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Night of the Living Cruise Ship

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Dedicated to Roam About Dad

Conceptually, I just can’t get behind cruises. Maybe it’s because I was morbidly obsessed with Titanic (the actual ship) before Kate Winslet’s nips (no disrespect, I love me some Winsnips) graced the big screen. Maybe I’ve seen one-too-many Walmart x-mas riots to know a modern, expedited exodus off a hulking cruise ship with 4,000 + people is a logistical, frenzied nightmare.

It’s not traveling; it’s simply a floating Disneyworld/Vegas flavored shopping mall, with a casino and sleeping quarters, with Capt. RJ McDrunkensadd at the helm.

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I’m the person I am today mostly because of all the awesome journeys, and organic travel experiences I’m humbled to have been on. Massive Cruise Lines basically strip that opportunity from people, and leave a vacation bereft of authenticity.

Even if you’re bouncing port-to-port in some exotic, equator straddling locale, you’re shuffled off with 4,000+ other people to see areas set-up as tourist traps. Remember, in Blazing Saddles, when they built the fake replica town to trick Hedley Lamarr and his crew? Think about it; same damn thing as tourist traps, but all the tourists are Hedleys.

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It was really hard for me to conjure sympathy during the recent Poo-filled Carnival Cruise fiasco, when people—heaven forbid—didn’t have air-conditioning, couldn’t shower, slept on deck, wave-simulator turned off, and passengers had to wait in line for the buffet for an hour. Ahhhh! NOOOOO!

It’s called camping, people. But the lawyers will convince them otherwise….

That’s my rant, now here’s a heaping bowl of hypocrisy.

Family Va-OK-tion

Knowing the above, I had quite the conundrum in 2010, when Roam About Parents offered to take the family AND significant others on a Viking River Cruise down the Rhine, from Amsterdam to Basel Switzerland.

HUGE deal as:

1. R.A. Parents had never been outside of the US.

2. They are the most generous, caring, thoughtful (and fun) humans on the planet, and needed a brave Ambassador of Culture/unexceptional French translator. Oui, Moi.

3. It’s a river cruise through EUROPE!

My doubt lasted 5 seconds – you don’t say ‘No’ to a fucking gift trip to Europe. Ever.

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After two days adventuring in AMSTERDAM, hung-over, possibly stoned, trepidatiously boarding the watercraft, I’m relieved to find the ship isn’t a super-sized American Ocean liner combo, but a wee cruiser, shown above. Barely 100 rooms, 1 hallway per level @ 3 levels, a massive rooftop, with an iron flat pathway down the Rhine.

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A lovely sundial on deck.

The windows? Easily kicked out underwater, and one could swim to shore in case of a massive explosion, or a sudden zombie outbreak; or Buffet exhaustion.

If you’re familiar with Viking River Cruise, you know they advertise to Centrum Silver regimented outcasts from the movie Cocoon.

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Care for another glass of warm milk of magnesium, Mr and Mrs Wilford Brimley?

I don’t mean this derogatively or in a cynical manner; it is what it is – Viking markets to an older, wealthier crowd, and they are very, very successful at it. Roam About Dad read some good reviews in Conde Nast, so he booked the trip without knowing the extent of the geriatrics.

To give an age median here, Roam About Parents are mid-fifties (you’re welcome), they are the youngest ‘elders’ of the boat by at least twenty years. One positive: Because of the twilight age of the passengers, survival is highly probable in case of a fire.

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Photobomb Level: Dad

Opening night, shaky start. The six of us have drunk a bit of wine, laughing/having fun at the bar and the rooftop, getting friendly pours from the awesome Viking staff. The crew start playing ‘name that tune’ with the older folks, starting things off with ‘Let’s Dance’ by David Bowie.

After the song is halfway finished, an old woman yells, ‘Elton John!’

Another one queries,  ‘Johnny Mathis?’

An ancient British gent says, ‘That one guy. Oh, you know, the queer one!’

I laugh because it’s sad, slightly cute, and what are you going to do, reprimand a guy who fought in WWI for calling David Bowie ‘the queer one’?

We drink until 4am; the next afternoon is rough, as we chug down the Rhine. We all take a nap on the upper deck. One of the elder ladies walks by and says, “Oh these young kids can’t keep up with us older folks,” garnering cheers and laughter from her dentured peers. My sister, through a wicked hangover, and grit, original teeth, subtly threatens to throw her off the boat.

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My protege, Roam About Sis. She’s close, but needs to work on her beard.

Kinderdjik – Cologne – Koblenz – Rudesheim – Heidelberg – Speyer – Strasbourg – Colmar – Basel in 8 Days.

(Promise I won’t detail each city).

I’m not of the ‘tour group’ mentality, due to hand-me-down impatient genetics from Roam About parents. At each stop above, the staff was to herd us passengers to a bus, where we’d be driven into town, then shepherded to points-of-interest, following the hoisted Viking sign at an excruciatingly slow pace. After falling in line with the molasses pace, I immediately throw in the wildcard – we mutiny, and wing it.

I researched the cities before our trip, so I knew the general ‘must sees’ spots. The fam becomes a rogue faction; a more agile and tactile unit than our elder counterparts…and waaaaay more fun, like, oh I don’t know, crashing a wedding to use the bathroom, then stealing a flower from the centerpiece to use as an accessory.

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Oh boy, here come the Americans….

Schedule in hand, we spend the days exploring each beautiful towns, running into the older people at various locales hearing ‘Hey, can we join them?’

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The tour guides seem irked at first, but then grow privy to our plan-of-action. They tell us departure times, and just let us run free. Apparently this is a common thing on the boat, but we pretend we’re pioneers.

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TollHaus Cookie Factory

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This was probably the most fun I’ve ever had on vacation. Sure, we were married to a boat for 8 days, but damn if we didn’t make the best of it. We were adventurers—anti-tourists, and still made friends with the staff and passengers onboard. We explored each town in our own way at our own pace, using the ship as our cab in the morning, and designated driver at night.

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No Daft Punk

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Inspiration for Howl’s Moving Castle

Yes, I admit, I had a blast on a River cruise ship, surrounded by old people. But it’ll be a cold day in hell before you see me in the buffet line on an Ocean Liner, and that’s all I have to say about that. – Mike

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59 Comments Post a comment
  1. I couldn’t pull myself away from the telly for days while all those rich people were suffering so…no fifty dollar shrimp cups for how many days? A free trip to Europe would be enticement enough for me too.
    Later…

    February 19, 2013
    • I know, poor bastards. The shrimp spoiled, they had to eat lobster.
      Yeah, I couldn’t say no, and I caught my own shrimp, from the Rhine….at least I think it’s shrimp.
      Thanks, coyotero!

      February 19, 2013
  2. Love this!
    I too have never seen the joy in floating in a crampt space for so long, but this looks like a blast!
    Were you tapping into your inner Burt Reynolds in that last picture??? Teehee!

    February 19, 2013
    • Merci!
      Yeah, the River Cruise was awesome.
      Thank you for understanding my artistic vision. Burt Reynolds indeed!
      Thanks, Susie!

      February 19, 2013
  3. Agreed agreed agreed. Those things scare the holy bejeezus out of me. Floating island of death and salmonella? No thanks. But the Europe river cruise looks pretty freaking sweet.

    February 19, 2013
    • Exactly. Hahah! Floating island of death and salmonella is the best description.
      Yes. They actually have a renown chef doing up the meals, so, everything is cooked, and not simmering under a heat lamp or burner for hours.

      February 19, 2013
  4. E. #

    Haha thank you for sharing! My parents (also mid-fifties) are fairly experienced Euro travelers, but lately my mom has been thinking about a European river cruise as a convenient alternative to the minor hassle of moving from place to place each night. I’ll be sure to show her this post; hopefully it will give her some insight into the whole experience (and maybe she picks up on the idea of taking children and significant others along as well). Cheers!

    February 19, 2013
    • Hahaha that’s awesome.
      Just direct them right over to the Viking Cruise site. As much as I poke fun at the age thing, it really was a great time, and they take care of you. You should definitely imply a finders tax (aka ‘A take me with you’ tax)
      Thanks, E!

      February 19, 2013
      • E. #

        I will do that! I lived in Italy for long enough to know that an ocean/sea cruise is NOT the best way to see what that country has to offer, but it sounds like a river cruise would certainly be the way to go in Germany.

        February 22, 2013
      • Nice! How long have you lived in Italy? Where? If you don’t mind me asking.
        Great way to see Germany, BUT, I’ll have to go back to hit up Munich/Berlin/Neuberg…most of the meaty German places.

        February 22, 2013
      • Lived, past tense. Where DID you live?

        February 22, 2013
  5. The ladies that annoyed me the most were the ones who got off the ships and kissed the ground. Just for the cameras. It would have been just my luck that I would have had to eat with them if I was on that cruise. Then I would have kissed the ground to get away from them. My only hope is that those two were on the bus that broke down as it was taking some passengers to Houston.

    February 19, 2013
    • twl #

      like

      February 19, 2013
    • I agree with this comment so much. You nailed it, battle. Serious. At no point were they in danger of dying. They kissed the ground to get on camera, which is why I refused to post a pic of them. Can’t imagine sitting through a dinner with them.

      February 19, 2013
  6. twl #

    I worked on cruise ships for five years and it can be a lot of fun if you want to party. Its not a place to get away from it all unless you get a cabin with a great balcony and relax in your room. Room service is available and I’ve cruised as a pax and done just that. I received a call that there was a complimentary bottle of wine for me but since I hadn’t been to the dining room, they didn’t know where to send it. Five minutes later, I was enjoying it in my cabin. You can have a good time in port too if you’re not a complete moron. So many guests were so helpless that they couldn’t follow instructions to find the gangway. What bothered me most was the 24/7 news coverage of the Carnival ship. Leave it to CNN to blow it WAY out of proportion. I have been involved in a collision, a grounding, two fires, electrical malfunction and hurricanes and we made out fine. The problems arise from pax not following instruction and the loudmouth dumbass on every cruise who likes to stir shit up and fill others heads with lies. He’s usually the guy on his cell calling CNN. I’m more concerned with the lack of coverage for accidents that happen that only involve crew and how little media there is when that happens. Five crew members were killed practicing life boat drills and I didn’t hear about until 3 days after it happened. People without air conditioning is a national crisis and dead crew barely get a mention UNLESS it somehow disrupts someone’s vacation and then its forgotten.

    February 19, 2013
    • Interesting, TWL. Thanks so much for your take. I’ve had friends who worked as entertainers on cruiseships, and they seemed to have a fun time, but always got burned out, and disliked the passengers perpetually.

      Yeah, I absolutely loved the staff on the Cruise ship. Such nice, awesome people – horrific stories about the lifeboat deaths. That’s terrible.

      It’s kind of weird, because I don’t have tv, so i get all my news online, which i wonder which side of the story i’m getting at all times.

      Thanks, twl.

      February 19, 2013
  7. i hear you about cruise ships – floating death traps, hideous, claustrophobic shrines to excess – but that European river cruise? Gold. I would have gone in a flash too :)

    February 19, 2013
    • Sara,
      ‘Claustrophobic shrines to excess’ – this is amazing. You are a much better descriptive writer than I. Perfect. Three serving limit in the buffet line…

      Yeah, I’m a travel whore, no way I’m skipping a freebie. :)

      February 19, 2013
  8. Cruises can be a lot of fun with the right people, but it’s sad to see all the waste in the dining rooms as people fill there plates to excess

    February 19, 2013
    • Absolutely agree on both fronts. I can’t imagine the logistics of serving 4,000 people. I believe this is why Napoleon lost against the Russians. If only he knew the secrets behind feeding cruise passengers.

      Thanks, Mike!

      February 19, 2013
  9. What IS it with you and your posing??
    I am never EVER going on an ocean cruise. I have been considering a river cruise b/c Norwegian cruise lines advertises river cruises before Downton Abbey comes on. I would do that b/c I could swim if need be. What about the Mississippi River? I want to get all Tom and Huck so I probably need a raft.

    You have a very good looking family and I’m glad to know I’m almost old enough to be your mother.

    No, I’m fine, the uncontrollable weeping will stop soon.

    February 19, 2013
    • Hahaha. I do that a lot. I thought the roses/scene just really brought the color out of my hoodie.

      Oooo, I’ve been meaning to start watching Downton. It’s good, right?

      Mississippi is too big. No way Jose. Or jim. No way Jim or Tom or Huck.

      Awww thanks. Love my fam. My mom’s actually 117. She’s looking good.

      There there, sweet maggie!

      February 19, 2013
      • She is rocking 117! I feel a little better knowing she’s had work done. No wonder you were a hot male model with those amazing jeans….I mean genes.

        I need to write a post with your photos. hmmm….

        Downton is so good that I’m thinking about going back and watching all 3 seasons all over again!

        February 19, 2013
      • Yep, at 117, she rocked the original skinny genes, er, jeans.

        oh lord…

        I heard that show is all explosions, and gore. True? kidding. Definitely want to start watching.

        February 19, 2013
  10. free penny press #

    I went on one cruise to Mexico and you can bet it’s my last.. Hell, I was bored after the first hangover cleared up..The “entertainment” aka: tacky floor shows almost had me jumping overboard.. Nope, I’m a hit the road sort of traveler..No where to run to if it gets boo out there in the waters..

    February 19, 2013
    • Curious, where did you go in Mexico?

      I can imagine – you and I are birds of a feather, especially when it comes to traveling. I would probably end my life, or try to find illegal drugs to deal with the kitschy stuff. Do you ever just get the urge to hop in the car and get away?

      Thanks, Penny!

      February 19, 2013
      • free penny press #

        We went to Cozumel.. don’t even google it.. the highlight of the trip was going to a small town that had a donkey.. serious..that was the high point..if you ever hear of me booking a cruise, please call the men in white jackets for it’s time for the afternoon pill..lol
        ps- all the time.. i would love to take 30 days and just go, blog & picture about it and all the cool folks one could meet along the way..bucket list item I think!!

        February 19, 2013
      • LOL! I know Cozumel, well, I know the name. Our Mexi-Ford broke down in playa del carmen on the way back from Tulum, and we almost went there while waiting for a replacement car. Glad we didn’t pull the trigger.

        Will definitely do so.

        Awesome. I love it. You have to do it. I’m no expert, but I’ve done two different 15 day x-country trips and both absolutely changed my life. I always say it, but I need to write a book about the adventures. Such a vast, diverse landscape and peoples.
        There are still days I get in my car to go to work, and just want to drive somewhere different for adventure.

        February 19, 2013
  11. As always, I die.

    But the photobomb level: dad? Pushed me over the edge.

    February 19, 2013
    • Aww, thanks mrsdeboots! If only we all had the ninja like photobomb skills of Dad. Every picture would be that much more interesting, and hot-tea-snorted-out-your-nostrils funny.

      February 19, 2013
      • How did you know I snorted?? Actually, it was beer, room temperature (unfortunately), but still eerily close.

        I forgot to mention the Wilford Brimley reference as a favorite too. Tell me, were Jitterbug phones provided? :)

        February 20, 2013
      • I know everything! Kidding, lucky assumption.

        mmm beer.

        Glad you heart the Brimley as much as I. Yes, Jitterbug phones and portable rotaries.

        February 20, 2013
  12. Your parents seem like they’d be a blast to travel with.

    February 20, 2013
    • They are tons of fun, Mike. Together, we’re like the captain planet team of fun.

      February 20, 2013
      • That’s a bold statement, Mike.

        February 20, 2013
      • Wind! Water! Heart! Earth! Beer! But not Fire, he’s not invited.

        February 20, 2013
  13. a couple of things. a) i’ve actually heard amazing things about these viking europe river cruises. tho, i agree they market to the golden girls and their beaus. the creative director from their company looked at my linkedin profile the other day and in my head i’m like, ‘pls pls pls let momma take over your social media…’ loool. but, probs ain’t gonna happen. b) what i love is that the fated carnival cruise was called the ‘triumph’ — what happens when they name it something more modest like the “finisher” – i’m guessing everyone dies. xoxoxox, sm

    February 20, 2013
    • Viking is great – and looks like they’ve shifted their marketing demographics down a decade.

      Whoa, that’s amazing! That would be a fun project…lots of potential, but yeah. I believe they are German-based, but can’t imagine getting PR or social media approved. Like Office Space TPS reports, times 100.

      Bwahahaha! I didn’t know that! Yeah, ‘finisher’ or the Viking ‘Mission Accomplished’.

      February 20, 2013
  14. George Michael, is that you?
    Holy crap, our families should travel together, like-minded & like-spirited! What fun! And you’re right, Marti is tiny, barely eeking over the wee chess figurines. ;)

    February 20, 2013
    • George Michael from Arrested Development, maybe. I’m not cool enough to be THAT George Michael….

      Definitely! We should have a family merger – wine fest. Weeeee!

      She is pawn sized. Or Bishop, so she doesn’t kill me. :)

      Thanks, Laura!!

      February 20, 2013
  15. Reblogged this on latebloomlisa.

    February 21, 2013
    • Thanks for the reblog, latebloomlise!

      February 21, 2013
  16. Le Clown #

    Mike,
    I’m commenting because you were Freshly Pressed, and I’m an ass like that. Ok… so there was your last picture… Dedicated to me, I know. Right? RIGHT?
    Le Clown

    February 21, 2013
    • Eric,

      I know, you’re my favorite Pressed Poacher. :)
      It absolutely was – when i took it, i thought, ‘How Would Le Clown Pose?’ WIth the obvious, horribly sexy results.

      February 21, 2013
  17. LOVE the pictures! Especially the last one, it’s DEFINITELY my favorite. ;)

    P.S. Marti really is teeny tiny. All cute and pocket-sized!

    February 21, 2013
    • Definitely one of the more ridiculous pictures you’ll see on this site….:)

      She’s very small, which is convenient, as she fits in most overhead compartments, and I don’t have to buy her an extra plane ticket. Kidding.

      Thanks, Tisha!

      February 21, 2013
  18. The “No Daft Punk” caption made me laugh. Where is that first photo from, of the ghosts and the Titanic? Is that from Ghostbusters II? Your trip sounds awesome–that’s the only kind of cruise I would go on myself. No way am I ever setting foot on one of those floating skyscrapers.

    February 21, 2013
    • Oh my god i heart you , Madame Weebles. Yes, it is Ghostbusters II, probably the most random fucking reference I’ve had on this site, and you nailed it. Thank you.

      Can definitely recommend the river cruise, not so much the bullshit barge.

      February 21, 2013
      • Yay! I got one right! I *thought* it was from G2 but I wasn’t entirely sure.

        February 21, 2013
  19. I loved the picture of the sheep’s ass! The windmill in the back was nice too.

    I have to say, I took a cruise and loved it. Mostly because it’s a lazy person’s easy vacation. I enjoy simple, outdoorsy stuff way more (camping rocks) so the fancier, more detail oriented stuff is beyond me. This cruise liner looks way better than the bigger boats, for sure.

    February 24, 2013
    • Sheep’s ass was way cooler than the windmill….

      I can see that – Maybe I’m just afraid of open water, or sinking with a bunch of people. I love camping too, there’s just something about a giant boat that freaks me out.

      The mini-cruiser was really chilled out, and radical, and other adjectives from the 80’s.

      February 25, 2013
  20. I love that title!

    February 26, 2013
  21. larondasue #

    Thanks for posting this! I have never ever wanted to do a cruise, but have considered one lately only because I’d like to do a trip with my mom who needs a wheelchair these days. The river cruise sounds a lot better than what I imagine when I think of the big cruise lines!

    March 22, 2013
  22. Lacking the necessary water you probably are soon living in a cesspool of portable waste by-products.

    Low amounts accumulate 1 . and stress your body.

    May 6, 2013

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