It’s been two days since I disembarked from the ms Nieuw Amsterdam and I can still occasionally feel the rocking. Aside from a really bad Monday, in which I missed dinner in the Manhattan Dining Room (and a selection inspired by chef counsel Marcus Samuelsson), I handled the high seas fairly adequately. I expected the food at the Lido Deck to resemble a giant trough, but that’s because of my experience on Royal Caribbean’s Empress of the Seas (no longer in RC’s fleet). It turned out to be much better. The service aboard by the entire staff was impeccable and there were more than enough bars to settle into. But perhaps my fondest memory will be the craps table, where my colleague Jonathan V. Last went on a 20-minute hot streak. I needed him to hit 4,6,8, and 10, and he did. In fact, he hit 10 twice in a row.
As for the cruisers, we couldn’t ask for a nicer group, many of whom have fascinating life stories they often keep to themselves unless you ask them. One fellow worked for defense contractor TRW at the Redondo Beach office at the time his colleague Christopher Boyce was selling secrets to the Soviets (made famous by the film Falcon and the Snowman). Another guest who works in the entertainment industry had the distinct honor of being fired by Michael Bay (whom he describes as “the biggest a—hole in the business”). And then there was the quiet gentleman who turned out to be a retired Air Force pilot who flew the U-2 over Cuba and was one of the first men to fly the SR-71 Blackbird (at a speed of roughly 2,100 mph at an altitude of 81,000 feet above the Earth). What does the sky look like from that high? Black, as it turns out, though he never saw stars. As for the titanium needed for the Blackbird, Lockheed designer Kelly Johnson set up a dummy company that purchased titanium from the Soviet Union. “They were just happy to sell the stuff to anyone,” the retired officer told me. I also asked him about the U-2 pilot shot down over Cuba. “That was my deputy [Major Rudolf Anderson Jr.]…. We knew it was only a matter of time before one of those golden BBs [a Soviet SA-2] was going to get us.”
Q: So what exactly have I done with my life?
A: Did I mention my winning at the craps table?