The first day with a new group of people on the ship is always hilarious, because it gives me a view of what we looked like when we first came on board: standing around near the elevators, looking at the directory to see where different things are; walking around making confident pronouncements about where things are or how they work that are completely wrong; complaining about the food, the entertainment, or the lack of interesting activities.
Most of the new people are only on for a couple of weeks, and I think if I was only on for that long, I’d be a little sadder. Being here for four months makes me less demanding – not every day can (or should) be a non-stop cavalcade of fun, gourmet meals, and Broadway shows.
For the very first time since being on the ship, I had lunch in our regular dining room. The dining room is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but it’s such a pain in the neck to go down there and spend an hour on a meal that I’m normally only willing to consider it for dinner. But today, the lunch menu included a TUNA MELT! It’s the closest I’m going to come to a grilled cheese sandwich on this ship.
Tonight was the Red and Gold gala (the third since we’ve been on board). I wore a suit that’s largely metallic gold – a huge departure from my normal black and white wardrobe. We stopped at the lounge for a pre-dinner cocktail, and not long after we showed up, a woman on her way to dinner stopped by our table to gush about how beautiful she thought I was. This has happened to me a few times, and I never know what to do about it. It’s just…weird. I understand that people who do this have nothing but good intentions, and on one level, it feels very good – it affirms my wardrobe, makeup, and hairstyle choices. On another level, I still have a hard time believing that anyone would ever think I’m attractive on any level. I still feel schlubby. I may never get over that. But I’ll keep dressing well anyway.
Ever since Freemantle, there has been a lady that gets to the gym about the same time I do. The first time I saw her on the stationary bikes, she was laughing and joking with everyone, even though she was brand new and couldn’t have known anyone – she was just fun and gregarious. Just as I was leaving, she asked me if I could get her a cup of water, since I would be walking past the water cooler. I gave her the cup of water, and she laughingly asked me what the charge would be. I told her “the first one’s always free,” and she laughed hard.
I’ve seen her most days at the gym now, and every time, she’s happy to chat. Normally, people like that just make me crazy, but there’s just something about this woman’s lack of agenda; willingness to judge the food, the décor, the terrible internet, but not the people; desire to share things she’s discovered and thought without expectation of agreement – I just love her.
Maybe it’s because of this woman, and maybe it’s just a change of passengers, but for the longest time, I was the only woman using the stationary bikes. Normally I’d be surrounded by guys all acting like they had something to prove (something shared by a lot of men at the gym on this ship), but now it’s all women. We chat, we laugh, and none of it feels uncomfortable or unnecessarily adversarial. I’ll be sad when she gets off in South Africa.
Today, I kind of never woke up. I blame it on turning the clock forward so many times. So I lay around in bed for too long, then got dressed and went out to the pool and lay on a deck chair reading (which here is a euphemism for napping), then went back to the room and sat on the chairs on the balcony and snoozed, then went back to the pool and slept before coming back to the room and having a bit of a lie down.
The whole time, I was berating myself for being lazy – I have chapters to write, readings to do, there’s always Zoetic work to be done. It wasn’t until around dinner time that I reminded myself that this is supposed to be a vacation. It’s okay if I have a day when I’m not productive, for crying out loud.
Yesterday’s Extend-O-Nap meant that I was awake and working at 5am. That’s okay – I’ll take it. I’m working to finish a novel I’ve been working on for a while, and as of today, I am four and a half chapters from the end. The real motivation has been that I’ve been reading it to the Pirate before bed every night, and I have to finish it or he’s going to be left hanging.
Tonight was another gala night, and I wore my black dress, while the Pirate wore his kilt. Again, people around us made a fuss over us. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it. The nice thing is that the people making a fuss over us are people whose style I also admire. That’s a nice feeling.
As of today, we have 34 days left in this trip. I was in a shop this morning chatting with one of the salespeople who has decided that the Pirate and I are fashion icons. We were talking about the fact that as of yesterday, there was no cream left on the ship. That’s not strictly true. They’ll still give you cream, it’s just that once you’ve poured it into your coffee or tea, it just floats to the top in chunks. He told me that in the crew mess, they’re out of eggs. They’ve got eggs that come in a box, but he says that they’re disgusting. Frankly, I suspect those are the ones they use for the scrambled eggs, since they look as though they’ve already been digested. The hot tip is not to eat anything containing cream or milk for the next two days until we get to our next port.
Then I mentioned how nice it will be not to have to wait in line for the washing machines (which, to be fair, I never do because the Pirate has taken on laundry duties because he’s the nicest), and a couple of women passing by stopped and laughed over that, and we started talking about how long we’ve been on board (they just got on) and how much longer we’ll be. They asked me how I liked the trip so far, and I told them that it just doesn’t even feel like a vacation anymore. My attitude has become “I live here now.” I realized that in 34 days when I have to take all my possessions off the ship and cart them home, it’ll feel like moving out.
Every country has their own requirements for entry. Most of the ones we’ve visited are content to come on the ship and check over the passports without having to clap their actual eyes on us, but a few require each person to present their passport in person to an official who looks at it for a tiny fraction of a second, smiles and says “good morning,” and lets that person by.
This means that there is a constant hokey-pokey of handing in our passports, getting them back, handing them in, getting them back. For some countries, we have to go online and fill in extra paperwork as well. Today, we got our passports back for entry into Réunion. We looked them over, and we were both surprised at how many new stamps we’ve gotten since we boarded. I have no idea why we were surprised – we’ve been to a whole bunch of countries, and all of them stamped our passports. Wouldn’t it be cool if I filled up my passport with visa stamps before it expires in 2026? What would be even cooler is if you win some kind of prize for filling up your passport. Like…expedited processing of your next passport.