds that didn’t seem to care that they just walked in front of two guys who could manage a human normal gait. This usually happened in line for the gangplank or the buffet.
  3. And finally, I begin to notice a lot of sweat pants. A LOT of SWEATPANTS. I use to think that air travel was a great time to dress up in presentable clothes but in the last few flights I’ve had, I’ve been seeing sweatpants on travellers with increasing dismay. Imagine my horror when I started to see sweatpants on travellers that should be wearing sport jackets and ascots and jaunty hats.

Actually, there was one couple in their upper 70s who did dress like they were going on the QEII but we didn’t see them nearly enough. They arrived at port wearing pink, her in pink furs and he in a pink leisure suit. I would have loved to be sitting at their table every night just to see the 30 year old Bob Mackie gowns. These two were the exception. The rest of the ship dressed like they were going to fix cars or watch Monster Truck rallies or fix Monster Trucks.

My fantasy of fine travel dashed across the rocky shore of plebeian fashion.

The outfit of choice for the men were “World’s Greatest Dad!” or “…Grampa!” t-shirts that barely contained their medicine ball sized guts. There were a couple 9-11 firefighter memorial t-shirts (worn ironically because they looked like they couldn’t carry a single axe without a stroke) but for the most part, the men all had that look that their wives dressed them using the finest polycotton pulled from seconds bins from WallMart. Most men had a look of long suffering or dour disposition etched into their faces, as if their wives, work and life in general had pulled their cheeks down all these years.

The women were cankel-riffic. Post-children obesity was rampant with the ladies on our cruise. By Day 3 I had decided that they were all part of the “Titanic Tits” set. We’re talking G cups that rested like deflating dirigibles atop of fleshy mounds of c-section scars. These ladies were partying like they were 16 again and many had shrill voices that could cut titanium. Mostly yelling at their husbands to get them more food from some buffet.

“Why Dead Robot! How can you hate someone based on their body size when you yourself are 40lbs overweight?” I hear you sputter.

I don’t fart on elevators.

A few times we entered an elevator that had been gassed. One New Jersian did right in front of me. Unapologetic, she let one rip and then without even a bat of an eyelash. Then she straightened the back of her t-shirt across her polyester-wrapped, newly relaxed ass. She walked off the elevator without a look back or “HA! Got you!” Nothing.

I don’t talk with food in my mouth.

One lunch SharkBoy shared a table with two couples: a mother/daughter combo who, after a few moments of conversation, we dubbed the daughter “Basement Girl” because it was evident with her constant announcements that she just bought the DVD of House on Amazon.com on Black Friday, that she didn’t get out much. The other couple maybe had 5 teeth total between them. At one point all four of them had spat food from their mouth as they complained about their TIVOs working improperly. But Basement Girl won the Oscar for Most Dramatic Performance of Spitting Out What Isn’t Mozzarella Cheese At All. One taste of the offensive cheese and she wanted all of us to know that her dear mom had tried to poison her with Brie cheese with napkin and gagging sounds. Pleasant! Meanwhile the other couple at the table just spat food from their yaws as they complained that they didn’t “get” The Office.

I don’t let myself get so morbidly obese I can’t raise my leg further than my knee.

At one excursion to a secluded beach, one of the Titanic Tits ladies got herself hip deep into the ocean only to find that the 2ft drop off past the surf break meant that she was trapped, unable to raise her bloated ham sized feet higher than her mid thigh. The weight of her gargantuan flesh would make the sand shift under her as she tried to get her foot high enough above the drop off. She eventually got herself into a sitting position and hauled herself up over the drop off and shimmied her ass most of the way back to shore. Not pretty. Quite embarrassing to watch but fascinating at the same time.

I can hold onto a conversation even if it means going down to the base level of discussing the weather.

Each breakfast or lunch that SharkBoy and I had in the main dining room meant that we were randomly sat at a large table with other shipmates. At every sitting we managed to get a few New Jersians with us and they never once started conversations with us. Did they know we were homosex lovers and could not bear to start a conversation with us? Or were they just socially inept that they couldn’t start a pleasant talk? I may be paranoid but I think it was a healthy dose of both. In every instance, SharkBoy instigated discussions with a deflating “This is my husband! I suck his cock nightly!”

No. He didn’t. But you could imagine my fantasy of that: To watch the table devolve into pandemonium, screaming and “Oh my lord!!”-isms. No this only happened in my head when the awkward silence we had to endure so many times during a meal suddenly loomed over the table. Sure I could have started some pleasant chit chat but I can only badmouth weather (something so out of our own control) for so long.

I don’t complain about everything under the sun for the sake of complaining.

On one excursion two heffers heaved their fat asses into the bus that would take us up the side of a mountain to see twin waterfalls of Trafalgar. The first thing out of the husband’s mouth was a long loud rant to the driver about how dirty the windows were. They weren’t, in fact, dirty at all. They had slight dew stains and dust but they were still viewable. Not that you wanted to see the edge of the road that led up that mountain. Yikes. This is only one example of the constant flow of complaints. As we walked the halls or swam in the pools we were privy to many conversations that compared the ship, the food, the weather, the floorboards to other places that were so much better than where we all were at that moment. After 12 days I am convinced that New Jersians like to complain about anything at all.

I know how to behave in a restaurant.

We had one nice dinner in the smaller restaurant on the ship called Portofino’s – extra charge is expected and there is a strict suit and tie dress code. There is one waiter per table so the service is personal and attentive. Half way through our wonderful meal they walked in. He was about 300lbs of back street muscle stuffed into an ill-fitting suit. She was wearing a Vegas whore black dress. They sat them two tables away and we could hear her drop F-bombs like the waiter was Hiroshima. I swear I can’t recall when the word “fuck” was used as an adjective, verb and compliment all in one sentence. I knew we were in for eavesdropping gold when she couldn’t pronounce “calamari” yet that fun faded to pity as she told the waiter to just bring her a “fucking margarita”. Her conversation poured over to the table next to us when she said “I saw you getting a massage! Your face was ORGASMIC! I was all like ‘I want what she’s fucking getting!'” The restaurant literally stopped. She didn’t. Near the end of the evening (we cut our meal short), the entire room learned that they were to be married on the beach the next day in a small eloping ceremony. I placed a silent bet in my head that the husband would be banging the babysitter inside a year.

I could go on. Know that I wanted to get through this post without using the word “class” because we all know that those who mention “class” usually have none. But I’m going to do it. New Jersians have no class. They may be the hard working backbone of the Eastern Seaboard, but they’d crumble in an audience with the queen.

More later.