As usual, I woke up in pitch darkness at some unknown time. I laid in bed with my eyes open, staring into the darkness, wondering if I could feel the ship moving. It was unclear.
When the guy cleans up your room while you’re at dinner, he leaves the itinerary for the next day on you bed, along with any other announcements. The night before I had gotten in a little drunk and a lot exhausted, so I had just thrown whatever papers were on my bed onto the table in the room.
The first thing I see is a pamphlet that introduces you to the art of folding towels into the shape of an animal. I found this hilarious. Often the housekeeping person will leave a fresh towel folded into the shape of a bunny with sunglasses on the bed, and then you take pictures of it and show your kid when you get back home and tell all your friends about it for the next year and never shut about about the damn towel animals. Usually, but not this trip! We just got the do-it-yourself pamphlet. I was amused and not at all upset. It was like coming back to an unmade bed with a “how to make your own bed you slob” pamphlet, but without the same sense of entitlement.
The next thing I saw was a letter from the captain from the evening before. The letter opened with apologies for the delays, another $250 credit to our rooms, and an explanation of the changes in ports due to the delays. The letter went on to talk about how confident they were that the ship would be moving by morning. (Can I feel the ship moving? I’m still not sure.) They even said something like “we know it’s hard for you to believe us after so many delays, but seriously, this time we mean it.”
I stepped off the elevator on my way to 11am breakfast…and I could still see San Juan. Surprise!
I learned throughout the day that it was the damn bolts on the propeller. They finally got the old propeller off, and they’re getting the new one on at a steady pace. They expected to leave port that evening. They were really sorry. And, best news of all, the cruise was now free!
Well, mostly free. We had the $500 credit to our rooms, which largely paid for my food and alcohol on the trip. Lucky for me, the cruise tickets were a present to my parents. Now I still get all the credit for an awesome gift, but I get all my money back! I didn’t really even mind missing ports – I was happier with the outcome than most.
I made my usual meandering rounds about the ship, and the casino was open! Somehow they were able to open the casino even though we were still in port. My guess is that somebody finally said “fuck it, let them sue us.” God bless. Some guys were playing poker, but it was a tournament that started about thirty minutes before I got there. I didn’t see the tournament in the itinerary, but they said there was another one at 3pm. I signed up, wandered around and read my book for an hour, and then nobody else showed up at 3pm. There was a 9pm tournament listed in the itinerary, so I signed up for that one and left.
The rest of the night was fairly typical. I found my parents and we hung out for the afternoon. Then I showered and changed for dinner. That evening my parents didn’t feel like going to the dining hall, so we had a casual dinner at the buffet. Again, the buffet over-delivered. I wasn’t really drinking this day – after two drunk nights, my body was tired of it.
Then…the ship moved! During dinner we finally left port. It was a maritime miracle. I hung out with my parents until it was time for poker, then headed back to the casino.
This time we had enough players – there were 9 of us. As the dealer was getting ready, one of the guys asked the table “does anybody know what we’re actually playing for?” Everybody at the table shook their head no. “What a bunch of degenerates, we don’t even know what we’re playing for.” The dealer explained that the winner of each tournament table qualified for a tournament on the last day. The winner of THAT table qualified for a big tournament on another cruise, with tickets to that cruise. There was also some amount of cash involved. Sure, whatever, take my $100, I want to finally play poker.
I wasn’t expecting to win, but I wanted to see what it was like to play with random people on a cruise. I only play every couple of weeks with experienced Seattle players, so I wasn’t really sure where I stood relative to random cruise ship guys.
The blinds were $1 $3. Blinds went up every 10 minutes. If at any time in the first 30 minutes you had less than $100, you could rebuy $100 worth of chips. At the 30 minute mark, everybody had one last chance to rebuy, AND everybody had a chance to pay $50 for $100 worth of chips. I never chose to rebuy, but I did the $50 option, putting me into the tournament for $150.
I enjoyed getting to know all the characters. There was Grizzled McMustache, the easy-going old smoker with white hair and a glorious mustache. There was ReBuy Jones, the guy who had to rebuy three times, then did the buy-up option. There was Girl, the girl. (All right, she was an older woman that sat next to me and was really nice.) There was The Metro Foreigner, with his open shirt, gold chain, near-majestic chest hair, and a girlfriend sitting behind him the whole time. In my head he was Italian, but I had no real evidence that he was foreign. There was The Spanish Gangster, the one guy at the table that didn’t speak English. His gangster appearance initially intimidated me, but his smile melted my heart. Then there were three generic old dudes. They could have switched seats at any time and I wouldn’t have noticed.
The first 30 minutes was a flurry of activity, but nobody left the table. I mostly stayed out of it, which I’ll get into. Then two of the generic old guys were out. Then The Metro Foreigner. Then another generic old dude. Then Girl.
I knew my faults as they were happening, but wasn’t sure how to navigate out of them. I knew in a tournament I was supposed to be more aggressive than usual, and I knew I had to start paying to see some flops, but I just couldn’t figure out when. Once it was down to me and the three other guys, it was clear that Grizzled McMustache and The Spanish Gangster had been feasting on all the rebuy money. Meanwhile, I had avoided most of the conflict, and was basically sitting at my starting stack. I was far behind, and knew I didn’t have a lot of time to make my move. The blind was already rough, and getting rougher.
My partial memory of this hand will bug my poker friends, but here you go: I had a King and the 8 of spades, I was the big blind, and I called a small raise from Rebuy Jones to see the flop after the small blind (The Spanish Gangster) folded. The flop was three spades, including the King of spades. I figured I was in decent shape – I had top pair, and a shot at a flush. I checked, Grizzled McMustache checked, Rebuy Jones raised, I re-raised, Mustache folded, and Rebuy re-raised. I knew I wouldn’t have much left to fight with if I backed down now, so I went all in, and ReBuy called. He showed me pocket Aces, including the Ace of Spades – not winning this one! No King showed up to save me, and I was knocked out of the tournament.
I basically durdled around for fourty-five minutes, then was forced to go all-in on the first decent hand I had. I didn’t give myself a lot of options, and failed to capitalize on the early madness. I had fun and felt like I learned something, so I was happy.
Eventually Rebuy Jones fell to Grizzled McMustache, who then took down the Spanish Gangster. Congratulations Grizzled McMustache!
We started a cash game after the tournament, with the same poker celebrities minus Girl and two of the random old dudes…though the remaining old dude might have just been another random person we picked up. I honestly don’t remember much of that game, other than I bought in for $150 dollars, played a few hands, and ended up losing it. I was fairly tired, and my fear of the rest of the ship kept me at the table.
“Fiiiiiiine,” I told the universe, “I’ll go check out Jesters.” It was probably sometime between midnight and 1am. The same group of young 20-somethings was there, including Jessica. She pulled the same move: see me, make a face of shock, turn to the girl next to her, say something to her while that girl stares at me, then blatantly ignore me. Yay. I tried to approach that group and join their circle…but Jessica made that really awkward.
Devon was there, the gorgeous girl from karaoke. Unfortunately, she was clearly there with this other guy. She smiled and said hi, the three of us kind of danced together for a little bit…but I just wasn’t feeling it. I didn’t want to intrude on whatever that was, and I didn’t feel like drinking to make everything seem better…so I left.
I wandered up to the late night cafe to get a slice of pizza and read before heading to bed. I saw the three dudes I hung out with at Karaoke, so I went over to their table and asked if I could join them. They welcomed me, then continued the conversation they were having.
As I listened, it became clear that they were sharing their “this is how I came out to my family” stories. I looked at one face…then the next…then the next…and the situation dawned on me. My best friends on the ship were the three gay dudes! Cool with me. I felt uncomfortable for a moment, thinking about how I had danced with one of them in jest(ers) the night before, and I was worried that I had been leading them on or something.
At this point, the first guy I had met at the pool dance party, the guy who was the other solo dancer, said “I came out to my family, and they were like ‘this isn’t news to us!’”. I laughed and said “It’s news to me!”
Laughter. “You’re not serious are you?”
“I really didn’t know. I just now realized.”
“What? I’ve been hitting on you for two days!” Laughter. “You were completely oblivious?”
“Yep, no idea. You just seemed like another guy on the dance floor who was trying to have a good time.”
He somehow called me cute – I can’t remember how, but it raised my self confidence. He also said that he figured out I was straight soon enough, and the other two agreed – I was no longer worried about having possibly led them on.
The normal conversation continued. They shared more stories, I asked some questions and learned things. I shared the short version of my own relationship history, and gave them a rundown of the drama I was experiencing on the ship. The main guy was actually from Seattle and knew about Magic and went to conventions and stuff, so he thought maybe I looked familiar. I told him we probably have mutual friends, which makes me feel bad for completely not remembering his name. Eventually it was time for bed and we all parted ways.
It was a pretty low-key night. I went to bed still feeling a little weird about things. I contemplated whether or not I was a creepy stalker. I mean, I knew I wasn’t actually a creepy stalker, but maybe that’s what I look like in Jessica’s eyes? I clearly wasn’t wanted, yet I kept showing up where she was. Is that shocked look on her face when she sees me the “oh shit I don’t feel safe that guy is stalking me” look? Did she turn to her friend and say “that’s the creepy guy who attacked my face and has been stalking me! Oh my god he won’t go away.” Am I supposed to avoid her for the rest of the cruise so that I don’t look like a creepy stalker?
Meh, whatever. I decided to keep doing what I was doing: hang out with parents, talk to strangers, and try to take advantage of the cruise and have fun.
NEXT UP: Antigua!