Have you ever taken a cruise? You’d think our friend, fiction writer Linda Myers who lives on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, would have no particular urge to get out on the water. But apparently this baby boomer is an old salt, and her account of the lifeboat drill on her cruise ship is no fiction!
I have taken dozens of cruises through the years, observing how the experience has changed to accommodate more people with less luxury. The towel animals aren’t quite what they used to be… and if a baby boomer like me has learned nothing else in her life, she does now know that the shellfish on your plate is not likely a lobster. Nonetheless, I still love the ships and the journeys. In fact, there is really only one part of the cruise experience I loath: the lifeboat drill.
This is a particularly arduous event that happens just before your ship leaves its embarkation port. You are already at the bottom of your resources, having battled with the airline that lost your luggage even though they charged you for it, then having stood on the dock for two hours, then having been assigned to the wrong dinner seating, and then having learned that your shoes no longer fit very well when the heat exceeds 102-degrees. You are certain you have already contracted, well, if not ebola, then at least a Norovirus.
Sure, the life boat drill is the law. The captain swears that during an emergency, the crew will be there to save your butt (versus their own). The rest of the passengers will maintain an orderly presence during a fire at sea or an iceberg collision or a nasty bout with that wonderful Caribbean rum called Kraken.
Uh-huh. You’ve just seen how everyone behaved when someone took cuts in line out on the dock.
The drill begins almost before you have finished that first mango tango or found your way around the 179 square feet of your stateroom. You are expected to locate your muster station. If you think you can hide in your shower or on your balcony, give it up. That nice steward who greeted you like a long lost friend is a stoolie.
As you amble down to the muster deck, you find it a novel experience to be unable to see your feet on the stairs. If you are a lady of sturdy proportions, your life vest will stick virtually straight out over your chest, leaving no room for your extra chin. It isn’t known as a Mae West for nothing.
If you are lucky and your ship has a cavalier captain, you may only have to go sit in the casino and watch a demonstration on how to don the life vest that you have already donned. If your captain is a despot, you will be shepherded out onto the deck, jammed against all those strangers, and forced to stare at the itty-bitty lifeboat that is supposed to save your soul.
When the drill is over, you are asked to leave in an orderly fashion. Two thousand people are now ripping off vests as though they were infested with lice. You execute a spritely version of a clog dance to avoid stepping on the straps as you clamber back to your cabin. Here you collapse on your bed hoping your luggage will arrive before the ship departs. But don’t think you’ll get to stay there for long.
Dinner is served.