But we didn’t know that at the time. We didn’t even know their names. They were just a couple who always seemed to be in the ship’s gym when we were. They were young (compared to everyone else on the ship) attractive and friendly, and they both had a presence that made them stand out. They worked harder and longer in the gym than anyone else, and looked great because of it. They looked as if they stepped off the pages of a magazine, although in his case it might have been a magazine that has been out of print for a while.
He claims to be “mid forties”, a rather imprecise phrase that suggests obfuscation. I decide he is at least fifty. He is tall, fit and very tanned with long brown hair carefully streaked with highlights to cover any suggestion of grey. His hair defines his image and he probably spends more time on it than she spends on hers. It always looks immaculate, even at the gym. It is slicked back and held close to his head by large amounts of pomade, and falls a couple of inches below his collar. He was clearly a very handsome man in his day, and while his day is by no means over, the evenings are drawing in. He is still good looking but his face shows the signs of a life lived just a little too well.
She is probably fifteen years younger and quite lovely. Tall, tanned and fit with curves in all the right places, she too is defined by her hair, which is long , blond and full, hanging casually down to her shoulders. She has a dazzling smile with impossibly white teeth. Her skin is perfect without a blemish or a wrinkle, which she freely admits is the result of her liberal use of botox.
My first impression is that of the perfect couple. They ooze sex appeal, happiness, good looks, and perhaps fame. But more than anything else they ooze money, and a lot of it. But we didn’t know that at the time.
The invitation was left on our cabin door a couple of nights ago. It came in a cream envelope with our names carefully written in a beautiful script on the outside. Inside was a printed and embossed invitation to dinner at the Restaurant Privee the next night. We had little idea how anyone could have produced such a beautifully printed invitation while on board a ship and even less idea how our names came to be on it. The Restaurant Privee is not open to the public and very few people get to enjoy its splendour. It is, as the name suggests, a dining room that can be booked at some considerable expense for private parties. It has a huge picture window looking out over the stern of the ship and is extravagantly decorated with a one of a kind white oval dining table inlaid with a red design that matches the Villeroy and Boch dinner plates. Ten people can be seated around the table on huge overstuffed arm chairs covered in crocodile skin dyed white to match the table. An orange Murano glass chandelier hangs from the ceiling. We would love to dine there, but have no idea who invited us.
The invitation comes from Stefan and Amanda. We don’t know the names. We imagine a bad juggling act from Eastern Europe that has been invited on board to perform one evening, and has been requested by the ship to host a dinner party for some of the guests. Our names will have been picked at random as will the other six names, and it will be a stiff formal affair where we all try to make conversation with people we have no desire to spend an evening with.
And besides that we have already booked a table at another restaurant with Margaret and Nancy. So the next morning we call the concierge as requested and politely decline the invitation.
An hour later we are at the gym. The couple are also there. She comes straight over to us and asks why we turned down their invitation.
“Ah” we splutter “so you are Stefan and Amanda! We had no idea who the invitation was from”
As we are explaining this, Stefan comes over and somewhat more aggressively demands to know why we turned the invitation down “You didn’t even give a reason” he says somewhat churlishly.
Before the situation gets out of hand Amanda explains “Stefan is extremely stressed out over this. He has never had anyone turn down one of his invitations before”
Well, we didn’t know that at the time.
But who are these people? They are beginning to sound a little frightening.
What will the penalties be for not accepting their invitation?
Are we likely to find a horses head on our pillow? It seems unlikely as we are on a ship, but then so did receiving an engraved invitation
Could a long and lingering death be involved? That seems unlikely too.
And we really would like to have dinner in the Restaurant Privee.
And surely Margaret and Nancy will understand if we tell them we got a better offer.
And so we accept.
Stefan and Amanda are delighted. They say they give one of these parties once a month and there is always a theme to the evening. They promise us that this evening’s theme will make for a fun evening.
We decide we need to find out a little more about who we will be dining with and seek out the Executive Concierge whom we know quite well from other cruises.
He tells us that Stefan had already been to him to ask about us and whether we would be a fun addition to their soiree.
Stefan and Amanda have been on the ship for three months. They have a 1200 square foot suite which has probably cost them well over $100,000. They live in the Cayman Islands and are very friendly. That is all he knows. It is not particularly reassuring.
The Restaurant Privee can only be accessed by invitation, and we nervously brandish ours to be allowed entry. The setting and table are both fabulous and the guests are dressed accordingly. There are nine guests and we seem to be the only two that are not good friends with our hosts. Despite that Gordon and I are placed between Stefan and Amanda, which gives us the opportunity to find out more about them.
Stefan retired at the age of thirty three. He is a little evasive about what he retired from, but mentions trading and oil and living in the Cayman Islands making it all sound perfectly natural and totally legal. But when I hear the words trading and Cayman Islands in the same sentence, all I can think of is money laundering.
Amanda’s history seems even more unlikely. She was a pilot in the US Airforce and flew missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Somehow her story seems the more believable of the two. They met three and a half years ago. When Stefan first saw Amanda he was on a double date in New York, which I took to mean he was with a friend and two women, but which he explains meant that he had asked two women out for the evening, was wining and dining them and was looking forward to what lay ahead. But Amanda took his breath away. He somehow managed to juggle the two women and make a later date with Amanda. A week later they were living in his penthouse in Miami Beach. Which is his third home (his second is in Dubai)
They have been traveling since March. That is since March 2012! And they won’t get back to the Cayman Islands until August. Amanda has no wish to fly so they have been all round the world without stepping inside a plane. They are ending the cruise in New York and will spend three weeks there. New York is Amanda’s home town and Stefan tells me he is excited to show her a side of New York she will not have seen. He has booked a room with a large terrace overlooking Central Park and has been in touch with the concierge to arrange day trips for Amanda. I am thinking he means to a museum, or Coney Island or some such attraction. But the trips he has arranged are to Bergdorf Goodman, Tiffany, Harry Winston and Barneys.
While I am listening to this and trying to control the feelings of envy and greed, the waiters are pouring wine at a rapid rate. Stefan is a wine expert (of course he is) and has chosen two whites and two reds for our evening and there appears to be no end to the number of bottles coming our way. Dinner is just a light snack of foie gras wrapped in pastry, followed by lobster bisque and then an entire huge lobster . Not one vegetable is seen the entire evening. It seems a little decadent even to me, and not what I would call a balanced meal. But I try to enjoy it. It would be rude to complain.
Meanwhile more wine is being poured and the evening is progressing nicely.
Stefan, recognising that his guests are well lubricated, decides now might be the time to introduce the theme for the evening. The waiter places a large wooden carving of a penis in the middle of the table, directly underneath the Murano glass chandelier.
It seems a little out of place (the penis not the chandelier) but I have a feeling that good taste is about to fly out of the large picture window. There is a moment of stunned silence around the table, followed by some nervous laughter, followed by shrieks of delight from some of the women, especially Amanda. She immediately takes hold of the object in both hands, caresses it, it must be said, with some expertise, and then thrusts it down the front of her dress, nestling it between her breasts:
She is reluctant to release it, but Stefan has other plans. We are about to play spin the penis, and whoever it stops at has to remove a piece of clothing, preferably an undergarment and hang it on the chandelier. The waiters stand around the table in disbelief and service comes to a standstill, which is unfortunate as at this point I feet a distinct need for more alcohol.
I am too much of a gentleman to go into any more details, but suffice it to say that the evening got seriously out of hand. I will however allow a couple of photos to tell the story.
Here is Stefan after the penis pointed at him:
And this is how the chandelier looked when Gordon and I decided it was time to make a discreet exit
Stefan and Amanda made it to the gym this morning. Amanda tells me we got through twenty four bottles of wine. She also says that she was so drunk when she got back to the cabin that Stefan had to undress her. I can personally testify that it wouldn’t have been too big a task as most of her clothing had been left hanging on the chandelier
We didn’t know it at the time.
But now we do
Rich white trash
‘While his day might not be over, the evenings are drawing in.’ Wonderful.
You can’t buy class honey.
sounded WONDERFUL up through “Meanwhile more wine is being poured and the evening is progressing nicely” – after that I was no longer envious I missed that exclusive event!
have a safe trip home, and I look forward to your doctor’s glowing report on Tuesday!
The days of Veuve Clicquot are over for the time being, suppose it is back to Trader Joes now. Thanks for the travelogue, you certainly have met some “different” characters.
Wishing you well with the doctors appointment.
B & C.
Andrew, my dear, your last sentence sounded perhaps, judgmental. I can only think that I have provided you great material thru the years.
Glad eyesight is improving.
See you in Vallarta early Nov?
Just observing, definitely not judging
MY, my, my… Stefan and Amanda most certainly RWT. So, do we want to know if the appendage ever pointed at either you or Gordon?
We are too old and too well behaved to be taking off articles of clothing in front of others. I was lucky enough to be wearing a necklace that could be removed, and Gordon lost a bow tie. We left before we could loose anything else
Unbelievable! Knowing PWT as well as I do (ahem), it is clear to see that RWT follows the same course. So glad you were able to take photos and so glad you were able to leave with your dignity!