If you have nothing to write after a cruise, you know you have attained a new level of writer's block. OK, the ports of call - Newport, Boston, Halifax - were memorable. The food, as always, defined conspicuous consumption. The service created a weeklong illusion of luxury the likes of which we rubes would never enjoy, were it not for a blitzkrieg infusion of cash.
What's left to tell about my cruise? As a boomer of the '60s, I dare not gloat too lavishly, lest I be perceived as bourgeois. But, as an almost-senior in 2009, I dare not be too critical, lest I be perceived as a cynic and a crank. So, let's say that that it was neither an orgy of giddy abandon, nor an experience that would turn sweet cream sour.
After three cruises, I finally realized that the word that was missing from my vocabulary to describe the milieu was "wacky." Everything you do on a cruise has a patina of "wack," intended or not, perpetrated by crew, voyagers, or the basic ambiance.
A quick example: The after-dinner entertainment is notorious for its cheesiness. But when the show hopscotches instantaneously from a little-too-energetic medley of "Hair" to an unctuous tenor crooning a dewy-eyed rendition of "Danny Boy," you know that we have wandered just a little too far into the Kingdom of Wack.
You know what else is wacky? The inability to divest ourselves of our cell phones when we're upon the high seas. As we (and I mean "we," as in "me") draw nearer to the coast, we check our reception as frantically as a nicotine fiend grabs for his next cigarette. Why? To check our voicemail, of course. Or, to call Cousin Birdie about the food. ("Terrible . . . and such small portions!" as the Yiddish joke goes.) That, and call into the office to sweat some new crisis. And, not to be outstripped by low-tech, checking our e-mail is also irresistible, fetched from a place ominously called the "Internet cafe." I failed to resist for eight measly minutes, and it cost me $22.50. And, yes, the whole ship is rigged with Wi-Fi, so that you see folks constantly pecking away at their laptops poolside, balancing one of those frou-frou banana daiquiris in their free hand. Wacky? You tell me.
The reputed leisure of cruising is also fraught with wack. Yes, the food and portions are legendary. But, so is the pushing, shoving, and butting in the buffet line, the likes of which make Times Square feel like a croquet match. And the din? One day, this was a mother to her daughter at 100 decibels above the madding crowd: "Did you remember to call your Cousin Sharon?? She's having a cyst removed from her ovary." Next day, another mother/daughter, same scenario: "I had a little headache, but at least I didn't get diarrhea!!"
And, where else can your otherwise well-behaved dinner partner get up the wack to run her finger through the majestic Baked Alaska and lick it off, just before you were going to do the same? Wacky, no?
Five years ago, after my first cruise, I wrote a piece that dripped with cynicism. Could there be that much difference in aging from 55 to 60? This time you will not hear a snide word. The voyage was just what my therapist ordered: Asian waiters dressed like Venetian gondoliers, who actually called you "Signore." Fluffy drinks with teeny umbrellas. Bumbling magicians. The black-out Baked Alaska sparkler-lit caravan. Table talk about surgeries and scars. The Internet Cafe. Brobdingnagian buffet, somehow always served on the "Lido Deck." Elderly women with their wheelchairs pulled up tight to the slot machines. Having your picture taken hugging a lobster.
The profound moments of a cruise will more than identify themselves - a magnificent view, historic site, a lover's kiss. But, whenever the profundity subsides, the real way to enjoy a cruise is to savor it through the glasses of wacky. You will be neither disappointed, nor cynical, nor bored.
So call me neither bourgeoisie nor misanthrope. I'll stand now and forever for the appellation of "wacky." I had this confirmed thousand-fold the moment we disembarked in New York and I was greeted by a stevedore who told me in no uncertain terms to "f*** off," because I had chosen someone other than him to schlep our bags.
Ah, back to terra firma and its unvarnished realities, pining for just one more frou-frou daiquiri and another day of wacky on the bounding main.