Welcome to the Floating Food Carnival
It’s hard enough to have discipline in daily life; on a cruise, just forget it
Perhaps you’ve read David Foster Wallace’s A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again (originally published in Harpers in 1996 as Shipping Out), his amusing account of his experiences on a cruise ship. It kind of doesn’t matter if you’ve actually read it, though: All you have to do is imagine a hipster’s wry account of a floating hotel full of non-hipster, mostly white, mostly older, mostly wealthier, on the surface less interesting (but really?) people. Got it? OK, don’t bother to read the piece if you haven’t. (His piece about Roger Federer, however … that’s worth your while.)
I have gone on cruise ships eight times, the first with my parents, my sister, and our families, for the folks’ fiftieth wedding anniversary. That was a long time ago, an anomaly, and another story. Since then I have cruised to Antarctica (twice), across the Atlantic, around the Mediterranean (twice), around the Caribbean and, in June, to Alaska on a Regent Seven Seas ship, the Explorer.
I like to think of myself as cool, hip, with it, and so on. But I know that I’m also an old white guy, a geezer, a boomer, a dork, and all of that. Labels don’t work very well on most people, and I could flash credentials that, in isolation, demonstrate that I’m many different kinds of person, which only goes to show that I’m complex, like almost everyone else. (There are simpletons, yes. Not anyone reading this, of course.)
One of the parts of me thinks that cruising is a total gas: Like being on a slow train, with a posh private compartment, watching glorious scenery go by, with the gentle or not-so-gentle roll of the ship making you drowsy (or sick, depending on your tolerance), and the ability to go wander around in the floating hotel, to play shuffleboard or ping-pong (I don’t actually do these things, but I could have), or to go off and have a glass of wine (this I do), or find a perfectly lovely nook in which to sit and work or read, or get massage or take a dip. Or, most importantly, not go anywhere and take a nap. And so on.
The worst part is that on any short cruise – let’s say ten days or less – you are virtually guaranteed to gain a pound a day. Perhaps there are people for whom the weight gain thing is not true, but for most of us (including me because, although I have done VB6 in one form or another on and off since 2007 and have taken my diets seriously for many years and written literally hundreds of thousands of words on the subject, I am hardly the world’s most disciplined person), there is so much food available so much of the time and so much of it is tasty and appealing, and in such variety that there is sure to be something every time you consider eating that is pretty much irresistible. (On longer cruises I believe you have a better chance of developing and following a discipline, because the eating everything in sight thing can lead to a little self-revulsion.)
But let me refrain from generalizing about the onboard all-you-can-eat experience and just take the particular example of Me. I had originally planned to skip breakfast and lunch on the cruise, but guess what? The ship greeted embarking passengers with a “light” afternoon “snack,” a buffet that was indeed on the relatively light side, although among those light options was a cheeseburger and fries, and really, it had been a long day with no breakfast, so what the hell.