The pacific breeze swept over Francine and Zacchary’s baby smooth face-skin and clipboards. The Pacific Ocean lapped at the huge 108 865 tonne Paradise Princess cruise liner, 950 feet long by 177 feet high.

‘Welcome aboard the Paradise Princess, Mr and Mrs Primington’ said Francine to an older couple emerging from the gang plank towards the ship’s lobby, ‘I’m Francine, your Cruise Director. I understand the two of you are here to celebrate your 50th wedding anniversary, and that you actually honeymooned on this very ship 50 years ago? How remarkable!’

‘Oh yes, dear’, Mrs Primington sweetly nodded. Although the Primington’s were secretly there to find a treasure map that a former associate of Mr Primington’s (presently serving time in prison) had left hidden in the upholstery in the ship’s Vista Show Lounge. The Primingtons shared a knowing glance that reinforced their cover of being a married couple in a loving and telepathic relationship.

‘And this is Zacchary, the ship’s Assistant Purser to the Chief Purser.’

‘A pleasure to meet you both, we hope you enjoy your stay,’ said Zacchary, and then to Mr Primington, ‘Mind I don’t steal your wife away while you’re busy playing shuffleboard by the pool. I’d like to ravish her in the Player’s Cigar bar!’ he gave a pleasant laugh.

Zacchary was responsible for dealing with any guest enquiries. He also assisted Bo, the Training and Development Manager, to facilitate the training of all front desk staff in performance and financial aspects, so an excellent leadership behaviour was a must.

Zacchary had excellent communication skills. He was well organised, had a positive, open-minded personality, was stress-resistant at all times, and possessed excellent computer skills with the MS Office Suite.

The next nine days would be non-stop for Francine and Zacchary. What with shepherding guests between the three main dining rooms, Sabatini’s Italian restaurant, Crown Grill steak and seafood, and the Horizon Foodcourt — not to mention the 24-hour room services, shore excursions, video arcades and wedding chapel — there would barely be time to inhale the sea air. They were, of course, as friends and colleagues, used to this kind of pressure. If you are at sea level, each square inch of your surface is subjected to a force of 14.6 pounds. The pressure increases about one atmosphere for every 10 metres of water depth.

Once the cruise guests had farewelled their loved ones onshore and were directed to their cabins, 26 of which were wheelchair accessible, there was a window of opportunity for the pair to put their clipboards away. 

‘Oh what a day! I feel like a drink,’ said Francine, ‘Shall we?’

‘Mind I don’t steal your wife away while you’re busy playing shuffleboard by the pool. I’d like to ravish her in the Player’s Cigar bar!’ he gave a pleasant laugh.

They headed past two of the ship’s nine whirlpool spas, to the Wheelhouse bar, where Sammy, the Food and Beverage Manager, wearing the regulation 3½  gold stripes with a blue background on his epaulettes, was chatting to Constance, the ship’s Doctor, and Cliff, the ship’s Casino Inspector. Sammy promptly served them their specialty cocktail, Kiss on the Lips; made with peach schnapps, mango mix and grenadine, the cocktail is one of the line’s most popular — for good reason.

All cruise ships have the standard umbrella drinks such as margaritas, daiquiris, pina coladas, mai tais, mojitos, blue Hawaiians and more. What’s changed in the last decade is the breadth and sophistication of cruise cocktails. Mainstream cruise lines have added herbs, bitters, unusual and infused liquor, even raw vegetables and egg whites, to forge new creations.

As the night rolled in, like a wave upon an ocean, the potent combination of sea air and schnapps moved in and around the bodies of Francine and Zacchary. They began to talk deeply to each other.

‘Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever meet the partner of my dreams, Francine,’ Zacchary pondered.

‘What about the Primingtons? They have managed to last 50 years together in this godforsaken world!’

‘There’s something odd about them, don’t you think? Something not quite right…. I was watching them prancing around the Vista Show Lounge like they were playing hide and seek. Personally, I think it’s disgusting that they chose to marry when we don’t have marriage equality in this country yet.’

‘I think the key to a long lasting relationship is to be best friends as well.’

‘You mean like us?’ asked Zacchary, moving in to press his smooth lips against hers. They lingered in the moment then looked at each other with telepathic recognition. 

She lowered her eyelids and turned her face towards the deck, the horizontal and permanent covering over the hull of the ship. She took a deep breath and smiled.

‘You know’, she said, ‘You’re the best Assistant Purser to the Chief Purser this cruise liner has ever had, and you’re just the complete package, but I think we’re better off just friends. But, I also know that our friendship, like this ship, is unsinkable.’

They smiled and gazed into each other’s eyes. 

It was a tender moment and also interesting. Because Francine used the word ‘unsinkable’. She didn’t know it but she actually had a rare condition, hypernatremia, where her blood contained sodium levels much higher than usual. In fact, if Francine were placed in water, she would unnaturally float to the surface, which of course relates to the practice of medieval dunking, a punishing ordeal by water associated with the witch hunts of the 16th and 17th centuries.

‘Yes, we are unsinkable,’ Zacchary said, taking her hand, making no connection between the word ‘unsinkable’ and Francine’s health.

And with that, they held the rail of the huge vessel and watched the setting sun over Acapulco, 16.8531° N, 99.8237° W.

About the Author

Sylvia da Silva is a self-sufficient author who values the finer things in life, such as a licorice-scented tobacco, a well-crafted sentence, and an obedient labradoodle.

Sylvia must not be contacted directly, but may be reached through her assistant, Pascalle Burton.