ON THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA
A table for two?
“No,” the head waiter said firmly but politely. “We have no more tables for two.”
End of discussion. But we did duly note that the table for two next to ours was empty for each and every night, during our 13-night Trans Atlantic Cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas.
So where we ended up each night, in the ship’s elegantly appointed, 1,500-seat main dining room, was at a table for 16.
What an experience that turned out to be. The first night, three couples joined us. So the other 10 seats remained empty. There was an Asian couple across from us who didn’t seem to speak much English. There was another Asian couple next to them, but they were from Austin, Texas – so communicating with them was no problem.
And at the far end of the table was an elderly couple, who didn’t talk to anyone – even each other. They looked as if their children had sent them on a cruise. The husband seemed resigned to it; he looked straight ahead in silence, or down into his food when it came. The woman had a once-beautiful face that I can only describe as eerily angry; it reminded me of an image I saw once in a magazine of a building fire, above which you could make out a ghostly face in the smoke and flames.
Night Two, and no one showed up at our table for 16, except the two of us. The Texas Asian couple ran into us the next day, and apologized, saying they had requested a table for two also; the head waiter had moved them to a table for six. The other Asian couple disappeared for the rest of the cruise, as completely as if they had gotten off the ship. And the elderly couple did not return.
So this was how it was for the next dozen nights – except the three nights we didn’t eat in the main dining room. Then the table sat completely empty.
But on the nights we were there, it was truly a table for two – albeit with 16 chairs and place settings (eventually it was reduced to seating for 14 then 12). We had fun with it. One time Sherry and I sat at opposite ends of the table, like a king and queen at their castle table. Another time, we sat across from each other. We thanked the empty seats for attending our party. We were totally fine with it, and somewhat amused.
But on the last night, the elderly couple returned. Here is our take on what happened: We think he wanted to have a nice dinner, and eat on linens, china and fine tableware, there in the ship’s very classy main dining room, one final time. The wife’s face looked as apocalyptic as it had been that first night. Apparently she had wanted to graze at the less formal buffet upstairs. She made this passive-aggressively clear by the curt, tight-jawed manner in which she ordered dinner; when it came, she merely looked at it before pronouncing it unfit for human consumption. She made the head waiter take it away, and refused his offer of anything else on the menu – including the generous (I thought) option of him going to the buffet and bringing something back from there for her. She said she just wanted a scoop of rice.
While the wait staff complied, the husband – wordless, but mortified – silently ate his dinner, without looking at her. When her rice finally arrived, she shoveled a couple of spoonsful into her mouth – looking like she had swallowed poison. She fled the room, and was last seen heading toward the nearest buffet at a high rate of speed.
She had won. At least by her method of keeping score.
When we left, her husband was still there – now enjoying a table for one.
I wonder what that couple told their family when they got home. How much they hated the whole experience? How sad, if that’s how it played out. And I’m reasonably sure that was their take-away.
But it wasn’t ours.
This drove home an important lesson for us from this whole adventure: A cruise is what you make of it.
We came on the cruise as happy people, and left happy (perhaps even more so). I’m sure the people who were determined to have a miserable time got their wish.
You can participate in everything there is to do – and there were literally hundreds of activities available to us on our cruise – and party ‘til you drop. You can nosh around the clock, like a cow in a pasture, with the 24-hour availability of food. (“You’ll miss us,” Abel Jeney, our tour director said, “now that you’ve gotten used to eating seven meals a day!”). You can sun, swim, soak, and drink all day. You can do nothing but read.
I’m happy to say we did it all. In fact, it may take a few days, or weeks, back home to recuperate from all this rest and relaxation!
It was a great cruise, made all that much more enjoyable by a final day of calm weather, whale sightings, and the experience of going through the Straits of Gibraltar, before we docked at 5:00 a.m. Saturday – the morning of our 14th day. To clarify an inaccurate figure provided earlier, we traveled a total of 4,012 nautical miles.
For those of you who have kept up with this blog, the past two weeks, thanks for your interest, questions and comments. If I have some final thoughts – and some internet access, I may post them tomorrow. Thanks also to Royal Caribbean; what an epic journey they took us on.
April 28, 2012