Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Vacation 2012, #8: Palate-Cleanser

There are many things I love about cruising, but the chief thing is just being on the ship. Any mundane thing is elevated by being on the ship.  I'm especially fond of docking and undocking procedures, of watching the crew maneuver a thing so incredibly large and massive in close quarters (As far as docking, you virtually never FEEL anything; you have to be looking to know you've started to move--or heed the skin-wrinkling horn blasts from the bridge.) Eating, swimming, sleeping; all these things are made slightly magical when they occur in this huge, floating city. But probably my favorite single regular activity is watching movies at night as the ship steams toward its next port. There's something about seeing films in a gently swaying auditorium that nothing can beat.

Some of the bigger ships on other cruise lines show movies on outdoor screens; don't know if that would be better--it's certainly a cool idea--or if the incredible setting would just be a distraction. On the smaller HAL ships, the movies are usually shown in a general-purpose room commandeered for this purpose, curtains drawn and chairs set up. On a larger ship like the Eurodam, the theater is a dedicated space (though still usable for many different functions) with, say, 100 cushy chairs and a hi-def projector and a biggish screen. They make popcorn and leave little bags on a table by the door. Very nice. The first night I steered clear of "Insanely Loud and Obscenely Close," or whatever it's called. But the next night's film was David Fincher's Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. It was a standing-room-only affair, and all the old folks gasped and chuckled at all the right parts and nobody left during the brutal rape scenes. I suspect many of these folks had read the books. During the next 10 days we were treated to a pretty decent run of pretty recent films, many of which I had seen but was happy to see again: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (this one in the big theater since the show cast had the night off), My Week With Marilyn, others that now slip my mind. I saw at least part of many of them. 

My one complaint was that the picture quality was pretty marginal. The projector bulb was tired and I suspect they were using a standard DVD and projecting it onto a 10 or 12 foot screen, so the resolution was spotty. But no matter: the aspect of seeing it while at sea remains magical, and I could think of no better way to spend a couple hours of an evening.

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