My Cruise - The Week of Labor Day, 1995
Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale...
(don't get discourage by the length, I saved the best stories for the end)
So, my red-eye leaves SF at 1AM and arrives uneventfully in Miami.
Once there I meet my college buddies and the fun begins right there in
the airport. John, decked out in his lovely leisure suit (complete with
plaid jacket and wide tie) is in search of his lost luggage. Looks like
he's going to be stuck in his leisure suit all week. John insists that
I change into my leisure suit, which I dutifully do, stripping right there
in the open in front of everyone. After sauntering around the airport
with my lovely leisure suit (bright blue, Hawaiian-esque silk wide collared
shirt, tight powder blue polyester pants, and a Brady Bunch (TM) style
jacket, and reflective sunglasses alternating between my face and being hung
on my open shirt a few buttons down) we finally find John's bags arriving
on a later flight from Detroit. I run around the airport jumping off of
chairs and luggage carousels.
We arrive at the ship. It is raining. Not a good start. We also haven't
filled out the appropriate forms on our tickets. After a long amusing
chat with the check-in lady we are sent to fill out our forms. We, of course,
are already the life of the party, now having all changed into our leisure
suits and being suitably loud and obnoxious. At this point, we have already
been warned that hurricane Luis may cause us to change our scheduled
We enter the ship and have our picture taken. We
go back to the cabin and await our luggage. Mind you, John Coyle (whom we
shall call "Bigger John" from now on. During the cruise I dubbed John and
John "Big John" and "Little John" to avoid confusion but, not to be
diminutive, decide to call them "Big John" and "Bigger John") and I each were
smuggling large quantities of alcohol onto to the ship. Bigger John had 3
liters of wine, and I had 1.5 liters of Midori, 1.5 liters of Stoli, and about
1 liter of Sweet and Sour, which can only mean one thing - Green Apples
(editors note: more S&S would have been nice... as would more vodka since
that got drank apart from the Green Apples).
Well, my luggage doesn't show
so everyone else changes into other clothes while I'm stuck in my leisure suit,
and sans alcohol. We go up on deck to socialize and I immediately get grabbed
by some young woman who is in a large group from Atlanta. She wants a picture
with me. Later, a friend hands me her beer to hold which I graciously
finish for her. The suit is working just swell. My buddies all want to
go back and change.
At this point I think it's best to introduce the principals:
(*= standard description by me of our group members to our new
acquaintances on the ship)
So, we're off and sailing. I am still without luggage and none to happy
about it. My friends are none to happy about me complaining and threaten
to punch me every time I mention my luggage. I get punched a lot. Eventually
I discover my luggage on my own near one of the elevators and I unpack
and make some Green Apples.
- Me: You know me.
- * The portable entertainment system
- John Coyle (aka Bigger John):
Olympic silver medalist. Speedskater. 6 foot, blond hair, blue eyes (the
chicks dig him). Lives in Wisconsin.
- * The ring leader
- John Wesseling (aka Big John): Lives in San Diego where he is a
neurobiologist. Working on his PhD.
- * The conscience
- Kevin Bennett: Poet. Class of '90, '91, '92, '93, '94.... err, he
took the "extended" path to his BA in English. Lives in Michigan with his
parents. Loves wine.
- * The wildcard
Dinner and the Bitches
This deserves a subheader it's so nice. We all show up in our leisure suits
to dinner and sit down with some uptight Southerners whom we find out are from
New Orleans. Right away they are not amused and ask "are you guys for real?"
Of course, we're not going to try and chase away these cute young ladies (well,
3 of the four were cute), but we're also out to have a good time, and we're
not going to turn down the fun TOO much just to please them. Nary 20 minutes
into this it is clear that we've got no chance in hell of ever pleasing these
ladies so I decide it's time to just turn it back up to normal (which is bad
enough, but God forbid if we ever gave them full blast!). After I commented
that New Orleans really isn't in "the South", they wanted to know what I
defined as "the South". I responded "pretty much any state where it's legal
to marry your cousin." Bam. Game over. The next night we were offered
a bottle of wine by a group of guys to trade tables with them. We never
ate dinner with these women again. However, they did provide ample
A few words of advice on cruise ship casinos:
- Craps and black jack are played like in the real world. You can do OK
with their odds and it's fun and the stakes are low. I was up and down on
black jack, but had fun. They also have "face up" black jack, which is an
interesting and fun variation to play. The dealer gets their cards both
face up to start. However, you lose on all ties and I think black jack is
only even money. The dealer must still hit and stick like regular blackjack.
- I understand that the slots give bad odds.
- I KNOW that roulette is terrible. 25:1 payoff. Aack!
- Poker. If you want to make money, and you know how to play poker, here's
where the money is. All other games, you're playing against the house with
set odds. Here, if the competition is bad (which on a cruise, what do you
expect? These are NOT professional gamblers), you can do quite well. OK,
it's only a 1-5 game, 7 card stud, table stakes, forced entry on the first hand
for lowest card. The rake was something like 10% up to $5 per hand. Still, I
made over $200 playing on just 4 or 5 nights never for more than an hour or
two per night. If I hadn't shown up shitfaced on the last night and dropped
$87 without winning a hand, I would have been up over $300 for the trip.
Gauss and the Big Pot
Most of my money was made on one hand. I'm sitting around and playing
pretty tight, but loosening up as the week continued. I've got aces and
2's and feeling pretty good. The pot is building quite nicely and we're now
down to 2 other players. $5 bets are coming from me and no one is really
raising. No one looks to have much. As it turns out, I'm actually up against
aces up from one guy (obviously higher than my 2's - fives I think it was)
and a flush from the other guy. I've already got a pretty healthy stack in
front of me and as we get to the last few cards, Bigger John has walked in
to watch. He tells me I'm a parody of myself. I'm wearing white pants,
a white shirt, and a black three-quarter sleeve jacket. Very cheesy.
I then unbutton my shirt another button to add to the cheese. John looks
at my cards and thinks they're pretty good. So, here comes the last card.
I Gausstabate in the greatest fashion (editors note: Gausstabation is the
act of taking two cards and sliding one up and the other down, with a third
card behind them, slowly revealing the final unknown card. The is named
after the immortal Russ "Gauss" Garber). Sure enough, I land the deuce
for the full house and go from "worst to first" as Gauss would put it,
never even knowing I was in last all along. I take home a monster hundred
and change dollar pot. John is impressed. I'm done. Time to party some more.
If I had just been out to make money, I think I could easily have payed
for my trip just by gambling. Until the last night, I never left down from a
session of poker, but there was so much else to do and I was on vacation, so I
never played for very long. My other buddies didn't play poker or else
it might have been a little different. Still, there was much fun to be had
elsewhere. The only other downside of gambling was that I was playing cards
with the father of one of the women I was hitting on. And he was none too
happy when I was all in and he found out about the "table stakes" rule. Of
course, I won the hand, which should have made him happy since the table
stakes rule saved him money, but for some reason this didn't seem to make
him feel any better :-)
Change of Itinerary
Sure enough, early in the morning our cruise director gets on the air and
tells us that we've got a change of plans due to Luis. Not only is his English
accent very annoying, but we went to sleep at 5 and we are tired and grumpy
and hung over. Plus, every other word is "indeed." "Indeed, hurricane Luis
is indeed heading toward Saint Maarten, indeed. And indeed, our captain..."
We invent a new drinking game. Every time he says indeed, you must drink.
We end up going to Jamaica, Grand Cayman (editors note: very expensive place),
and Cozumel. We are happy with the change of plans and like these destinations
better than the originals. We only hope that Luis beats us to Miami so
we can be stuck at sea longer.
We have fun in all the ports. Since this report is already dragging on,
I'll skip the extended port by port reports and just summarize.
- We did rent a VW bug convertible in Cozumel, which was fun. The ruins
were disappointing but maybe worth it anyhow. We snorkeled there too. We
also ate an extremely cheap dinner in town. Good bargains there.
- In Jamaica we climbed the falls and while my buddies snorkeled I jetskied.
We were also serenaded by a two-toothed man while eating at the "Jerk Center".
- In Grand Cayman we snorkeled and ate a very expensive deli lunch. I also
ordered a shake and an ice cream cone. After a LONG wait for the shake, it
is finally ready at the woman at the counter calls out "shake!" I did.
Everyone was amused.
We decide we need more alcohol so we buy beer in Jamaica. Red Stripe.
Good stuff. However, the only thing which exceeded being asked if we
want any ganja during our walk was being asked for beer during our walk
back to the boat with our beer. Every five feet someone would ask, including
the road crews. We were perseverant and kept all our beer. We also
walked the entire way because, somehow, the closer we got to the boat,
the MORE they wanted to charge us for a ride. We stood fast. We get back
to the boat and security won't let us bring the case on. They insist "no
cases of beer." After fighting with the security guard for a while, I go
to the purser and ask about the rules. He says "up to 5 liters of alcohol
per person." I tell security. He doesn't budge. I go back to the purser
and this time find out that we can bring on up to 5 liters, but they have
to hold it for us and we get it back Friday night. We explain THIS to
security and finally convince them to keep the beer for us and take down our
room number. Now, we had already taken a few out when we got yelled at
the first time (we left the boat and packed some into our bags before
fighting again), so we were down to 17 (we also drank some on the way to
the boat). The guy asks us how much beer we brought. We said 17. He said
"what about these other cases?" Being idiots, we didn't claim the other
confiscated beer which other people had given up on. We were honest, but
we did get our beer back Friday night and I tell ya, 3 or 4 or 5 of those
Jamaican Red Stripe Lagers and I was toasted. Red Stripe was about $1 per
bottle but after shopping around in Cozumel I managed to find Corona
for about 50 cents each so we bought a case. This time we were smart and
split them up and smuggled them on in our bags. No problem.
Much like his better well-known MacGuyver, BeerGuyver is a very resourceful
individual. He can open up a beer bottle anywhere. I was given the task
of being BeerGuyver. I opened beer bottles on the handles to our bunk
beds, on a post in Jamaica, on the backs of lounge chairs, on a towel
cart, and on the door to the sauna.
Back to our friendly New Orleans group. They got into a practical joke
war with the guys who bought us out to change tables. Lucky for them
they didn't get mixed up in such a war with us. Well, the guys bring
back a crab from Cozumel and put it in their shower. Well we just happen
to get back on the ship the second time just behind the ladies. We follow
them back to their cabin and they happen to leave their key in the door.
We wait for the screams, open the door and take pictures. They freak and
the head bitch starts kicking the crab and eventually chases him out with
a toilet brush. Feeling sorry for the crab, we capture him in a bag
and bring him back to our room. On the way, we run into two little kids.
Bigger John shows them the crab and teaches them how to pet it, etc.
While we're there, some guy comes down the hallway and then starts SCREAMING
"you fucking perverts" and "you fucking faggots" and so on. We egg him
on a little, but are genuinely perplexed as to what his problem is. We
incite him with "what? You're a faggot?" and "you look good in those tight
jeans" and so on. Eventually, he comes all the way back to us and then
leaves. As he is almost gone, Kevin lets out "what's the matter? You
didn't get laid tonight?" He then kicks a room service tray, breaking the
lid and sending cake all over the hallway. At this point, people all
up and down the hall have their heads out of their doors trying to see
what's going on. Bigger John wants to find him and kick his ass.
Well, as luck would have it, the next night I'm playing poker and who do
I see working at the craps table? Crab boy himself. We were going to
rat him out but never did remember to report him.
OK, so let's cut to the chase. Did I get thrown in the brig or not? Well,
it was close. After our final port call we partied until 3 in the disco,
as usual, and then decided to have a little fun. Earlier in the week,
someone had gotten on to the PA and announced "this is you captain" and then
"we're going back to Puerto Rico." I later found out who this was and where
they did this from. We couldn't resist. So it's 3AM and I find the mike
and announce in my best imitation of our cruise director "This is your
cruise director speaking and indeed, I am a pompous ass." We check around
to see if anyone heard and then Bigger John returns and says "Welcome to
day seven of the Carnival cruise. This is your cruise director speaking
and indeed, I will be waking you all up at 8 in the morning even though
we don't have a port of call tomorrow." Sure enough, we did actually get
waken up by the cruise director, as usual, for no good reason. As we left
to go back to the disco, some crew guy dressed in white comes running down the
hall. John took one stairwell, I took the other, which happened to be closer
to the guy. I walked, looking non-chalant, but was stopped and harassed
anyhow. I never admitted anything, but the guy knew I was involved.
He tells me how it against federal law to interfere with ship's communications
and blah blah blah and I should tell whoever did it how serious this was.
I go back to the disco, have a good laugh and tell everyone what happened.
Well, he comes back again, this time with a security guard, and interrogates
me again. He takes down my cabin number and so on and tells me "we've already
had our last port of call, so we can't disembark anyone, but..." blah blah
blah. I play along and tell him I know it was very serious and it won't happen
again. The next day, we got many congratulations for this prank, and everyone
who knew us knew we had to have done it.
We decided that you could actually communicate with only a
single word language. We chose boat. With varying inflection, "boat"
meant everything. Much to the dismay of a phone caller to our cabin,
she spoke to all four of us and for a minute did not hear anything
other than the word "boat". I answer the phone:
When she arrived, we were watching the news about some monkeys so we lapsed
into monkey-mode, "eeh eeh"-ing and bouncing around. We sniffed her and
then groomed her, picking for bugs and all. Much fun. Yes, we're weird.
"Can I speak with John"
Hand phone to John
... and so on.
Other items of note:
Lots of other stories I'm sure I left out but will remember later. Just
ask me about it next time you see me. Remember, I've CONDENSED these
stories to make this easier to read and more importantly to type.
- A packed Carlos and Charlies and dancing on tables and dancing with a woman
on my shoulders.
- Toga party in the disco.
- We lost *5* volleyballs overboard in one afternoon on the deck.
- We got busted for rollerblading on the deck.
- Saw cool fish, a couple of rays, and even a sea snake while snorkeling.
- Had much fun dancing to "You Shook Me All Night Long", with my patented
stomp and jumping from chairs and what not.
- Started a slam pit to Bachman Turner Overdrive (in togas, no less).
- Bigger John won the pillow fighting contest. He and I were paired in the
first round and continued to pummel one another while on the ground (it
was done sitting on a balance beam, the first to fall loses). After he
won the men's competition, I tackled him off the beam.
It was a ton of fun. Remember, we were a clique back in college but
haven't all been together since '91. This is going to be an annual thing
but this was a our FIRST annual reunion. It was fun just being together
again. Kevin had told his parents I had mellowed. He was wrong!
PS Please don't ask about the Bible.
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