After a pleasant, but rainy and smoggy, stay in Tianjin, China, we were finally able to board the Costa Classica cruise ship to see the total solar eclipse in the Pacific. The ship was nice and well-appointed, but it was no Sinfonia. I think our experiences at the 2006 solar eclipse in Libya have pretty much ruined cruises for me forever, since I'm not sure that any other experience could quite live up to that. I had high hopes for the Costa Classica, though, since it's part of the same ownership as the MSC Crociere Sinfonia that we took in the Mediterranean in 2006.
The Costa Classica holds about 1200 passengers and over 600 crew members. There seemed to be quite a few bars on board, with not that many restaurants—just one large buffet and one formal dining room, and a pizzeria that was open during limited hours. The crew was a mixture of Italian officers and Chinese and Filipino waitstaff and cabin crew. Most of them spoke enough English to do their jobs, but not to converse at any great length about, say, solar eclipses or Barack Obama’s healthcare plan. The cute Filipina breakfast waitresses seemed to be quite taken with Alex, and let him take their photos.
Our room was larger than I expected, with nice cherry wood cabinetry and a bathroom you could actually turn around in, and even touch your toes, if you were so inclined. Most cruise ship bathrooms are about the size of an airplane lavatory, with a tiny shower that sprays water all over the sink and toilet when you shower. We had to spring for the deluxe cabin, since there were three of us, which seemed to be worth the extra expense. We only had to pay about 1/3 of the cost for Alex's ticket, which made it more affordable.
We went to bed early, still jetlagged from the trip from the California to China and the boarding ordeal. That meant we woke up before dawn and had to wait for breakfast to open at 6:30 am. When we ventured out of the cabin, it was pouring rain outside, which didn’t bode well for the solar eclipse.
We decided to take Alex up to the kids’ program, called the Squok Club, after breakfast. He was excited to meet some other kids, and was hopeful that there might be at least one other person his age he could hang out with. Most of the people we met waiting to board the ship were retirees, the ones with scarred retinas and t-shirts proclaiming the number of eclipses they had experienced.
We took Alex to the Squok Club, and walked into a room that seemed to be leaking in all directions, with water pouring out of the ceiling and through the windows from outside. The young Chinese crew members explained the protocol (sign your kid in and sign him out) and we left Alex playing with Legos with two boys from Los Gatos, a town not far from us at home.
When we picked him up a few hours later for lunch, he announced that he hated the Squok Club and was not going back. When I asked why, he said, “I don’t want to talk about it.”
So I quipped, “So, the first rule of Squok Club is never talk about Squok Club?”
He stared at me blankly, but at least that got a chuckle out of Frank. Alex said there were too many girls and they were forced to play “baby games” and that he would rather stay in the cabin and play his DS than go back there. He asked if he could just invite his new friend from Los Gatos to come to our cabin to play, instead of going to the kids club. We took it under advisement, but secretly worried that this was going to be a very long cruise.