September 11, 2011 – Day 2 was our first full day at sea, drifting down the eastern coast of Spain as we headed toward our first port of call in Gibraltar.
Getting into a routine
By now, my overwrought anxiety about passive-aggressive parents and mass murdering children had dissipated somewhat and I was acting like a normal well-adjusted adult again. For the days we spent at sea, I developed a standard routine of: breakfast, steaming myself in the sauna, obligatory social/cultural activity, lunch, drink and tan at the pool, nap, dinner and finally bed. I was never much of a theatre going person so for the most part, I skipped the dinner shows unless I was peer pressured into going or had some other legitimate reason.
For the first of my obligatory social activities, I decided to go to dance class because I’m still trying to convince myself that I have an undiscovered dancing talent akin to that of Baby’s in ‘Dirty Dancing’. As you would expect for a dancing class though, there wasn’t an even number of ladies and gents and the ladies far outnumbered the men. This of course meant that some ladies would be awkwardly paired together and naturally I was one of those lucky ladies. Thankfully though, my dancing partner was on the same page of awkwardness as I was. We introduced ourselves and shook hands in that ridiculous way that men do when they’re trying to reassert their masculinity after being caught in a compromising position. We also refused to make eye contact, instead fixating our stares on the perfectly toned bum of the gay dance instructor, and thinking that even dancing with him would be better than this awkward mess of ‘Who’s turn is it to be the guy now?’ dance. This is one of those moments where no matter how hard you try not to be cynical, you still find yourself making unflattering faces at all of the happy couples around you.
Lunch, however, was a nice shift in gears, which was surprising since I decided to join the singles’ lunch to meet other headcases such as myself who dared to go on a Ship Mickey by themselves. I was expecting the awkward train to keep rolling, but lunch went really well for the most part. It was a nice mix of Disney employees on vacation, moms traveling alone with their kids, retirees, etc. The only annoying part about this social event was the arrival of the Disney fluffing crew about 15 minutes after we started eating. For some reason that is beyond my comprehension, a couple members of the Disney entertainment crew were sent to join us for lunch which would’ve been fine if they didn’t make us all restate our life stories after we had already introduced ourselves and then engage us in silly ice breakers. Atypical travelers for this cruise we were, but I didn’t think that traveling alone made us all so socially inept that we couldn’t engage in conversation without the magic of Disney. Needless to say, I scratched out the “Singles” happy hour event for later that day and it turned out to be the right move.
After spending 3 years in Dutch culture where the idea of customer service is nonexistent, I think I suffered a reverse culture shock from being thrust so quickly back into the world of ‘American over-the-top, bend-over-backwards’ standards for customer service. I’ve done my bidding in customer service over the years so I knew how the whole machine worked. You smile and kiss the asses of people you normally would want nothing to do with simply because you’re trying to make a living. It’s not mean spirited by any means, but the whole sincerity piece has an obvious conflict of interest when one is working for tips. This never used to bother me but given that I was now in a situation where I saw the crew members as my peers and was banking on them to fulfill my daily needs of friendship, this idea of sincerity was starting pester me. The main concern here was that I would be interacting with these people for two weeks straight, which for me is enough time for to become fond of someone. Knowing this and considering that my potential new best friends were “pretend laughing” at my stories because it was their job to do so was rather depressing.
Now that I’ve set up my frame of mind in regards to relations with the crew members, let’s discuss my first awkward social situation. After lunch, I spent the rest of the afternoon poolside and it was here when I realized I was becoming a little too paranoid about the whole insincere bartender persona. About 20 minutes into my daily session of soaking up a daily dose of Vitamin D, I heard the expected offer of a drink. However, when I looked up, instead of seeing a smiling server with the standard conservative Disney attire, there was a rather agreeable Australian man in James Bond-esque swimwear. I was so confused and now suspicious, I opted to interrogate this gentleman about his drink of choice before cautiously requesting a beer. He left after responding with, “Oh I’m just going to have a Diet Coke because I have to go to rehearsal in an hour.” Right. Now my mind was running a new slug of scenarios with this new “rehearsal” information. Before he had come back with the solicited drinks, I had convinced myself that he was a member of the Disney fluffing crew who were ‘encouraged’ by the Mouse to socialize with lonely women traveling alone to make sure they were enjoying themselves. Fast forward half an hour and it turned out that Hugh Jackman’s twin brother was actually an opera singer from London performing in that evening’s show and had actually thought that I was working for Disney, specifically that I was one of the dancers – oh how I love irony. I guess those awkward dance lessons were already paying off.
After a half hour of civilized conversation, I had my first legitimate excuse to go to one of the dinner shows and a date for drinks after dinner. We met at the piano bar and drank and laughed our way through what turned out to be a perfectly normal evening devoid of any mischievous Disney operatives. Sadly though, this was to be a transient friendship as opera man had to head back to London when the ship arrived in Gibraltar. To that end, we exchanged contact information and well wishes on future endeavors. As I walked back to my stateroom this evening my thought of the day was that I’ve truly set a new standard for self-defeating acts after getting paranoid about a handsome man hitting on me. The message here was clearly that I still had some lightening up to do. I also resolved to be more open-minded in regards to the intentions of the crew members. Suffice it to say, I actually still keep in touch with some of the crew, opera man included.
The Disney Files
- Day 1 – Introduction & Barcelona
- Day 3 – Gibraltar
- Day 4 – At Sea
- Day 5 – Funchal, Madeira
- Day 6 – At Sea
- Day 7 – At Sea
- Days 8,9,10 – At Sea
- Day 11 – St. Maarten
- Day 12 – Tortola
- Days 13, 14 – Last Day at Sea & Castaway Cay
- Day 15 – The End