"A place for everything, and everything in its place," is my mantra. Then again, there are exceptions to every rule, and in the Plotnick household the items that can't seem to stay put are my many cruise ship brochures. They are perpetually strewn about the house - near my favorite chair in the living room, within arm's reach of the dining table, and by my bedside. This is because I am a self-professed deck plan junkie, and these brochures feed my habit.
There are two reasons behind this obsession. First, there's the educational aspect. I have a keen interest in the evolution of cruise ship design, and deck plans serve as wonderful resource materials on everything from changes in cabin styles to the arrangement of public rooms. Even a single cruise brochure may divulge a wealth of information. For instance, a 1999-2000 Royal Caribbean brochure contains deck plans for several ships covering different eras in cruising, such as the Viking Serenade (built 1981), Monarch of the Seas (1990), Splendour of the Seas (1996), and Voyager of the Seas (1999). Flipping though these pages, I watch as cruise ships grow from intimate to mammoth, as cabins sprout private balconies, and as alternative dining venues emerge.
Collecting over the years allows me to follow the modifications made to individual cruise ships to adapt to changes in the industry. A simultaneous review of Norwegian Cruise Line brochures from 1995 and 1999 enables me to analyze the transformation of the Dreamward into the Norwegian Dream, in which a 130-foot midsection was added to increase several public spaces. Occasionally, I turn a critical eye - would I have re-designed this ship the same way?
Perhaps the more compelling reason for my deck plan addiction is simply a love of cruising. Looking over deck plans allows me to mentally experience my dream of being onboard. Whether I imagine myself lounging by the aft pool on the Maasdam, or traveling up the walkway to Skywalker's Disco on the Grand Princess, I am literally drawn into the ship, enjoying all it has to offer. The deck plans serve as a guide as I enjoy the tranquility of the outer decks or the energy of the show lounges. My mind travels down the numerous corridors, converting two dimensions into three as I imagine each of the public rooms, aided to some extent by the brochure's photographs.
Deck plans don't always do a ship justice. The Norway's Club Internationale and, most likely, the promenade on Voyager of the Seas can only be appreciated in person. Deck plans of the Rembrandt do not evoke the genius of her most notable feature, the Grand Staircase. These shortcomings don't bother me, as I am too busy revisiting my cruise memories to notice. For a few moments, I am once again enjoying a towering chocolate concoction in the Caravelle Restaurant on the Zenith, or listening to the pianist in the Mayfair Lounge on the OceanBreeze, or watching the 1999 World Series in the Schooner Bar on Splendour of the Seas.
My collection also helps bring back to life a number of old friends that are no longer with us. A 1996 Celebrity Cruises brochure allows me to board the Meridian, meandering down her maze-like hallways as I plot my course from my imaginary cabin on the forward portion of Florida Deck to the Four Seasons Restaurant three decks above. More poignant are the memories that overtake my mind while gazing at the deck plans of the SeaBreeze, a ship I had actually traveled on twice. Once again, I am enjoying dinner with new friends in the Bacchanalia Restaurant, dancing with my son in the Royal Fireworks Lounge, and laughing in the Carmen Lounge as my husband is selected to assist the comedian with his routine. I cannot understand why I got lost so many times looking for cabin F55. It looks so simple from the plans.
As an aficionado of post-war ocean liners, I actively seek out deck plans of these classics, although I am not an avid collector. (They would never remain in pristine condition, anyway.) Deck plans from the 1960s and earlier are incredibly detailed, showing - for every cabin as well as the public areas - locations of doorways, windows, portholes, and furniture, making it even easier to picture myself on board. There is an added excitement when I have actually been on the ship later in her career. Such is the case with the Regal Empress, whose earlier life appears before me in the form of a 1962 deck plan of the Olympia. The richly paneled cabin suite I examined during the summer of 2001 has been transformed back into the public lounge of its early days. I can almost hear the conversations of my fellow passengers as we are somewhere on the North Atlantic, making the crossing to New York on a stormy evening. I can even feel the rocking of the ship.
There is a practicality to my obsession. These days, I rarely get lost on cruise ships. My confidence is obviously evident as passengers often ask me for directions on the first night of a cruise, perhaps mistaking me for a crew member. I am always able to oblige, although like my fellow vacationers, I have been on the ship for mere hours. This is further validation that cruise ships are indeed my second home.
Back in my living room, the day is coming to a close. As I pass yet another pile of brochures, I have an important decision to make. What shall it be tonight - a stroll along Champs Elysees on the Norway or cappuccino from the Café On the Way on Carnival Destiny? It doesn't matter - I can always come back tomorrow.
Lisa Plotnick, a writer who lives in Massachusetts with her husband, Neil, and young son, has written many SeaLetter Cruise Magazine articles, cruise ship reviews and book reviews. Lisa is a fan of the classic liners, unfortunately a dying breed in the early 21st century. The Plotnicks have cruised once or twice a year for the past twelve years and have been on most of the major cruise lines as well as several lesser-known lines.
Lisa recently joined our staff of SeaLetter Columnists and also assists in the management of the SeaLetter Cruise Forum. She may be reached for questions or comment at: email@example.com.
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