Funny thing, cruising. Humans are quite target-driven creatures. They aim for stuff and either succeed or fail. Other animals are more content to just be. Cruising, however, is, almost by definition, aimless. Yes, you go TO places, but they are not your destination. They’re a passing point. And the day to day existence of eating, sunbathing, filling your time with nothings – internet, learning a language, learning a craft or a new game or sport, bridge, table tennis, cricket – none of it has a meaning or purpose. It’s just filler. Filling the time between meals, theatre shows, parties. All of which is also filler, designed to distract you from the passing of time and distance, or the risk of piracy*. You go to places so briefly, they barely notice your presence, charge around in an air-conditioned coach for four hours or so, buy some tacky locally-made knick-knacks and ludicrously over-priced postcards, and then leave. It’s a good taster of whether a place would appeal vis à vis a longer return visit (Key West, yes, Colombo, no, for example), but it’s hardly in depth discovery of another culture or way or life. Everything on the ship is transient and everything is filler. It’s all really about the journey. Travelling across the ocean. Nothing but water in every direction. The horizon is visible up to about 15 or 20 miles in every direction and there is nothing but sea and sky. Elemental stuff, if you can only drown out the noise of all the filler long enough to hear it. Even a stroll around the deck is disturbed, by the health nuts charging past doing lap after lap after lap. They never turn their heads sideways. They never stop and admire the view. They never slow down and contemplate the enormity of what they’re doing here, their minuteness in the face of the endless seas. Too busy charging past trying to burn off last night’s trifle. You know what? If it bothers you that much, DON’T EAT THE TRIFLE!
And so the ship tips gently from side to side as each gust of wind lifts the waves, the wire coat hangers chime gently against the wardrobe doors, and the world turns. It’s a very, very big world and we are a very, very small ship tootling across the surface. Not as small as the ships that the discoverers and explorers travelled in, but small enough in the grand scheme of things. We’re a speck, even on our own maps and charts. And all most of the people on this speck are worrying about is getting a good sunlounger and what to wear for dinner.
* Footnote re: pirates. We emerged from the Gulf of Aden unscathed, but apparently, the ship behind us in the convoy (which was slower and lower in the water than us) was shot at. So there you go.