The dreaminess persisted until late the next night. Wandering the boat from one entertainment option to another, we settled on a nightclub featuring a husky-voiced female singer and a backup band that included a mean rhythm guitar. Before the cruise I had braced myself for a lot of lukewarm musical talent doing cover songs by synthesizer, but I was more than pleasantly surprised to be proved wrong, at least by this act. Dahlia ran the gamut from Sting to Donna Summer to Dixie Chicks, all with a soulful delivery that got people onto the dance floor when they likely expected to be sitting down and tapping their toes. After my husband and I took a couple of turns ourselves — he’d promised dancing, part of the reason for this cruise — my happiness was nearly complete. I had good dance music and nowhere to be the next day.
I was literally floating, untethered to the daily grind. Then Dahlia, who had just finished singing a bluesy song from the lap of an appreciative middle-aged man, made an announcement. She said the man had a son fighting over in Iraq, and we should all send good vibes his way. Waving her mike in the air, she cried, “Let’s hear it for the war!”
I briefly considered ditching the club and going over to the disco a few doors down. But then I had another small revelation: These intrusions were very likely all over the ship. This place was a getaway, but it was also an agglomeration of mainstream American attitudes that I hardly encountered at work every week. This was not what I bargained for, I thought, but then again, it was: When I signed up for this cruise, I was hoping for an environment totally unlike my own, with potential surprises — and that’s what I got.
I decided I wouldn’t let those surprises spoil the trip; that’d be like letting a mild case of poison ivy spoil an otherwise spectacular stay in the country. Politically reprehensible opinions on vacation were, at this point, like exotic flora that was probably best to observe or judge from a distance. We stuck around for a couple more Dahlia numbers and danced some more before taking on the disco. (Lots of remixed Madonna; no politics.)
The rest of the weekend was as stellar as the beginning. I noted that the Ecstasy was staffed by people from countries all over the world; they all walked around with the names of their native lands — India, Sweden, Russia — pinned to their uniforms. They were lovely and cordial to us Americans in that Love Boat kind of way, though I was sure if you pressed them about their opinions on world matters, they’d give them to you. I didn’t press anybody, but the idea cheered me nonetheless. The couple we met at dinner wound up liking us so much that the husband gave us his card and said that if we were ever near Fresno, we could look them up and he’d escort us through town in a police car. That doesn’t quite beat a cruise, but it’s certainly somewhere else. And who knows? If we do meet up with them back on the ground and deep into California farm country, we may all sit down and revisit our conversation about the French.