A cruise never seemed like something I would be into. However, I love being wrong. I figured the best way to find out was to go on the longest cruise possible. I ended up on a 21 day Mediterranean cruise on the Norwegian Epic. The Epic the fourth largest ship in the world, looks like a white lego floating in a placid harbor. The sun reflecting of its vast white surface magestically as the light peered over its stern. The Epic is three times the size of the Titanic, 160,000 unsinkable tons in Barcelona harbor. I approached this behemoth in awe. I was curious. I wanted to see what it was all about, and this is my story.
Waiting in line for the Epic was like checking into a nursing home. What is it about cruises that attract old people like dying whales to a sandbar? Their faces are anxious, annoyed, stressed and excited all in one. I felt out of place. But im comfortable not belonging, its what I know. I bought a bottle of Jameson in the duty free where I specifically and skeptically asked if I could bring it onboard. When I passed through the metal detectors they tried to take my bottle. I was pissed. I explained the situation logically to the security guard but to no avail. “I’m taking it with me. its just one bottle. its gonna stay in my room. its no big deal” I said and I turned around and walked off half expecting him to come after me but he didn’t.
We had a solo traveler social in the studio lounge. I was expecting the other solos to be my age so you can imagine my surprise when all these fossils started unearthing themselves like it was a the thriller music video. The average age was late thirties early forties. Meaning…they were born in the late thirties,early forties. Some of the younger passengers were pretty cool. It was clear I was gonna have to find a way into a crew party if i was going to have any real fun.
During the day I played in a three on three basketball tournament with a beautiful 360 view the ocean easily the best basketball court ever. I went rock climbing and made it to the top of the extreme rock wall. at the bottom I met some excited Korean kids who I couldn’t resist teasing them in Korean.
In the morning we arrived at Calgari, Italy I wandered around used wifi,read and ate tasty gelato. Back on the ship I interrogated a crew member who was wiping down the banisters about these infamous crew parties. He said there was one on the 4th floor at 10pm. I grabbed my large sketch book as an alibi (if someone asked me what I was doing). Going below decks in “crew only” passages and mingling with crew are strictly prohibited. But I just walked through like I worked there. I asked some girl where the crew bar was and she directed me without the least bit of suspicion. Nobody recognized me as a passenger so I chilled at the crew bar drawing in my sketch book waiting for it to get more packed. The bar was sweet with one dollar Heinekens compared to the 8 dollar beers in the passenger section! I ended up hanging out with a group of room stewart’s. An Indian dude bought me a beer and told me horror stories of cleaning peoples rooms. He said people often don’t wipe there ass so they smear shit all over the bed when they sleep naked. Midway through the conversation One of the cute event coordinators who I know spots me. in disbelief she say “how did you get down here”? “who brought you”? I flirtatiously shushed her told her “don’t to tell anyone”. She sat with some friends but kept looking over with a mischievous smile. It was fun but very cliquish. It was interesting seeing the crew usually so professional just chilling and hanging out. I left at 12:30 because my friend was turning 40 so I felt guilty missing it. I emerged from below deck virtually unseen or questioned. Drank alot and partied with the birthday girl until pretty late.
In the morning I awoke hung over to the irritating voice of the captain over the loud speaker. He was making a corny joke “its the old man on the bridge, some people call me the captain”. He then starts relaying our longitude and latitude lines, like anyone cares. I get up because I don’t wanna miss breakfast my favorite meal. poached eggs with hollandaise sauce). I love cruise food. I eat on the 15th floor with floor to ceiling windows that allow a magnificent view of the choppy white tipped waves as far as the eye can see. The waves had the boat rocking to and fro. I had a massive headache.
Solo traveling confuses alot of people especially on a cruise. However its best way to do it, as long as your open minded and friendly. Our third stop on the trip was Palmero Sicily. A haggard city very typical of Italy. I wandered into a pizzeria and was crestfallen when Sicilian pizza wasn’t square or deep dish. In Rome I stood in awe of the Sistine chapel. The inside of the Roman Colosseum reminded me of a deteriorated ant hill. Cream cheese and blueberry gelato is fantastic. I took a bus to Pisa. Climbing the leaning tower of Pisa is disorienting and a bit awkward. The view from the top is sweet though. The best pizza in the world comes from Italy the best pizza in Italy comes from Naples and the best pizzeria in naples is Pizzeria da Michele. After finally getting seated you quickly realize plain cheese pizza is the only thing on the menu. Your taste buds are confused… you’ve never had pizza this good the cheese is amazing and the sauce is orgasmic just look at Julia Robert’s reaction to it in Eat Pray Love. However the crust tastes like a burned pita thats soggy in the middle. No wonder Italians don’t eat the crust.
That night back on the ship some friends and I went to the ice bar, you drink cocktails out of a ice glass and everything including the bar the chairs and the walls are ice. We were hanging with this cool dude Piers who would say the most foul gay things in conversation. but since he was from the UK it didn’t sound so offensive in a proper British accent. He was the life of the party always saying “yes queen” from Rue Paul’s Drag Race. He told people that this girl was a Detroit hooker and then tried negotiating prices with strangers. We went to white only party. My solo coordinator tricked me saying if you don’t have anything white just wear your bed sheet as a toga. I did that but when I showed up I was the only one. everyone seemed to think it was cool and kept buying me drinks. I was the party. I walked up to Piers who was talking to these two hot girls from Colorado, They had form fitting white jeans on with a white tank top. The taller girl dyed half of her hair blonde which contrasted with her dark eyebrows and eyes. Piers whispers loudly in my ear “she wants to fuck you” so everyone can hear. We dance ridiculously she says to me “im glad your not gay” we are having a great time but my damn toga kept slipping precariously off my body and I kept nipple flashing people.
I leave with the two colorado girls and on our way to their room her friend grabs some random dude from outside the bathroom who looked like Steph Curry. And just points to him and say “come with us.” Their room was spacious with a beautiful balcony. They start chopping up blow on the book “the power of now” with the room key. The irony wasn’t lost on me. We drink wine from a bottle on her balcony and she comments how she cant feel her teeth. Looking over the balcony at the black water with a cool sea breeze was calming. I invite her to my room so she can try palm wine that I brought from Cameroon. “it tastes like vinegar”she lamented. I put on some drake and we have sex. “your the first black person I’ve slept with” she admits afterward
The next night I had escargot as an appetizer at the manhattan room and had an allergic reaction. I was an idiot because I knew I was allergic from my last escargot encounter in Toulouse, I ate it anyway. My chest was heaving my nose running and my right eye was swelling up so I looked like that dude from the goonies. I excused myself from the table and crawled into my bed a blustering snotty mess. Our last night before Barcelona was the farewell party in the bliss lounge for those only on the 10 day trip. Which was all my friends. This lady Sandy showed me the proper technique for anal sex outside Bliss. She used her fist and my index finger to demonstrate. I don’t know why she was showing me this but it was entertaining. I was sad to think of all my friends were leaving and I was the only one staying on. I hung out with the girl from colorado again we played guitar hero in the arcade. We went back to my room and I drew her naked like in that movie Titanic.
The new solos travelers I met the next night were not nearly as cool. I mostly talked to this Aussie girl who was freakishly tall and looked like Morticia from The Adams Family and this older dude Richard who I kept calling Dick. I have stranger fatigue. Morocco was our first stop of the second leg of the cruise. If you wear your pants low enough people will think you are insane, thats what Mustafa told me, a 60 year Moroccan who’s sparse teeth looked like yellow stalactites and stalagmites in his cavernous mouth.
He eagerly offered to show me the sites and for five euros I agreed but later regretted that as he became more and more salty. Poverty brings our the worst qualities in people. Tangiers besieged by hagglers was otherwise a very charming city. I ate tasty moroccan food that included couscous and a pastry with meat and raisins inside. The weather outside is finally nice. being on the deck of the ship in a lounge chair with the sun gently warming your skin, a light sea breeze, Motown on the loudspeakers and the ship undulated gently over a most perfect sea. At night there’s a lots of shows to be seen on the ship. “Cirque Dreams” was a dinner and a mini cirque show with contortions, feats of coordination and body strength. “Pricilla” queen of the desert was a broadway musical about drag queens, madonna and outlandish costumes.
Las Palmas in the Canary Islands was cool me and two Mormon girls rented a taxi and went halfway around the island. There were black sand beaches and forty foot sand dunes. Part of the beach was for nudist’s so everyone was butt ass naked mostly old men and women. The Canary Islands are Famous for honey rum, it tastes phenomenal on the rocks. I smuggled a few bottles on board by shoving them into my pants. Ive been mostly hanging out with the two Mormon women, their chastity is amusing to me. They use words like yummy, yucky, and naughty in regular conversation. Becky who acted and looked just like a Becky had never been drunk before. She needed my help opening a wine bottle as it was her first time. Nubia was also very proper until she was drunk and then she was buck wild. She kept grabbing my ass and saying dirty things to me on the dance floor. She would smile waifishly and try to put her hands down my pants. I didn’t mind and Thwarting her advances was no big deal but she felt bad about it the next day. Bored at Karaoke We decided to play Karaoke roulette a game where someone starts flipping through the song book and stopping randomly on a song and you have to sing it. I got stuck singing “grown men dont cry” a country song I never heard before. After my song I used a corny line to chat with this South African girl at the bar. She flashed an intense smile showing me her teeth like I was her dentist. She had hair the color of black licorice and icy blue azure eyes. She was sipping a mojito smartly and sitting crosslegged. She was fun and a bit dorky always saying “hectic” and “yahh” in a south african accent. Listening to her speak Afrikaans was amusing. Shes a paramedic, rescuing people from shark attacks in cape town. We ended up spending the last three days of the cruise together. I had to put up with her calling me Pauly D. We went to Madeira home of the soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo a small island off of Portugal. A famous old age tradition there is Tobogganing down asphalt for two kilometers. I went with the Mormons and it was a blast. They kept telling me to say shiitake mushrooms instead of shit. It was funny sharing some of my crazy stories with them and watching there intrigued yet scandalized expressions. Madeira is also famous for wine so we also snuck some on board but Nubia got caught with some stashed by her butt. (So they took them) The cruise is finally over and it was was a an experience I wont soon forget.