The worst tragedy has befallen

by francine Hardaway on September 29, 2006

The worst tragedy has befallen us. The Internet is down on the ship. So here I am, in the shadow of St. Peters Basilica, sitting in an Internet cafe for my fix. At least there is broadband here. And my daughter seems to be recovering. Of course, every time the boat docks, we recover, because we are so happy to be seeing something besides jewelry sales and martini bars (not offensive in and of themselves, but a bit tiresome as every day fare).

Yesterday we walked around Corsica, which is a lovely little French island, the birthplace of Napoleon. We really liked it’s ambience.

And in the evening, we celebrated the birthdays of two of our friends, the ones we came on this cruise for. So for all of you who have been writing to me asking why an independent spirit like me would go on a cruise, here is the answer: I am actually with about forty fantastic friends and former neighbors who all decided to celebrate the 40th birthdays of Bobby Barnes and Karen Greenberg by going on a Mediterranean cruise together. Although we all made this decision in a fit of conviviality two summers ago in Carmel, a surprising number of us made good on our promise to accompany Bobby and Karen to their birthday bash. That takes a certain amount of commitment.

So there are two sides to this experience: first, my writer’s eye for the details of cruising, an eye that can often be cynical and ironic; second, my friend’s desire to be with friends. My father used to tell me “it’s not where you are; it’s who you are with,” and that is the truth.

Another thing on the good side of the ledger is the Stateroom Attendant, who is like a butler or maid, getting us everything we want. Our room key is a magnetized card, and every time I put it in my pocket with my cell phone, it de-magnetizes and I have to ask her for another one. She never complains, perhaps because our entire group tipped in advance.

The staff on the ship is from all over the world; I had a manicure from a girl from South Africa who thought the cruise ship job was brought to her by God. At home, she said, she slept on the floor and her entire family lived in one room. Now, with the money she makes on the ship she sends enough home to allow her mother to build another rooom on their house.

Others are not as grateful. It must be awful to be young, separated from family in Romania or Indonesia or India or Africa, and watch Americans and Europeans who are by comparison awash in money look so unhappy. But they gracefully serve us, and I love to engage them in conversation to find out about their backgrounds.

Off to see Rome. I would like at least to get a little beyond the Basilica before the bus comes to take us back to the ship :-)

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