My friends Ellen and Gary just got back from a cruise to the Caribbean. They were tanned and relaxed.
“You know you are in paradise the moment you step off the boat,” Gary told me. “As you get to the end of the gangplank, friendly native islanders in costumes with feathers and bangles start dancing to the music of a steel drum orchestra, right there on the pier. A photographer from the ship is right there to capture the exact moment you mingle with the natives.
“It’s really too bad that none of the other islanders made the effort to dress up for us. After all, we’re supporting the local economy. I think we bought a baseball cap and a T-shirt on every island we visited, but they all pretty much wore normal clothes. I wish they’d get into the spirit of the thing. Everyone would have much more fun.”
Ellen said, “And don’t forget the flip-flops. I bought a pair that had rhinestones all over the straps.”
“No,” Gary reminded her, “you bought those on the ship, remember? And you got that little baby T-shirt for Tanya’s grandson.”
“But weren’t all those islands hit by a hurricane last year?” I asked. “I hear some of them are still in tatters.”
Ellen and Gary shook their heads. “Not where we were, they weren’t in tatters. But we were only on the islands for a couple of hours. We couldn’t see everything.”
“What was the food like in the Caribbean?” I asked.
“How would we know?” said Gary. “You can’t eat anything ashore; you don’t know where it’s been. It could make you really sick. No, we ate all our food on the boat. It’s really delicious. We had New York strip steak almost every night. And you can always get a slice of pizza or a hamburger up on the pool deck. The desserts are fantastic and they serve them all day long. It’s all free!”
Ellen pushed back. “It’s not ‘free,’ it’s ‘included.’ After all, we did pay for it.”
“So other than buying baseball caps, what did you do on the islands?” I asked.
They both kind of looked puzzled.
“What else is there to do?” said Gary. “We’re not really ‘beach people.’ We’d get off the boat, shop for a while and then get back on board. Then we’d watch a little TV in our cabin and go to lunch. We had the same waiter every day. He was from the Philippines and his name was Ricardo. That means ‘Richard’ in Philippinese, so I called him Dick the whole time. He thought that was so funny. All the waiters were from somewhere. Panama, Poland, Peru, you name it. And they could all speak English as well as you and I.”
“You and me,” I corrected. “So they all come from countries that start with the letter P.”
“I think our steward was from Croatia. You know, when you travel, it really lets you see how people from other countries live. You really should get out of your comfort zone and try it someday.”
“But I can eat and watch TV at home. I don’t really need to go on a cruise to do that.”
“But on a cruise, they make the bed for you,” Ellen said. ”It’s like living in a luxury hotel. And they have Bellinis.”
“Didn’t he make clothes for Nancy Reagan? You got to meet him?”
“No, it’s a drink, dummy. It’s champagne with some kind of fruit juice in it. You can have one with breakfast for only $3.”
“So it’s not included.”
“Of course not, because it’s a Bellini. You don’t think they can just give away something like that, do you?”
“So the cruise got you to start drinking at breakfast? How sophisticated,” I teased, knowing Ellen and Gary rarely drink at home.
“Oh, let your hair down. We were there to relax. Besides, it’s mostly fruit juice. What could be better for you?”
Jogging, swimming a few laps, not having alcohol for breakfast -- all those came to mind, but I didn’t say anything. Maybe I just wasn’t a cruise person. After all, Gary and Ellen looked very relaxed.
“We’ve already booked another Caribbean cruise for next winter.”
“But you’ve already been there,” I said.
“Oh no,” Gary said, “This one will go to completely different islands.”
(Contact Jim Mullen at firstname.lastname@example.org.)