Into the Night

This entry is part 6 of 20 in the series Cruising with Teens

We held our collective breath as the unsuspecting cruisers joined us. We had already met Albert, our waiter for the duration, and Geri, his able assistant. Albert rushed to meet and seat the latest arrivals.

The four appeared to know each other well, and I correctly surmised that they were traveling together. One of the men looked us over with striking, piercing eyes. Oh, oh. He turned to Dan and asked, “Where’s the wine. Are you buying the wine?”

This was Kent, and he led the introductions — wife Nickie, and their friends Betsy & David. In a sudden rush of activity, napkins, menus and conversations started flying around the table. Kent immediately engaged the boys in an exchange that I could not hear, but the smiles and laughter told me all I needed to know.

We were in for a treat.

It was quickly apparent that this table would be doing brisk business with the sommelier, a young lady whose name and nationality I did not catch. Kent impatiently goaded David into ordering, and David looked very content as he sat back with the wine list and considered the possibilities. I did the same, selecting from the section labeled “For Cheapskates”.

Our tablemates were veteran cruisers, and had been on the Millennium during her inaugural year. Hailing from Virginia Beach, this was their fourth cruise as a group – actually they may qualify as a gang.

Kent is a retired Navy pilot — A4’s and F4’s. Nickie retired from nursing on the condition that Kent take her on a cruise. His initial refusal to pay for the experience of being on a large ship was borne from his time aboard aircraft carriers, but Nickie was ultimately victorious and Kent was quickly hooked. They’ve cruised every year since – 14 in total.

Betsy is an entrepreneur, outgoing and enthusiastic about everything. She runs a gift boutique in Virginia Beach and on-line (http://pleaseandthankyou.com/) specializing in corporate gifts, gourmet treats, wine and more. David is a veterinarian specializing in small and exotic animals. This was their sixth cruise.

We exchanged stories of all sorts. I conveyed tales of CruiseCritic and our own cruising history. The topic of dining at the Captain’s table came up. I commented that I expected this to be the first cruise where I didn’t dine there. Somewhat to my surprise, our tablemates had never experienced it. That simply wouldn’t do…

Dinner came and went, and the wine flowed freely. I did inform Wells and Dan that wine was meant to be sipped, not guzzled. I don’t have any idea what I ate, being more intent on studying the eating habits of the boys. The specifics are lost, but both were surprisingly adventurous. Wells refuses to eat anything containing onions at home, but I can assure everyone that he ate onions and many other exotic foods with pleasure while on the Millennium. I ordered two desserts, and Wells followed suit. He was just warming up…

The atmosphere at the table was decidedly homey and fun. By the time we rose to leave, the restaurant had emptied. Most of the waiters had completed their clean up and the tables were set for the next day.

Albert and Geri stood patiently to the side. It was their turn to get stuck with the slow pokes – probably the worst thing next to poor tippers…

Kris and I did not have plans for the evening. We were too tired to make it through a show, which was fine since it was too late to get into the theater anyway. We strolled through the ship with the boys. They seemed to know their way around pretty well already, while Kris and I were seeing it for the first time. We ducked outside for some sea air and to watch the bow wake rush by. It was a beautiful night.

Kris started pointing out constellations — the science teacher in her never sleeps. Just the four of us stood out there, and it was slightly surreal. Eighteen hours earlier, we were navigating icy streets in a place that wouldn’t see temperatures this warm until June.

“…and there’s Orion’s belt.” Kris’s reference immediately triggered a cinematic image in my mind, from the movie Men in Black. I started to visualize a little video project…

The boys sensed an opportunity to slip away.

“We’re just gonna go look around for a while,” said Wells.

Dan jumped in. “Yeah. I might go lie down. I had too much to eat. Do they always give you that much?”

“You’ll get used to it,” I said.

Kris asked, “Should we give you a wake up call?”

The boys looked at each other and shrugged.

“The room is going to be pitch black,” Kris continued. “You don’t want to sleep all day, do you?”

“Here we go again,” I thought to myself. Never allow children the opportunity to give you an answer you don’t want to hear.

“Of course they want to sleep all day,” I said aloud. “We’ll call you at 10:30 if we don’t see you before that. We didn’t take this trip to catch up on our sleep. Tomorrow is a sea day, and there will be lots to do.”

“How about 11:00?” asked Wells.

“10:15.” They took off before it got worse.

With half the class dismissed, Kris abandoned the lecture. We entered the ship, and she headed for the stairs. “Pssst. We’re relaxing this time,” I said while redirecting her to the elevator. “I’m only taking the stairs down on this cruise.”

Back in 8106, Kris made a beeline for bed. She was asleep in seconds. She didn’t even take time to move the chocolate off her pillow – just brushed it aside.

Not quite ready to give in, I propped my eyes open and decided to try out the computer. It occupied a desk that was built in to the wall in the seating area. The 17” LCD monitor came to life when I pulled out the keyboard drawer.

The login screen wanted to know my username. I have to carry an electronic organizer just to keep track of all the usernames and passwords I have amassed during the last ten years. I supposed that none of them would do me any good in this situation, so I started rifling through the pile of papers that had built up since our arrival.

The only item I found about logging into the ship’s computers said that all one needed to do was swipe their card through the slot on the side of the monitor. I felt around the edges of the screen — nothing. I found my reading glasses and a little flashlight, and conducted a careful examination of all exposed surfaces on the monitor and the keyboard. No slot anywhere.

I finally just started typing things into the username and password boxes. Although my choices seemed logical (username/password, lastname/firstname, firstname/lastname, lastname/room number, room number/middle initial, rumplestiltskin/abracadabra), the computer rejected everything I tried. “Invalid username.”

When it comes to computers, I never give in. No computer has ever made a fool of me and lived to tell about it. This one belonged to me for a whole week, and I would tame it. My first idea was to take the thing apart and trigger the ‘back door’ entrance. My eyes followed the wiring from the monitor to the point where it entered a cabinet through a hole in the desk surface. The cabinet was locked. So much for that idea…

In an inspired moment, I typed my legal first and last names all together in one_long_mess_of_lowercase_characters, left the password box completely empty and hit the return button with a slight inward twist of the wrist while clenching my jaw and crossing my toes.

It worked. The computer responded. “Welcome Mr. X. Please enter a password.”

Ahhhh! I don’t know the stupid password! Nobody told me!

Out of frustration my fingers wildly typed a random set of characters and hit the return key. I rose abruptly, not sure whether to go out for two drinks or three — or just go to bed.

The computer responded again. “Thank you Mr. X. Please remember your password and use it during the remainder of your cruise.”

I had no idea what I typed in for a password. However, I was ‘in’, so I calmed myself and sat back down.

I sent a couple of important emails relating to the trip, read my junkmail and checked CruiseCritic before deciding that I wasn’t missing much from the real world – at least nothing worth 75 cents a minute. Going to bed was a much better idea – not significantly less expensive, but I had already paid for the privilege.

After brushing my teeth, I climbed into bed next to Kris. She looked extremely content, and had managed to wrap herself in all of the available sheets and blankets. One of the four pillows had somehow escaped her grasp. Her chocolate had tumbled into my territory, so I ate it. Luckily for Kris I wasn’t very hungry. I took the chocolate off of my pillow and put it on the nightstand next to her. I clicked off the light and flopped on my back, exhausted.

You should brush you teeth again. You’ll have dentures like your father if you aren’t careful.

Live dangerously – this is vacation.

Those boys better not be getting into any trouble.

They’re fine. Relax. You are getting sleepy…

For the first time in 42 hours, I slept.

It was pitch black in the room when something half woke me. The ship was making sounds and vibrations like we were coming into port.

What’s going on? We’re not supposed to stop anywhere yet.

Maybe you’re dreaming. Go back to sleep.

The next time I woke it was still pitch black, but I sensed it was time to get up. I found my watch and my glasses – 9:30. I fumbled my way out to the living room and struggled with the two layers of draperies to reveal a brilliantly sunny day.

Kris emerged from the bedroom moments later, wrapped in a Celebrity bathrobe. They weigh about 10 pounds – too much for me, but Kris would happily wear two.

Something caught my bleary eye. A little red light was blinking on the phone. Kris saw what I was looking at.

“Oh no – the boys are in trouble,” she said.

“You think so?”

“What else would it be?”

“I don’t know — you must be right. What did they do? Couldn’t they wait ‘til the last night?”

“Let’s just deal with it.”

I lifted the receiver, pushed the button next to the flashing red light and waited for the bad news…

Next: Formal Charges


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