Published February 15. 2013 4:00AM
"I'd like to welcome everyone to Steve's Cruise Lines. I am your skipper, Captain Steve. I promise this will be a truly memorable experience for all of you, and … yes, madam?"
"Excuse me, but when we signed up for a dream cruise we expected to see a, you know, cruise ship. If you don't mind me asking, where's the boat?"
"That's a very good question, and I'm delighted you asked it. On the beach to your right, or should I say, starboard, you'll see our handsome auxiliary fleet, which will provide excell …"
"You're joking, right? Tell me this is all a silly prank, and any minute a big liner will pull up to the pier and carry us off for a week of elegant dining, world-class entertainment and romantic getaways in exotic ports …"
"The lady's right! You don't expect us to get in those tiny – what are they, anyway, some kind of canoes?"
"This is crazy!"
"I want my money back!"
"I'm calling my lawyer!"
"Hold on, settle down everybody. Now, as all of you are doubtlessly aware, Carnival Cruise Line's Triumph encountered difficulties in the Gulf of Mexico the other day and was forced to ground all its liners while authorities inspected the rest of the fleet. If you take a close look at the travel contracts you signed when you booked your cruise, Carnival reserves the right to substitute ships and itineraries in the event of unforeseen contingencies. An engine fire certainly constitutes an unforeseen contingency. Carnival realizes how much you've been looking forward to your vacations, so rather than postponing your voyage and refunding your money the company decided to made arrangements with Steve's Cruise lines to provide an exciting alternative to the cruise ship experience."
"That's right, sir. I could tell that you are a man with an extensive seafaring background, which will make your voyage with Steve's Cruise Lines all the more rewarding. Now, as I started to say, there are a few items we need to go over before embarkation. First of all, can I see a show of hands, how many of you know how to execute an Eskimo roll or a high brace? … I see … Anybody familiar with the basic forward stroke? … All right, let's back up – has any one actually been in a kayak? … Really? Hmm, well, there's really not much to learn. Hop in, start paddling – boom, you're a kayaker. Of course, we'll need to practice a few open-water rescue drills and wet exits, but I assure you mastering those skills is no more challenging than, say, rappelling down a cliff or traversing a glacier. Yes, madam, another question?"
"What about food? Carnival promised unlimited, round-the-clock access to international cuisine?"
"And Steve's Cruise Lines offers comparable fare, also available 24-7. You'll notice dry bags next to the kayaks. Each one contains five pounds of Brazil nuts, a quart of Israeli hummus, three pounds of Chinese noodles, a wheel of Jarlsberg cheese and a six-pack of Guinness. You don't get any more international than THAT!"
"What about sleeping quarters? We signed up for upper-deck staterooms!"
"The hammocks now stowed in your forward hatches can be hung as high as you like once we get to a campground in port."
"I was reading about that engine fire on the Triumph before we arrived here. It knocked out the air conditioning, the lights, the TOILETS…"
"Yes, but you won't encounter any of those difficulties with Steve's Cruise Lines. We rely only on fresh, natural air to keep our passengers comfortable, and I can assure you the sea breezes will keep you cool during the day, especially considering it's the middle of February. As for illumination, I personally changed the batteries on each of your headlamps only yesterday. As for your last concern, each of your survival kits contains a copy of a wonderfully informative manual, whose title I have modified slightly to avoid unnecessary offense: 'How to Poop at Sea.'"
"Are you saying we'll have to …"
"Trust me, sir, it's not as objectionable as you might imagine. And you'll certainly be better off than those poor passengers aboard the Triumph who had to put up with backed-up commodes."
"What about the promised entertainment?"
"You shall have it! Right next to the aforementioned volume on personal sanitation needs is another book, 'America's Favorite Sea Chanteys.' In fact, let's start right now: 'As I was a-walking down Paradise Street. Way! Hey! Blow the man down! A pretty young damsel I chanced for to meet … EVERYBODY JOIN IN … Give me some time, to blow the … Hey! Where's everybody going? Come on, let's get those PFDs and spray skirts on! Pick out your kayaks – first ones get the boats with seat cushions! It'll be fun! Way better than the ordeal suffered by those miserable wretches floating helplessly on a crippled liner for five days! You'll be captains of your own destiny! Everybody sing along: 'Fifteen men on a dead man's chest. Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum! Drink to the devil and be done with the rest! Yo-ho-ho and a …'"