Monday, January 5, 2015

Hanging With The One Percent

My uncle passed just before my parents and I were scheduled to go on a Caribbean cruise.  A certain amount of phone calls to airlines and the cruise line later, it was worked out that my parents would fly to Maryland for the funeral, I'd go to Florida for the cruise as planned, and  -- assuming all connections work -- my folks will meet me on the ship at our next port.

This leaves me on the ship by myself for a couple days.

No biggie.  I've cruised alone before; although this one is a bit different because I'm not exactly alone, just temporarily alone.  I here recount the relevant portion of a conversation with the social director of the cruise:

Her:  Excuse me, but are you here alone?
Me:  Er, yes.  Sort of.
Her:  Well, we're having a dinner for the solo cruisers later in the week, I'd like to give you an invitation.
Me:  Well, I'm solo now, but I don't intend to be later in the week.
Her:  [Eyebrows going way up]  I'm not sure what to make of that.

Yeah.  So I had to convince the social director I'm not a giant slut tryin' to find me a rich widower or something.

Not that this wouldn't be the place to find one.  Lordy, but there are some wealthy people on this cruise.  I mean, look, this trip was expensive.  I had words (many of them loud and several unprintable) with the travel agent regarding the amount of money this thing cost.  And that's for ten days in one of their lower cabin classes.  Sixty percent -- sixty freakin' percent -- of the people on this cruise were on the ship when it docked in Miami; they're just tacking on this ten days to the end of whatever other cruise the ship just did.  I met some folks who cruise three times a year... and I learned that there are some people who spend SIX MONTHS out of the year living on this ship.  (And you can bet it's in one of the super-pricey cabins.  The ones that come with butlers.)  It is hard to wrap my head around that kind of disposable cash.

No, I lied, I can wrap my head around it.  This because I (out of curiosity) went to the presentation by the ship's Shopping Coordinator.  (There's your first clue -- the ship has a shopping coordinator.)  The lady in question advises that she'll be on shore, in the jewelry shops, to assist.  And if you need something resized, not to worry -- she'll make sure it gets done for you while you're relaxing on the beach, and she'll pick up your goods and deliver them to your cabin.

And we're (obviously) not talking about shells on a string.  Nope, this is all about diamonds (partially about tanzanite, and occasionally about watches -- although that's only to keep the men interested).  In her hour-long (I nearly dozed off) presentation, the phrase "tax and duty free" was mentioned dozens of times.  (I idly wondered if what she really meant was "tax and duty free, if you happen to forget to declare your purchases.  Wink, wink.")  But what I was really there for was to find out who, exactly, she thought she was talking to, and what a "bargain" actually was for this particular group.

There was a mention of a $139 pair of tanzanite earrings (with a free pendant with purchase).  OK, I'll allow that as a potentially reasonable price.  But most of the Super Bargain prices she mentioned were in the high three-digits and low fours.

I woke up, though, at the $150,000 watch.  And when she suggested all the women on the cruise turn to their husbands and say -- speaking of their engagement rings -- "Honey, don't you think it's time we upgrade?"  Because, you know, whatever carat-size you got back when you were engaged is certainly too small now.  And the store she highly recommends (I know she highly recommends it; its name showed up a zillion times in her slide show) has a TRADE-IN program.  That's right, ladies, give 'em your old engagement (or wedding, I guess) ring, and they'll give you full value for the stone in trade for a much nicer one.

I am not a husband.  Indeed, I am an unmarried female.  But I can't imagine what it would be like to have one's spouse suggest trading in a ring with all the emotional significance attached to one's engagement or wedding ring, in order to get a bigger rock.  It kinda made me sick.

(But it's tax and duty free, so it's ok.)

This isn't to say that applies to everyone on the ship.  Not everyone here can buy and sell small villages, and a lot of folks I've met are genuinely nice -- regardless of net worth.  Still, you hear some odd things when you happen to find yourself in an environment that caters to the high end.

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