Cruise crews and social studies

Published 11:05am Thursday, September 12, 2013

I’m staring at an endless blue horizon of sea, marveling that Caribbean cruise clouds don’t look all that different from Copiah County ones, when I spot a bird – big, white, at least a hundred miles from land.

So I ask the good-looking guy in the lounge chair next to mine just what kind of bird it might be. My husband cranes his neck and studies the sky hard. I think he even stood up and walked over to the rail for a better look.

“One that can fly a long way,” was all he had to offer before taking another lick of his froyo.

So we return to our important task of watching the propeller at the back of the ship (aft, I’ve learned) spin up another shade of blue sea. Lethargy has set in, due to breakfasts of Eggs Benedict and desserts like Grand Mariner Soufflé with orange vanilla sauce. The sad truth is one of us will soon suggest another nap. It takes a lot of energy to digest all this food.

But the kids are playing their one-thousandth game of ping pong, so we remain planted on the Serenity Deck. And strangely enough, I’m thinking of Mrs. Correro, my fourth grade social studies teacher.

“America is a melting pot of nations,” I can hear her say over the hum of a Frigidaire window unit and Jay Huffstickler’s interruptions. I wonder, while rearranging my beach towel, did Mrs. Correro ever take a cruise? And I’m wondering this because these 12 decks, though owned by some outfit in Panama, seem to me to be the most melted pot of all.

Just reading the crew’s badges is a lesson in geography. At our first dinner on board, a hostess from Hungary seated us, three waiters from Bali (look it up) took our orders, a table artist from India entertained us, and a photographer from Zimbabwe snapped our photo.

Apparently the cruise lines go global in their recruiting efforts.

And an extroverted teenager in our party is probably the reason we learned several stories behind those who polish, bake, sweep, wipe, carry, fold and smile mile after nautical mile. He’s most definitely why the server gave me strawberries for the chocolate fountain when everyone else in line got bananas and sponge cake. This son may be no translator, but his high-fives and handshakes seem to cross all cultural barriers.

By the first port-of-call we know a Haitian named Pierre and a Croatian named Ida – how old they are, why they’re afloat, and where they are in their six-month stint. We’ve also met two Ukrainians who joined up for the warmer weather. They think Americans are nice because when an American bumps into you, he’ll say he’s sorry. Evidently Ukrainians don’t.

But our favorite is Alit. Balancing six pitchers of water, he stops to tell us of his village in Indonesia where monkeys roam wild and his wife and three-year-old wait on his calls. We realize, of course, that we’re just one family in a parade of passengers he’s waited on for nearly a decade, but he takes time to share pieces of his life. And strawberries.

Saturday comes, and the Serenity Deck is emptied. Two hours from now, the crew will be serving Baked Alaska to a new boatload, so we’re waiting to disembark (another word I learned). There’s luggage and customs claims and the outgoing one actually asks if he can see if anyone is playing ping pong, please?

In the elevator, we make room for a couple trying to squeeze on at the Promenade level – them and their sombreros. They speak in German, guttural, thick, and again, I think of Mrs. Correro’s social studies class. And this floating melting pot. And how fun it’s been fun to dip into something different this week.

Wesson resident Kim Henderson is a freelance writer who writes for The Daily Leader. Contact her at