Don't Even Go There—Travel Writing for the Rest of Us

Even if the world is your oyster, you can still chip a tooth on its shell. While travel magazines feature exotic locales of breathtaking beauty, we expose sites so depressing that no traveler this side of Edgar Allan Poe would venture there without a tub-load of tranquilizers. Take Las Vegas (please) and the $5.99 all-you-can-eat buffet line at Sam’s Town. That's the world we explore at Don’t Even Go There.

On this site, we tell of places we’ve visited but wish we hadn’t. We reveal vacation plans gone awry and relate horror stories from the road best abandoned. These true stories reflect where we’ve chosen to go. We only have ourselves to blame. We rarely needed to exaggerate—the truth really is stranger than a Dan Brown novel.

Don’t Even Go There: travel tips for those of us who aren’t escorted by security guards, pampered by wealthy benefactors, or provided a generous per diem. This blog is for seasoned travelers and armchair tourists who want the real world first-hand and head-on, with all its drama, horror, and humor. You’ll laugh at us, cry with us, and decide to stay home more often.

02 November 2008

Stripped from the Waist Down

We’ve taken all kinds of transportation, from a bicycle to a luxury cruise ship. We much prefer the cruise ship. This story illuminates just one of the many “advantages” to traveling in style. Enjoy it, and learn a lesson that will stick with you for years. —MB & JS

Cruises have become popular vacations, so we couldn’t write a travel blog without including a story or two about them. In an environment where midnight buffets and heavy seas share the trade winds, anything and everything can happen. Here’s one real-life example to whet your appetite.

When you book passage on a cruise boat, all your meals are included in the price. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and often, a midnight snack. All free. You can have dessert after every meal. You can literally eat as much as you want . . . and more, if you’re not careful. Not everyone can handle that kind of freedom.

We were lucky. Toward the end of one trip, bloated from too many éclairs and tortes, we took an opportunity to swim in the bay at a beautiful port of call. There we were, floating along like something out of Moby Dick, when an inert sea anemone viciously attacked us. Caught by surprise, we managed to break off a number of its stingers with the soles of our feet before retreating to the shore to form a posse.

A trained medical team (the lifeguard and his harem) removed the stingers one by one, and we survived, although we spent the final days of our cruise sequestered in the cabin with a high fever, surviving on a stash of crumpled saltines we found under the pillow. By the time we disembarked, our body weight had returned to normal. Sometimes it takes the Hand of God to help us restrain ourselves at the Buffet Line of Life.

Before all that happened, though, we gorged ourselves along with the rest of the passengers.

He may look normal, but here Mark is stuffed, bloated, and hung over: what you’d expect of a cruise ship passenger.

In the dining hall of a pleasure ship, you’re seated with six to eight strangers. The cruise director hopes you all get along, and most of the time you do. One night, during one of the formal meals, where everyone has to dress up to be served, the menu called for some exotic, foreign specialties. We joked and laughed and mispronounced everything on purpose. Escaped cargo. Faux grass. Fishy swap. Even our waiter, a stoic Pole, cracked a smile.

After the main course, we requested menus again, to make sure we hadn’t missed anything. As it turned out, we had. There, at the bottom of the appetizer list, were the words “Frog’s legs.” None of us had ever tried them before. They’re said to taste a lot like chicken.

We decided to split an order. After all, it was free. When would we get such a golden opportunity again?

When the dish arrived, we all sat stunned. Perhaps it was our fault for ordering an appetizer after the main course, when the kitchen wanted to focus on dessert and clean-up. Perhaps it was the waiter’s fault for serving something he wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot … well, never mind. Perhaps it was nobody’s fault; maybe the chef always prepared the appetizer this way. We had no way of knowing. We did know, however, that the dish did not match our expectations.

After all the anticipation, our former friend, the Polish waiter, delivered a small white plate, on which lay the bottom half of a frog, its legs stretched out like it was on an operating table. No garnish. No dressing. Just the frog, stripped from the waist down, minus the feet.

None of us could bring ourselves to take a bite. We couldn’t even cut off a slice. We poked it with a fork, pushed the plate from place to place, and bent over to smell it. But eat it? No way. This was supposed to be a meal, not an autopsy.

To this day, we only eat the chicken breasts and wings. Even then we hesitate, aware that the meat is said to taste a lot like frog’s legs.

Lessons Learned: When you’re on a cruise, you will do many, many things you’ll regret later, often while intoxicated. That’s why you go on a cruise: to let down your guard while someone else pampers you. There are some things, though, that you just shouldn’t do. Don’t insult the captain. Don’t enter the dining hall wearing a life preserver. And don’t order everything on the menu.
How We Saw It
Blight-Seeing: 1
Communication Breakdown: 3
Customer Dis-service: 1
Discomfort Level: 1
Grunge Factor: 1
Inactivity Guide: 2
Rent-Attainment: 3
Spontaneous Consumption: 3
Fun Fraction: 4/5
Vibe-Rating: 3

If You Won’t Listen to Us
Nearest Airport: The nearest port of call
Native Population: About 2,500 passengers
Normal Attractions: When not at port: casino, bars, night shows, movies, swimming pool, exercise facility, and more food than you can eat.
Final Point of Interest: Cruises have become kid-friendly over the years to draw families, but don’t kid yourself: being on a cruise ship is all about overindulging in adult activities.


Ask Asheville North Carolina said...

Haha, there always has to be one emergency on a trip like that.

Ask Asheville North Carolina said...

Again... who looks normal in that photo? lol.

Mark Bloom and Jason Scholder said...

Ask Asheville,
Thanks for your comments. The only thing we can say is that the memory stayed with us much longer than the meal itself.