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15 April 2016 @ 12:41 pm
LJ Idol Friends and Rivals: "Eternal Voyage"  
Eternal Voyage
idol friends and rivals | week 18 | 1230 words


Contratulations! You have won an all-expenses-paid cruise to one of these fine destinations!

Many people think traveling by cruise ship is some kind of luxury vacation. My dad loved cruises—he and my mother seemed to go on three to four of them a year at one point in their retirement.

I think of cruise ships as being more like some kind of floating prison. Yes, you're moving from one port to another, and yes—you can get off the ship once it docks. But in the meantime, you're trapped. If you want to go for a long walk, you'll be doing your four to six miles in the form of 10-20 laps around the deck, depending on the size of the ship. You might as well just set up a hamster wheel in your room. All meals and other events will take place with a gazillion other people because they're trapped on board too.

It doesn't matter whether you actually need to go anywhere. You'll be hit with the random urge to bolt just because you can't. I had a coworker who felt the same way about cruise ships as I do, so it's not just me. Admittedly, I'm not great with car trips either. Yes, you can get out and move around every few hours, but in the end, you still have to get back in that car.

When my husband and I were planning our honeymoon in Greece, we decided to take a short four-day cruise to see some of the islands that would otherwise have been too expensive to visit. Neither of us much liked the idea of cruises, but we'd never done one, so why not?

Our ship was a beauty, neither huge nor tiny.

Our ship

Many of the other passengers were Australians traveling for a pharmacists' convention, which was a bonus. Australians are delightful! The room was nice enough, the food was good. We soon found out why there were handles all through the bathroom (including the shower), and it would have been nice to have a rim around the edge of the bed—or seatbelts. The ship covered most of its distance at night, so sometimes you risked being tossed out of bed!

I'm a light sleeper, so I can testify that trying to sleep through all that heaving and yawing is a lot like trying to sleep on a train—worthless.

The first port was Mykonos, a pretty, sunny little town of blue and white houses. Many pictures in the "Cats of Greece" calendars seem to be photographed there (featuring cats that frequently appear to belong to whole neighborhoods rather than just one person). Mykonos is a lovely place to walk.


The next day was Rhodes, which was unbelievably beautiful. We visited Lindos and the Acropolis in the morning, and had the afternoon free in the old Medieval city of Rhodes, where we wandered for hours…

Wandered with one eye always on our watches, because you always worry the boat will leave without you.

Lindos Acropolis

Acropolis at Lindos

City of Rhodes

The City of Rhodes

Then we went to Ephesus, an ancient Greek city situated in what is now Turkey. The tour guide announced that we had two hours to look around (which is like giving someone two hours to see the entire Taj Mahal). The ruins were amazing (especially the library and theater), and the time passed all too quickly. We rushed to the bus and rode back down the mountainside.

Along the way, we spotted something unbelievable by the side of the road—one of those "Am I actually seeing this?" moments. There was a man outside with a dancing bear! He probably hoped the bus would stop, which it didn't—but it slowed enough for us to get a good look. I took a picture through the dirty bus window, which didn't come out very well but confirms that I didn't imagine it all:


It turned out that the bus was in a hurry to get back to the main port city, so we could all be given a demonstration and "opportunity" to buy Turkish rugs. Argh! Neither of us goes on vacation to shop, and we would rather have spent that time at the ruins! Little did we know that this was common for cruise-ship tours. I think there was a jewelry "opportunity" at another port.

As for the ship itself, there was one aspect my husband never got used to. The lower decks that hold the passengers' rooms all have metal "lips" around the hall doorways, so the doors can be sealed against water. My husband is very tall. He spent the first day tripping over the bottoms of those doorways and the next few days trying so hard not to trip that he hit his head on the tops instead. One time, he smacked into the surface so hard he saw stars and swore in front of a group of nuns! That doorway design was obviously needed for safety, but it was pure aggravation for him.

After a final stop at Patmos, the ship returned to Athens and our cruise was over. It was actually a pretty good experience overall (short is probably better), and we saw several gorgeous places in just those few days. Sometimes I even consider taking a cruise to Alaska, if only for the view of Glacier Bay from the sea.

A couple of years after our honeymoon, I was looking through a magazine and came upon pictures of a ship that looked really familiar. The name was visible in one picture, and it was definitely the ship we'd been on—the Oceanos.

In the magazine photos, however, the boat was sinking.

Oceanos sinking

All these years later, I can still remember the basic summary of that article: the ship started to take on water and multiple systems failed, and when help came the captain took one of the first helicopters out, leaving more than 200 passengers to fend for themselves. Those passengers were instead safely organized into lifeboats and helicopters by the tour's in-house musicians.

Yes, really.

Reading the extended details now, it appears that much of the crew—including senior officers—evacuated into lifeboats and abandoned ship without informing passengers of any danger, even when it was clear that the ship was doomed. The captain denied problems for hours, and refused to participate in the rescue. Later, he claimed he left on that early helicopter to "direct the rescue efforts from the air"—despite his disgraceful inaction while onboard. The South African Navy and Air Force accomplished the work on their own, with the diligent and extensive aid of the musicians and cruise director who were already guiding the onboard efforts.

(Not the actual sound from the event, which was obscured by the rescue helicopter's rotors)

The lead musical entertainer Moss Hills, who was lauded as a hero for his efforts, was also onboard the Achille Lauro three years later when it sank off the coast of Somalia…

So, now our fondly-remembered honeymoon ship is a monument to infamy forever buried at the bottom of the ocean. Poor little ship! It's hard not to take that personally, somehow, and to think that the universe might be sending a message about cruise vacations.

Namely, "Don't."

Fortunately, Moss Hills has surely retired by now. So, if we ever decide to venture out on another cruise in the future, we can at least be certain of one thing:

Whatever personal ship-sinking voodoo he holds will finally be out of the picture.


If you enjoyed this story, you can vote for it along with many other fine entries here.

cindytsuki_no_bara on April 16th, 2016 04:52 am (UTC)
your ship sank! fortunately after you got off it, but still! and that captain should be embarrassed. abandoning the ship at the first opportunity, hmph. props to the musicians for getting everyone off the boat in his absence.

also, your little greek cruise sounds really nice, short excusions and buying "opportunities" and all. i mean, greece! i went with a friend of mine a bunch of years ago and we went to santorini, which is gorgeous and i highly recommend it. the only time we were on a boat was to take the ferry from crete back to the mainland, tho. i'm not a cruise person - i get seasick and spending an entire day on a giant ship is not my idea of a good time. i the seasick means i can't even sit on the deck and read.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on April 16th, 2016 05:25 am (UTC)
Apparently, the ship had been in use for many, many years and was falling into disrepair. It seemed all right when we were on it!

That captain was something else. The internet-available information from Moss Hills and others is even more damning, as the captain not only denied there was any kind of problem (while his crew was packing up to leave), he also didn't even radio for help. Maybe he'd decided Fate was going to kill them all that day, so why get in its way?

I didn't really have trouble with seasickness on that cruise, but it has become a regular thing on snorkeling excursions (where the boats are smaller and you feel everything). I seem to do okay for quite awhile, but if I ever get near the engine exhaust smell, it's all over.

I so wish we'd seen Crete! It didn't even cross our minds until it was too late. Why? WHY would we forget that?!?
Belleweatherbelleweather on April 16th, 2016 08:31 am (UTC)
I'm the sort of person who is supposed to hate cruises, but I ADORE them. Partly, I think, because I work with so many people in the Industry (they all need visas) but also because the parts of traveling that I find the most irritating to plan and organize are getting from point A to point B and keeping us fed, and those are the two things that cruise ships do best, since they're basically floating hotels with dining rooms. They're also cheap as hell when we book them -- our Caribbean cruise in Jamaica was $1100 total for all 5 of us for a week. We've been on two cruises alone (just Nathan and I) and one with the kids and will probably do another one in October in the Mediterranean.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on April 17th, 2016 06:15 pm (UTC)
They DO cover a lot of inconvenient logistics, which is why they worked so well for that pat of our trip to Greece.

That's a terrific price for all 5 of you for a week, too, and vacations are a headache to plan with kids! You were IN Jamaica at the time, I think, but the number of cruises my Dad took to random places proved that whereever you start, you can usually find a cruise that departs nearby and goes someplace interesting. I think my parents visited Romania as part of a longer cruise, so there are options in your area. :)
bleodsweanbleodswean on April 16th, 2016 02:26 pm (UTC)
Whoa! That ending really blew my mind. Like REALLY???? That's shocking. But I like how you romanticize the fate of this vessel...and how it's on the bottom of the sea. I'm sorry, that's so freakin' scary....and hermetically sealed doors???? NO. Nope. Ain't gonna happen. I know I would have a full blown panic attack at the thought of being trapped.

All of that being said. K, this was a great entry - with illustrations! And a truly enjoyable read. What a wonderful honeymoon adventure!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on April 17th, 2016 06:53 pm (UTC)
This wasn't our honeymoon itself, but was what happened to that poor ship later. It was such a jolt finding that out. I was paging through that magazine, thinking lalalala-honeymoon-memories-la and then, "Wait, what? WHAT?!?"

We were on that ship just two years before that disaster, and it honestly looked pretty good then! At least, the parts where the passengers were. The various articles I've read said there was some parts wear below-decks. On the fateful day of doom, the crew decided to embark in conditions that were probably too severe, and then something blew up in the engine room, and after that... a lot of what happened seems to have been pure negligence. Just failing to close the lower-deck portholes to slow the amount of water coming in would have made a huge difference as more than 200 people were being airlifted off by helicopter two at a time and the window for safely getting off the ship was growing smaller. Incredible. There were some twelve people at the end (including the guitarist and most of his band) who had to resort to shifting locations on the ship as more and more of it started to sink. Talk about being cool-headed in a crisis!

The honeymoon itself was lovely, even more beautiful than those stock photos might indicate.

whipchickwhipchick on April 16th, 2016 04:13 pm (UTC)
Wow. I remember hearing about that horrible captain, but you really bring it home.

My husband and I did a cruise for our honeymoon, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it! I've thought since that it would make a good writing retreat to take the cheapest cruise I could find and spend a few days without internet and nowhere else to go :) But you're right, the timing stuff sucks and no I do not want to buy anyone's overpriced/kickback merchandise!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on April 17th, 2016 06:56 pm (UTC)
I don't understand the captain's choices at ALL there. He and his crew were packed and ready to depart, and mostly hid from the passengers after that... but had not even called for help! The captain took no emergency actions at all other than saving his own butt-- should the opportunity magically arise?

Where did you go on your honeymoon cruise? The sights are lovely, as long as you're back on the ship on time. Lots of crowding/noise on the ship, though, and then there's that perpetual nagging to join in the various "activites" on the ship. ;)
whipchickwhipchick on April 18th, 2016 02:42 am (UTC)
Yeah - that's not even just bad captain-ing, that's bad human-ing.

We did an Eastern Caribbean cruise - Haiti (really just a private beach on Haiti), St Kitts, San Juan PR, and St Maarten. It wasn't too heinous for crowding - it was a time of year with very few kids on board - and pretty much the only activity we did was trivia!

For me the funniest part - our first night of dinner we were at a table with a gay couple and a clearly socially conservative couple. The conservatives said some pretty racist things about Muslims (we mentioned we were from Dubai) and we thought "oh goodness, is this who we have to sit with every night?" And the next night, the conservatives had asked to be moved :) Dinner was great after that!
rayasorayaso on April 16th, 2016 09:12 pm (UTC)
It was a wonderful honeymoon, and you've brought back so many memories. I didn't just "swear" after I hit my head, I swore a lot, and crudely. I have never hit my head that hard! Even if the nuns didn't speak English, they had to have a pretty good idea as to what I was saying -- I wasn't very original. It was weird reading about the ship sinking later. It was very nice at the time we were on it. That was a fantastic trip!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on April 17th, 2016 06:58 pm (UTC)
The ship certainly looked clean and fresh and safe enough during our trip! I guess the visible surfaces belied what was going on with the machinery down below. :O

We saw so many gorgeous things, though, and it was a wonderful honeymoon. That's partly why I feel so bad for that poor ship!
witchwifewitchwife on April 16th, 2016 09:51 pm (UTC)
"Floating prisons". I always wondered why the concept of going on a cruise wasn't appealing to me and you've summarized it quite well here!

I can't believe that the captain and senior staff just left. Like. I still can't wrap my head around that. I'm so glad it wasn't the trip that you were on. That's absolutely terrifying!

It did make for a pretty good story though - perfect for this prompt.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on April 17th, 2016 07:05 pm (UTC)
I always wondered why the concept of going on a cruise wasn't appealing to me and you've summarized it quite well here!
I know there are a lot of people who think of them as floating hotels, but if I wanted to leave a hotel, I could just walk right out the door anytime I wanted! On a ship, you are stuck for hours, or until the next random port shows up and they let you get off. Some perverse part of me just wants to leave because I can't, though I know restlessness plays a part in it too. This happens on airplanes, too. I'm good for about 3 hours, then after that I feel as if I'm constantly fighting the urge to get up and run around the cabin like a maniac. :O

I wasn't expecting to write non-fiction this week, but that prompt and the fate of our ship... it was an irresistible story to write. And I shudder to think what would have happened to the passengers on board that ship had the lead lounge musician not been a cool-headed stand-up guy. Wow.
Kellykajel on April 16th, 2016 09:57 pm (UTC)
What beautiful pictures. I've never been on a cruise, but have been thinking of it the past few years. I love that last line! ;)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on April 17th, 2016 07:07 pm (UTC)
Most people love cruises, and those of us who feel trapped on them seem to be in the minority. They do take care of a LOT of the planning regarding food, transportation, and lodgings. My Dad loved that, and my Mom is very adaptable and saw it as an oppportunity to at least not be doing laundry or cooking.

I feel for that poor musician, having "lightning" strike twice, but it was sure fortunate for the other passengers that he was there to help. Unless it was his own curse that causes the wrecks to happen!
Murielle: Scrunchedmurielle on April 17th, 2016 01:48 am (UTC)
Fascinating! What a wonderful adventure in Greece. I have salt in my blood and have crossed the Atlantic three times, all before the age of ten...I actually had my ninth birthday on board The Sylvania.

"a lot like trying to sleep on a train—worthless."

I had to laugh when I read this! You cannot keep me awake on a train. I drop off almost immediately. Mom and I travelled through the Rockies by train. I missed more than I saw.

What a delightful trip you took me on--and with PICTURES! Loved every minute of it. Thank you!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on April 17th, 2016 07:12 pm (UTC)
Oh, it's too bad that so much of that travel was when you were so young! It's when you're older that you tend to yearn for it so much. I hope you get the chance for it again!

I think a lot of people sleep pretty easily on trains/cars/planes. I cannot, for the life of me, sleep sitting up. I jerk awake every couple of seconds. So, on another trip to Europe we pair a sleeper car on an overnight trip where we wouldn't be able to see anything anyway. My husband slept, but I was awake the whole night!

I'm so glad you enjoyed the journey. The trip was gorgeous, the dancing bear was such a surprise, and then the fate of that ship... wow. What a scandalous ending!
Murielle: Scrunchedmurielle on April 17th, 2016 08:51 pm (UTC)
The ending is unimaginable! And true! And didn't it happen again with another ship, or was it a ferry? I recall in one case the captain was not convicted of whatever he would/should have been. So tragic!

You know, it just dawned on me this week that you and rayaso are married. I've been on the internet since the early nineties or maybe even the late eighties and I still have trouble with people's inline names. But this is fantastic that you have a home and a marriage that is overflowing with talent and skill. I think this is just wonderful. Sorry I am so slow. 😊
fodschwazzle on April 17th, 2016 05:26 pm (UTC)
I especially liked seeing the dancing bear in this piece, which I assumed was going to be a pure travelogue but became something quite different at the end. I guess the Oceanos is "cruising" not so much now. Nicely done.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on April 17th, 2016 07:16 pm (UTC)
:D I would never have just travelogued you in an Idol entry-- there was a larger and more horrifying picture in mind. That sounds so wrong, doesn't it?

That bear was such a neat surprise! And looking at that picture again... there is no question that it's a bear. In a place where no bears should be, especially on the side of a rocky mountain. The man there likely makes a living from tourist buses, because why else on earth would he and his bear be out there in the middle of nowhere?

It honestly was kind of surreal.
Direst Ryl: Danaeryl on April 17th, 2016 10:02 pm (UTC)
I went to Greece 20 years ago but not the parts you visited. Now I really want to see Rhodes (and the dancing bear!)

But not on a cruise. I've read about the trash that they toss overboard and how it's ruining the Caribbean. My housemates have gone on a couple and they liked it, but as for me I agree with the "floating prisons."
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on April 18th, 2016 06:27 am (UTC)
Our trip was in 1989, so the dancing bear probably is no more! I'm sure glad we got to see it, though. It seemed SO unreal. Rhodes is really beautiful-- bougainvillea everywhere, which doesn't show up in as many Internet pictures as it did in the ones we took. Beautiful island.

I hadn't heard about trash being deliberately thrown overboard, though that is the last thing the ocean needs! Apart from the one my parents got sick on, they had a great time on the many trips they took over the last ten years or so. But I would have to fight my natural instincts to go on one of those again.
adoptedwriteradoptedwriter on April 18th, 2016 03:06 am (UTC)
We once cruised on Carnival's TROPICALE. I hear it caught fire a few months after we were on board. ( no fatalities). Scary, but I still love cruises. Greece would be beautiful.

The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on April 18th, 2016 06:29 am (UTC)
Caught fire?!? I'm glad it didn't happen while you were on it, and that everyone survived. All of the people on board the Oceanos survived, and there were 571 of them-- and things were dicey near the end.

Do you think you and your husband might go on another cruise soon? His health seems to be good, and you may feel like celebrating after what you went through to get him there.

Edited at 2016-04-18 08:07 pm (UTC)
adoptedwriteradoptedwriter on April 19th, 2016 12:07 pm (UTC)
I'd love to go on another cruise. Hub would too, but we have Fuzzy1's wedding to pay for this year! LOL Fuzzy's new MIL is a travel agent though...

Last summer we took a quickie trip to Gatlinberg, TN, which is a touristy Smokey Mtn vacation spot about 5-6 hours from here. He'd never been before, so we accomplished the goal of going some place new.

We will cruise again. Talk to Lawchicky...She is a total expert on cruises.


Edited at 2016-04-19 12:08 pm (UTC)
prog_schlockprog_schlock on April 18th, 2016 09:42 pm (UTC)
Oh wow lots of stuff to respond to!

Ephesus is famous to us Shakespeare fans as the setting for Comedy of Errors. The city had a reputation for being a center of magic and witchcraft at one point in history. Its high on my list of places I'd like to visit someday and I'm envious that you got to see it!

Second, if you have a couple of hours to spare, I just watched this amazing simulation of the Titanic sinking in real time. While there are no animated humans, there are some sound effects (especially near the end) that bring the human experience into focus. Its profoundly disturbing. That this captain on your ship so cavalierly abandoned his duties without trying to help his passengers is appalling.

Finally, I see these mega cruise ships in Honolulu harbor all the time that look like floating theme parks. Part of me is really interested in experiencing one, but part of me thinks being stuck on a ship with a thousand wealthy strangers sounds like a horrible idea. I'll probably stick to going places that I can explore thoroughly at my own pace. I don't need to ever sit at a captain's table I guess. Especially not if they're going to leave me to the elements in case of an emergency!

This entry made me think of my favorite Norah Jones song:

The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on April 19th, 2016 12:17 am (UTC)
Ephesus was amazing. It's huge, and there's so much surviving detail such that it's more "citylike" than most places-- even Delphi, which was also pretty terrific. It's odd seeing the promenade toward what used to be the harbor... until the harbor wound up being two miles farther out. It's like an impressive monument to... wait, where did it go?

The thought of being on the Titanic is so scary. There were no rescue helicopers available to save you in that era! You would know your doom was coming for a long, terrible time. :(

but part of me thinks being stuck on a ship with a thousand wealthy strangers sounds like a horrible idea.
That's the part I keep coming back to. If you like the places you're going on the cruise, yay! But there is a lot of in-between that is not so great if you don't love the idea of just being on a giant ship with a gazillion other people. Those who DO like it don't tend to think of it that way!