I'm sure everyone wants an update on the state of my stomach as well as a report of the gustatory pleasures I enjoyed on the cruise. So here they both are.
Probably the only good thing about forcibly ejecting the entire contents of your digestive tract from any available orifice over an eight-hour period is that afterwards, your stomach is as shriveled and sour as an unripened kumquat, which means you can't put a whole lot in it, which means you lose weight.
There are a limited number of activities you can pursue on a boat, but eating and drinking head the list. Cruise lines make it a point of pride to feed guests often and well. On this cruise, room service was available 24-hours a day, free of charge. The ninth floor of the boat featured a 24-hour all-you-can-eat buffet that didn't exactly stink, though it wasn't up to the quality of the formal dining room, which offered meals like roast pheasant, filet mignon, lobster or lamb chops. I ate more meat in that one week than I'll probably consume for the rest of the summer. I also ate more soup: I'm not usually a soup person, but when it's chilled blueberry soup with champagne, or chilled peach soup with a dollop of creme fraise, or chilled pear soup with ginger, well, then you're just eating a smoothie out of a bowl with a spoon, and who wouldn't go for that?
Supposedly the average weight gain for a cruise is a pound a day. I didn't gain that much, but I didn't diet, either, and I sure as hell always ordered dessert. One of the main reasons I didn't get spectacularly and instantly too big for my britches is the fact that I didn't drink much. I had an occasional fancy cocktail in some lounge while we watched the sun set, but that was it. No one else in my family drinks, and it's just no fun to be the only one at the table ordering wine. Plus it's expensive: you pay extra for fancy coffee (there was an espresso bar in the place), soda (no kidding: a Coke cost $2.89), and booze. The fact that no one drank at dinner quite flummoxed the various wine stewards, who would show up at the table to explain what wines we should be drinking with what course. They'd deliver a spiel and try to hand out a wine list, at which point everyone would turn to me, and I would say to the wine steward, "We don't drink." He would then say, "No one wants to risk drinking and driving tonight, aye?" and again try to give someone a wine list. "We don't drink," I'd say a second time, and he'd realize he wouldn't be earning any tips at our table (a 15% gratuity was added to all beverage orders) and begin dejectedly gathering up our wine glasses. But it was clear that for plenty of people, what really made the cruise a vacation was the fact that they could have not only meat but alcohol at every single meal: I can't stomach a nice plate of bacon and eggs and a bloody mary first thing each morning, but for those who can, well, a cruise is ideal.