And much as I admire airline personnel, none can compare to the spectacularly efficient and dependably pleasant Swedish stewardess, Birgitta, who, on the Vistafjord, voluntarily mended torn pants and miraculously produced a snack of grapes and Brie at 1 a.m.
And no one will ever be more concerned about the nutritional deficiencies of my diet than the compassionate Greek waiter, Yianni, aboard the Royal Odyssey. "Please, dear Mr. Marty," he would plead, "you must eat more Greek salad. Oh my, you have not even touched your moussaka," and then, with a mischievous smile, "If you don't come to lunch tomorrow, you will miss calamary, a special retsina," (now smacking his lips) "and baklava."
Ah, Yianni, purveyor of feta cheese and souvlakia, promoter of second helpings, and lobbyist for wayward waistlines, you're one of the reasons I don't shape up when I ship out.
Then, too, a ship is mood adaptable. Sometimes at sea I wish to be alone and to read. On countless cruises I simply find a solitary lounge chair on a deserted deck and savor the sun, the motion of the ocean and the peace that comes from enjoying the only company I seek: my own. Now lazy, languishing, solitary, silent and satisfied, I know my mood will inevitably change and a cruise ship can, and will, accommodate the shift.
In truth, on some cruises guilt (inspired by a visibly increasing personal tonnage) has made me feel suddenly energized, fitness-conscious and downright athletic.
I recall my shipboard appreciation of the sublimely graceful Sagafjord and its acclaimed "Golden Door Spa at Sea" program. My muscles, joints, tendons and--all right--fat, succumbed to a thoroughly professional exercise program supervised by superb (and cheerful) Golden Door instructresses.
Smug and Sore
I attended complimentary classes in "stretch and flex," "spot toning" and aerobics, smug in the knowledge that the Golden Door ashore would cost $3,000 a week. And where else but on a cruise ship would you ever be able to participate in a stomach strengthening class called "absolutely abdominals?"
The cynical dinner companion who sparked this silent reverie of seagoing reminiscences jarred me back to land, to the table and to the conversation.
"Come, now," he said, "surely you must have acquired some silly souvenirs on all of your cruises. Are you one of those crazy shoppers?"
"Well," I confessed, "I don't really need the oversize straw bag on which 'Aruba' is spelled out in sea shells, and my huaraches from Puerto Vallarta (both for the left foot) are at least two sizes too small, and the fisherman's sweater from Mykonos still smells like flounder. . . ."
Then I became silent, smiled broadly, and drifted dreamily back to sea. After all, I know why I choose to cruise.