Issue: 1.07 5/1/2000
by: Joe Klock Sr.
For Sail: A Hunk of the High Life

Throughout all but recent history, travel by sea was severely Spartan for all aboard, except for a few senior officers on the afterdecks and the rich folks in their posh midship accommodations.

The unlucky others included galley slaves, steerage passengers and the roughneck crews in the forecastle (pronounced FOAKsuhl, pursuant to the same logic that makes GUNuhl out of gunwale and WOOstuhr out of Worcester).

All that changed when cruising came to offer more than merely getting from a Port of Embarkation to a distant landfall without acquiring scurvy, becoming a snack for the sharks, or playing hardball with pirates.

Elegant ships like the Queen Mary set a standard of grandeur that was difficult to match ashore, but the goodest of the good life on the bounding main was still limited to those with a bucket o' bucks available - and most sailing was still principally for the sole purpose of relocation.

However, cruising for pleasure, sightseeing, romance, relaxation, entertainment, unabashed gluttony, or all of the above, is now not only available to the less-privileged masses, but can be within the budget of season-ticket holders for major-league stallball.

While this writer can hardly be rated as a world-class cruise-aholic, he and his first mate have been asea on a variety of ships, ranging from a brass-and-mahogany artifact to some of the leading luxury tubs.

Based on this eclectic history on the high seas, he offers these random observations for the readers' information, or comparison with their own adventures before or behind the mast, and above or below the promenade deck:

Most people aboard ship are friendly, and it is not only acceptable, but de rigueur to greet all comers with a smile, to comment on the weather and/or to compliment them on their festive attire.

Such social sallies are usually returned in kind, except by the few gloomy old farts who have been shanghaied aboard by their wives and would rather be sucking up a cool one in front of their home TVS.

One goes beyond perfunctory pleasantries, though, at one's own risk, due to the ever-present hazard of those who would (and do) turn friendliness into a predatory sport. Prominent among these aggressively unctuous piranhas are the "weebin/yoobin" types, who seek to hold you captive until they've upchucked every detail of where "we' been" and wrung out of you a compete inventory of where "you' been."

Hidden in all such exchanges is a deep-seated desire to intimidate you with their more extensive travels and brand you as a borderline recluse for the relative paucity of yours. Even in tropical climes, the snow jobs can be spectacular. (Self-effacement is customarily left by this crowd at the boarding ramp.)

Often enough to make the game more than worth the candle, though, you meet people at their best, and find broad areas of mutual interest. It's like a seagoing church social, without the need to suppress your irreverent "other self" or be entirely truthful about who and what you really are.
The food is spectacular in quality and is as abundant as sniffles in Siberia. One could literally graze around the clock - and some folks do.
Eating is, in fact, one of the principal shipboard activities, although snoozing, boozing, dancing, exercise, spa-surfing, sports, gambling and just goofing off also vie for agenda time between shore excursions.

Weather permitting, many passengers of both genders are content with long periods of boobs-and-buns-watching...sometimes discreetly behind sunglasses, but frequently with gimlet-eyed stares - un-shaded, unblinking, unapologetic and ill-concealing their prurient thoughts.
Taken as a whole, cruising is a wonderful respite from the tribulations and tedium of terra firma - a life as different from everyday humdrum as snorkeling is from taking a sitz bath.

If you haven't taken the plunge (sorry - that's an unpleasant analogy), by all means consider doing so. And, if your means permit, go for top-of-the-liner billets. A penthouse suite, with private veranda and an honest-to gawd butler, can give you at least a fleeting whiff of millionaire life without the annoying cloying of Regis Philbin.

If money is an impediment, book the cheapest accommodations they offer, after ascertaining that you will (as is usually the case) share the same chow and diversions as the economic upper crust. Then use your stateroom (likely to be a euphemism for broom closet) only for sleeping, showering and such other dormitorial pursuits as your inclinations and capabilities suggest.

Tip: When you sign up for the lesser life, always suggest to the cruise line or travel agent that you'll consider a last-minute upgrade IF the price is right. When the passenger manifest insufficiently outnumbers the crew count, they'll often wheel and deal (another inappropriate analogy, but there's no nautical equivalent that rhymes).

By the way, weebin to the Greek Isles, Scandinavia and Alaska...yoobin there?

Joe Klock, Sr. (The Goy Wonder) is a freelance writer and career curmudgeon. To read past columns (free), visit
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