Cruise Confidential: a hit below the waterline - IntroductionChapter 1: Strange Bedfellows
The shower was, perhaps, the most luxurious of all time. The pressure was just shy of pummeling and the temperature was one grunt away from scalding. I lowered my head to let the water caress my shoulders and stared at the generous array of gifts nearby. There were tiny bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and body wash; little bars of hand soap and face soap, a courtesy disposable razor, and even a shower cap wrapped in a tight little waterproof bundle I had to steal for Mom. Steam billowed up to hide the ceiling, and my mind shared its carefree drifting.
I deserved this shower of bliss. I had been nearly manic with preparations to get here, and stressed beyond all reasonable measure by those two evil airline gods: Delay and Flightswap. But finally I had arrived in Miami and found myself exiting a taxi at the Marriott. Carnival Cruise Lines provided a surprisingly nice room for employees, and covered meals generously. They allowed $12 for lunch and an unprecedented $25 for dinner at the restaurant, called the Veranda Grill. I couldn’t remember the last time I had eaten. Sometime yesterday, lunch maybe. But I was only interested in getting into my bed: it was late and tomorrow I had a 5:15 a.m. wake-up call.
Just me and my glorious shower. I listened to the whir of the fan overhead, diligently collecting steam. I became one with the cascading water swirling at my feet. I smiled at the telltale sounds of sexual ecstasy.
In a flash I cut off the water and stood dripping, straining to hear what I surely had not heard. Someone was in my hotel room! I ripped the towel from the rack and wrapped it hastily around my middle even as I stormed out of the bathroom.
I looked into the bedroom to realize it was not in darkness. I had left the heavy curtains closed, but they had been thrown open while I showered. Thinner, sheer curtains silhouetted the likely culprits in the far bed, a bed that should have had no occupant at all, let alone two. From the doorway I stared incredulously. There was a strange couple in my room…having sex!
They weren’t just making out, or petting, or in any sort of preview. They were heavily in the act. I don’t know how long I stood there, gawking in disbelief. Surely it was a mere moment before I gave in to decency and prepared to depart. As quickly as possible, of course, without watching at all. I was planning without delay my exit when the woman’s eyes, which had been screwed shut, opened in leisurely bliss…only to fly wide upon seeing me.
She barked a warning in a foreign language, and the rhythmic bouncing of the bed ceased. The man, who had been intent on his work, reluctantly turned to regard me.
“Can we have some privacy?” he asked casually.
“P-Privacy?” I blurted. They both were astonishingly com-posed as they regarded me. Obviously European, they were pale-skinned and slender. His reddish hair was shaved nearly to the scalp, matching his unshaven chin. He was not an attractive man. The woman, on the other hand, was phenomenally beautiful. Her slight waist flared where it should and she was bumpy in all the right places. I don’t recall ever seeing so slender a woman with such large breasts. Natural, that is.
He frowned, suddenly taken aback. “You American?”
“Oh my God!” she shrieked, clutching the sheets to her chest. “There’s an American in our room!”
“Ah,” he continued. “America’s latest invasion. I never thought it would be my bedroom, but you never know.”
“After a month on the ships, you’ll understand.”
“What the hell are you doing in my room?” I demanded, finally coming to my senses, now that she was covered.
“You not Carnival?” he sat up in bed, concerned.
“Yes, I am.”
He seemed greatly relieved. “For minute I thought there was mistake.”
“You think?” I retorted.
He chuckled. “Typical American. You thought the room was just yours?”
“Is not. Pay no attention to Paula, but I tell you now: Bring no men here.”
“What do you mean?”
“You are obviously dancer.”
“Why do you say that?”
“You look like. No Americans on board unless they entertainers.”
“What does that have to do with Paula?”
“Don’t play me. You are obviously gay.”
His look was so seriously distressed at the thought that I suddenly began laughing. At this point, how could I take anything seriously? “Why do you think I’m gay?”
“All American dancers are gay. And no normal man has eyes that pretty.”
“Is this some kind of a joke?”
“Yes, I am management training.”
“Ah, that explains it. Look, I just never met dancer on ship who’s not gay. No matter. I am Alexandro. Croatia. You know where that is?”
He rose and approached to shake my hand…still completely naked and sweaty. I guess his worries about my sexual orientation were over.
“Uh, yeah. Used to be Yugoslavia.”
“Hey, Paulina,” he said, turning to the woman. “An educated American! Paula’s from Serbia. You bombed her, but she doesn’t mind.”
“We never bombed Serbia…NATO bombed Serbia.”
Alexandro sat back on the bed and patted Paulina on her shoulder. “Sorry, babe. I want to show you good time, but this guy only talks politics.”
“You brought it up!” I protested.
“Whatever. Where you from?”
“I’m from Iowa.”
“Ah, potatoes farmer.”
“Whatever. Which ship?”
I felt uncomfortable with this ugly, naked, foreign man questioning me. “Carnival Conquest.”
“Ah, of course. The most big, most new ship for the American. Look, we have to start over now. You aren’t going to read in bed, are you? That would distract.”
“I’m going to…to the restaurant.”
“Good idea. Ciao.”
“Yeah, O.K.,” I said as I mechanically dressed and shuffled past them. Just as I was leaving I overheard him say, “Ship life will eat him alive.”
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