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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

I bought this book last Tuesday for $2.99 from the bargain section of some bookshop in Mesquite. It's called 'How to Refuse to Make Yourself Miserable About Anything - Yes, Anything', by Dr Albert Ellis PhD, and promises to "annihilate your feelings of anxiety, despair & hostility" in less than 200 pages. It's a kind of 'Just Say No' book for the fed up.

Which is all very well of course, but Dr Ellis has clearly never been on a four-day cruise to Cozumel. Even Bert at his most cheery would have been slitting his wrists by the end of the first day.

Not that it started badly. We had a pleasant five hour drive to Galveston last Thusday morning, stopping in Dallas to pick up S, younger sister of J (they're a family of initials), who we met last Sunday. S had kindly agreed to share Big Sis's ocean-view cabin in return for doing most of the driving. Having arrived at the south Texas coast, we were greeted by the Royal Caribbean check-in desk staff, who had never seen a British passport before, and spent an enjoyable few minutes flicking through it and saying "Oooh, it's like a rainbow!", before asking if England comes under Ireland or the UK. Naturally we were holding up the line by this point, so taking a quick look at the long queue of impatient holidaymakers behind us, they immediately got out the wedding photos. Apparently I'm the spitting image of one of the women's sons, and she just had to prove it to me.

A leisurely flick through a stranger's family album, and we were eventually allowed to board the Splendour of the Seas, where we were handed small cups of blue liquid by a man in a Hawaiian shirt. I wasn't sure whether to drink it or swill it around my mouth and spit it overboard, but in the end I downed it in one and hoped for the best. I still have no idea what it was.

From there it was on to our cabin. Or the windowless broom cupboard it was clearly designed to be. Having discovered that the beds were basically two bits of hardboard with blankets, and that the cold tap only ever produced warm water, I looked for the kind of tea & coffee making facilities you find in all cheap B&Bs. This was a luxury all-you-can-eat cruise, so naturally there were none whatsoever, but in their place were two bottles of water and some cans of Coke on the dressing table. So I helped myself to one of those...

... only to be told that when they say you can eat and drink as much as you like, they're thinking more of the warm tap water and complimentary pretzels. Anything out of a bottle is extra. So I'd racked up a bill of $2 within minutes of boarding.

Things improved however, when I discovered the free frozen yoghurt machine on deck nine, so by 7pm I was feeling better (and fuller), and headed for the 'Welcome Aboard Show' featuring comedian David Orion, who in addition to being Jerry Seinfeld's warm-up man, is also apparently "one of the most sought after acts on the corporate and faith-based entertainment circuits". So he's big with businessmen and Christians. I may not be that religious, but I'm reasonably good with money, so I quite enjoyed it.

The highlight of the evening though, was undoubtedly the main meal in the King & I Dining Room. We'd been assigned to Table 39 for the week, and having been led through the dining room past tables for two, and numerous tables for four, we eventually arrived at our designated table - a table for ten. Where six Americans were already waiting for us.

Now, I love Americans as much as the next man, and I'm not unsociable by nature, but being stuck around a table with six strangers for two hours every night, being asked where I come from, what I do, and what I think of pastry swans, is pretty much my idea of a living hell.

Still, the waiters did their best to improve things by bringing us the wrong wine, then trying to charge us $38 for the privilege, then expecting a tip when they eventually got it right. The food meanwhile was quite posh. Well it came in small portions anyway. I basically received a slice of quiche, a small bit of cod, and some pieces of apple, while Lisa ordered the chocolate dessert, only to be presented with a pot of white chocolate... which she can't stand. The menu obviously felt it wasn't worth mentioning.

By the end I was considering launching one of the lifeboats and heading back to Texas, but hey, this was only the first day. Things could get a lot worse...


Phil said...

Lisa It really could've been worse - 39 could have referred to the number of people.

And I did like the look of the pastry swan. I should've stuck my neck out and ordered it.

14 February 2006, 19:46:47Phil's Mum
Perhaps the blue liquid was some kind of anaesthetic so you could sleep through the whole experience, but they were too mean to give you enough to knock you out!14 February 2006, 21:11:45