J u l y   2 0 0 4

Aural Report

Barreling north on Puget Sound
Living in the lap of luxury liners (part 1)
by Kurt Dahlke

uxury ocean liners haven't reached their apex by a long shot, but in terms of novelty, they represent one of the pinnacles of human thinking: Hey Joe, why don't we take one of them Vegas hotels and float it on the ocean?

Punch-drunk and partying: a week in an 11-story ocean liner.

Why not? Sure it's a little weird being waited on hand and foot by indefatigably cheery Indonesians and Filipinos, but there's always booze and gambling to take your mind off of it. And no matter how you feel about your new status as an early 20th-century British plantation owner, you soon get real used to it: "I'll have the escargot, filet mignon and lobster tail, please."

Day One: Waiting in long lines in a warehouse, filling out forms with shaking, caffeine-ravaged hands, and more waiting.

Eventually our punch-drunk line sallies up to the 11-story luxury hotel that will be our home for the next week. We find our party on the Lido Deck (Lido is an island reef in the Northeastern region of Italy, on which a resort town of the same name exists) and start ordering drinks from Ramil, a man who seems already to know our names.

The food is included in the price of a ticket, drinks are not (including sodas, so you teetotalers are out of luck) and I'm sure the forklifts we watch them use to load pallet after pallet of grub onboard are used to off-load an equal number of pregnant Visa receipts. Nonetheless, once on the high seas, all bets are off and we seem to require a drink in our hands.

A sheer peach and blue evening: barreling north on Puget Sound.

It's a sheer peach and blue evening, and we're barreling north on Puget Sound, reviewing our daily circular of ship and shore activities.

What's this? We spy a notice of DJ Jazzy Jeff spinning the hits nightly in the Northern Lights Lounge and think: Damn, I guess we know who lucked out in that late '80s hip-hop partnership!

But after scampering to the dark-and-cheesy disco (the lights in the Disney-style entry tunnel blink on and off as we pass), we find a man who (no offense) no amount of drinks will change into the real Jazzy.

But guess what – Jazzy, personable to a fault, buys us a round nearly every night and, if we'd ever gotten off our asses and danced, we might have done even better. Regardless, I grace Jazzy's karaoke proceedings a night later with my stellar version of "Under the Bridge" (complete with heroin injection pantomime, which my wife and many of the other patrons did not appreciate). Hopefully, this will salvage some of my cruiser credibility, if only in Jazzy's eyes.

A sea of loony entertainment: The lounges provide bingo by day, disco and Vegas-style revues by night.

Day Two: At sea, at sea, in a sea of loony entertainment.

Even miles from land, things are tightly scheduled, with plenty to do besides constant eating. As night rolls in (later and later as we head north) we gently roll our sea-legs toward the huge Vista Lounge, a Vegas-styled theater that keeps useful as bingo parlor, etc., in the daytime.

Tonight a group of healthy youngsters my brother calls "The Wigs" (for the horrifying hair-part of their costumes) puts on a show called "Rockin' Road."

While the ship is oh-so-gently rockin', The Wigs present their "if-this-van's-rockin'-don't-come-a-knockin'-style revue, complete with more strip-club moves in 45 minutes than in an entire night at the Kit Kat Club. As vaguely Western tunes ("Born To Be Wild"? "A Little Less Conversation"?) are crammed together with Vaseline-smile urgency and, dare I say it, stupidity, we're assaulted with endless hip-thrusts.

Keeping time: the possibilities of an 85,000-ton vessel.

We give up in sweaty despair as a group of tight-jeans-wearing swains dry-hump pseudo horses made from large pieces of wood. If gay pornography is the model, they're doing things right. Sadly (or sagely, on the part of the producers) any reproduction of the performance is protected by international copyright laws, so I can't show you any pictures.

But if Vegas-style revues aren't your thing, there's much more fun and plenty more notes afloat in the icy Northern Pacific ocean, and next month we'll find out if it's possible to keep time while an 85,000-ton vessel rocks on 12-foot swells.

E-mail Kurt at orangeandorange@msn.com, and don't miss his previous reports.

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