Fun For All, Even Voyeurs Like Me

We are a few days into the trip now, and currently sit docked in Montego Bay, Jamaica. It has taken sixty plus-hours of navigating through the Gulf of Mexico to get here, but here we are, in a country famous for voodoo magic, an Olympic bobsledding team coached by John Candy, and an immortal musician who shot the sheriff, thus giving thousands of upper middle class college students an excuse to sport dreadlocks even though they have no business doing so.

During our voyage, passengers have been kept busy with a variety of activities and events offered by Carnival: swimming, games, shows, etc. With somewhere in the neighborhood of three-thousand people all hanging out together on the same hunk of metal, ensuring that the masses are entertained is imperative in order to avoid a boredom-incited mutiny.

To their credit Carnival knows how to keep mutineers at bay by providing something for everyone. Golf lessons? Go grab a club on the upper deck. Facials? There’s a day-spa aboard. What about for the kids? Camp Carnival will distract your youngin’s until 3 a.m.. I know, corn-holing? Believe it or not, there’s a rowdy crowd tossing bean-bags in the lobby right now. But I want to be in a Hairiest Chest Contest? Sure, it’s for men only, but just an FYI, they already declared a winner yesterday—a charismatic fellow whose upper torso was amazingly similar to a kiwi in both form and texture.

Not wanting to be a complete fuddy duddy, I’ve even been participating, spending the majority of my time engrossed in a personal fave—people watching. Literally, I can do it for hours, and from almost anywhere too. In fact, the great minds at Carnival went so far as to dedicate an entire TV channel solely for viewing passengers lounging around the pool area. The other afternoon I tuned in as a shirtless, pot-bellied man downed half a dozen cold ones, and then passed out under the blazing sun. I enjoy cooking shows quite a bit; so this was like watching a beer-basted turkey broil during a Martha Stewart Thanksgiving special—and all from the comfort of my own room no less!

Naturally, with this many passengers aboard, my eyes can feast upon a veritable smorgasbord of people, both young and old, who come in all shapes and sizes, and hail from various parts of the country while also representing a cross-section of diverse, socio-economic backgrounds. Yet what fascinates me the most about this is the peculiar force responsible for causing the same four or five shipmates to keep popping up at random moments during our trip. The best way for me to explain the mystery of this phenomena is to describe it as a Seven-Degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon meets Where’s Waldo sort of thing.

Thus far, the person I’ve bumped into the most in places such as, the men’s room outside of the dining room; at a show sitting two rows behind me; on the elevator during several rides; and in a Montego Bay gift shop. I’ve seen him so much, that I’ve starting referring to him as East Texas, George Clooney—this in reference to his salt-and-pepper mullet; baritone, twangy accent; and disarmingly toothless grin, which altogether, I have to image can melt the heart of any woman whose name contains a hyphenated Sue living in the tri-county area. Honestly, though, the resemblance between East Texas George Clooney and the A-list actor is uncanny.

Should anyone be interested in a doing a little people watching of their own, I recommend situations involving two seemingly mismatched elements like say, a group of retirees and free alcohol (actually, you could add alcohol to anything and it’s going to get interesting). I’m only using such an example because these were the precise forces at work on my family’s snorkeling excursion in Jamaica.

I’m not sure if the heat was affecting their senses or if they wanted to be fully calibrated prior to having lunch later at Jimmy Buffet’s famous Margaritaville, but regardless this lively bunch of seniors proceeded to get hammered on a never-ending supply of rum punch being served on the catamaran we were riding on. Some would call this behavior “being young at heart” and “letting it all hang out.” I call it being in denial, and wish they would tuck most of what’s hanging out, back in. Then again, at thirty-eight, my AARP membership is firmly established; thus, skewing my opinions here.

Still, this didn’t prevent me from taking in the spectacle before me. As anyone could’ve predicted, a hunched over woman with skin that resembled both the color and texture of a dried apricot proceeded to get sick, filling up a plastic bag with a hearty heave ho before passing out. Naturally, her fellow senior citizens, sensitive to the potential health risks at hand, were quick to respond, snapping photos of her and giggling like this were a frat party highlight.

With this being a family trip, I was quick to seize upon the opportunity of turning this into a teaching moment for the kids. “You see that, girls?” I started. “That’s why you should always drink in moderation, and only pick friends who’ll look out for you ‘cause the last thing you want to happen is end up on YouTube and embarrass your grandchildren.”

Lest anyone get the wrong impression here, I should clarify these remarks by stating that it’s not my intention to demean what others do to find enjoyment. No doubt I have garnered my fair share of raised eyebrows as the extraordinarily unremarkable chap with unnerving voyeuristic tendencies. My point, however, is that what’s fun for others may not be so for me and vice versa. But this is a testament to who we are as individuals and what makes us tick, and ultimately, this is a good thing. Carnival, whose motto is “Fun for all. All for fun” has a solid grasp on this, and at the risk of sounding like a corporate sell-out, I’d say they know what they’re doing.

Note: In accordance with the regulations put forth by the FTC, who likes to do a little people watching of their own, let it be known that Carnival did provide me a with an all-expenses paid trip, but they did not pay me to say nice things unless I really, really wanted to.

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