My dad continued looking at the menu, unaware that the sea turtle floating above his shoulder was trying to get his attention.
“Hey, I’m looking at a dude with a black shell. He has some silver fur on his head. He’s looking at this, like, rectangular thing. Hi there, dude! What’s your name?” the turtle said. The people at nearby tables turned to watch as they realized that dad’s polo shirt was the black shell in question.
“Dad, the turtle wants to know your name,” I said.
“Maurice. Wait, what?” Dad said, turning to look at the giant TV screen behind him for the first time. The turtle from Finding Nemo floated there, waving at him.
“Hi, Maurice. Where are you from, dude?” the turtle asked.
“Up north,” Dad replied, laughing, but eyeing the turtle with suspicion. Dad values his privacy. No magical animated sea turtle is going to steal his identity.
We don’t normally dine with sentient celebrity reptiles, but on that night, we were on a Disney cruise, ten of us, celebrating my parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary. It’s starting to look like their relationship might have real staying power. Those crazy kids just might make it.
Speaking of crazy kids, as it turns out, that’s what you get when you give children 24-hour access to a never-ending soft-serve machine and unlimited dessert after every meal.
“Can we get some ice cream?” my son, Zack, would ask, before the chocolate from his third dessert had even hardened on his face.
I’d never been on a cruise before. This one was headed to the Bahamas, but from the way people talk about cruises, the boat’s destination never seems to be anybody’s primary concern.
“Enjoy all the food!” everyone would say. Who cares where you’re going? Eat lots of waffles!
To me, one of the biggest selling points of a cruise is that there’s no Wi-Fi. Well, technically there is, but you have to pay for it, to the tune of about three dollars per byte. It would be cheaper to train a dolphin to swim your messages back to shore. So no work emails. No casually thumbing through Facebook while ignoring the people in the room with you. You have to truly disconnect. It’s freeing. Sure, you could get the same benefit by locking yourself in a concrete bunker, or switching to Sprint, but then you wouldn’t get all the unlimited ice cream.
Somehow, with all the hyped-up, overstimulated kids running around the ship, the hundreds of employees all maintain good cheer in front of the guests, to a person. It’s amazing.
“Have a magical day!” a teenager will say to you, completely without visible irony. That wouldn’t happen anywhere else on Earth.
Somewhere, deep in the bowels of the ship, there must be a brig filled with surly teenagers. If you pressed your ear to the floor, you could probably hear their voices faintly wafting up through the decks: “Ugh, this is, like, so ANNOYING!”
We did miss out on the quintessential communal cruise experience of sharing a norovirus with our shipmates. This is probably because employees stand around all day, jamming sanitizing wipes into everyone’s hands. The kids’ areas even have these swirly automatic hand washers that make hand-washing fun.
“I washed my hands three times in a row,” my son Zack, who never voluntarily touches soap, reported. Disney really does make magic happen.
For the most important magic, though, we successfully celebrated my parents’ golden anniversary. I hope they know how much we all love them, and how lucky we feel to be a part of their happily ever after.
My family will probably will wait a little while before our next cruise, though. I need to give my biceps a break from pulling the ice cream lever.
You can hit the buffet with Mike Todd at firstname.lastname@example.org.