Entries in Cruise (1)

Tuesday
Mar172015

Boats and Busses and John....Oh My!

When it comes to planning a vacation, there are three elements in which I consider the most important: Where to go, how much it is going to cost and most importantly, who else is going.

Most vacations we take are with just each other, occasionally with a small group, once in a while with one other couple, rarely with family, but never again with parents.

Before I begin my story, here are two short bios on Anthony’s Mom, Lillian and his Stepfather, John.

Lillian has quite a presence and is a bit on the eccentric side. It’s very difficult to describe her, but if I had to pick one word it would be gypsy. She was born in southern France, raised on the island of Corsica, married an American soldier (Anthony’s Dad), moved to the U.S in the late 1940’s and has never worn a bra. Even though she’s been in this country for seventy years, she still has a very strong French accent with a high pitch that only dogs can hear.

John passed away over ten years ago. But he was very much alive and was as much a character as Lillian. He was of Lebanese decent, and even though he was raised in Detroit, he had a loud booming undetectable accent of his very own (his th’s sounded like d’s). He was well over six feet tall and 250 pounds so he too had quite a presence.

They were perfect for each other; they both did and said whatever they wanted and neither one had a clue what the other was saying or doing.

John & Lillian

John & Lillian used to travel to France every year, but as they were getting older, it was getting harder and harder for them to get around. So, one winter, we thought we would ask them if they wanted to join us on a cruise. We had never been on one before so we wanted to see what all the fuss is about.

For those of you who have never taken a cruise with your parents, all I can say is “Don’t”. It has nothing to do with not loving them or not enjoying their company. It’s just that when totally healthy parents realize that their grown children are held captive with them on a floating prison for seven days, they tend to turn into three year old children.

It’s weird, it’s like they suddenly forgot how to live.They can’t eat, drink, dress themselves or do anything on their own. It doesn’t matter if they live independently, cook their own meals, drive, or even work full time, the minute their kids are around; they become helpless.

Anthony and I had travelled with parents before so we had an idea of what to expect. So in order to have fun, we knew we couldn't do this alone, so we asked his sister Rebecca if she would like to join us. And she did!

The official "Welcome Aboard" photo

The first day of the cruise came and we immediate started to have fun. We were one of the first people to board so we had the ship to ourselves for a couple of hours. Anthony, Rebecca and I all shared a cabin and right after we unpacked, Anthony went to settle his parents in. As soon as he left, I noticed something; "look, the plank-way is right outside our porthole and everyone has to pass us to get on board”.  Knowing you could only see out the window and not in, we started to make faces at all the arriving passengers. “Look at me, I’m an angry Pug”, I said as I smashed my nose into the window. “I’m a troll doll”, Rebecca said as she messed her hair up and opened her eyes really wide. We spent at least fifteen minutes distorting our faces against the glass until finally, one of the passengers laughed and made the same crinkled face back at us. “Oh my God, they can see us”, I said as I realized the glass wasn’t one way. “Oh no”, yelled Rebecca as she realized that earlier she had nearly mooned an entire family.

At that moment, I desperately wanted to go back in time, but we couldn’t. We had no choice but to hope we made ourselves look so distorted that no one would recognize us.

The next day was a “day at sea”; meaning, the ship didn’t port anywhere. It was also a day to relax by the pool and get to know our fellow passengers. After the porthole incident, Rebecca and I didn’t want to be recognized, so we wore dark glasses and pretended to sleep while Anthony read his book and Lillian and John stared at the people walking by. I was almost asleep when I heard a loud and obnoxious voice say, “O.K., it’s time for pool games”. “Give someone a microphone and they think they own the world” I said as I rolled over. “O.K., ‘Happy’, that’s the Cruise Director, so wake up and have fun now”, Anthony said to me. “Fine!”

John, Rebecca and I (notice Rebecca and I are doing our best at being incognito)

The Love Boat reject was up there doing her best to rally the crowd. She led us in exhaustive games of Finish the Lyric, Love and Marriage and Best Joke. We were even treated to The Hairy Chest Contest. As much as I hated to admit it, I was starting to have fun.

There was one last game left for the afternoon. I forgot the name, but it was right up my alley. It had to do with storytelling. She would ask something like “Who has a secret?” or “who has a story about their kids first day of school?”. Anyone thinking they had a great tale to tell could raise their hand and if she picked them, they got to go up on the platform and tell it. Afterward, the audience voted on their favorites. Easy.

It was actually fun listening to everyone’s stories. That is until the final question…

“Who here has a hidden tattoo?” Suddenly and without warning, John started waving both of his large hands high into the air while bellowing “I DO! I DO!” After struggling to get out of his chair, he walked as fast as he could toward the platform. “Dad has a hidden tattoo?” Rebecca asked her mom, who hadn’t a clue what was happening. “If he does, I don’t want to see it”, I said. There was no waiting to be chosen, John was going to participate if it killed him. It was as though he had just won the Oscar, he trekked his way along the pool deck and up to the stage with the now frightened Cruise Director in record time.

“Oh, O.K., Well then, Sir, do you have a hidden tattoo?” she asked nervously. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in hoping he wasn’t going to drop his shorts right then and there. “Please don’t, please don’t”, I said to Rebecca. It seemed like it took hours for him to finally speak and the silence was agonizing. We had already alienated ourselves from half the ship with our “funny” faces; we didn’t need to add “proud siblings of a flasher” to our repertoire.

Then, he finally spoke, “Dere, See?” he said as he pointed to forearm. “Sir, I don’t see anything”, said the now sweaty hostess followed by a nervous laugh. “I had a tattoo, but it was removed, so now it’s hidden”. The stunned crowd erupted in applause and cheers as Julie McCoy awarded him his prize; a bottle of Champagne.

I couldn’t believe it. John was now the most popular man on the ship.

The week was starting to fly by and we were already half way through our trip and we decided it would be fun to sign up for a Land and Sea excursion. This fun-filled day started by bus at a small port in St. Lucia, where we would take a tour of the island, stop at a Botanical Garden, then wrap up with a boat trip to a beautiful sandy bay up the coast.

We boarded the bus early in the morning with about twenty other passengers wo were all very excited to hear all about the island, it’s banana fields, culture and native foods.

“One of the stops along our way” said our guide “is going to be a place where you can buy Hardwood”. After a few chuckles, she explained that “Hardwood” is a concoction that you could purchase in hopes of increasing the male sex drive. A sort of Viagra Juice.

It took a while for John to fully comprehend what she was saying, but as soon as he did, he perked right up. With a raise of the eyebrow and a wink toward Lillian, he said “I gotta get me some of dat”. “U-huh”, was all I could say in my high pitched, uncomfortable voice, as I desperately tried to erase the vision of John nestling up to Lillian after a tall glass of “Hardwood on the Rocks”.

As our tour progressed, our island native guide pointed out the various flora and fauna on the island, along with the long history. She was very good at her job too; every time she would inform us about something, she’d finish by asking if anyone had any questions. If they did, she would repeat their question so we could all hear it, then proceed to answer.

As we passed the Grand Piton’s, she gave gave us some facts about the two volcanic tips, then asked if anyone had any questions. And John, in the same fashion as the tattoo game, started waving both his hands high into the air.

Our guide made her way down aisle to John with her microphone in hand. 

Here’s how the rest of their conversation went. And I kid you not…

Guide: Yes, Mon, what is your question?

John: Do you have a lot of black people here?

Guide: Mon, what was your question?

John: I said, do you have a lot of black people here?

Guide: Did you just ask if we have a lot of black people on the island’?

John: Yeah, I noticed a lot of dem.

Guide: (into her mic). Why, yah mon, we have many kinds of people on St. Lucia.

Now, you’d think this was the worst part, but it wasn’t…

John: (now with the microphone in his hand) Well, I was wondrin’ (dramatic pause) do your black people carjack?

Honest to God, he just asked our guide (who happened to be black), if her black people steal cars. And to make it worse, the guide obviously thinking she misunderstood him, repeated his question louder and clearer into the microphone, twice, so everyone could hear it. After sinking lower in our seats, I decided the only thing I could do was to try Telepathy. I concentrated on the guide and tried sending her a mental message; “Just walk away from him-PLEASE, walk away, walk away, walk away”.  But it didn’t work and the disaster continued…

Guide: Mon, let me make sure I understand. Do you want to know if my black people carjack?

(Pause and audible gasps)

John: Well, yeah! I’m from Detroit and dey do up dere?

Guide: No, I don’t think we have that on St. Lucia.

(Longer pause)

John: Well, I was just curious, dats all.

(Even longer Pause)

Guide: O.K.

(Eternity)

Then she finally walked away.

As embarrassing as this was, there was still an entire afternoon ahead of us and it was only going to get worse.

John with the Grand Piton's behind him

After we stopped for our sample of “Hardwood” and everyone boarded the bus awaiting our drive to the next destination, John announced that he had to “go pee-pee”. ”O.K., mon, but we are on a schedule, so please do so as fast as you can”, said our understandably irritated guide. So, John did just as she asked. As a matter of fact, John peed very quickly. He didn’t even waste time finding a bathroom. He got off the bus, walked a few steps, undid his pants, let them drop, and peed on the side of the road.

We tried closing our eyes to make it go away, but it didn’t work. Every time we opened them, there he was, facing away from us, pants around his ankles and relieving himself in full view of a bus full of people.

After re-boarding the bus and facing the stunned faces of the families, John settled back into his seat and we were on our way to our next stop, the sea portion. 

When we arrived, I was relieved to see a large group of people from other busses embarking the large tour boat. And they were new people; people that hadn’t experienced John over the last two hours. So we seized the opportunity to put the mortification from the morning behind us and sat next to people that didn't know us.

We took a short boat ride to a beautiful bay that had some coral reefs and was surrounded by a welcoming sandy beach. It was fairly shallow so the boat had to moor in the middle of the bay and if we wanted to go ashore, we had to swim a short distance from the boat to the beach. “If you wish to go in the water, be sure you are able to tread water and are in good shape because it is well over your head”, said the announcer, followed by “if you can’t swim, we ask that you stay aboard during our short visit here”.

Anthony, Rebecca and I decided we could handle the short swim to the beach, plus it would give us a few minutes away from Lillian and John, so we decided to go for it. As we were standing in line waiting our turn to jump in the water, we felt John’s presence a few people behind us. “Dad, what are you doing? You have to be in good shape and be able to swim, didn’t you hear them?” Rebecca asked her father, over the heads of the other swimmers. “I can swim, I was in da navy” yelled the towering man from the back of the line. “No, Dad, you can’t, the water is over your head-you can’t go in!” The pressure was mounting as we were next in line and the people behind us were getting annoyed. We had to make a decision quick; do we jump in and hope that he comes to his senses or do we stay on the ship to keep him from jumping? It was do or die time and we were just about to get out of line when we heard John announce “Fine, O.K., you guys go and I’ll wait here”.

Whew!

We proceeded to jump in one by one, first Anthony, then Rebecca and me. As we started the short swim to the beach we heard the gentle splashes of others jumping in behind us, splash, splash, splash. The peaceful rhythm was soon interrupted however with a very loud SPALASSSSHHHH! Followed by “WAIT FOR ME REBECCA!” Not wanting to face the reality of the situation, the three of us refused to turn around. “REBECCA, WAIT, WAIT, WAIT!” We had no choice; we had to turn around to see John flapping around. A few people in the water started swimming toward the dog paddling man to see if was O.K. “Do you need help” asked someone, “who’s Rebecca?” yelled another. We were already almost to the beach and he was yelling to us, “SEE, I CAN SWIM, I’M COMING TOO!” And he was not only coming, he was making good time too, but then something happened. He was literally less than fifteen feet away and he decided he couldn’t swim anymore so he started screaming “HELP ME, HELP ME, I’M DROWNING, HELP!” I think this incident was the straw that broke the camels back for Rebecca and Anthony because they lost it. “Dad, you’re not drowning, it’s not that deep”, said Rebecca. “I CAN’T SWIM NO MORE,” yelled John. “Yes you can, you’re practically to the beach”, yelled Anthony. “NO I CAN’T, I’M GOING TO DIE!” By now the people on the boat started to peer over the side to see what was happening. “Dad, why did you jump in?” screamed Rebecca, “I told you not to, you should have listened”. The small group of gawkers in the water started to pay attention too as Rebecca and Anthony let it all pour out. Dad, you said you could swim, well then swim!” “Yeah, swim!” chimed in Anthony.

The entire day of patience had finally reached it's breaking point as a large crowd, now horrified by the sight of a drowning man being yelled at by his dispicable children as he dies, began glaring at us. It was just about to turn ugly, when John finally was able to touch the bottom. He stood up and walked to shore to the cheers of everyone on the boat. They were ecstatic he was safe, but wanted us dead.

Once we were on shore, we continued to lecture him by asking him how he planned to get back to the boat. “Well, they’re going to have to come get me” he said. “They can’t”, said Anthony, “the boat can’t come in this close”. “Well, they’ll have to figure something out”, John barked.

Sensing there was conflict on shore between the sad, weak and drowning old man and his murderous children, someone from the boat jumped in the water with a surfboard and began swimming toward us. “See, they’re coming to save me”, John announced. And he was right. John’s Knight in Shining Armor arrived on shore, whisked him onto his surfboard and paddled him back to the boat, all amid loud applause from the crowd.

I don’t know how he did it, but John ended up being the most popular man on the ship again and we were nearly lynched.

The cruise ended a few days later with just a few more minor incidents and we left the Caribbean with many memories and gave our fellow Cruisers something to talk about for a long time.

Other images from our cruise

Black tie dinner aboard the ship

Lillian, with John in the background

Not sure what this was about, all I know is that it involved a hat and rum