by | Aug 8, 2004 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

Ijust returned from a week on a cruise ship, or, as we sailors like to refer to it, “Morrison’s Cafeteria.”

For anyone contemplating such a trip, remember to take all the pills you will need at sea, namely, Tums, Pepto-Bismol and Ex-Lax. Dramamine? Dramamine is for extreme motion sickness. Unless you consider lifting forks to your mouth extreme motion, you won’t need it.

On the other hand, you will need shoulder pads — to handle the other passengers constantly slamming into you. This happens for several reasons.

1) The average cruise ship hallway is five inches wide.

2) The average cruise ship passenger is five feet wide.

3) Things often happen on cruise ships that cause passengers to lose control, such as a fresh plate of brownies, or someone yelling, “Look, a whale!”

Of course, on a cruise ship, someone yelling, “Look, a whale!” is liable only to draw an ugly glare. But sometimes there really are whales! And everyone rushes to the windows, carrying their plates of roast beef, pork chops, potato salad, creamed corn, apple cobbler and French eclairs to catch a glimpse of an animal that eats only fish and guys named Jonah.

Naturally, by that point, the whale has submerged. He’s probably afraid of being eaten.

Know your ship terminology

Cruise ship taking — or “cruising” as those white-haired veterans with little gold cards call it — has grown quite popular with travelers who are wary of flying. This makes perfect sense (Titanic) since nothing bad (Andrea Doria) ever happens at sea (Exxon Valdez).

Besides, on a cruise, you have to get your luggage only once, up to your cabin, and never deal with it again. That’s because you can’t fit in your cabin once your bags are inside.

This leaves no alternative but to explore the ship, which is broken down by decks with cute, island-style names, such as “Aloha” (translation: “two floors from the buffet”) or “Baja” (“if we sink, you’re last in the lifeboats”). There is also the entertainment deck that features a dark nightclub, a dark theater and a dark casino. Basically, it’s Las Vegas with lower ceilings.

But all this is extraneous to the real reason people cruise to exotic, faraway places, namely, to eat until they throw up. There are, by my count, seven different feeding times at the cruise ship trough: breakfast, late breakfast, lunch, late lunch, dinner, midnight snack, and “oh, what the hell.” That last one covers all the times you can’t find anything else to do, and you wind up back at the buffet with yet another plate of lasagna, your head sinking low like those broken Frenchmen in the start of “Les Miserables.” (Look down, look down, you’re standing in your sauce . . .)

But wait. A sound breaks the monotony. It’s the loudspeaker voice of a crew member, telling you that a glacier is visible on the “starboard” side. Of course, since nobody knows which side is “starboard,” passengers race in both directions, slamming into each other and crashing their plates, while the laughing crew whispers, “Do it again! Tell them it’s the stern!”

Das boat? You betcha!

Did I mention the day trips? Yes, sometimes you actually get off the ship. We did it once, to go kayaking. Why we got off one boat to get into another is beyond me. Too much cobbler, I suppose.

Anyhow, these day trips are organized by the cruise lines as part of their “complete, all-inclusive pricing” that includes everything except, for some reason, soft drinks, for which you can pay $15 for a plastic refillable Coke cup, which, naturally, your kids lose on the first day and every day thereafter, forcing you to buy a dozen of them. Also photos. Yes. There are photographers snapping your picture everywhere, then posting them on the “Lido” deck (translation: “blackmail”), thus forcing you to buy them for $19.95 before someone sees them and yells, “Look, a whale!”

By the way, you may ask where I went on my cruise. I remember something about “Alaska.” Then again, that may have been the dessert.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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