Ships this size don’t sink, I told myself. Sure maybe in movies, but I wasn’t Leonardo De Caprio and this wasn’t the Titanic. More than two thousand souls were on board and we couldn’t possibly be facing the unimaginable. Still, the storm was strengthening and waves were getting pretty darn high, breaking over most of the decks. The ship was plunging into deep troughs and moaning when she rose up to catch the wind, and from the window of our cabin I could see crew members preparing lifeboats. We had been ordered to stay off the decks and balconies, and told to have our lifejackets ready.
Our ship was Holland America’s Amsterdam, a full day out of Glacier Bay when the storm caught us in open water on The Bay of Alaska. Up until then I’d resisted cruising because I knew being trapped on a floating all-you-can-eat restaurant wouldn’t be good for my waistline.
Sue, usually the patron saint of moderation, this time enticed me with, “The Amsterdam, as its name would imply, is a Dutch ship. And you know what the Dutch are famous for, don’t you?”
I licked my lips. I didn’t care much for tulips, wooden shoes or windmills, but I was a chocoholic, and convinced the streets of Paradise were paved with the stuff. I’d agreed to come on this cruise because the brochure promised a chocolate extravaganza beyond my imagination. Now it looked like my lust for chocolate was going to send me to Davy Jones’ locker.
In our lurching cabin, Sue was already wearing her lifejacket, along with all of the jewelry she’d brought with her. She was wearing a path on the carpet while running to the bathroom with her hand pressed over her mouth. A steward knocked on our door. He was handing out Dramamine like they were Pez.
“Why is the ship rocking so much?” I asked. “Don’t these vessels have stabilizers?”
He said, “The stabilizers are out of commission. The Amsterdam is scheduled to
go into dry-dock for repairs when this cruise is over.”
“Is this a hurricane?” I’d never experienced one before, but this certainly felt like one.
“Winds are approaching seventy miles an hour, so we’re close.”
I checked my wristwatch, and then hit him with what was really on my mind. “They haven’t cancelled the ten o’clock chocolate extravaganza in the dining room, have they?”
He pushed back his cap and looked at me like I had a third eye in the middle of my forehead. “I haven’t heard anything, but I doubt many passengers are going to want chocolate any time soon.”
Sue took that moment to once more leap off the bed and dash to the bathroom.
I thanked the steward for the Dramamine and gave them to Sue when, white-faced, she emerged from the bathroom. She took the tablets and was soon blissfully unconscious.
It was five minutes to ten. Hurricane or no hurricane, I had no intention of missing out on the chocolate extravaganza. Sue was snoring on the bed, and I knew she wouldn’t want me plunging to the bottom of the ocean without my beloved chocolate on my lips, so I closed the cabin door behind me and inched to the stairs.
A sign indicated that the elevators had been shut down because of the storm so I descended the stairs on my hands and knees until arriving at the floor where Heaven awaited me. As I reached the dining room door, the ship shook like it was being crushed by a giant fist. I heard a tremendous crash. The door opened and a chef covered in chocolate barred my entrance.
“I’m sorry, sir, but we just lost the chocolate extravaganza.”
“What do you mean, you lost it?” I shrieked.
“The table collapsed and it just hit the floor.”
“I need to see it, Pleeeze!” I wasn’t above chasing a chocolate truffle around the floor of a pitching ship.
“It isn’t safe in there. I insist you go back to your cabin.”
He was too big for me to tangle with so I reluctantly complied. During the night the hurricane blew itself out and the seas finally flattened. The next day the captain ordered free champagne for the passengers. Of course few stomachs could hold any down.
As I drained my second bottle I reflected on Captain Ahab. Like him I, too, was destined to spend my life in pursuit of the unobtainable, forever searching for something just out of reach. Ahab would never get his whale, and although I’ve eaten a ton of chocolate over the years, none of it has matched my imagination. None has compared to what was denied me when my chocolate extravaganza crashed to the floor.