Move Over, Dave Barry, Here Comes the Fun Dude!

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Hi, there, Fun-atics! After one year and sixteen drafts, my first Kindle book is now available for purchase on Amazon.com for $3.99. (Cheaper than an issue of Mad Magazine!) Here’s the link:

The Fun Dude’s Guide to Cruising: A Humorous Handbook for Taking Your First Cruise and Living to Complain about It

If you’re not sure if cruising is for you, then this funny and irreverent romp through the cruise industry surely is. Written by a stand-up comedian and shipboard comedy club manager who has spent the past decade yucking it up on the high seas, The Fun Dude’s Guide to Cruising is the ultimate primer for taking your first cruise. You’ll learn how to book your cruise without the help of a reefer-toking travel agent; how to get stranded in Mexico with no passport and no Pepto-Bismol; how to overpack your suitcase with clothes you’ll be too drunk to iron; how to eat so much free ice cream you’ll slip into a sugar coma; how to imbibe so much alcohol you’ll become a CNN headline; how to get free cabin upgrades by behaving like a spoiled child even “Honey Boo-Boo” would scorn; how to ignore important safety information that could save your life while making your entire country look bad in the process; how to get free stuff by complaining about stupid stuff; how to become a karaoke superstar without hitting a single correct note; and, most important, how to annoy everyone else around you without getting pushed overboard.

Even if you’re a veteran cruiser or, better yet, a cruise line employee, The Fun Dude’s Guide to Cruising contains enough acerbic fun—and funny—for the misanthropic landlubber in everyone. And for less than half the price of a fruity umbrella drink on Lido Deck.

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Zip Lines, Parasails and Jet Skis—Oh My!

Ambulance on Beach

Although there’s a lot to do when your ship’s at sea, new and wondrous  adventures await you ashore. Have the urge to remain on the ship and eat yourself into a coma while everyone else is wasting time in port? Snap out of it, Skipper! You’re not (just) some fat and lazy American on vacation; you’re an intrepid explorer in search of danger and excitement—so slather on that sunblock, suck up that gut and whip out that American Express card, because an intrepid adventurer such as yourself is going to want to splurge on some shore excursions for you and your family so you can actually go out and experience—not just visit—the ports. Unless, of course, your idea of a good time is wandering aimlessly around a port area that is the mother of tourist traps screaming, “No! No! No! Yes! No! Yes! Hell no! Hell yes!” to locals trying to sell you fake jewelry, cheap T-shirts, imitation leather goods, marijuana, wood carvings, prostitutes, wool blankets in summertime and Mexican wrestling masks.

So in order to help you maximize your fun in the sun, here are five of the most popular shore excursions for you to choose from:

Excursion # 1: swimming with the dolphins. Dolphin encounters are some of the most popular excursions offered by any cruise line because they allow cruise aficionados such as yourself to treat your family to an experience of a lifetime. In fact, millions of Americans are sailing to the Caribbean this year for the warm sunshine, enchanting evening breezes, sapphire waters, and the chance to swim with cute and cuddly dolphins that weigh 1,100 pounds and can crush a small child like a warm M & M. But despite what the critics might say, swim-with-the-dolphin programs are a great opportunity for dolphins, the second-most intelligent creatures in the world to bond with tourists, the least intelligent creatures in the world.

Swim-with-the-dolphin excursions have become increasingly popular in the Caribbean in the past ten years or so and the dolphins dig it, too. A former dolphin trainer, who spoke candidly with me on the condition that I twist his words around, told me that dolphins love being in captivity where they can perform the same boring tricks over and over again with overweight tourists and their snot-nosed offspring holding onto their fins as they bang their sensitive snouts on the walls of their claustrophobic pens instead of swimming free in deep blue ocean, where the only tourists they’ll meet are drunk cruisers who fall overboard.

“Dolphins are beautiful and amazing creatures in their natural habitat,” the trainer told me. “But stick them in a cage, and they become sad, frustrated and aggressive, making it that much easier for them to relate to humans.”

Excursion # 2: snorkeling and scuba diving. Snorkeling is a particularly popular activity among junior cruisers because kids are less apt to be unpleasantly surprised at how nut-tuckingly cold the water in the Caribbean can be, less apt to become disappointed or angry when unusually strong currents make it difficult to observe underwater life, and less apt to get upset when their eyes are flooded with stinging salt water because their parents were too tipsy to properly adjust their masks for them.

The primary appeal of snorkeling for parents is that it doesn’t require the expense, equipment and training required for scuba diving. But if honest-to-goodness scuba diving is more your thing, then you’ll have to get certified first if you want to dive on your own. If you’re not certified, then you’ll have to either dive with a guide or get hired as an uncertified guide for other non-certified tourists.

Shore excursion # 3: zip-lining.

Are you overweight, out of shape and afraid of heights? Then this is the excursion for you. If you don’t have fun, then your bored guides certainly will because they can definitely use a good laugh.

Shore excursion # 4: parasailing.

Each year, an estimated three to five million people participate in parasailing. This popular activity is one of the most exciting things you can do in port because it’s largely unregulated with serious accidents frequently caused by faulty equipment. There are: no federal regulations or guidelines that establish specific training or certification for parasailing operators;  no requirement for inspection of the parasailing equipment; and no requirement to shut down operations during nasty weather conditions. For these reasons alone, serious thrill seekers are sure to get their money’s worth.

If you’re still not sold on the idea of being suspended 500 above the ocean’s surface, where something as simple as a weak towline, strong winds, or a worn harness can cause a tragic accident, then perhaps the fact that there no are rules or laws preventing you from buying a half-priced bottle of tequila at the duty free shop and drinking it during your flight might seal the deal.

Shore excursion # 5: Jet Skis and ATVs. Can’t decide between renting a Jet Ski or a four-wheeler, then get a package deal so you can do both in one day. That way, you can break your neck and  your back. (And then rent a Rascal scooter back on the ship.)

So don’t just lounge around Lido Deck, nursing your strawberry daiquiri; book a shore excursion today! There’ll be plenty of time for lounging when you’re in traction in the ICU.

 

Next Stop Danger Island!

Danger Island

You can read all the online articles you want about the crime and violence in popular ports of call such as St. Thomas and Jamaica, but I’m here to remind you that St. Thomas for one is actually part of America. That means it’s no more dangerous than, say, Camden, New Jersey.

But just because some ports have dangerous areas doesn’t mean anything’s going to happen to you. Sure, you might get shot or stabbed at an ATM but at least you’ll have pretty coconut trees to look up at while you’re lying on the ground bleeding to death.

Jamaica, coincidentally, is where Angela Basset filmed the movie “How Stella Got Her Groove Back.” I can’t remember exactly how Stella got her groove back, but I can tell you how she lost it: Stella left her groove in the trunk of a rental car in Montego Bay and that groove got jacked, Jack.

I wasn’t prepared for how filthy Jamaica is, either. Litter everywhere.  Then again, with as much pot that’s smoked in that country, I guess it shouldn’t be much of a surprise to see thousands of candy wrappers blowing in the wind. If you ask me, we should give our ship’s entire Housekeeping Department the morning off in Montego Bay. They’d have that whole city spic and span in three hours and still be back in time to clean up after you messy bastards before lunch.

All jokes aside, if you go exploring in Caribbean ports make sure you travel with a large group of other tourists. You ‘ll fell a lot less frightened and intimidated if you’re not the only person being robbed at gunpoint.

Most islanders will bristle at American travel advisories. They’ll ask how we can call their port cities dangerous when America has Cleveland and Detroit. I’ll keep that in mind the next time I drop two grand on a seven-day cruise on Lake Erie.

The other problem with crime in the Caribbean is that criminals are rarely caught. It’s easier to catch Ebola than a purse snatcher. There was more justice in 1964 Selma than in modern day Honduras, for example. Of the last 50 Americans killed in Honduras, the local police have solved just 2 cases. Their top detectives determined that one victim was killed by a murderer and the other was murdered by a killer.

Because a forewarned traveler is a safe traveler, here’s…

The Fun Dude’s Top Ten List of Ports to Watch Your Ass In:

  1. St. Lucia: Armed robberies are so common on this island that a local tour company offers a shore excursion where you can  ride around the city in a double-decker bus and watch actual crimes in progress, giving new meaning to the phrase, “mugging for the camera.”
  2. El Salvador: El Salvador has one of the highest murder rates in the world. But then again, you can get a kick-ass mango daiquiri for dirt cheap. So don’t let anybody scare you out of getting your drink on.
  3.  United States Virgin Islands (USVI):The U.S. Virgin islands are filled with so many guns, drugs, robberies, that most Americans should feel right at home.
  4. Antigua: Although Antigua may seem like a tropical paradise, it’s seen more than its share of tragedies. For example, Justin Bieber vacationed there once and nothing happened to him.
  5. St. Kitts: James Bond refuses to go there anymore ever since he walked outside his hotel and found his Aston Martin up on blocks.
  6. Mexico: Kidnappings and be-headings don’t usually happen in the tourist areas, which makes seeing one at the Hard Rock Café in Acapulco that much more special.
  7. Guatemala: Guatemala is not a place where you should think of going for a leisurely stroll through the back streets. You’d be better off rollerblading through South Central Los Angeles.
  8. Venezuela: Venezuela also has one of the highest murder rates. One American cruise passenger was killed simply for wearing a fanny pack. (So at least this guy had it coming.)
  9. Honduras: Like many other Caribbean islands, the police are either corrupt or incompetent. So this is where big city police departments from the States come down every spring to scout new recruits.
  10. Bahamas: The U.S. State Department has issued numerous crime warnings for the Bahamas. The second you step off the cruise ship you’re likely to be offered drugs. Fortunately, those drugs will most likely be Lipitor and Viagra so at least Bahamian drug dealers know their market.

Minimizing Your Risks

 Here are some safety measures you can take to reduce the risk of becoming a victim while on vacation:

  • Travel in groups of two or more. Never get into a taxi with a passenger already inside, even when offered a chance to split the fare. The driver and the “passenger” may be in cahoots.  (Guys, “cahoots” is a variety of Capri pants.)
  • Keep a low profile. You can achieve this by either dressing inconspicuously or by signing up for a My Space account.
  • Do not wear a fanny pack (especially in Venezuela). If you don’t wind up being robbed of your money, you’ll be robbed of your dignity.
  • Never put valuable items in a backpack, unless you’re a man and it’s a Hello Kitty backpack, in which case your assailants will be too busy laughing to actually rob you.
  • Moreover, men, never carry your billfold in your back pocket. Samuel L. Jackson isn’t the only person who wants to know what’s in your wallet. I recommend a trick novelty wallet that shoots out a fake rubber serpent. That way, if Samuel L. Jackson himself ever asks you what’s in your wallet you can open it in his face and shout, “Mother-@#$-ing snakes–that’s what, beeotch!”
  • If you’re a woman, don’t carry your purse over your shoulder; carry it across your chest. This will cause your would-be purse snatcher to focus on your breasts instead of your purse.
  • Money belts are for amateurs. Nothing says “easy mark” to a pickpocket like watching somebody take their shirt off to buy a Snickers bar at a newsstand.
  • Take just one or two credit cards and a modicum of cash ashore with you in order to minimize your losses in case a thief takes a fancy to you. Better yet, max them all out at home, before you leave on your cruise.
  • Unless absolutely unavoidable, never go ashore with your actual passport; bring a photocopy of the data pages. If Guest Services won’t let you use the photo copier on the ship, you can use one at the local police station in port when you go there to report your stolen wallet.
  • Which reminds me: Carry a “mugger’s wallet.” This is a cheap wallet with a small amount of cash that you’ll find in your pocket after realizing that you gave the mugger your actual wallet by mistake.
  • Leave your cell phone in your cabin. Expensive smartphones, such as an I-Phone or Galaxy, are the most common items stolen from cruise-ship passengers. If you need to make a call, you can always steal a phone from a fellow tourist.
  • Most important—try to stay sober. The drunker you are, the more likely ransom-hungry kidnappers are to mistake you for Lindsay Lohan.

Although I do want you to think a little before gallivanting around a Third-World country with a fancy  camera around your neck, I don’t mean to scare you into canceling your cruise. As I made clear at the start of this essay, traveling to the Caribbean isn’t any more dangerous than biking through Baltimore.

So if you exercise caution, stay aware of your surroundings, and don’t venture too far off the beaten path, you’ll be able to party your ass off without losing it or getting it kicked.

Stay safe and have fun, dude!

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Cruising for Beginners

Cruising for Beginners

Ever wonder why your Facebook friends can’t stop blabbering about how much fun they had on their latest cruise? They want to make you feel bad, that’s why. They know you haven’t cruised before so they keep filling your newsfeed with posts and photos reminding you about how much they enjoyed themselves in order to make you feel that much sadder about your own miserable existence.

But why get sad when you can get even? Now it’s your turn to book a cruise, have some fun, and then spend the next six months blogging about and posting photos from your cruise until your friends and relatives scream “uncle” and go camping.

However, if the idea of revenge isn’t incentive enough for you to set sail on your dream vacation, then here are a few “fun facts” which just might convince you that your first cruise could turn out to be that perfect getaway you’ve always dreamt about. If not, at least I’ll have helped you waste a few minutes of your time you could have spent at your desk, working.

Fun Fact #1: Cruises Are Cheap

Cruises offer big bang for your vacation buck because the fares cover just about everything you’ll need for a fun-filled trip: food, accommodations, entertainment and often transportation from the airport to the ship. It’s a good thing that stuff is included because you might need your cash to purchase a $50 bottle of sunscreen in Grand Cayman.

You’ll often see Internet deals on leading cruise lines for under $100 per person, per night, which is considerably cheaper than you’d spend on land for dinner, drinks and a DUI.

On some cruise lines, kids even sail free or at discounted rates when sharing a cabin with two adults. So if you can find two adults who won’t mind sharing their cabin with your kids, you‘re in luck.

Fun Fact #2: Cruises Take You to Exotic Locations

On a cruise, the ship takes you from one exotic location to another. You won’t need to worry about anything but having fun and getting left behind in Mexico with no luggage, no passport and a killer hangover.

You’ll unpack your suitcase at the beginning of the cruise and wake up in a different tropical paradise every day. Then you’ll have to wake up the kids, wait for your friends or relatives to get ready, go to breakfast, realize you’re all at different restaurants at different ends of the ship, spend the next half hour trying to find each other, eat standing up because you’re not the only family with the bright idea to eat before disembarking, and then wait in line to get off the ship.

Then, once off the ship, you’ll wait for somebody in your party to go back on the ship for their camera, sunglasses or fanny pack. Then you’ll stand around in the blazing heat trying to figure out what to do before realizing that none of you has a clue as to where to go or what to do. So then you’ll waste another half hour nervously negotiating a game plan. Some of you may want to go shopping, some of you may want to go on an excursion, some of you may want to go drinking, and some of you may want to rent a donkey and start the long trip home. But in the end, you’ll wind up doing what Grandma and Grandpa want to do, which is to visit a Guatemalan sex dungeon.

Fun Fact #3: Cruises Are Family-Friendly

If you’re pulling your hair out to find a vacation that your 5-, 10- and 15-year-olds will all love, then go to your local video arcade. But if you want to do something special that will make you feel like model parents but that your kids are way too immature and spoiled to enjoy, then take the family on a cruise.

Most ships have kids’ clubs that are divided by age. Teens have their own cool clubhouse, far away from the playrooms for the rug rats—and even further away from the adults-only areas. How can your kids not love a kids’ club that offers video games, water slide races, dance parties, face painting, arts & crafts and sporting events? Easy, because kids’ clubs are “boring,” “stupid,” and nowhere near as fun as spending the whole cruise riding up and down the lobby atrium in a glass elevator.

So what are you waiting for? Book that first cruise and start making your Facebook friends miserable.

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