communication, condescending twatbags, fashion, first world problems, language, musings, narcissists

Your body is telling me to GTFO of here, pronto!

In my first travel blog post today, I wrote about a non-verbal interaction I had with a fellow cruise passenger during our “free” hotel stay in Stockholm. In my post, I issued a disclaimer that my impressions of that non-verbal interaction might have been off base. Sometimes, I do get things wrong. However, I don’t think I was wrong in this case. I’ve “heard” the same thing from other people who later issued similarly offensive communications in verbal form. It usually starts with someone glancing at you and looking like they just smelled shit.

I sort of expect these kinds of situations to erupt, especially when I’m among the especially privileged. I’d say anyone lucky enough to be cruising on Regent Seven Seas Splendor is among the most privileged of people in the whole world. Bill and I certainly aren’t wealthy, but we can afford nice things, and we do partake in luxury sometimes. However, we don’t necessarily look the part of the rich and fabulous. Consequently, sometimes we’re on the receiving end of disdainful looks from the more polished and obviously prosperous.

One thing I’ve noticed on luxury American cruise ships is that there tends to be a gamut of people. You’ll see super wealthy and successful types aboard– people with trophy wives (and husbands) and all of the trappings of success. And you’ll see a lot of much younger people who don’t look like they should be able to afford such a vacation. Experience has taught me that those folks usually work in the travel industry. My British “friend” who works in the travel industry tells me that people in that field can score insanely good deals on travel, allowing them to experience exotic and luxurious trips with the wealthy. You’ll also see people like Bill, who work hard and earn a decent wage for what they do– and don’t necessarily own beautiful homes, fancy cars, or memberships at country clubs, but are able to splurge on luxury cruises or hotels.

Not everyone who has money is an asshole, of course. Bill and I have met many really wonderful folks who have truly been blessed– both with wealth, and with fabulous personalities. But luxury travel also attracts a lot of self-entitled jerks who automatically look down their noses at others without knowing a single meaningful thing about them. This post is mainly about those types of people, who are fortunately probably in the minority.

One thing I noticed when I was on this particular vacation is that I suddenly don’t care that much about shallow, vain types of people. I certainly didn’t waste any time trying to impress them. I used to be more offended by that kind of behavior– snobby, disdainful, judgmental, and flat out rude. Now, I just think it’s kind of sad… and perhaps a little bit amusing. Imagine going through life looking down your nose at everyone just because you think they’re somehow beneath you, based solely on qualities as fleeting as how they look!

Most of the time, when I’m just at home with Noyzi, I look like warmed over crap. I don’t wear makeup. I usually don’t wear a bra unless I’m going out in public. I don’t fix my hair. I dress for comfort instead of style. Even at my youngest and freshest, I didn’t have a particularly nice figure. And yet, my husband shows me every day how much he loves and adores me. We always have a good time together, and never run out of things to talk about. There’s an endless stream of inside jokes and shared memories between us. And we clean up quite nicely, too.

Maybe it’s wrong for me to say that I don’t care about this “disdain” I sense from others when I’m out and about. I guess I do care, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this post. It’s just that this time, instead of feeling pissed off and outraged about it, I noticed that I was actually more amused. Because I think of some of our favorite memories, especially when we’ve been traveling, and they don’t include people like the guy in the hotel lobby in Stockholm. They typically include more down-to-earth folks like the hilarious Spanish bum we encountered in Seville back in 2014.

The most interesting and memorable people I’ve ever encountered are people who might get a disapproving glare from the “gentleman” we encountered on our cruise. Even the narcissistic guy on our second SeaDream cruise– who actually told Bill “Now I can see why you’d love her…” after hearing me sing– was at least open-minded enough to look beyond the surface. The guy we ran into on the ship will likely never know truly awesome people, because he’s apparently mostly interested in superficial things like a person’s outward appearance and attractiveness. And yes, I do think that’s sad and very limiting for him. What’s the point of traveling if you don’t want to encounter people who are different? He might as well stay home and hang out at the country club. I guess Regent could be considered kind of a country club at sea. πŸ˜‰

Ah well… I suppose we all do that kind of judging from time to time. It might even be called a form of self-preservation. We size people up based on their appearances. Someone who looks clean, well-fed, and employed might seem more trustworthy than someone who looks dirty, unkempt, and in need of assistance, even if the clean looking person is a notorious cheat, and the homeless person looks the way they do because they gave a friend the shirt off their back. Most of us feel most comfortable around people who are like us on some level. And to be honest, I’m doing a fair bit of judging myself, based on that guy’s apparently negative attitude. For all I know, he only looked like he smelled shit because he actually did step in some while strolling around Stockholm.

One thing I noticed on our trip is that I no longer really feel like an American, even though I definitely am one on every level. I think when we go “home” again, I’m going to feel out of place, and there’s going to be a hell of a culture shock to adjust to… I’ve experienced it before, although the last time, I was actually looking forward to going “home” to America. This time, I dread the idea. And yet, it’s still my home, and there are people, places, and things I still miss there.

Well… I’m not sure how much sense this post makes, or even if it’s offensive on some level to some people. It was just something on my mind today. Travel has a way of erasing prejudices for most… at least those who are open to new experiences and meeting different kinds of people. It’s good for the soul, and good for opening minds and hearts. And I totally realize that maybe a luxury cruise isn’t the best place to be preaching about such things. But even on a luxury cruise, there’s a class system, and on some level, it is kind of hurtful to be deemed lower class… especially when it’s evidently only based on something as superficial as physical appearance (and by this, I don’t include what is written on a person’s facial expressions or revealed within their body language).

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, time to have some lunch and get back to writing up our trip!

(The featured photo is of me on the first night of the cruise, freshly scrubbed, made up, and coiffed… I was probably still too ugly to be in the presence of the shit smelling man in Stockholm… Somehow, I’ll have to find a reason to keep living. πŸ˜‰ )

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first world problems, travel

The big decision has now been made…

Again, cross-posted on the travel blog… The featured photo was taken on the car ferry from Denmark to Germany, back in 2019.

Yesterday, I wrote about my apprehension about booking a cruise. I termed it a “true first world problem.” Aye– as my Scottish ancestors would say– that it is. Twenty-four hours ago, as I was pondering whether or not I wanted to spend big bucks on a luxury cruise in the Baltic region, I started looking for alternatives.

A friend of mine had suggested touring the Norwegian fjords on Hurtigruten, which is, of course, a perfectly good suggestion. However, if I had decided to go for the fjords, that would have completely negated using the champagne bucket to choose where to go. The Norwegian fjords are a place I’d love to see the right way, and a cruise is probably the right way to go. But it wasn’t one of the choices for this particular trip. Moreover, I never asked for alternative suggestions.

I still decided to look into the Norwegian fjords experience and found that besides Hurtigruten, there’s another line that does cruises along the fjords. Maybe at some point we’ll pull the trigger on that. I did look into short cruises in Norway for the days we’ll be there, but they aren’t very convenient to our plans.

After a short while, I stopped researching travel possibilities, and turned my attention to my guitar, which badly needed new strings. I don’t play it so often that I routinely change the strings. But, it had gotten to the point at which I had forgotten when I had last changed them. The old ones were starting to get discolored, and weren’t staying tuned well. So, as much as I hate changing the strings, but love the results of changing them, once they stretch, I knew it was a job that urgently needed doing. I had just put one string on when my phone rang.

It was someone from Regent Seven Seas Cruises calling. I felt confident in answering, since I knew Bill was already agreeable to my booking the cruise, once we confirmed the correct price. The cruise specialist, whose name is Andrea, is from Germany. She thought I was German too, and was speaking German to me, even though I had made contact in English. I didn’t realize it, but the voicemail on my phone is in German… No one ever calls me, so I didn’t know. I thought the call was coming from Germany, but actually, it was a U.S. based call that somehow looked like it came from Germany.

Andrea and I got to talking, and it turns out she lives in Florida, which is where Regent is based. She’s been there since 1991. I always find myself bonding with Germans in the U.S., since I’m an American in Germany. As we discussed the cruise, we talked about how we ended up in each other’s countries. In many ways, Germany is kind of like the U.S., but I find that the U.K. feels more like home to me than Germany does, even though people drive on the other side of the road and kids wear uniforms to school.

Andrea said that my request went to her, because I am in Germany. She handles all clients from Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany, even though she’s based in Florida. It was still very early in the morning where she lives when we were talking– maybe 5:30AM! Nevertheless, she was wide awake and friendly. I guess she’s a morning person like Bill is. All of our documents are in German. Andrea says there’s nothing she can do about that, since I’m in Germany. Google Chrome will save us, I’m sure…

It didn’t take long for Andrea to sell me on Regent. I put a deposit on the cruise. I would have just paid for the whole thing, since the cruise is coming up in June, but I used my credit card with a lower limit, and the whole cruise costs more than the limit is. I used that card rather than the other one, because I knew it was less likely to get declined for “suspicious activity”. Both of my cards usually have zero balances. I rarely use them because it took me forever to pay them off when we were less affluent. The deposit didn’t raise any red flags, which made me feel confident.

Bill got home later and I proposed booking the flights. I was thinking of flying into Stavanger or Bergen, since we had never been to either of those beautiful towns, and we have been to Oslo. But it turned out there weren’t any flights that worked with boarding Noyzi and didn’t cost an arm and a leg. Like… there was an attractive flight that would have worked, except it left at 10:30AM, and that wasn’t enough time to get Noyzi to the Hundepension and get ourselves checked in at the airport. So, Oslo it is…

I had no idea that Norway’s cities were so far apart. Stavanger looks like it’s not that far from Oslo, but it’s a seven or eight hour car ride or train trip. Bergen, likewise, is hours away by car or train. There are cheap flights available, and we may decide to avail ourselves of one, just so we can get a feel for a city other than Oslo. But, we did also enjoy visiting Oslo when we were there in 2009, and that was at a time when we had a lot less money.

Oslo is also closer to Stockholm, which is where we will be meeting the ship. We haven’t seen anything in Stockholm except the cruise port, which is where our first Baltic cruise in 2009 ended. It was a four night “short break” on Royal Caribbean, and we started in Oslo and stopped in Tallin and Copenhagen, then ended in Stockholm. We couldn’t enjoy the city, because Bill had a conference in Garmisch-Partenkirchen the next day. So, we hopped a plane to Munich. I spent the next week taking tours out of the Edelweiss MWR Lodge while Bill tended to his Army duties. We had flown to Oslo from Munich, and when we got back to the parking garage, the car battery was dead, necessitating a call to ADAC. Plus, our bags didn’t make the flight, and had to be brought to us in Garmisch.

This time, we will end in Copenhagen, a city we’ve been to twice, but haven’t had much of a chance to really enjoy. The first time, it was on that short cruise, that only allowed a few hours in town. The second time was in 2019, when we were passing through on our way home with our new car and stopped for a night of rest as we continued onward to Rostock, Germany. This trip will at least give us a full day to enjoy Denmark. We’ll spend a couple of nights there before coming home on July 2.

So, off I went to Lufthansa to book our flights, after confirming with Bill which ones we wanted. I input all of the information, then tried to use my trusty credit card to pay. Sure enough, it was declined. I called up PenFed and explained that I was trying to book my vacation. I should have probably asked them to raise the limit on that card, too. Maybe next time I call…

The tickets are now booked. All I have to do now is decide on hotels in Norway and Denmark and maybe book transportation to Stockholm. A flight from Oslo takes an hour, but a train is much more scenic and is about five hours of fun. πŸ˜‰ Oh… and I also need to choose excursions and restaurant reservations for the cruise, since they are included in the fare.

It’s hard to believe, just a few days ago, I was agonizing over all of this. It’s all coming together now, like magic. I wasn’t planning to do a cruise, but this may turn out to be a bit of a Godsend. If it turns out we really love any of the places we see, we can come back and do a land based tour, as I originally planned. They are now building a railway in the Baltics that will make it a lot easier to travel there. And I do want to go and spend more than a few hours. We already know we like Tallinn from our 2009 trip, and Bill enjoyed Riga when he went.

I know… first world problem, and maybe I should be ashamed of myself for writing about it. But, at least this isn’t a cranky complaint post about politics or similarly unpleasant topics.

For those who are curious, here’s a video highlighting the ship we’re going to be on. Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s not like you don’t get a lot for the money. This is also not our usual style. We normally prefer much smaller ships, and that generally means the ships we’re on are usually much older. Splendor was built in 2020. Hebridean Princess, by contrast, was built in 1964 as a car ferry and later became a cruise ship in 1989. SeaDream I was built in 1984. I think Vision of the Seas is 1998 vintage, and I’m not even sure if it’s still in service.

A new experience for us… revisiting the region where we had our very first cruise. This time, we’re taking more time and spending way more money!
We booked a Concierge Suite.

Again, I chose this entirely for the itinerary, and the fact that it’s an all inclusive cruise. I’m not a Regent cheerleader, and I’m not sure we’ll give up small ships for this. But then again, maybe we will. We won’t know until we actually have the experience. At least now, I’ll have something new to write about on the travel blog!

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law, LDS, money, travel

Crystal Symphony cruise ends on a sad note…

The featured photo is one I took from a hotel room in Rostock, in northeastern Germany.

Thanks to the pandemic, cruising is about the last way Bill and I want to travel right now. However, prior to 2020, Bill and I did enjoy the occasional vacation on the high seas, and we definitely prefer the luxury lines. We haven’t yet had the chance to try out too many of them yet… mainly because we were won over by the two we have tried– SeaDream Yacht Club and Hebridean Island Cruises.

I have eyed Crystal Cruises on and off over the years, having heard that it offers a wonderful experience with six star service, excellent food, and all inclusive amenities. Crystal Symphony can carry up to 848 guests, but passengers enjoy a crew ratio of one per every 1.7 guests. It certainly looked enticing to me, even though we are more attracted to smaller ships. But, life happened, and we never got the chance to pull the trigger on one of Crystal’s dreamy seafaring excursions.

This morning, I woke to the news that a U.S. judge ordered the Crystal Symphony seized because the company has been sued by Peninsula Petroleum Far East over unpaid fuel bills– to the tune of $4.6 million! The fuel company filed their lawsuit in a South Florida federal court on Wednesday of last week, and the judge issued the order to seize the ship on Thursday.

A news story about this incident.

Crystal Symphony, which had embarked on a two week voyage on January 8, was on its way back to Miami, where it was due in port on Saturday. If the ship had continued to Miami, or any other U.S. waters, it would have been seized by the authorities. According to the above news report, Peninsula Petroleum wants the ship sold so it can recoup some of its expenses.

At the last minute, the ship changed course to Bimini, in the Bahamas. There, the passengers were put on a decidedly less luxurious ferry to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Making matters worse is that the weather was inclement, and apparently some passengers had motion sickness. That last bit I got from a thread on Cruise Critic’s message boards. Someone who was on the cruise had been entertaining everyone with daily posts, right up until the cruise had its unplanned ending in a different country.

A video about Crystal Symphony.

I probably would have been interested in this story in any case, but as I was reading about the ultra luxe Crystal Symphony, I noticed that a 51 year old man named Steven Fales was interviewed for the story. The New York Times described him as an actor and a playwright, but I immediately recognized the name because about fifteen years ago, he wrote a book called Confessions of a Mormon Boy: Behind the Scenes of the off-Broadway Hit. I bought and read that book in 2008, when I was still kind of fascinated by Mormonism and ex Mormons… again, thanks to Ex and her unilateral decision that she and her most recent two husbands would convert, and her children would be raised LDS.

In 2008, I was still pretty thick in my bewilderment and disgust for the way Mormonism is so often used as a tool to alienate and divide families. Now before anyone comes at me in the comments, let me state that my mind has somewhat changed about the LDS church since 2008. I no longer despise it as much as I used to. I still don’t like highly controlling religions, but I don’t think the LDS church is among the worst there are. Like, I don’t think mainstream Mormons are as bad as fundamentalist Baptists. Moreover, I don’t really care what someone’s personal religious beliefs are, as long as they don’t use their beliefs to control other people. I never have cared about that– I just hated that Bill’s decision not to be Mormon was one of the many excuses Ex had for why he was deemed “unfit” to be a dad to his daughters.

Anyway, back in 2008 and the years around that time– the blissful pre-pandemic days of yore– I was reading a lot of what I referred to as “exmo lit”. I wrote many reviews of the books by ex Mormons I read during that period, many of which you can find reposted in this blog. I no longer read much about Mormonism, since my interests have evolved. But I do remember Steven Fales, and how entertaining I found his book. Notably, Fales was also married to fellow author, Emily Pearson, daughter of Carol Lynn and Gerald Pearson.

Carol Lynn Pearson is a much celebrated LDS poet and author who wrote a very moving book called Goodbye, I Love You, which was about her relationship with Emily’s father, Gerald, who was gay. Although Carol Lynn never stopped loving Gerald, they did divorce. Sadly, Gerald eventually contracted AIDS in the 1980s and died with Carol Lynn at his side. Emily Pearson wrote Dancing With Crazy, which I also read and reviewed in 2012. As far as I know, Carol Lynn Pearson remains a faithful and active LDS church member, while Emily Pearson and Steven Fales left the church.

Of course, I don’t actually know if the Steven Fales in the news story is the same one whose book I read, but my guess is that the person is one and the same, since the Fales I’m thinking of is also 51 years old, and an actor and playwright. If there are two 51 year old Steven Fales who act and write plays, I will gladly stand corrected.

As I was reading the story about this cruise– somewhat happily realizing that, for once, it wasn’t a story about cruisers coming down with COVID-19 en masse– I was reminded, once again, about how luxury cruises can unexpectedly put someone in contact with a person they might never otherwise meet. Bill and I have rubbed elbows with a number of interesting people on cruises. On the other hand, we’ve also met people like “Large Marge”. Suffice to say, she’s someone I hope not to run into again. What’s funny is, on our last cruise, I mentioned her to the bartender and he knew exactly who I was talking about and said she’d just been onboard the ship two weeks prior to our voyage.

I read one of several Cruise Critic threads about this unfortunate turn of events. A poster who had been on the voyage wrote about how the crew bravely kept smiling, even though they didn’t know if they would still have jobs. I have met some truly amazing crew members on the cruises I’ve been on. Many of them come from countries where it’s hard to make a good living. They are able to help support their families back home with the money they make on cruises, taking care of the well-heeled, often without ever revealing the stresses of having to deal with a potentially very demanding clientele.

According to Fales:

β€œThat crew treated us like royalty through the tears of losing their jobs,” he said. β€œThey’re all just heartbroken, and it was just devastating.”

As if it’s not enough that cruise ship crews are, no doubt, working harder than ever in these pandemic times, now this has happened. It really doesn’t look good for Crystal, or the industry as a whole.

As for Bill and me, I think our days of cruising are over for the time being. I don’t want to cruise until the COVID-19 crisis has been mitigated more. It’s too risky on so many levels– from financial to health. And now, it appears that even the cruise lines that cater to the wealthier segment of society is not exempt from falling into a crisis. My heart goes out to the hard working crew, who are now faced with uncertain immediate futures. And, while I think anyone who is fortunate enough to be able to afford a Crystal cruise is doing alright, I feel somewhat saddened for those whose vacations might not have ended happily in the wake of this development– or those who have booked cruises and may now be wondering if they just lost thousands of dollars or euros, thanks to this financial fiasco.

I do hope that Crystal can settle this mess satisfactorily and eventually resume operations. I know the line has many fans. I’d hate to see it go away.

Below are links to the books written by Carol Lynn Pearson, Emily Pearson, and Steven Fales. If you purchase through those links, I will get a small commission from Amazon.com, as I am an Amazon Associate. I recommend all three books, but if you choose just one, I would recommend reading Goodbye, I Love You first.

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travel

Negligent actions have consequences…

Yesterday on my travel blog, I posted an article about SeaDream Yacht Club’s unfortunate COVID-19 situation. SeaDream, for those who don’t know, is a fantastic all inclusive luxury cruise line. It has two identical “super yachts” and it’s known for being an awesome cruise experience for couples. Bill and I have sailed with them three times. Our last voyage with them was in May 2013, when we sailed from Rome to Athens with a trip through the Corinth Canal.

Bill and I love SeaDream, but circumstances have not lined up for us to sail with them again since Bill left the Army. I still follow their message board on Cruise Critic. Ever since the COVID-19 crisis hit, I’ve been anxiously wondering if this line will survive the pandemic. Things were looking hopeful over the summer, when SeaDream managed to complete several Norway centric cruises without anyone getting sick from the virus.

After their success in Europe, SeaDream came back across the Atlantic and, last Saturday, attempted their first round trip Barbados cruise. In order to pull this off, SeaDream had to change a lot of its standard operating procedures. Prospective passengers had to get a negative COVID-19 PCR test at their own expense 72 hours before flying to Barbados. They had to take another COVID-19 test before getting on the ship, as well as have an interview with the ship’s doctor. Their luggage and shoes were cleaned with ultrasonic technology. Halfway through the voyage, they would have had to have another routine COVID-19 test to satisfy the rules for returning to Barbados. And, while they were cruising, they visited empty beaches and engaged in activities that did not allow them to be in contact with any host country nationals.

Having been on a SeaDream cruise, I can tell you that I’m sure it was just fine even without the freedom to engage with locals, shop on the economy, or go exploring. I’m not sure if the piano bar was open, but that was my favorite part of a SeaDream cruise anyway, besides the many cocktails and endless champagne.

Unfortunately, someone DID get sick with COVID-19. As of Wednesday morning, the 53 passengers have been stuck in their staterooms, which I can attest to being really nice, but not very large. The windows don’t open and there are no balconies. It’s a nice cage, but it’s still a cage.

A video done by a couple of Geordie lads who have been blogging about SeaDream’s voyages. They are on the ship as I write this.

The person who got sent to a Bajan hospital with COVID-19 was part of a group of six who evidently decided to overnight in Miami on the way to Barbados. From what I’ve read, other passengers heard the afflicted one talking about partying in the south Florida city for a night. Four others in that group also had positive COVID-19 tests, but evidently aren’t showing symptoms. The fifth person’s test was inconclusive.

Now… in thinking about this, it occurs to me just how many people have been affected by this group’s decision to overnight in Miami…

  1. 47 people besides the afflicted have had a very expensive and luxurious vacation ruined.
  2. 66 crew members have had their livelihoods directly threatened. Two actually tested positive.
  3. 113 people besides the afflicted have had their health threatened. A couple not in the original group who stopped in Miami have tested positive.
  4. The entire cruising industry has had another blot on it regarding health and safety standards.
  5. Hundreds of future passengers will be affected because SeaDream will be cancelling upcoming cruises.
  6. All of the businesspeople depending on support revenue for the cancelled cruises will lose money– ie; pet boarding, taxi services, airlines, etc.
  7. People watching SeaDream to see if cruising during a pandemic could be done safely will be affected.

A whole lot of innocent people have been affected by this… I hope that night out in Miami was worth it. It really is a shame that this happened. As I wrote in my travel blog, I won’t consider cruising again until there’s an effective vaccine against COVID-19. I don’t think cruising while fretting about a virus on a luxury ship is a lot of fun. Hopefully, we’ll get this virus under control before too long. On the other hand… I’m not holding my breath.

Hopefully, those who got sick won’t get too sick… and the passengers will be able to get off the ship and go home without too much trouble. We’ll see what happens. Actions have consequences. But, on the bright side, by undertaking this experiment, SeaDream has provided some valuable data for others. Perhaps that will help some smart people figure out the best way to get back to a life approaching normal at some point.

ETA: COVID-19 positive count is now at seven.

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lessons learned

“Now I can see why you’d love her…”

Today’s post is somewhat of a rerun in that I’ve written this story before. The last time I shared this tale was about four years ago. I had added it in conjunction to a video I’d seen about gay black men who said they had trouble dating outside of their race. But today, I’m just going to rewrite the story on its own, mainly because it has nothing to do with the dreaded “c-word” that is on the lips of everyone right now. You can decide for yourself whether or not you think it’s a happy or a sad anecdote.

Back in November 2011, I was 39 years old. Bill was 47. We had decided to take our second cruise on SeaDream I in honor of our ninth wedding anniversary. It had been an eagerly anticipated vacation. In those days, we had little time or money for traveling, especially SeaDream style. SeaDream cruises are considered by many to be in the luxury category. They’re mostly all inclusive, with a heavy emphasis on good service and food, an open bar, and exotic locations. SeaDream cruises are mostly marketed to couples. There are no programs for children and, although families can and do sail with SeaDream, it’s really more of a romantic cruise.

This particular cruise was in the South Caribbean. It started in Antigua and ended a week later in Barbados. Our first SeaDream cruise had been in April 2010, starting in San Juan, Puerto Rico and ending in Charlotte Amalie in the U.S. Virgin Islands. I was excited about our second SeaDream cruise, because the first one had really bowled us over in a big way. This was also only our second time in the Caribbean together, so I looked forward to exploring new places.

Antigua is incredibly gorgeous! But my skin paid a price.

Before we got on the ship, Bill and I spent a couple of days in Antigua. Antigua has stunningly beautiful beaches, which I loved. It also has incredibly strong sunshine, which my pale skin doesn’t love. We spent one day on Segways and another on an “extreme” circumnavigation tour around the island, after which some of us jumped off the boat and swam in the deep blue water of the Caribbean Sea. Despite using a lot of strong sunscreen, I got a terrible sunburn complete with blisters.

Prior to our cruise, I had been posting on Cruise Critic. A man wrote that he would be joining us on our cruise and wanted advice on what to pack. I answered him, and once we got on the boat, we met him. I’ll call him “Dick” (obviously not his real name). He was from England, and told us that his wife had just died of breast cancer, so he was taking this trip alone. I initially felt a bit sorry for him, especially given that besides a large family group led by an overbearing guy with a mustache that resembled a gigantic brown caterpillar, this cruise mostly consisted of couples.

Our anniversary cruise got off to a good start. We saw some familiar faces from the last time we sailed with SeaDream. The weather was great, and SeaDream’s two identical vessels seem custom made for the Caribbean. Bill and I befriended a couple of other British couples. There was also a group of friendly Norwegians whom I thought were great fun, although Dick didn’t like them at all. He repeatedly complained about them being loud and obnoxious. I liked the Norwegians, though. They were gregarious and nice, and not at all snobby, unlike the large group of Brazilians who were on our first SeaDream cruise. I remember one of the bartenders on SeaDream had complained about the Brazilians, because they stayed up all night, got very drunk, and basically took over the cruise with their antics.

Over the course of a few days talking to Dick, he told us a bit about himself. He was fairly good looking and obviously had a good job that paid enough that he could afford SeaDream. I remember Dick had very intense blue eyes and silver hair. Though he was a bit paunchy, he carried it well and probably didn’t have much trouble meeting women. He was also kind of witty, intelligent, and charming, if not somewhat cocky and rude.

As an example of his rudeness, Dick actually wondered out loud how it was that Bill and I could afford to be on SeaDream, since Bill was at that time still in the Army. He also called his wife a “cow” for “dying on him.” I heard him make other comments that indicated that he had certain standards when it came to his women. I didn’t take his comments seriously, because I am already married to a great guy and not looking to impress anyone else. Still, I was kind of shocked that Dick claimed to be mourning his dead wife, yet he repeatedly called her a cow because she’d had the gall to get very sick with cancer and die. In retrospect, that should have been a clue that we should have stayed away from him.

One thing I hadn’t done during our first SeaDream cruise was visit the piano bar. Instead, I participated in a horrible karaoke session led by a guitar player who wasn’t very enthusiastic about the job. I was pretty much the only person who sang. I ended up meeting some great people after that show, but I was grateful that they didn’t offer karaoke on our second cruise. It was legitimately terrible, with few songs to choose from; those that were offered were of poor quality. The experience was not made any better by the reluctant guitar player, who clearly would have preferred playing his instrument to spinning badly produced pre-recorded tracks for shy cruisers.

As I discovered on our second and third cruises, it was far better to go to the piano bar, where a friendly Filipino pianist named George would play music and sing. The bartender would bring out non-stop drinks and people would lose their inhibitions and join in on old pop songs. It was a lot of fun.

On the first night of the cruise, Bill and I went into the piano bar just after dinner. We were the only ones in there, mainly because no one else had yet discovered it. I was feeling a little shy, but decided to sing a song for my husband, who had generously paid for our anniversary trip from his meager Army officer’s salary. As I was singing to Bill, Dick happened to be passing. He walked into the bar, eyes widened in surprise and mouth agape. Then he looked at Bill and said,

“Now I can see why you’d love her.”

I must have looked shocked, hurt, and upset, because Dick then grabbed me in an awkward, sweaty, and somewhat unwelcome hug and said, “Oh, I’m sorry.” The hug made the situation worse because Dick had gone from a backhanded compliment to pity. He had been drinking, so his inhibitions were lowered. It was a bit embarrassing, but at least we were the only ones who witnessed it besides George, the pianist.

It turned out that Dick was himself not a bad singer. He joined us, and pretty soon, other people came in and sang along, including the rowdy group of Norwegians. The Norwegians took a liking to me and chatted up Bill as they took pictures and videos of me singing. Unbeknownst to me, the Norwegians took pictures of me with my camera. I was kind of mortified by my appearance. I looked pretty terrible. My skin was red and blistered from the sunburn. I was wearing a casual dress that was lightweight, but not particularly stylish. I’m also fat, especially by SeaDream trophy wife standards, and I don’t photograph well under the best of circumstances. The damp Caribbean weather had made my hair a frizzy mess that defied styling. But we still had a really good time, despite Dick’s rude comment that let me know how he really felt about me.

At an earlier time, I might have been horrified by Dick’s comment and the unflattering pictures taken by the Norwegians with my camera without my permission. But then I took a good look at Bill’s face in those photos…

Despite looking like a middle-aged frump, I ended up becoming somewhat of a “star” during that cruise, which was kind of a thrill! We enjoyed a few fun evenings in the piano bar, although I made a point of not going in there every night. Later on during that cruise, Dick got pissed off at the Norwegians and actually challenged one of them to “step outside”, which no doubt would have resulted in someone being kicked off the cruise. This was after he and another passenger, spotting a bar that was unattended, snuck behind it and helped themselves to bourbon. Granted, the booze was mostly covered by the fare anyway, but helping oneself is a no no.

At the time all of this was happening, I kind of excused Dick for his dickish behavior. I figured he was distraught and grieving, and maybe it was hard for him to be on a ship full of couples and a couple of rowdy groups. Now, after thinking about it, I just think he was a narcissistic prick, and I wish I had just told him to fuck off. It later occurred to me that I may not be the type of woman this man “fancies”, but that doesn’t really matter.  In my eyes, Bill is a much better “catch” all the way around than that drunken asshole is.  I’m not sure why he felt his opinions about my looks were really important, anyway. He’s not married to me, and thank GOD for that. Besides, there’s no reason for anyone to pity me. I live an enviable life with a man who honestly loves me for who I am, and not just for what I look like and how I can make him look standing by his side.

On a different cruise with nicer people and no sunburn… Although unfortunately, hours later, I was flattened by a stomach bug, which probably made me look as bad as I did with the blistering sunburn.

Unfortunately, the world is rife with self-absorbed jerks who think nothing of subjecting innocent people to their boorish behavior.  Too many people care what assholes think about them and they allow these shallow fucks the power to alter their moods.  I admit it.  It offends me when people say stupid, hurtful things to me.  As I age, I’m trying to get better at not caring.  

If you aren’t comfortable with yourself, you can send out signals that others shouldn’t be comfortable with you, either.  I really think that’s the root of the issue.  If you don’t love and accept yourself as you are, it’s hard to expect others to love and accept you.  But still, I get why it’s hurtful and depressing to have no control over some aspect of your appearance and have other people make unkind remarks that insinuate that you should care about what they think.  Many of us are conditioned from birth to care what others think of us, which makes thoughtless and rude comments about appearance brutal to hear.

Years later, he still loves me. This year, we will celebrate our 18th anniversary.

It can take time before you can see a person’s inner beauty. Someone whose looks are average or below average may have attractive qualities that don’t immediately meet the eye.  How will you know if the sunburned heavyset lady with the weird hair has a pretty singing voice and a wicked sense of humor if you never deign to speak to her? Incidentally, I’m still not a raving beauty, but there have been times since that trip that I’ve looked a lot prettier than I did on the night Dick insulted me. Not being sunburned, letting my hair go natural, and not being in a humid place really helps. See?

That’s for you, Dick…

There’s a lot more to people than their appearances. Sure, a pretty face and perfect body are attractive, but what if that good looking person is a mean-spirited creep or a self-absorbed bore? Maybe it’s lucky that I met Bill online and he got to *see* my personality before he saw what I look like.  On the other hand, on my ugliest day, I’m still way more beautiful to him than his ex wife was.  And my beauty compared to hers has nothing at all to do with physical looks, but rather with how I treat other people, Bill in particular. We get along beautifully because we like each other, laugh at the same jokes, cooperate in each other’s successes and support each other in our failures. What’s most important is that we truly love each other– the whole package– even when we’re fat, unstylish, sunburned, and have weird, frizzy hair that defies taming. Or, in Bill’s case right now, hair that has been cut three times by his wife, who isn’t a skilled barber…

These Norwegian guys were a lot of fun, though… And I’m glad they were sensible enough not to get into a brawl with “Dick”…

Anyway, I don’t know what happened to Dick. I hope he found himself the woman he truly deserves…

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