Glutton Onboard: Sea Days

Sunset in Namibia

We are on the last leg of our cruise, and I have yet to talk about what life on the boat is like. So what is it like? It’s a bit like the TV series “Fleishman is in Trouble” where all of the mothers of a certain set in Manhattan use social signifiers that are extremely specific to their very particular mini-society. The boat is no different, but the signifiers are.

There is a definite pecking order on this ship, and it goes like this: World Cruisers are top of the heap, and the people who only come on for a certain leg — even if it’s for several legs — are considered lower down on the pecking order, invited to fewer dinners with the Captain, coddled less by the social hosts, and definitely less-socialized-with by the other World Cruisers. It’s no fault of theirs of course, besides the fact that they cannot spare a whopping 144 days to spend on a boat; it’s just that the World Cruisers have been through more. Stranded for two days in the Peru port! Watching those two crew members get booted from the ship in Bora Bora! Listening to Bob from Dallas shout for his wife Rachel every time we’re in the immigration line! Too many memories, reader. Too difficult to fill new cruisers in.

Among the World Cruisers, of course, there is also a hierarchy. The more World Cruises one goes on, the more their ass is to be kissed. People make sure you know by putting commemorative magnets on their doors; some rooms boast as many as 12 such magnets, while yours truly has … one. You would expect the perpetual World Cruisers to be of an advanced age, but that’s not necessarily the case. But of course, no one ever, ever just asks, “How can you be 50 and go on so many cruises?” No one ever talks about their job, unless they offer it up themselves. All the same, there are some passengers whose occupations have managed to filter through the grapevine: doctors are duly noted and their names kept in the back of one’s head, in case (free) medical attention is needed; there is a young reporter on board, as well as a much older one; people know I’ve written a cookbook. A few people even know I am writing about this cruise: “Will you be writing about this in your blog?” Dr. Harvey asked me at a wine tasting in South Africa. I told him yes, but sadly remember little else from that day other than going back to my cabin with 9 (!) bottles of wine.

In any case, here, people are mostly whittled down to their basic identities, for better or worse. We are “the Thai family”. There is also a “crazy guy” (not to be confused with “the guy with anger management issues”). There is a “sour-faced lady who yells at waitstaff”. There is “guy with glasses who smokes a lot”. There is “really old guy who is on a perpetual cruise”. People are generally nice, for the most part. After four months on board, it’s easy to figure out who to avoid. Now, it’s simply time for us to count down the days to when we don’t have to say “hi” to everyone we see in the hallways anymore (my husband can’t wait for this part).

One extra bonus for World Cruisers is that they get to attend events periodically throughout the cruise. Typically, a cruise will have around 200-300 World Cruisers; on this particular cruise, because of Covid, there are 500, which puts a lot of pressure on the team to make the evening special. The first event, in Bali, would have been beautiful if not for the torrential downpour on the open-air dining area; Singapore’s event was held in the Mediterranean section of the Gardens by the Bay, which was beautiful but unfortunately also appeared to spread Covid among some of the guests.

The last event, though, was set among the sand dunes in Namibia, and it was spectacular, even if I had to shamelessly loiter around the buffet so that I could be there when it opened. Outside, narrow ditches hosted lit fires for warmth as fire dancers performed with burning ropes and sticks in front of tables set with flutes of champagne and cheese and crackers. Herero tribeswomen in beautiful outfits mingled among the guests as the sun set. When the wind shifted and the smoke got too thick, we had dinner in the tent at tables set with bottles of wine and handmade pots of local lip balm, in case the desert cold seeped into the gathering. By the time we had left, the sky was pitch black and the stars clear to the naked eye. The ride back was a lot shorter than the ride there.

Herero women

But I guess what people really love about being on a boat is, well, just being on the boat. While guests have the option of not disembarking at destination ports, we really don’t allow ourselves that choice since this is our first world cruise and we haven’t been to a lot of these places. Instead, we wait for “sea days”, which is when the ship is in transit to its next destination and isn’t docking anywhere. Those days are treated like weekends or holidays (“I can wake up late since tomorrow’s a sea day”) and, although I once loathed them, I now enjoy them because the food and drink is better on those days, there are more lectures on the schedule, and there are even dance classes.

On my next sea day (in three days’ time), I will be ordering this drink created by one of the ship’s bartenders, William Villianueva, who made me this martini after I told him that 1. I don’t like martinis, and 2. I love dill pickles. He very graciously gave me the recipe, so here it is. It is surprisingly good. I enjoy drinking it while playing Clue in the bar like a big old nerd. It’s one of the things I’ll miss when I’m back home.

William’s Filthy Dill Pickle Martini (makes 1)

Muddle 4-5 slices of dill pickle in 3 oz vodka (William uses Absolut Elyx, but anything will work).

Add 1 oz pickle juice and shake with ice for 12 seconds.

Decant and garnish with more pickle slices, if desired.


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6 responses to “Glutton Onboard: Sea Days

  1. Were you tempted to jump ship in Namibia? Those stars alone would do it for me–

  2. William sounds like he’s a great listener and solutions-oriented. I’d happily double fist with a classic martini and this filthy dill one while being Professor Plum. 🤗

  3. Alan Katz

    This was fun and it revealed a side of you I hadn’t encountered before: You’re entertaining when you mock other people’s foibles. Usually you turn your guns on yourself. I hope all the World Cruisers read this blog. Then you’ll find out who has a sense of humor and who the real stuffed shirts are.

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