Saturday, March 04, 2017
a weekend at downton abbey
"What do you do on a ship? I would be bored. Especially, on sea days."
That has been the most common comment I have heard since I started cruising about two decades ago. Of course, the people who ask that question are the people who seem to be constantly in fear that they will not have something to constantly occupy their hands -- the same people who ask, "What do you do with your time in retirement."
The answer to both questions is exactly the same -- "Whatever you want to do." My more churlish side usually answers: "Well, you could write a symphony, find a cure for cancer, or invent an automobile that runs on journalistic hot air. Just like you would do at home."
But there is a far better metaphor for cruising. It is like spending a weekend at Downton Abbey -- or any other large country house. Really! Because I can hear your skepticism all the way over here in the middle of the Tasman Sea, I will explain.
There are the obvious comparisons. Halls filled with the help scurrying to clean rooms. Dining tables groaning with plates of exotic, but mediocre, food served by liveried footman (or a proximity).
But those are too obvious. It is the activities that remind me of the people who show up for shooting parties. Mind you, there are no shooting parties. No small, furry or feathered animals are blasted to oblivion on the ship. Though that would make for an interesting afternoon.
It is the sitting room activities that reek of great estates.
Take charades. British manor houses spend evenings in small pleasures. Just as on board, charades is a staple. As are the people who play bridge and pinochle. Neither one propels my ship.
What I enjoy -- or I should say, what I usually enjoy -- is trivia. There are all types of trivia on board. Television. Music. Elton John and Billy Joel. Geography.
Nancy, Roy, and I usually make a great team. Each of us has a corner on specific arcana. As a result, we usually win. And because we are keeping the manor house analogy alive, the prizes reflect that it is all in good fun. After all, who can get upset if the prize is a key chain?
That paragraph is for the fair play set. Everyone knows the real reason for winning at trivia -- to humiliate your opponents. So far, our record has not been stellar. So, I talk a lot about sportsmanship and being a good loser.
Tonight is one of our formal nights. Unlike weekends in the country, dinners on cruise ships are not always formal.
I usually bring both white and black tie. But not this trip. To do it properly, I would have needed another piece of luggage to tote along my formal togs. Instead, I dress up in my show biz outfit.
And, instead of joining the other guests in the dining room, we are off to the Italian specialty restaurant -- Giovanni's Table -- tonight. What could be better on a formal night than risotto?
Some of you may be mumbling that it sounds as if I just described a week at a British holiday camp rather than a weekend with the Earl of Grantham. But if you have done both, you can testify there is very little difference.
But that is what we do on cruise ships. And, I also add my favorites -- writing to you and catching up on my reading.
If you ever want to meet the Crawleys, buy yourself a ticket on a cruise ship. Otherwise, there is always television.