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Shipmate Nightmare
on the Main Deck

by Fred Steinberg

Fred is a professor of marketing at LIM College in New York. He is a former marketing executive with IBM and has published numerous articles in the areas of travel, education and business in magazines and newspapers in the US and Asia. He is a former contributing business columnist for the Singapore Straits Times and currently serves as Co-Chairman of the Marketing Board of the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT.

Introducing some of the fine shipmates aboard the good ship MS Nordkapp:

Day one and two:

My wife and I have been on five cruises and always opted to dine alone. But for some reasons, contrary to our usual MO, on our recent trip up the coast of Norway she felt we should dine with another couple. Our usual desire not to mix is not because we are anti-social (though we probably are) but because of our fear of winding up with a couple like Frau and Herr Boreman.

Say “Hi” to Henrick and Elka, natives of Nuremburg but now hailing from Vancouver where they recently moved from Toronto. The well-named Boremans are to interest and enjoyment what coal sludge is to the Sierra Club.

Henrick spent our first dinner together regaling us in excruciating detail of their two-handed recent 2,000 mile move, which they managed to accomplish without help except for two illegal immigrants at each end. They were hired for loading and unloading particularly heavy items in and out of the 16 wheeler the Boremans rented and drove across Canada, packing and unpacking  themselves.  Henrick was particularly proud of the fact that the only negative parts of the trip were a double hernia and a slight stroke. But apparently the Canadian National Health System picked up all the bills except for a $4.65 safe arrival call from the emergency room to his brother in Dusseldorf. 

The second night Elka gave us a detailed description of her membership in the Maple Leaf West Bulb of the Month club. I was imagining wonderful discussions of 60 vs. 76 wattage, clear vs. frosted or incandescent vs. fluorescent when I seemed to hear Elka say something about spending hours in the yard planting . As I tried to envision her driving a six foot fluorescent tube into the ground, it occurred to me that she was discussing a different kind of bulb.

After two dinners of such fascinating conversation and trying to dodge the Boremans who waited outside the dining room for us even at the open seating breakfasts and lunches, we needed an escape plan. I offered to tell them we had picked up a bug when visiting the Bergen Leper Hospital and Museum (yes, there is such a place). But under my wife’s stern guidance I settled for a minor touch of Swine Flu which immediately did the trick.

Day Three:

Enter Joe and Edna Friendly, whose primary cruise purpose was to see how many people they could meet and invite to spend a weekend with them at their new condo in “beautiful downtown” Bayonne,  New Jersey.

Edna confided to me that she and Joe cruised each September with the hope of filling their winter dance card with weekend guests from Thanksgiving through April Fool’s day. “Except for Christmas and New Year,” explained Edna, “that’s our blackout period. And while we’re pretty booked up for the remainder of the year, we still have a few openings in March if you’re interested. And remember we take our special guests for Sunday brunch to downtown Hoboken. Dutch treat of course,” she added.

Thinking fast I explained that we were planning to spend the winter in the Ice Hotel in Kirkeness, the last stop of our Norwegian voyage.

Day Four:

Meet Ma (Alma) and Pa (Hiram) Fricket of Oneida Creek, Wisconsin. For Alma and Hiram, this trip represented their first cruise, first international trip and, in fact, as Alma whispered to me, first trip outside Brown County. Hiram later confided that he had once attended an Odd Fellows State convention in Milwaukee when Alma thought he was ice fishing in the Fox River. Hiram had always longed to go to Milwaukee, the beer capitol of the country, as in Oneida Creek he was considered somewhat of a beer connoisseur.  The one-time home to some of America’s largest brewers, including Schlitz which was known as “The Beer that made Milwaukee Famous,” the city is still world HQ for Miller and Miller-Coors and rated the nation’s second hardest drinking city by the respected Forbes magazine.  And Hiram was anxious to get in on the action.

Milwaukee’s affinity for beer results in it being the home to more beer halls, taverns saloons, bars, pubs, as well as AA branches than any other city its size. (Its major league baseball team is, of course, the Milwaukee Brewers.) Hiram started his afternoon at the city’s Beer Museum but was disappointed. “I gave them five bucks to enter which didn’t even get me a glass of beer,” he complained. He headed back to the bar at the hotel “where they charged me three fifty for a mug of brew with not even a pretzel.” That was enough of big city life for Hiram, especially since the hotel was charging him 50 cents an hour to park his tractor, so it was back to Oneida Creek.

When asked if they were planning another cruise, Alma said the Oneida Creek Ladies Aid Society was taking a three hour boat ride across Lake Michigan to Grand Rapids to shop at the largest Agway dealership in the midwest, but she wasn’t sure another sea voyage was for them.

Day Five:

Let me introduce you to Ms. P.O. (for Post Office) Chiang. For the first four days of the voyage, P.O. could be found writing post cards on the starboard side of deck five. By Thursday she had written 346, used all of the names on her PDA and was still 93 short of her goal – setting a new Guinness Book of World Records for post cards sent on a six-day cruise.

She  was quite distraught when she explained to me that she had thought her PDA contained over 500 names and addresses – what to do? What to do? 

Never at a loss to assist a damsel in distress, I suggested she collect the names and addresses of 93 other passengers on the boat. “You mean send post cards to other people on this cruse?” she asked somewhat taken aback. “Why not,” I answered. “I’m quite familiar with Guinness rules, and that would be perfectly acceptable.” She smiled and off she went.

The following day I saw her back at her perch on deck five, writing away. She thanked me and profusely apologized for forgetting to ask my name and address. “Not a problem,” I said. “In any case, we are nomads, descendent from Romanian Gypsies and still looking for a place to settle down.”

We fled the boat on day six to the echo of P.O. shouting: “Don’t forget to write.”

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