Vacation Apocalypse: Cruise Ship Edition
Maureen was really looking forward to her ten-day cruise to the Bahamas. Her co-worker, bitter Alice, had tried to dampen her enthusiasm, to no effect.
— “Your kids are going with you. How’s that supposed to be a vacation?”
Maureen had countered that her kids were a pleasure to be around. The ship’s website outlined multiple activities for youngsters — trivia contests, a video arcade, basketball and shuffleboard courts — and Thomasin and young Michael would be equally content lounging beside the shipboard pool.
— “You won the trip through an online contest. Don’t expect a nice view of the ocean: they’ll give you a tiny, interior cabin.”
Maureen was ready for that one. She explained to bitter Alice that people didn’t spend much time in their cabins. They were too busy eating fancy meals in the lavish dining halls, watching shows in the auditorium, taking long walks on the deck where the ocean stretched all around them — the best view anybody could ask for.
— “Speaking of the ocean, those beautiful waves won’t be very calm this time of year. You might find yourself too nauseated to eat those fancy meals.”
Maureen had tablets that would help with seasickness. Her husband, Big Mike, had the weaker stomach, but he’d gotten a medicinal patch he could wear beneath his ear whenever the seas got too rough.
— “Oh, and did you hear about that awful situation last year where the generators failed? Passengers lost power for three full days. And water, too, if you can believe it. They had to poop into plastic bags, and throw them into the hallways.”
Maureen smiled and thanked bitter Alice for the information. “I’ll be sure to take some extra Zip-locks,” she said.
Once the Honor of the Seas embarked from the port of Baltimore, Maureen had little cause to reflect on her co-worker’s doom-filled predictions. Certainly, as with all vacations, there were a few problems she couldn’t have anticipated — a mix-up with luggage; slow service at one meal, which caused her to miss the 80s Singalong Review; and young Michael having a brief tantrum on the second at-sea day. But pleasant surprises far outweighed the tiny setbacks. She enjoyed walking through the long corridors, noting cheesy, fun nautical designs on every wall, smiling if she wobbled with the slow sway of the ship. A few of the singers were talented; the food — and the desserts!! — was some of the best she’d ever eaten.
The real pleasures, though? She’d have to say, getting away from bitter Alice. Cutting herself adrift from the office, the stale routines of home. And no television, particularly the depressing local and national news. No cell phone use, either, since the roaming charge would be way too high. The boat offered Internet and social media packages, at a price, but she resisted the temptation. Being cut off from civilization was its own blessing.
Honestly, the whole world could be falling apart while she was at sea, and she wouldn’t know or care.
Big Mike was a bit upset after tonight’s dinner, though. Not his stomach, since he was wearing the patch below his ear. Her husband had gone to the Scoreboard Bar to watch an off-season game on satellite TV, but the signal failed and they sent everybody out. “And when I walked back through the public areas,” Michael said, “none of the music was playing. None of the monitors were on.”
As usual, Maureen kept the in-room television turned off. She was getting ready for the Girl Group Jamboree in the main auditorium; Thomasin and young Michael were with the teenage activity group for an ice cream social. “I’m not sure where I put the remote,” Maureen said. It was hard to find things, even in this tiny room. Everybody’s unpacked clothes had piled up on the chair and room-service table, and the kids hadn’t packed up their pull-out cot. Maureen moved some of the daily schedules and spa certificates aside, and finally located the remote.
She clicked on the TV. The network channels were offline, and the basic cable ones, as well. She flipped to the channel that broadcast a stationary camera from the front of the boat. The image was there, but it was nighttime, and too dark to see. Maureen pressed up on the volume button, and heard the roar of the sea — the only way she could hear it, from the family’s interior cabin.
The next station usually showed a graphic of the ship’s progress, a white oval and red transport lines over a map — blue for the ocean, green and yellow for the land masses.
The whole map was blue, as if the boat had pulled entirely out to sea. Or, the land masses had pulled away.
With a quick flash, the monitor turned off by itself. She clicked the remote several times, but nothing happened. Her husband grabbed the remote and tried, too, but the television remained stubbornly blank and silent.
A loud banging commenced on the cabin door. The steward usually waited for her to leave for the show before entering the room to turn down the bed, and fold spare towels into the shape of a dog or a monkey. It couldn’t be her kids, since they had their own keycards.
The banging continued. Michael went to open it, and it turned out to be the kids after all. They squeezed past their father and into the main part of the tiny crowded cabin. Both of the children were crying.
“Sweethearts,” Maureen said. “What’s wrong? Was someone mean to you at the social?”
“I hate this boat.” Young Mike wiped tears away from his eyes. “And now we’re never getting off it. Never.”
His father grabbed him suddenly, shook him by the shoulders. Thomasin kept crying. “Tell me what you know,” their father shouted. “Tell me what you know.”