My room was on the inside of the ship. With no window, it’s impossible to tell what time of day it is when you wake up. I probably woke up around 9am, but it felt so good to just lay in bed. I told myself I was on vacation, and didn’t make it out of my half-awake haze until around 11am.
I made my way up to deck 11 for lunch. I had no idea what I would see when I stepped off the elevator. Were we still in San Juan?
We were. So much for playing poker today. That was my plan, but the casino can’t open in port. As much as I liked to joke around with my parents about how I could do whatever I wanted under maritime law, we weren’t yet at sea.
My parents had told me to look for them at the pool bar, and that’s exactly where I found them. They were talking to our friends from the hotel in San Juan, Rob and Corina. I got to know them a little better. They’re from New York. She has three kids that he has completely taken as his own. They’re madly in love. I also found out that the ship was delayed until later that evening, and people were allowed to go on shore. I was enjoying having a place to settle, so I chose to stay on the boat, as did my parents. They also gave us $250 credit to our room, which made the drinks easier to buy.
Only one of the two pool bars were open, and it was crowded. I guess they didn’t expect so many people to stay on the ship, but it seemed like people were burnt out on San Juan and the boarding process. This was another moment where I felt incredibly uncomfortable, once again surrounded by grumpy white people unhappy with their cruise. “I don’t understand why they don’t open this bar.” You’re right, you don’t understand. Why are you acting like you do? Later that night I’ll find myself in a much more uncomfortable version of that conversation, so hold tight.
Muster was at 5:45pm. It’s a mandetory safety drill for all passengers. Dinner was scheduled for 6:00, so it was just known that everybody would be late. This scheduled lateness bugged me, but whatever. Muster just meant standing on the deck next to a life boat and listening to the safety talk. Our group also had two sign language translators. I gathered that one was english, and one was spanish, based on when they would sign. All announcements and instructions on the ship had to be given in english and spanish.
Uhg, the announcements. The ship had a built in speaker system that would blare some incomprehensible announcement about three times a day. Each time they would drone on and on about all the activities, but you couldn’t understand it even if you cared. Then, when you think it’s finally done, they start doing it all in spanish. It just seemed like a terrible user experience, especially since important cruise-delaying announcements were also given through this system.
Dinner time! I get all fancy in a sparkly button-up shirt that Brandon Bozzi gave me, and a nice pair of dockers that I had never worn. I shaved, and I even tucked the shirt in. Oh yeah, I looked sharp.
Usually on a cruise you eat dinner with strangers who will become your friends over the the week. We were seated with a family of three – Tammy the mom, Al the dad, and Ally the daughter. Yeah, Al + Tammy = Ally. I was trying to be in super easy going mode for the cruise, so I found this clever.
Al was retired, and used to be in investment something. Tammy was still working in finance. They struck me as very well off, and were really nice. They live outside of Denver, I think in that town that Zaiem Beg comes from. Ally was 17 and seemed pretty cool. She was very comfortable with the adults (which is saying something with my parents) and was a natural part of the conversation. I was impressed. I asked her if her generation uses Facebook, and she said no, they mostly use Twitter and Instragram. Kids these days. Nobody was noticeably racist.
Unless “oriental” isn’t a term we can use? I can’t tell. My dad told them that we ate at “the oriental place” in our hotel in San Juan, and it made me uncomfortable. But when I think about it, it seems like an ok term, so I’m probably just being weird.
At one point a waiter asked me if I wanted something to drink. It was too late for me to want a pi~n~a colada. And too fancy for me to want a mojito. My brain kind of froze…and then I blurted out “I’ll have a white Russian.” I don’t know if it’s what I actually wanted, or if it was the only other drink I could think of, but I liked my choice.
After dinner I split off from my parents and decided to walk around and find adventure. I was strangely successful the night before, and felt pretty sharp in my sparkly tucked-in shirt, so I had confidence on my side. At some point I Walked through the arcade, but they didn’t have Dance Dance Revolution. There was this place called “Optix” next to the arcade down a long zig-zag hallway…it was dark…my eyes adjusted…and suddenly I’m staring at a room full of 15-somethings. Oh god. I think I made eye contact with one of the guys. I put my hands up, backed into the hallway, then turned around and left. I may be desperate to find young people to hang out with, but I do NOT want to be that guy.
Eventually I found my way into Jesters night club. On my way in I noticed two girls sitting at a table outside. The night club was empty (it was early), but I worked up the courage to talk to the two girls. They seemed to just be messing around on their phones anyway – perhaps I could break their boredom?
I walked out of Jesters and right up to their table, white Russian in hand. “Hi. You guys look like you’re part of the missing age gap on this ship.”
“Oh my god, I know.” This was said by the blonde girl, Bella, with an eye roll. We initiated basic conversation. (I feel like an alien when I say that.) They were sitting at that table because it was supposedly a “wifi hotspot”, but weren’t having luck. The ship seemed empty, and we figured it was because the second wave of dinner was still going. Their names were Bella and Blake. It took a LOT of self restraint for me not to say “Blaaaaaaaaake,” Key and Peele style, but I figured she either got that a lot, or would have no idea what I was talking about.
“Mind if I sit?” They welcomed me, seeming almost relieved that something would break up the monotony of their day. Conversation continued. They’re from a small city outside of a larger city. I want to say Chicago, but that’s kind of where I started to think everybody was from. At some point one of them referred to something negatively as “that’s gay,” which I noticed as different than I’m used to. Later I mentioned that I would go out dancing in Seattle, and found that the gay clubs were the best places to dance, even as a straight guy. They reacted strangely, and later I wondered if it was homophobia, but I couldn’t really tell. Eventually they told me they were both 18.
Well shit. I mean, sure 18 is legal, but boy did I suddenly feel creepy. The entire cruise I felt like I had no idea how old any girl under the age of 30 was. I looked down at the drink in my hand and had a moment, lost in the murky white Russian. Do I leave, and keep walking around alone? No Jon…”do it”…that’s your motto! I decided to try honesty, though I was still worried that it would come off weird.
“Well, you guys can ditch me any time you want. I feel weird hanging out with a couple 18-year-olds, but I’m pretty bored.” I wanted to give them a clear out.
“Naw, you’re ok. We’ll help you find somebody your own age.” This was Bella again, the leader. Blake was her friend going along for the trip with Bella’s family, and it showed in their dynamics. Bella seemed to actually mean what she said, so I felt comfortable. It felt like we were all on the same page – the page where I’m not trying to sleep with them.
We started walking around the ship. We hung out at the 4-Asian bar for a little bit, watching old people dance. I called it the 4-Asian bar in my head because it had no obvious theme, but had this awesome band of four Asian people. They were great, and had a pretty wide range. Their drummer was a girl, and she also sang about half the songs – you don’t see that often. I spotted this cute red-head on the other side of the dance floor (my age), but we started walking again before I figure out a way to approach her.
Eventually we ran into Bella’s mom, standing in a fairly long line. I felt incredibly awkward meeting the mother of these two 18 year old girls I was following around, and I started to wonder if my white Russian tricked me. Before I could decide, the red-head joined her mom in line, who was also standing in the line right behind us. This could be my chance!
Then they all started talking about how unbelievable the cruise delay was. We’ve been delayed, again! The boat wasn’t expected to take off until early the next morning, and we would be missing our first stop, Bermuda. That’s when I realized that we were standing in the customer service line. Oh my god, the discomfort I felt. I am not that guy. I don’t talk to management and demand I be treated better, especially when I’m one of about two thousand people. These people were standing here for the sole purpose of complaining to the person who’s job it is to stand at the customer service desk. “I can’t believe your boat isn’t moving! This is unacceptable!” Like, what do you expect them to even say? I felt gross.
To solidify my discomfort, the red-head said “I don’t understand why they don’t just put us on another boat.” Oh, you don’t understand, do you? You can’t comprehend why Royal Caribbean doesn’t just send over a $500 million dollar boat they have laying around? Move all the passengers? Move all the supplies? Move the entire crew that actually live on this ship? Or maybe they have an entire cruise ship, staffed and supplied and ready to go, with nothing better to do this week? Never before has my attraction for a person faded so suddenly as it did for the red-head at that moment. “I know! They’ve got other boats. This is unacceptable.” That was Bella’s mom. Clearly I was outnumbered.
Largely stunned by this exchange, I kept following the girls after they said goodbye to Mom. We made our way to the adult pool on deck 11, where something seemed to be happening. It was empty, but there were large “Absolute 20” signs hanging around that weren’t there earlier in the day. There was a bartender setting up, and we asked him what was going on. “There’s going to be a big party at 11:30. With all the world’s best DJs. Tiesto, Guetta, they’re all here.”
All right, something to do! This sounded pretty cool. I also saw a good exit opportunity with the 18-year-olds. “Well I’m going to go change, maybe I’ll see you guys back here for the party.” It was about 10:30.
Before I left, I remembered the awkward exchange with Jessica the night before. I decided to try a different tactic. “Oh and hey, my room is 6743, feel free to give me a call if you guys are bored.” This way they can take it or leave it, and it’s not an invitation to my room or anything.
Surprisingly Bella responded with “Cool, we’re 6520.” I was not expecting that, and now felt a little weird that I knew their room number. Especially after meeting their mom. But hey, I took it as a sign that they liked me.
As I walked back to my room, two things dawned on me. One, I my room number is actually 6473. Oops. That’s probably for the best. Two, there’s no way Tiesto is on this ship. The bartender straight-up lied to us, and I nodded and said “cool!” What a sucker.
I also had no idea what kind of party this would be. I assumed it would be a pool party, since it was at the adult pool, so I put on my swim trunks and flip flops. I wasn’t super excited about being in a pool with a bunch of drunk adults, but I thought I’d play it safe and come dressed for it anyway. “Do it!”
I returned to the pool at 11:30. This time they verified my age to get through the door. One of the cruise people was talking to the crowed, and he introduced DJ Conrad. Oh, right, THAT famous DJ. He also introduced the cruise ship dancers that were there to get the party started. They were all standing on the raised edge of the pool, looking stylish. Once the music started, I realized I had severely misjudged the party. Nobody was going in the pool – it was just something to dance around. None of the civilians were dancing yet – it was just a lot of old people watching the dancers and an empty dance floor. I decided to go change into shorts and shoes that I could actually dance in, and then I would dance, even if it was by myself.
On my way out, I ran into Bella and Blake on their way in. “Hey! I’m going to go change my shoes. I can’t dance in these. Oh hey, you like my toenails?”
“…why are your toenails blue?” asked Bella, rhetorically and with some disgust.
“…because I like blue? I…wanted to look pretty.” I turned to Blake for help. I felt like I vibed better with Blake. Sidekick was more my style. “She doesn’t like blue, huh? Do you like blue?”
“No.” She looked away uncomfortably.
Well, that was suddenly awkward. Not only was I the guy who showed up with clearly the wrong clothes, but now I’m the weirdo with the painted toenails.
Whatever, I don’t need them. I just need DJ Conrad! Within a few minutes I was back at the party in shorts and dancing shoes. The dance floor was…still unfortunately empty. I soldiered on! I pushed my way through the old people ring, and started dancing. A couple of the dancers looked at me and smiled, but their looks didn’t linger and none of them engaged. Great, thanks guys, I was hoping you wouldn’t leave me hanging. The pool carved the dance floor into kind of a U shape, and I danced my way around the U. Once I came out the other end it was time for a drink.
I got a double vodka cranberry. I wasn’t ready to give up on this night, but I needed some help. I was going to drink my drink on the sideline while I built up some more courage. As I made my way back to the dance floor, I ran into Jessica. Literally – she was getting a drink from this other thing, and turned around and ran right into me as I was coming up to say hi. Sweet! A friend! I was so happy to see her, just to have somebody to either talk to or dance with, especially after that awkward moment with the 18-year-olds.
“Hey!” I said.
“Oh, hey! One second!” she responded, enthusiastically. She turned around and went to a group of young 20-somethings that had started dancing when I went to get a drink. Cool, a group to hang out with! I knew they must exist somewhere on the boat. My people! Jessica can be my in, and then I’ll have people to chill with on the cruise. Man, this is all going way better than expected…
…my drink is almost gone…
…why hasn’t Jessica come back yet?
…well this is awkward.
She never came back. What kind of person says “one second!” and just straight-up doesn’t come back? I doubt she forgot. I guess I can start dancing and see if she responds? Maybe she was waiting for me to join them?
I started dancing again. By this point there were more people dancing, but halfheartedly on the edge. The group Jessica was in was the only group really getting into it. I danced near enough to the group to get Jessica’s attention, and she was deliberately NOT giving me any. Wow. Just totally cold. I was kind of in shock.
Whatever, I don’t need her to have a good time! Though I couldn’t exactly dance my way into the circle of the only people my age I had seen on the entire ship, not with her stonewalling me so hard. I would feel too awkward shoving my way into a group where I was clearly not welcome.
So, I danced. At one point I started dancing with one of the dancers. We chatted, probably because he felt pity for me. His name is Oliver, and he’s been working on cruise ships for 14 years. He told me I should go to their show the next day, so I said I would. It was a friendly chat, but it ended. There was like a 3% chance this could turn into some backstage behind the scenes hangout, which would be a cool story.
I got another drink, then went back to dancing. There was this pretty girl (my age?) on the edge, next to a couple. I asked her to dance, and she looked at her friends and laughed. They said “go for it!” She laughed, smiled, and joined me on the dance floor. She was a fun dancer, and seemed to know what she was doing. She had a great smile and a pretty blue dress. After the song ended, I thanked her for the dance.
“You too! My husband doesn’t dance.” Oh, yep, sure enough a guy holding two drinks has joined her friends. We walked back over to them, and I thanked her again for the dance. We chatted very briefly, and it felt like time for another drink. This time I also got water.
I danced around the U, trying to get various people to dance with me. Some halfheartedly obliged. Some smiled. Some just stone rejected me. I encountered another solo guy I could relate to – trying to have fun dancing alone, and largely succeeding. We exchange knowing glances.
Bella and Blake were there. I danced up to them, and they were clearly uncomfortable. No engagement at all. No conversation. Just could, judgmental glances…
Time for another drink! I took one sip of the drink and realized that it was a mistake. I was not going to drink this drink, or I would have regrets. I carried it around for the rest of the night, but didn’t touch it again. I switched to water only.
I came upon a group of two girls (my age?), one of which had a leg brace on. “Dance?” I danced at them, hoping that would get my message across. They laughed, and started to explain the leg brace when two guys came up next to them.
“Come here often?” one of them said. “These are our husbands.” Oh, cool, no worries. The first group of husbands were pretty friendly to me, but these guys were stone cold. They were giving me the evil eye while also refusing to ever look at me. It was incredibly uncomfortable. I ran into them a couple more times through the evening, and the girls always gave me encouragement while the guys continued their indirect glaring. This continued for the rest of the cruise.
I wish there was a climactic moment that ended this evening, but there wasn’t. I tried to help other people have a good time. Bella and Blake continued to be completely unenthused with me. Jessica continued to completely and blatantly ignore me. Girls with husbands encouraged me. Other guy danced alone. Girls that spoke Spanish smiled at me and halfheartedly danced with me. A blond girl and her friend refused my dancing every time I went by. Old people continued to line the edge and watch. I noticed that my phone had internet, so I drunk emailed Marshall Sutcliffe. DJ Conrad pumped out the beats. The boat sat in San Juan.
And that was the night. I went back to my room, drunk and glad that I switched to water. Honestly, I was bummed. I put on my happy dancing mask and I chose “do it” more often then not, yet the people that I thought liked me turned totally cold. I had less friends than the day before.
I went to bed wondering, am I actually THAT bad at dancing? Am I too weird? Am I a creep? What’s wrong with me?
UP NEXT: Karaoke redemption!