Thursday, August 8, 2013

If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck.....

......and is advertised as a "gambling" cruise, take them at their word.

Believe me.

As I've gotten older, I have become cynical about advertising. In other words, I believe NOTHING. This has proven to be a safe tactic to follow. Usually.

There are exceptions, it seems. I found that out this weekend. We had purchased a "Casino Cruise" and even though we don't gamble, we thought it would be a nice evening on the water and a chance to spend the night out of town. The price included dinner for two, a $5 coupon for some game of chance (which we gave away later), and the cruise. Good deal, huh?

But it WAS a gambling boat. And that was advertising truth. The owners of the business wanted its patrons to do one thing: gamble. After six of the longest hours of my life, we knew that we should have taken them at their word on this one.

I worked in a facility once for delinquent boys. I was a "housemother" (which is terribly funny to me now, but that's a story for another day) who lived in a big house with about 10 boys who were....well, the name says it all, right? And we ate in a cafeteria, so I didn't have to cook for them. Serving as target practice for thrown furniture was bad enough.

When we herded the boys through the line to get our "food," it was often unrecognizable. The "dinner" we had on this boat was reminscent of those good times. The chopped steak was gray, the ham was overcooked, and the mixed veggies swam in a green liquid. The "chef" plopped a scoop of mashed potatoes on our plates and then swirled a brown gelatinous semi-pudding gravy over them. At least he had the good grace not to smile as he moved us through the line.

One of the worst meals of my life. Bar none. Plus they wouldn't serve alcohol during the meal. THAT was only available in.....the casino, of course! While we ate this delectable cuisine, Santa Claus serenaded us on his karaoke machine. Of course, that wasn't his real name, but it was hard not to make comparisons with the full white beard, suspenders, and jolly tummy. He did have a good voice, though, and there was even a dance floor. AHA! we thought. We had found our hang out during the rest of the cruise. We would return there later and enjoy the music and dance, which is all I need in life to keep me happy. Then later we can return to the open-air deck and relax in deck chairs under the stars. Who needs gambling? Our plans were laid.

The boat left dock while we were eating, and we soon went up to that open-air deck to find three metal picnic-type tables with combined hard bench "seating" for about nine people, if you squished together real tight with seven people you didn't know, five of them (at least) smoking. Not a deck chair--or anything with a back on it at all--in sight. The deck below us, with a smaller observation area had no chairs or benches at all. So, we stood there as the boat chugged out to the three mile limit and then it began circling. Downstairs the casinos opened for business.

People raced down the steep metal stairs to one of two complete decks devoted to gambling. Everything from poker to routlette, plus those noisy slot machines. Folks found their game of choice and hunkered down for the duration.

And everything else on the boat shut down. Everything. We returned to the dining hall to listen to Santa and found him sitting in a corner; the music on this evening of fun stops when the casinos open for business and it stays quiet until time to return to the dock, some four and a half hours later. Plus, they lowered the thermostat in the dining hall to tundra temperatures to discourage "visitors." There were more comfortable chairs in this area, but we hadn't brought our down jackets in August; who knew? And there was nothing to do in there anyway. (We had considered bringing our own deck of cards on board to play rummy, but thought managment might not take kindly to that, so we left the cards behind. Mistake.)

In order to find a restroom (which had no soap in it all evening) or get a drink, you had to walk through......the casino.....where everyone in sight was smoking. Everyone. I haven't seen so many cigarettes alight in one place for decades. It's been three days, and I can still smell it somehow. My clothes had to be burned upon docking. Within 24 hours I developed a head cold, probably due to all those bodies crammed in one space for so long, the lack of soap, and a boat that isn't kept very clean to begin with.

So, if it advertises itself as a gambling cruise, believe it. If it quacks and walks like a duck, don't pretend you can transform it into a swan.

"Advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket."
George Orwell


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