Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Hillbilly Holiday

Recently, we took our kids on a cruise. We chose to go with the company whose name rhymes with Fisney. The cruise itself met and exceeded all of our expectations – except that the Coke was less than carbonated – and I would highly recommend it to anyone who has a pulse. But as I look back on our cruise experience, I can’t help but think it wasn’t quite what television and movies have portrayed cruises to be – and a lot of that is my own fault.

Hollywood usually shows the happy cruise goers ascending into a spacious jumbo jet with plush seats and leg room to rival the expanse of the Louisiana Purchase where they’re greeted by a stunning, blonde flight attendant and served filet mignon and drinks with little umbrellas in them. Instead, we crammed into a Boeing 737 with all coach seats and a guy who spent the four-hour flight eating an entire block of cheese. The woman sitting across the aisle from my wife, about halfway into the flight, reached under her seat and pulled out a Styrofoam clamshell box full of Chinese food. You do the math: four-hour flight, halfway through the flight, that’s two hours. Sure, there are enough preservatives in that stuff to keep anything “edible” until Haley’s Comet comes back around, but they do nothing for the smell.

When we arrived in Orlando, we caught the shuttle and proceeded to drive halfway back to Phoenix to retrieve our rental car. Such travels make a family hungry. So, after checking into our hotel and dumping our bags in our room, we went off in search of sustenance. One would think that being in a new city, one would seek out a local favorite featuring fare somewhat exclusive to that region and unleash one’s inner gourmand (that’s a fancy word for “chow hound”). No, we chose to unleash our inner Jethro Clampett and eat at the Cracker Barrel just up the street from our hotel. And for a hillbilly nightcap, I took the boys miniature golfing at a place with a marquee that read “Come feed our live baby gators”. I assumed they meant with your unruly children – that’s pretty good advertising.

The other thing movies and television don’t show you is the broad range of people you’ll see and meet on a cruise. And although you want to think you’re one of the beautiful people, you’re just as freaky as the rest. Despite the fact it was a family-oriented cruise, you still encountered the guy wearing a Speedo who really shouldn’t. (In all honesty, no man should wear a Speedo, but you know what I’m talking about. A friend of mine has come to call that a Spee-Don’t.) There was one woman who had enough extra skin on her back that she had cleavage coming and going. Ouch! But my particular favorite was the 60 year-old bald man wearing a t-shirt that read “Buffalo Soldier, Dreadlock Rasta” – did I mention that he was whiter than Michael Jackson? I’m sure there’s a blog out there written by one of our fellow cruisers that talks about a middle-aged man with a less-than-stellar physique who ate his weight in soft-serve chocolate ice cream covered in Hershey’s chocolate syrup – that freak would be me.

Lastly, what Hollywood fails to show you is the true disembarkation process. In the movies and on television, everyone’s dressed to the nines and the Captain and his inner circle are there to speak to every single guest to assure they had the time of their lives, that all unfulfilled dreams have been realized, that they’ve found a cure for cancer, etc. In reality, no one’s around as you waddle off the ship in the only pair of clean clothes you have left (you’re not even worried if they match) hoping that the ten pounds you gained on the eat-24-hours-a-day diet you’ve had over the last seven days aren’t going to cause the button on your shorts to pop off and hit your own child in the back of the head with a force sufficient to cause brain damage, or at the very least knock them out cold. Not that they’d notice anyway because they just loaded up on four chocolate doughnuts and two and a half pounds of bacon for breakfast. They think they’re seeing Mickey & Minnie waving goodbye to them – they’re really just carb-induced hallucinations, the things dreams are made of!