A cruise question that never occurs: “So what have you achieved with your life?”

By Robert Field


Those are the questions I would have like to have put to fellow old people whom we met on our cruise ship as we toured the Baltic states from Reyjavik, Iceland to Copenhagen, Denmark

There were only a few young couples that mistakenly chose this cruise.  It combines the worst elements of an old age home in demographics with high school social relationships.

Have you ever gone to a fiftieth reunion with the thought that now there will be a leveling of distinctions between the “ins” and the “outs” ? Hardly will this occur.  The former will have a hearty time with old buddies an continue to snub others; the latter will re-live the pains of ostracism.

Whatever I have accomplished in my life hasn’t improved my social skills. I am still come across as a nerd as in high school among strangers.

The initial contacts on our cruise will be “Where are you from, how many children, where are they, how many grandchildren, what cruises have you taken before, which were better than others”, and so forth.  It will take no more than three days for the group to catalyst  into a high school society.   And if, by temerity or forgetfulness, one does endeavor to engage others in meaningful conversations, they will feel awkward and avoid contact other than a perfunctory  “good morning” for the rest of the cruise.

Well planned “fun filled” packaged day time activities will be provided either on or off ship, the latter at twice the cost they should be.  The lecturers and  guides in most cases will be affable and knowledgeable.  But they will stay on very safe topics lest they offend.

Yet here are many plus sides, so long as you avoid subjecting yourself to the negatives.  There is a veritable cocoon of comfortable surroundings, a variety of activities, good food available at all hours and, if so inclined as appears to be the case of most of the  fellow travelers, endless boozing. (Perhaps failure to do so has inhibited my sociability!)

Reasonably good Internet enables  communication and discussion with business associates, friends and acquaintances.   And, for me the most important of all,  I recommend bringing or downloading a half a dozen books of a variety of interests.

I have for company the authors of the following books:  P. W. Singer and Emerson T. Brooking of  “Like War, The Weaponization of Social Media”;  Peter Frankopan, “The New Silk Roads, The Present and Future of the World”;  Jim Sciuto, “The Show War, Inside Russia and China’s Secret operations to Defeat America”;  Michael J. Mazarr, “Leap of Faith; Hubris, Negligence, and America’s Greatest Foreign Policy Tragedy” and, for reading on the Sabbath, Eugene B. Borowitz, “Choices In Modern Jewish Thought.”   And also a course in Spanish to refresh my memory, some sixty years after spending half a year as a student in Mexico City.  None disappointed me.   And I especially recommend “LikeWar” and “The New Silk Roads.”

And a long cruise is especially helpful, thanks to the Internet, if you have a major project to which you would like to devote many hours without interruption.

Perhaps someday an adventurous or foolish cruise guest will ask me:   “What have you done with your life?”    Alas, if I told him the variety of my interests I would run a huge risk of offending. So what is the use?

But friendship might occur (although none ever has for me from a dozen cruises.) If we were candidly to share our thoughts about the past and concerns for the future, perhaps a post cruise friendship would evolve.