The sea day was a welcome chance to relax after 2 consecutive port days with busy schedules. Today we would be crossing the equator and conduct an appropriate ceremony as we entered King Neptune’s domain. We had previously crossed the equator on our initial transit from Panama to Nuku HIva, but that crossing did not receive any formal recognition.
I first crossed the equator on the USS Saratoga, back in 1985, in the Indian Ocean. The US Navy ceremony is far more elaborate than what occurs on cruise ships and can occupy the attention of much of the crew for the entire week prior. Here is a brief rundown of what occurs on the typical Navy ship.
Once the date for the ceremony is announced, the Trusty Shellbacks (those who have previously crossed) announce themselves and begin to mock and belittle the “Slimy Pollywogs”. All rank is ignored and senior officers are subject to the same medicine as the newest seaman. The night before the ceremony, the Trusty Shellbacks will issue Subpoenas to the Pollywogs to appear before King Neptune the following day and answer for their “crimes” which usually involve some form of disrespect toward Shellbacks or King Neptune.
The Pollywogs will often try to curry favor with the Shellbacks by putting on an entertaining show of semi-humorous skits, funny songs and dance the night before the big ceremony. After the inevitable failure of any mercy for the Pollywogs, the “Wogs” will occasionally mount a Wog rebellion and play pranks on any unsuspecting Shellbacks.
Bright and early the next day, the “Wogs” are assembled by department and are first taken to “breakfast” usually a disgusting form of oatmeal or grits, that while edible, is entirely unappetizing in appearance and in taste. The Pollywogs will be wearing the standard uniform which is their normal uniform only with all the clothes being worn inside out and backwards. It is as silly as it sounds.
The ceremony begins with the Shellbacks, dressed as pirates, herding their “Wogs” thru the gauntlet consisting of the Royal Barber – who rubs foul, rotten food or food shortening into your hair, a requirement to kiss the Royal Baby – which means kissing the grease covered belly of a heavier than normal shellback and finally you appear before King Neptune where you may receive mercy or be ordered to crawl thru the Royal Garbage tubes. These tubes, about 4 feet in diameter, are made from durable plastic and filled with old food waste and garbage – as nasty as it sounds. Once you crawl thru about 10 feet or so of these tubes, you can rinse off in a makeshift bathtub – usually a large container used to hold aircraft engines – and after you are clean you are declared a trusty shellback. The completion of this ceremony is made an official part of your service record. Participation is voluntary and those who choose not to attend are required to sit in a room the entire day and are forbidden from witnessing the ceremony.
The ceremony I described was typical of what was performed on USN aircraft carriers in the 1980s and early 1990s. You can look on You Tube and find some video of various ceremonies. The events I described are abbreviated and edited and can vary widely from ship to ship – there is no standard ceremony – it is up the ship involved to work it out.
The ceremony on the Amsterdam is crammed into 45 minutes and is mainly performed as entertainment for the passengers. Crewmembers have an opportunity to volunteer to take part if they desire. Passengers are rarely involved in the actual ceremony, but can be – Judy was allowed to take part on our Princess Cruise 10 years ago. If you are interested, make your preferences known to the cruise director and they may or may not be willing to give you a role or allow participation.
At 10 AM sharp, the ships whistle blew and with the passengers assembled around the Lido pool, they announced the arrival of the slimy pollywogs who were marched into the pool area by other crewmembers who were dressed as pirates. Gene played the role of magistrate and would read a list of humorous charges against the various pollywogs as they were brought before King Neptune (played by Event Manager Mark) and his Queen played by Showhost Jodie. They would be required to “Kiss the fish” – a large fish mounted near one end of the pool and then ordered onto the surgeons tables where they would be covered with a colorful slime – which was some concoction of eggs whites, cream, sugar and food coloring. Nothing like the slop we used during the USN ceremony, but this is a cruise ship after all.
After the pollywogs were completely slimed they were brought before the judges who would then give them either thumbs down – meaning a dunk in the pool or were ordered stand by the bears at the other end of the pool. A dunk in the pool was actually preferable from my observation as you were able to rinse yourself of the gook immediately. The first group who were judged were all the ships deck officers – and many produced Go Pro Cameras once the pool to film their ceremony.
The ceremony was well done, the weather was pleasant and a good time was had by all. We would all receive certificates commemorating our crossing later in the evening.
The History of Hong Kong was the subject of this morning’s lecture by guest speaker Dr Ping-Wing Kam who provided interesting insight about Hong Kong’s colorful past.
During crafts, Judy made a key chain constructed out colored pieces of felt and buttons that looked like a camera – it was immediately cute!
My luck continued with Texas Holdem as I won my 2nd consecutive tournament.
The steaks on the dinner menu this evening were monster sized. They looked like something you would normally only find in the Pinnacle Grill, and as always, they were very good.
Pingxin Xu provided the entertainment tonight with an amazing performance on a Hammer Dulcimer. Having never heard of a Hammer Dulcimer before, I was intrigued to watch him play it with small mallets like a xylophone. Instead of bars, music is made by hitting on 144 piano style wires, making it sound much like a piano. Pingxin Xu is well versed in a variety of musical styles. This evening performance included Sugardance, The Flight of the Bumblebee and Memories from the musical Cats. After his performance, we were invited to go on stage to have a closer look at the Hammer Dulcimer, with no apparent markings for the notes, we gained a deeper appreciation for his performance. This is another case of seeing a performance on the Grand World Voyage that I would never seek out on a land vacation and was another case of expanding your cultural horizon.
We have to advance our clock tonight, but with a sea day tomorrow, it won’t be so bad.This entry was posted in Uncategorized