Here’s an audio version of this post
Translation is always a slippery business, and although technology is making practical translation a lot easier, it still offers lots of material for laughs. In preparing for our trip, I communicated by email with a few tourism organizations in Europe. I’d been asking about which museums or attractions might have special exhibits for blind people. In one response, I was helpfully informed that all diseased persons are admitted at half price to many museums, but that they were required to present E.U. disease certificates on entry. I’m hoping this was a google translate issue; so far we haven’t been asked to move over into the Leper Line. I have to say this worked to our great advantage in Madeira, when we took what would have been a 60 Euro cable car ride for 7.50. Sometimes being diseased pays off.
We’re living an absurdly luxurious life. Room tidied, clean towels and fresh fruit in our cabin twice a day, sumptuous food available at all hours, pool and hot tub, gym, three kinds of live music each night, and a raft of personable staff trained to fulfill your least request. About 50m from our cabin we can go to hear a piano/violin duet every evening. Each day there’s a daily program including activities as diverse as bridge tutorials, cooking demonstrations, religious services, dance classes, educational lectures, AA meetings, fitness classes, a juggling performance, and competitive trivia games. The infrastructure involved is truly mind-boggling. There are fresh flowers all over the ship, orchids on every table even in the informal dining room, and my breakfast tray, let me say that again, my breakfast tray arrives each morning with a tiny vase of adorable little chrysanthemum type flowers in it. I could go to either of two dining rooms for breakfast, but as a diehard morning-hater, why wouldn’t I get breakfast delivered to my room? I don’t have to talk, or smile at anyone, or pretend that I can’t wait to take on the day.
To be brutally frank, I can’t really say we’ve made friends on board. We’re definitely among the youngest passengers, and I’m finding people a bit aloof. We’re not sure if this is an age issue or a class issue, but we’re really happy to be traveling with friends.
We’ve had a day or two with what felt to me like significant swells, and it’s a pretty unique feeling to walk on a treadmill that’s rolling up and down. I think of myself as someone with good balance, but I walk pretty slowly when I’m not holding on to anything.
The crew that we interact with daily are largely Filipino or Indonesian. For the most part, the supervisor and officer level people are European, with a few North Americans. They’re all consistently friendly. They all make an effort to remember our names, and the same ones will come up to us at meals for a little chat. Despite their unfailing friendliness, I find these moments a bit awkward.
“Hi Chris, how was your day?”
“Oh great! We had a lovely time strolling around on shore, then came back for a spectacular lunch, lounged by the hot tub with drinks, had a rest, and now we’re here for a sumptuous dinner. How was your day?”
“Oh very good, very good.”
Of course their day consisted of many many hours of work, during which they catered to the whims and desires of passengers who, compared to them and their families, are wealthy and indolent. It’s hard to gage the genuineness of their friendliness. It’s well done, but I know they’re trained to it.
Our Captain, whose name is Tim, is a slow-talking, placid seeming, competent sounding Brit. He comes on the public address system at least once a day to impart information, and to assure us all’s well. He has the kind of laidback demeanor you want in a captain, but often seems to be laughing up his sleeve just a little bit, though I’m not sure at what. He seems relaxed, but I bet he’s the kind of boss who doesn’t tolerate any crap, nor should he.