Preparing for a cruise encompasses many things. You have to select your cabin. You have to select your clothes. You have to select your schedule of special services such as going to the spa. You have to make sure your passport is in order and most of all you need to make sure your blog is safe and sound while you are gone.
When we do leave port, I have figured out how to post blogs without me being present at the precise moment they get posted. Mostly it is hard to now what to pack. Who among us dresses for dinner anymore? Add to that two nights when you must do the tuxedo thing and it is a modern day challenge.
Downton Abbey has become a cultural icon for many. The lifestyle is one that is unknown to many of us these days. When we watch, having and historian in the family and being antiques collectors, we recognize the lifestyle, the cloths, the linen, and many of the values.
After the fire one of the first things I replaced was antique linens. Of course, what e have now does not hold a candle to what we had but we have plenty of white linen dinner napkins should you want to set the table for a dinner party of 36. What we had was not different from the classical music we have now. Much more than we notice was written and the ones that stayed in the public view are the ones that were had bigger stars (e.g. Mozart) or were better composers than most of their cohort (e.g. C.P.E. Bach).
So the table linens are like that. We only had the ones that were special. The ones that were not so special were used often and literally fell apart. The prized ones were still pristine. I had a 125 year old banquet cloth plus napkins that could seat 16. I did not have 36 but the quality was better.
Speaking off 36, this was another example of getting confused about what you do or don’t have. No huge deal, most of the linen napkins cost about the same as grocery-store paper napkins but I do have a lot of them.
How do linen napkins go with cruises? Part of the allure of cruising is returning to the Downton Abbey of our time. Regardless of what class you are traveling in, just the fact that someone cooks your food and serves it to you on a china plate is is not parallel with most of our running from here to there lifestyle. Taking that one more step, on many cruises you dress for dinner. Not necessarily gowns and black tie but something nicer than your “day clothes”. Some cruises still hold the tradition of formal night when the Downton Abbey comes to life on the ship. Time is spent dressing for dinner, you are escorted to your table, dinner is served in courses by people in uniform with whit gloves, you get to gawk and make snide or admiring comments about others attire and generally encounter the lifestyle of the Abbey.
What we don’t encounter are the values and attitudes. Some are still held, love and respect of family, efforts to protect the family honor, overcoming family divisiveness and belief in others. We share respect for the gift of hospitality. What we do not hold to are the profound division of the world into servants and masters. In many, but not all places in the world we do not hold the same values toward women as are displayed in the story. The women excel and succeed with progressive work and ideas that are consonant with our current times but if you watch closely you can see the overt and even undercurrents of challenge for having those beliefs.
To me the most important difference between dressing for dinner then and now is the sense of entitlement. I know some around the world expect to be given gifts and status because of who they are but most of us understand these actions based on what we do.
So, cruises give us a glimpse of a privileged life, of a life where other people make your daily tasks simply disappear. Cook, cleaning, shopping and getting from one place to another are magically taken care of. We spend time being more intentionally gracious. And, we struggle with what to pack to be respectful to this floating world. It seems to me that while we arrive knowing we will be treated with a lifestyle like Downton Abbey that we can bring with us the values of respect to for those who offer to us their gifts of hospitality.