Just as there are horror people, and sci-fi people, and history people, and romance people when it comes to books, so there are villa people, package people, hotel people and camping people when it comes to holidays. This summer I rather unexpectedly joined a category of holiday people I’d never have considered if it hadn’t been for my teenage daughter’s wish for some qualified holiday independence. I became a cruise person.
Cruises, like working men’s clubs and Women’s Institute evenings, have a pretty solid set of signifiers in my head. Older couples on deck chairs. Americans queueing at the buffet. Dodgy entertainment. Armies of coaches waiting to whisk people off to antiquities. None of these signifiers suggested a promising holiday experience to me. To my daughter, though, a cruise signified young people from exotic places meeting in their own place at one end of a gigantic ship while her parents were at the other end. For her, that was enough.
So we went on a cruise. Since I got back people have been asking if I enjoyed it, and I am constantly reminded of David Foster Wallace’s collection A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, the title essay of which is about cruising and which is sort of what I thought about cruising, but a little overstated. The “supposedly” suggests there was no fun, the “never” suggests a determination never to repeat the experience. Neither is quite right. It was fun – sort of. And I might do it again – maybe. Which suggests I might one day write an essay entitled A Supposedly Fun Thing Which Was Quite Enjoyable And Which I Might Do Again If The Circumstances Were Right But On Balance Probably Won’t.
For now, let me just say that if a gigantic floating American hotel with ready access to Athens and Ephesus, round-the-clock food, a pretty decent casino and very comfortable rooms is your thing, then you could do a lot worse than hop on the Navigator of the Seas at Civitavecchia. But be prepared to spend oodles of dosh once you get onboard (think hotel bar bill, for a week, in the Med), and suspend every prejudice you might have about every nationality of which you’re not a member. If you can do it, you’ll enjoy it. Supposedly.