Shipboard Activities

image courtesy of Miriamichelle via pixabay.com

A cruise ship is a combination of floating resort and floating city. There’s a lot going on at any given time.

There are shore excursions at stops on the way. But there’s also plenty to do when the ship is in between ports.

Sophie is the ship’s only yoga instructor. They have her on a difficult schedule. She has classes all day, from early in the morning until just before dinner.  She does have breaks, but they often are filled with private clients.

Even though she is in top physical condition, she has to pace herself. If she did that many hours of yoga a day full out, she couldn’t keep up the pace.

Working on a cruise ship is flat out, shifts are long, and there’s little time off. Keeping passengers happy isn’t easy. Especially when those passengers are determined to be miserable, as some are. That’s the reality. Turnaround day, when one set of passengers disembarks, and the new ones arrive, are even busier. Staff and crew work flat out during the voyage, without days off. They might have a meal break or a few hours off to sleep, but no days off.

Depending on the line, employees are rotated off after months (six, eight, or ten months, usually) for about six to eight weeks off.

On the Charisma, there are all kinds of activities. Yoga. Sophie sets up a meditation room. There’s a complete fitness center, with everything a high-end health club would have. A spa, with all of those amenities.

There’s a Youth Director to oversee activities for kids and teens (which gives the kids and their parents a break ). There’s a rock-climbing wall. There are all kinds of games, like shuffleboard, ping-pong, etc. I haven’t explored everything yet, but different aspects of activities will feature in different books, as serves the plot of a particular book.

The pool is a favorite spot, for both plot points and passengers!

The crew has their own pool, which is normal. On their few off hours, if they’re not sleeping, they can hang out by their own pool. Not with the passengers, but on their own. In fact, interaction between passengers and crew is not encouraged outside of activities. It is against regulations.

One of the running jokes in SAVASANA is how Sophie has to learn to call passengers “guests” as she settles in to her new job.

The casino is a big deal, although it’s only open when the ship is in international waters. The shows are a big part of the night’s activities, as is dancing in the Supper Club.

Passengers can shop at a variety of stores. There’s a library. Quite a few encounters in the books happen and will happen in the library. Because I am partial to libraries!

Food is a big deal on a cruise ship, but that’s getting its own post.

The ship has its own lecturer on arts and culture; there will also be guest lecturers, especially when there are cruises built around a specific theme. For instance, DAVY JONES DHARMA is built around the premise of a rich man buying out the ship for a floating party connected to a treasure hunt off the coast of Bermuda. The third book is built around a writer’s conference on board between New York and Southampton, England.

In other words, there’s a lot to do.

Yet people still get bored.

I’ve never understood boredom. The world is such an interesting place, and there’s so much going on. How can anyone be bored? My father (a chemist), always said, “Only boring people are bored.” I agree.

But boredom works to drive plot. Which sounds like a paradox. But bored people often make poor decisions. In context of a mystery, that gives me room to get them into trouble.

Sophie and I share the character trait of finding the world interesting, and, therefore, not getting bored. In fact, Sophie’s run ragged most of the time. As the series continues, she will go through periods of living in a state of perpetual exhaustion, and then leveling out for awhile, and then exhaustion.

She will be more than ready for her break.

Also, as a person who does not experience boredom, it’s interesting for me, as a writer, to explore it. How does it feel? What kind of sensations does it take in the body, and how are those communicated?

Because the books are in first person and Sophie doesn’t get bored, the reader can’t experience it through Sophie. But as Sophie helps people tackle various issues — including boredom — she will help them learn to communicate these sensations, even while they find solutions.

The variety of activities on the ship gives me all kinds of fun stuff to use, as a writer, as plot devices, red herrings, comic relief, and to communicate the busy daily-ness of shipboard life.

Some books will have more about certain activities than others. Because Sophie is the yoga instructor, all of the books will have a lot to do with her experience as both yoga teacher and practitioner, and how she walks her talk (that’s a post all on its own).

Cruise ships are busy places, teeming with life, love, and conflict — even as people try to “relax.” I hope you enjoy going on our various journeys.

To learn more about the Nautical Namaste mysteries, visit the website. You can read about SAVASANA AT SEA and find the buy links.

Friendship

image courtesy of trevoykellyphotography via pixabay.com

Friendship

One of my favorite parts of a cozy (or, in this case, not-quite-cozy) series is the friendships built along the way, and how they grow and change. The protagonist builds her tribe along the course of the series.  In the best of them, they grow and change.

Many series start with the protagonist relocating to make a fresh start. Unfortunately, it often means ignoring the friendships left behind. As someone who is good at maintaining connections through years and across miles, that didn’t feel realistic to me.

I’m willing to suspend my disbelief when I read (and hope the same happens in my writing) at quick connections in some cases, which then have room to grow (and, hopefully, don’t stagnate). Genuine friendship needs time and shared experience in order to thrive.

As transient as theatre is, moving from show-to-show, the friendships tend to sustain beyond closing dates. Many romantic relationships don’t, but friendships do. I found it much easier to make friends in theatre than outside of it. Where I live now, people go to work and go home; they don’t put much effort into friendship, unless it’s they knew since they were toddlers.

Sophie has her tribe in New York – her housemates are also her closest friends. While they will not be central to many of the books (although I plan to bring one or more of them onboard during the series), they will remain connected.

Her two closest friends on the ship are Roz (a dancer) and Harmonia (the tarot reader). These two friendships will go through a lot of tests and changes. But the time they spend together, the connections they form through being together in a small space, sharing time and experience together, will be a throughline. Sophie will make other friends on the ship, too. She’s a kind person and people are drawn to that kindness. I hesitate to say “positive energy” because it makes her sound flaky, but that’s what she has. Even during tough times, she tries to find the best in a situation, and the best in the people she meets. She is an optimist, even when hit with pessimistic issues.

Things won’t always run smoothly with Roz and Harmonia. All three of them are too dynamic to fall into the tropes of The Pretty One, The Funny One, The Sexy One and stay here. Things will shift. There will be challenges. There will be arguments.

What I don’t want is one of those fake arguments that supposedly drive the plot, but, in reality, feel false and wrong and cause the reader impatience until the characters make up. I want things to be deeper and not that petty.

Some friends will be short term – cruise ships are notorious for having a turnover in staff and crew. Some will be short term because of a hidden agenda that is revealed during the plot and changes how they relate. Some will be short term because they leave.

She makes friends with men, too. Sophie and Sebastian are friends first, which sets a good foundation as their relationship grows and shifts. Bassio (a ship’s host), Tobias (the ship’s wardrobe supervisor), London (entertainment staff) are all platonic friends. There are other men on the ship with whom Sophie may flirt, but also remain platonic friends. Too often, genuinely platonic male-female friendships (as opposed to failed romances that “settle” for friendship) are ignored in fiction, especially mysteries. It’s something I’d like to read more about. Therefore, it is something I will write more about.

One of the reasons the ship as backdrop intrigues me is the possibilities in the exploration of different layers of friendship.

How do you like to see friendships develop and evolve over the course of a series?

Want to know more about this book? Visit the Nautical Namaste website, learn about Savasana at Sea and buy it.