Virtuoso Life - September/October 2017 - 198
At night, the
ocean is so inky
black and the skies
so vast and swollen
with stars, I want to
of it all.
grandparents snoozing on canvas deck
chairs. A group of teens (newfound
friends, it looks like) runs off to play
paddle tennis and net golf on the top deck.
Singles stretch out behind paperbacks or
gently break the ice with the stranger in
the lounge chair next door.
At first I take the ship on like a marauding
buccaneer. After a five-mile jaunt around
the Promenade Deck and breakfast, I drop
a few dollars playing video poker in the
Empire Casino. My wife and I then join a
cha-cha class in the Queens Room (losing
another $100 would have been less humiliating). Before lunch, I rush to a table tennis
tournament by the indoor pool on Deck 5,
an event that may go down as the fiercest
sporting competition of my adulthood.
When I lose in the finals to 74-year-old
Dave, a ruthless opponent from Northamptonshire, England, whom I half-jokingly
dub "The Colonel," I ask how often he plays
Ping-Pong. "Well, not since the season
ended," he tells me.
I'm definitely starting to understand
the ship's life-list appeal. Partly, it's that a
crossing like this forces you to rethink the
very essence of travel. Almost every other
trip is about getting somewhere. This one is
an exercise in savoring-in-place. Many daytime hours are spent engaging in pleasant
little whimsies most of us are too frantic to
V I RT U O S O L I F E
bother with on dry land: reading an entire magazine, finishing a puzzle, napping, and maybe
napping again. Staring at the sea can occupy hours, as the water turns from blue and pewter
to sunset gold, sometimes with whales and dolphins splashing about. At night, the ocean
is so inky black and the skies so vast and swollen with stars, I want to stand slack-jawed,
contemplating the larger meaning of it all. The way ship time works hastens the existential
tumult. Each day at noon, an hour comes off the clock to match our location on the map and
to remind us just how fleeting our earthly enterprise is.
Fortunately, there's entertainment to lend distraction. Every night the dance halls and
show stages come alive with escapades both dazzling and adorably oldfangled. It is the sight
of a lifetime to behold a ballroom full of waltzers moving in sync like a human pinwheel. And
when a 10 pm ventriloquist act is the hottest ticket for thousands of miles, you simply must
give over to punch lines like these:
Ventriloquist: "My ancestors came over on the Mayflower."
Dummy: "Oh yeah? My ancestors were the Mayflower!"
It's easy to grow fond of such throwback charms - where else can you learn the fine art of
napkin folding on vacation? The secluded, wood-paneled Commodore Club, below the ship's
bridge, is so swanky and civilized for a predinner cocktail, we take to calling it the 007 Lounge.
Meals can be as simple or elaborate as you like, though hardly events for the meek of appetite.
Guests in the higher-end Grill-level suites can dine anytime at a reserved table or course by