I've never been on a cruise, but thanks to a complete stranger named Artie, I now honestly feel as if I have.
Artie bought an item from me on Ebay a couple weeks ago and mentioned that he was going on a cruise, so he would appreciate it if I delayed sending the package until he returned. He then asked me in his e-mail, "Do you want me to send you some photos of my cruise every day?"
I thought he was kidding, but just for the heck of it, I wrote back, "Sure!"
Well, a few days later, I began to receive photos of Artie's cruise with his wife, Claire. In fact, he sent no fewer than 25 photos each day. I was surprised, mainly because I thought it was a little strange for the two of them to be sharing so much of their personal lives with me, a total stranger.
The first batch of photos contained a few shots of Artie, a middle-aged, stocky man with short-cropped hair, and his wife, a petite blonde, boarding the ship. The rest of the photos were of the food on the cruise...the buffets, the dinners, the snacks, and seemingly every single bite that he and Claire put into their mouths.
"Here I am eating breakfast," the caption read below a shot of Artie digging into a plate heaped with enough bacon, eggs, hash browns, sausages, muffins and donuts to feed an entire football team.
"And here I am having a snack." The photo showed him wearing a T-shirt with the words "MR. BIG" on the front, a baseball cap shading his eyes, and a slice of pizza hanging out of his mouth as if it were a giant tongue.
His cruise itinerary listed places like Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman and Cozumel, so I was eager to see some scenic photos of these exotic places. But when in port, Artie took photos of such scenic sites as Burger King, McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken, with Claire posing model-style in front of them.
“Can you believe they have all of these American fast-food places here, too?” he wrote.
I was beginning to suspect that his sole purpose for going on this cruise was to eat...and as much as humanly possible.
"I order two entrees for myself every night for dinner," he wrote. "First a fish course and then a beef course. And two desserts, too!"
He sent close-ups of a fish the size of a dolphin and a slab of meat about the diameter of a Frisbee, along with various photos of himself tackling the food, his mouth wide open as he shoveled it in.
Then came the shots of his desserts. "This one is some kind of fancy thing where they set cherries on fire," he wrote. "And I don't know what this is, but it has a bunch of raspberries, cake and custard in it. I think it's called an English tribble."
Artie, I couldn’t help but notice (because the photos nearly blinded me) was a very colorful dresser. The photos showed him in a bright chartreuse-green shirt with a tie that had huge yellow, orange and green flowers and peace symbols on it; a red shirt with a British flag necktie; and a fluorescent orange shirt with a tie covered with dancing and smiling M&M candies. The man never could have fallen overboard without being spotted floating in the water, that's for sure. Claire, however, always was tastefully dressed in simple sundresses or a blouse with a plain skirt.
One photo showed Artie eating a huge bowl of fresh strawberries smothered in cream. The next photo was a shot of him and Claire on a boat he called a tender, which took them from the ship to the shore. Artie wrote, "All of the ships here anchor out at sea and bring people inland with these tenders. During our trip to shore it was windy and the seas were pretty rough. Boy, I sure wish I hadn't eaten all of them strawberries and cream."
In several photos, Artie and Claire were wearing Santa Claus hats. "We brought them with us," he explained, "so we can use one of these photos for our Christmas card this year."
Artie said that the ship's roving photographer constantly took photos of the guests, and at the end of each day, the photos were displayed so the guests could purchase them. Artie, however, sneakily took photos of the photos, just so he wouldn't have to buy them. The man's frugal side became even more evident when he said he and Claire walked over two miles from one port into town because a taxi would have cost him $6.00.
"I ordered my usual fish dinner and a beef dinner tonight," Artie wrote one night. "When the waiter brought me my meal, I couldn’t resist telling him my favorite steak joke...about a waiter who came out of the kitchen with his thumb on a steak on the plate he was carrying. The guy who’d ordered the steak asked him, 'Waiter, why is your thumb on my steak?' And the waiter replied, 'So I won't drop it on the floor again.’ I really cracked him up with that one!"
I noticed that by day five of the cruise, Artie's waistline looked much bigger than it had on day one. In fact, it looked a good two inches bigger. The latest group of photos of him, his shirt buttons straining against his added pounds, showed him eating “snacks” of a triple-scoop ice-cream cone, shrimp cocktail, pizza and a mountain of French fries that filled an entire dinner-plate.
Just looking at him eating all of that food made me feel so bloated, I had to dig through my purse for some Rolaids.
"Tomorrow is the final day of our cruise," Artie wrote. "I will send you my last batch of photos then."
That was nearly a week ago and I haven't heard from him since.
I suspect he might be in some place like Bora Bora, hospitalized with clogged arteries.
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