We have crossed the Equator and the Prime Meridian. We have four more ports of call, 11 more sea days, and 15 more nights on the ship. People are starting to talk about the weather at home, how to pack all the stuff they acquired, what they are going to do when they get home, how they are ready to go home, or are not ready to go home. Then my friend, Paul, put it into perspective when he said “We have more time left on this cruise than most people get for their entire vacation.”
But crossing those two lines is a marking point. We are in our twentieth time zone. Crossing them simultaneously makes it something more special. The Captain says that makes us “Emerald Shellbacks” whatever that means. But it was an excuse to make a party at 11 AM when most of the ship is usually asleep, especially after the morning’s 4AM rude awakening. There was a good turnout as people crowded around two monitors that showed our position on the map and reads out the latitude and longitude. I noticed that each time the seconds changed they jumped a couple of numbers. The readout on the screen was not precise, so after taking pictures of people taking pictures I want outside and, using the GPS on the phone, captured our crossing the lines. Bow in the spring of the northern and western Hemispheres and the stern in the autumn of the northern and eastern hemispheres. It’s a good thing I did because the display on the screen showed 000.00.01 S and 000.00.01 E and jumped to something like 000.00.01 N and 000.00.04 W. I came in with the screen shot on my iPhone and lots of people, including the ship’ photographer took pictures of my iPhone screen that showed us crossing two imaginary lines, one of them arbitrary, simultaneously. When we crossed the band played anchors away, and “Celebrate Good Times.” And everyone went to bed. It was almost 11:30 and for this crowd (me included) 9:30 is the new midnight.
Fortunately crossing the line we moved into a new time zone so we got an extra hour of sleep so we could be awake for the ceremonial crossing of the equator at the pool. This was a bit anticlimactic for many because on this cruise we had already crossed the line three times.
In the ceremony today the initiates were all on their first cruise where they “crossed the line.” They were merchant marine cadets, musicians, photographers or service staff. At breakfast Julia asked us if we were going to the ceremony. She smiled and said “There will be pirates!”
“But I thought we were trying to avoid pirates.”
“They work for US and will serve you drinks.”
I think the reason Julia was excited at having us there is because she was one of the initiates (pollywogs). While others marched into the lido with hangdog expression, escorted by pirates, she waved to her public and smiled. (She said, the next morning, she wanted to march in acting like the queen. She had practiced the “royal wave.”) As they marched they were doused with cold water.
Julia told us that the initiates were volunteers who had never crossed the line, and she didn’t want to miss out on the fun. She had to petition her boss for time off to
The charges were read by the cruise director, dressed in black robe and white wig. King Neptune was the activities director and his mermaid queen was one of the dancers. They had a very suggestive patter between them and a lot of ribbing of each other. For instance:
Judge: “She is charged with serving fish”
Queen: “She must be punished”
King: “But even I like a little tail every once in a while”
Queen: “That’s because you have a little…
King: “Enough, he must kiss the fish.”
Other charges were, “torturing the elderly by making them sit, stand and bend.” (physical fitness instructor), telling everyone who saw her to take two aspirin and be sure to wash your hands (a nurse), and “taking over the ship’s internet to stream American Idol” (an entertainer). That got a good crowd reaction since our internet has been down a few days and will be down several more.
Each pollywog had to kiss a particularly ugly fish and then be slathered in slime (colored foam). Finally the captain and senior officers had to judge, thumbs up, they sat on the pool side and baked, thumbs down, if they were consigned to the deep (the pool). According to a crew member I spoke with, the captain knew in advance who were the non-swimmers and they got the thumbs up.
At the end King Neptune said there is one final charge, trying to cross the line without punishment, the accused was the mermaid queen. She was clearly surprised, slathered and dunked.
At the end all the initiates jumped into the pool, on in the case of the non-swimmers climbed down the ladder into the shallow end, to get rid of the slime. The pirates followed as did just about everyone else on the crew who were in the splash line. King Neptune welcomed them, and us, to his domain, and awarded us the Royal Order of Emerald Shellback, there was a certificate waiting in our room, and wished us all a safe voyage.