Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Night Owl

It's 2:19 AM EST as I start this, a blog post which is officially an update of ship life and unofficially something I can do after drinking whiskey and deciding to do laundry. Liquor and chores. It worked for the pioneers. Wheeeeee.

Most everyone except night staff (housekeeping, wait staff, engineers, etc.) are sleeping. Some passengers are still kicking, refusing to go to sleep, but for the most part, all's quiet on the western front.

In comparison to the controlled tumult of the daytime activity that grips a fully-functioning cruise ship, business after hours can be startling in it's subdued, almost respectful quiet. Our cabin is located starboard side/forward, or at the right and on the front. The ship vibrates a bit from rumble of the diesel engines. The ocean gives you a jolt and a bounce every so often, but for the most part is a steady rocking hand, with occasional waves jumping up and slapping our porthole. Yes, we have a porthole. Yo ho yo ho.

So, what do you do on a cruise ship at two in the morning?

One thing is sleep. Sleeping on the ship is no problem for some, impossible for others. Either you're out as soon as your head hits the pillow, or you're up all night from the motion of the ship and watching Bollywood movies on the crew channel. This is something I discovered when I thought coffee and peanut M&M's would make a cracking dinner. I was wired for sound and ended watching an Indian movie about a woman impersonating a man to play in the most important cricket match of the season. Series. Time frame. Whatever it's called. The point is it was riveting, a bizarre Rudy/Juwanna Mann hybrid that had me glued to the screen. My understanding of cricket as a game is non-existent, so I had no idea what was going on, who was winning, why things were being hit where. All I knew is that the woman with the beard NEEDED to win, and that, from the acting and editing, everything that was happening was very important. I think she won. I'm not sure. Regardless, RIVETING. That's one thing you can do if you can't sleep.

You can also go to The Blue Lagoon, the restaurant on the ship that stays open 24 hours a day, and has supplied countless chicken sandwichs to the Second City cast after shows. They have the same 8 things on the menu every night, a tiny diner without the fluorescent lighting and blue eye-shadow. The staff doesn't call you "honey" or bum cigarettes off you, but they do bring you grub and considering the hour, are sweet as the lemon meringue usually rotating on a carousel under a heat lamp.

The crew has the Crew Bar, which usually opens around 8 and closes, well, now. Business picks up as shifts end and people buzz in for a quick one before they hit the rack. Just before closing time is usually the most crowded. There's a DJ, sometimes live music or karaoke. There are two X-Boxes that are always, always always in use. There's a pool table, which is serious business, so I avoid it completely. No one is going to mistake me for Fast Eddie Felson, so I leave it to the professionals. If you want to be impressed, watch a crew member who worked a 12 hour shift sink the 9 ball in the corner pocket on a moving ship while holding a Corona. If you want to get mad, watch me break feebly then try to sink anything without putting my stick through the felt. There's also a foosball table, which I refuse to play because apparently it's a violation of etiquette to spin the handles super-fast, which is patently ridiculous. If you're not supposed to do that, why make them spin in the first place, I ask you. No one ever answers.

Those who work dress the ship up for the daylight. Outside areas are power-washed. The swimming pools and hot tubs are drained, cleaned and filled again. Room service hustles food to whoever calls. The main crew hallway, off of which our cabin is situated, is vacuumed and touched up for tomorrows traffic, which will be heavy, as we are at sea and all hands are engaged in the act of entertainment.

The crew sleeps. Comedians do laundry. The ship sails back to New York.

Night time on the Jewel.