As I sit here writing, my house is gently rocking on the waves. At least that’s how it feels, which is what a week on a cruise ship will do to you. I once worked a five-week standup comedy gig on a Norwegian Cruise Lines ship, and when I walked ashore, I wanted to get back on the ship so the sidewalk would stop swaying under my feet.
Anyway, it’s good to be home. The cruise was a blast (more on that shortly) and Chareva and I certainly enjoyed taking a break from parenthood and hanging out with other adults, but I really miss the girls when I’m gone for more than a few days – which is the reason I stopped doing comedy on cruise ships in the first place. (When you call home and find out your daughter has been crying and asking when Daddy’s coming back, it sort of takes the fun out of the job.)
Before I get to the cruise report, I want to give a shout-out and a big thanks to The Older Brother for once again taking over the Fat Head chair while I was gone. I enjoyed reading his posts and your comments. He turns 56 on Thursday, so wish him a good one and 56 more.
The Sixth Annual Low-Carb Cruise festivities began on Saturday night with the pre-cruise dinner and roast at the Doubletree hotel in Houston. This was Chareva’s third low-carb cruise and my fourth, so running into so many people we’ve gotten to know over the years felt very much like a class reunion. I also enjoyed meeting people I “know” (Dr. Jay Wortman, Jonathan Bailor, Rocky Angelucci) but have never previously met in person.
I haven’t checked the audio and video on the roast yet. If all is well, I’ll upload it later. This year’s group was significantly smaller than last year’s, so there was less of that comedy-club-crowd energy in the room, but it was still fun.
We set sail on Sunday, which means we met our dinner-table companions for the week that night. The gentleman in the upper left and the woman in the lower right are a married couple from Finland. The cruise was a total surprise to her. She only knew they were visiting New York City (which they did) until they boarded a plane for Houston instead of heading home.
He developed an interest in diet when he was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and was told nothing could be done about it besides taking medication. Guess what? He doesn’t take medication now. He avoids grains and eats plenty of meat, eggs, seafood, butter and vegetables. (Amy Dungan and her family were also at our table, but ate at the buffet on several nights because the kids – not surprisingly – weren’t especially interested in having dinner with a bunch of us old fogies.)
I have no idea what Chareva was saying to amuse our friend from Finland in this picture. She may have been describing how she plans to kill her first chicken.
Monday and Tuesday were at-sea days, so that’s when we attended lectures by the speakers. All the speeches were recorded and will be available online later, so I won’t bother trying to describe them. The only disappointment was that Robb Wolf had to cancel because his mother became very ill shortly before the cruise.
I enjoyed the lectures as always, but the real appeal of the low-carb cruise for me is the socializing.
The extremely tall man on the left in the picture above is Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt from Sweden. If you don’t already read his Diet Doctor blog, you should. To the right is Dr. Jay Wortman, the driving force behind the excellent documentary My Big Fat Diet. The adorable child with the huge blue eyes is Dr. Wortman’s daughter Isabel, who quickly became a celebrity on the cruise. She’s articulate, extremely bright, and perhaps the most even-tempered three-year-old I’ve ever met. She happily sat through all the lectures and the two-hour dinners with adults … never complained, never whined, just kept herself amused the whole time. Dr. Wortman attributes her good nature to a high-fat /whole foods diet, and I’m sure that figures into it, but I suspect the fact that he’s a patient and doting father plays a part as well.
The happy couple above is Jonathan Bailor, author of The Smarter Science of Slim, and his lovely wife Angela. Based on our email exchanges, I already suspected Jonathan is blessed with a great sense of humor, and I was right. He’s quick-witted and fun to be around.
As on previous cruises, our group mostly hung around the piano bar at night.
Now, when you hear “piano bar,” you probably imagine a nice, quiet place to enjoy a drink and some conversation, right? Nope. Someone at Carnival seems to believe that if you’re not in your room, you want to be subjected to loud music. Every single bar on the Carnival Magic has a loud guitar player, loud piano player, a DJ, or a band. We all crowded into an area of the piano bar that extends out into the hallway, as far from the (not especially talented) piano player/singer as we could get, only to find that Carnival also had speakers in the ceiling above us – just to make sure we wouldn’t miss Hotel California played on a piano.
I went to the bar and explained that we were all sitting way over there specifically to avoid the noise. I had to talk to two different people, but finally got them to shut off the speakers above us. That meant we could talk without actually yelling into each other’s ears. Fortunately, we’ll be on a different ship next year – perhaps one run by a cruise director with the good sense to provide at least one lounge where people can talk without shouting at each other.
On Wednesday, we docked at an island off the coast of Honduras and attended a wedding. Yup, a wedding. On last year’s cruise, two of our British friends, Chris and Ailsa, became engaged. (She was genuinely shocked when he popped the question at dinner.) They were officially married in a civil ceremony in England just before this year’s cruise, but had the “celebration wedding” on Wednesday at a beach resort.
I’m sure you recognize the guy with Chareva in the photo above. Since last year’s cruise, Jimmy has lost close to 80 pounds while putting on 16 pounds of muscle, which means he’s dropped nearly 100 pounds of fat. He looks like a new man.
After the wedding brunch, a large group of us went zip-lining in the jungle. That’s the bride and groom in the second picture below with Chareva and me, about to have an interesting wedding day.
If you’ve never been zip-lining, here’s how it works: the guides strap you into gear that looks like it belongs in a bondage flick. Then you hike up to a platform suspended high above the jungle. Then the guides clip the bondage gear onto cables above your head. Then you ignore every instinct for self-preservation bred into you by millions of years of evolution and jump off the platform. Then you trust the bondage gear to hold your weight while you slide ridiculously fast down the cable to another platform that’s suspended from a tree by cables and sways when you stand on it. This is, you understand, intended to be fun.
I’m afraid of heights but went zip-lining anyway because Chareva told me I was going zip-lining anyway. I wasn’t actually afraid I’d fall and die. People go zip-lining all the time and live to tell about it. I was mostly concerned that I’d go zipping off a platform and end up treating the rest of the wedding party to my third Scream Like A Girl incident. (You can read about my first two Scream Like A Girl incidents here.)
My nerves were jumping and my palms were sweating, but I knew I couldn’t back out when I saw this: Mary-Clare, who happens to be sixty-seven years old, went zipping out there with no apparent fear. (She zipped solo a few times before the guides decided to start accompanying her.)
We zipped down 12 lines altogether, and I actually started to enjoy myself after the first four. That’s because it took me four trips down the lines to figure out how to stop turning in the air and ending up zipping backwards. There I am, afraid of heights to begin with, sailing high above the jungle at what feels like 60 mph, facing the platform I just left, having no idea where the next platform is or when I’m scheduled to collide with it, just hoping and trusting that the guide responsible for catching me isn’t about to make what baseball scorers call “an unforced error” … or merely thinking to himself, “I wonder what would happen if I let one of these funny-looking foreigners crash into the tree?”
On Thursday, the ship was docked at Belize City. I’ve seen it before and had no desire to see it again, so we stayed on the ship and mostly hung around with other low-carb cruisers. On Friday, Chareva and I wandered into Cozumel, where she bought souvenirs for the girls while I pretended to be interested in the souvenirs she bought for the girls. (I’m not an enthusiastic shopper, to put it mildly.)
Jimmy Moore and I continued our cruise tradition of singing Elvira in the karaoke bar one night, and on another night we added Margaritaville to our repertoire. That was pretty much it for karaoke. The Carnival Magic, unlike other ships we’ve been on, tends to have karaoke at odd times – like during dinner.
Saturday was another at-sea day. Robb Wolf was scheduled to speak, but since he had to cancel, we had two Q&A sessions with the speakers instead of one. As always, I was impressed by the both the questions and the answers. People in this group read a lot, listen to a lot of podcasts, and ask sophisticated questions.
Before the last night’s dinner, there was a cocktail party for our group. The pictures below are from the party.
The woman with Chareva and me above is Laurie Rosen, one of the friends we look forward to seeing every year, even though she says “aboot” instead of “about.” (Those wacky Canadians all seem to do that.)
The gentleman with me above is Rocky Angelucci, author of the excellent book Don’t Die Early.
That’s me with Dr. Jay Wortman, Dr. Dwight Lundell, and some goofball behind us.
For the record, the hat wasn’t my idea.
The woman farthest to the right is Dietitian Cassie, one of the speakers for the week, and probably one of the few dietitians in the country who tells her clients to skip the grains and eat plenty of good quality fat.
After the party, we had our last dinner on board, then headed up to the piano bar for a last evening hanging out with old and new friends. Speaking of which, one new friend deserves special mention — because by the end of the week, we’d concluded she may be Chareva’s separated-at-birth, long-lost sister.
Denise Cripps (both pictures above) and Chareva were born three days apart. They’re both bright, pretty, dark-curly-haired, talented women who had the good sense to marry old guys they met while working temp jobs. (Both old guys also couldn’t believe their luck and were therefore slow to pick up on hints of romantic interest.) They’ve both worked as substitute teachers. They have the same laugh. They share many of the same interests. As they were sitting together in the piano bar one night, chatting like BFFs, Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt looked at them and said, “You two are like …uh … not triplets. The other word.”
Denise was also responsible for the perhaps the best line of the cruise. I’m a night-owl and Chareva isn’t, so on some nights she went to sleep while I continued socializing with our fellow cruisers. Denise and I ended up leaving the piano bar together late one night and walked to the elevators, where we ran into a handful of people from our group. They told us they were on their way to some other late-night activity.
“Well, we’re heading off to bed,” Denise answered.
And just as it struck me how that reply could be interpreted, she whirled around and said, “Not together!”
Hope to see you all on next year’s cruise.