Danskebåten Debunked – Part 2.
I waited ten years to experience Danskebåten, and then I did. If you’re new to my journey, read part 1 first for the backstory on what was at stake.
I’d given up hope of affording a second cruise in my life, so boarding the ship was like reuniting with an old, dead friend. A friend who greeted my boyfriend and me with Christmas trees and hammered old people.
We asked a guy for directions to our room – figured he’d know since he was wearing a uniform and carrying a tower of ten Sprite cans – but he didn’t actually work there. Why was he wearing a ship captain’s hat? “I’m getting fucked up tonight”, he explained, before disappearing into a room. So I felt like that was our induction into the boat community.
Our room was windowless and had bunk beds that came out of the wall. If this was the Titanic, Kasper and I were the poor people who’d spent their life savings to ride in the bottom of the ship, only to be the first to freeze and drown.
But unlike doomed paupers, we ate dinner at the world-class, affordable boat pizzeria, “Little Italy.” Aside from the two elderly Norwegian women we shared a table with, we may as well have been nestled in the hills of Tuscany. My pizza was buried in five centimeters of ham, but I tasted the Vatican.
Friday night on Danskebåten is when mistakes are made, some find intimacy, and some probably fall overboard to never be seen again. There are two options for nightlife: You can lean across the piano of a guy doing Frank Sinatra covers in a makeshift lounge, or you can head a bit further down the hall to the “Columbus Nightclub”. We gambled on the CC; it really looked like a club in how it was built.
Ways that it did not look like a club: Every table in the space was taken by someone older than 60, the band was playing ABBA, and the dance floor was packed with people sexy-waltzing. But the energy was fire.
Piña Coladas were my drink choice for the night, as I was feeling extremely in touch with my islander self (see part 1). The servers wore what resembled airline attendant uniforms and told us to “Enjoy” with eyes said “Help”. If I ever moved to Norway, I could see myself in this position.
My boyfriend Kasper and I got drunk while watching the dance floor with a view obstructed by an old man dancing aggressively in a wheelchair. He eventually gave up, rose from the chair, and danced away on foot. This was when I first witnessed the boat’s magic.
I eventually dragged Kasper into the violent waltzing moshpit. Couples were belligerently slamming their old bodies against each other to the band’s rendition of Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life”, featuring a singer who appeared to be a Danish hologram.
Her lips never moved. She did not smile, even when she had the crowd sing “Those suh-huh-mmer niiii-hiiights” from Grease three times in a row. As in, “One more time, I can’t hear you”, but demanding and without a shred of joy. If she was real, I wanted to be her friend.
While Kasper grabbed the next round of drinks, I hung out at a table by myself. That’s when my Prince found me. A tall, old, wet, wasted, wobbling man gallantly fell into the seat across from me. Wow, out of all the girls in the club, he picked me.
One of his eyes winked at me while the other one wandered into the back of his head. “You a beautiful lady. Get off phone”. It was kind of hot how this elderly man was hitting on me yet still trying to be my grandpa.
And then it was 1:00 AM in the club and everything smelled like ham. The source? A popup hotdog stand next to the bar. I thought it was a fun idea to sell hotdogs in a nightclub, but was turned off when I saw that, in typical Norwegian fashion, the hotdogs were grotesquely longer than their buns.
I can’t speak for everyone, but chewing on a naked meat stump is kind of gross to me. It wouldn’t have been a huge deal, but the hotdogs were also slathered in a bitter white goo. I ventured a bite and immediately gagged meat into my hand.
On our way back to the room (I’m still holding hotdog paste), we passed the five remaining broads draped across lounge guy’s piano, maybe hoping to bunk him for the night. Something told me they shouldn’t trust him, that he’d played with hearts in this lounge before, probably three to five nights a week. But I wished them luck, if this was the Titanic movie, each one of them deserved to be Rose (young version, not wrinkly and wistful).
Why do we resign ourselves to being boring once we’re old? I’d been warned that this boat brought out the worst in people, but after the magically-healed wheelchair guy, the piano broads, and old strangers in the hallways at 2:00 AM readying to fuck, I felt the opposite.
The next morning I woke up at 9:00 AM when we docked in Copenhagen. It was exciting to reach a new land, though a bummer to be physically forced out of my new home. But nothing in life lasts forever, and the best things in life only last one night.
What did I learn from seventeen hours on the ship? Danskebåten is more than just a cheap vacation, or way to stockpile alcohol without paying tax. It’s a place to forget who you were or weren’t on the shores of Norway. And in my three years of visiting Oslo, this was the first time I’d seen a group of Norwegian people openly engage in debauchery.
Did I find what I was looking for in my second cruise? I first sailed the Caribbean in 2006. I pet Jamaican donkeys, I underpaid a local woman to braid my hair, I swam with imprisoned dolphins. After ten years of waiting, someone paid for me to return to the sea.
Norwegians had been telling me for years that Danskebåten was cheesy, trashy, and full of terminally ill people who still got shitfaced on weekends. And I found these assessments to be totally correct.
But as I had underestimated the boat’s intensity, Norwegians had underestimated me. One man’s trash is another woman’s treasure, it only took me a night to discover a gem in Danskebåten.
You don’t go on a cruise to follow the rules. You go on a cruise to follow every perverse impulse you’ve ever had. You appropriate cornrows as a white person. You rub your butt against a dying stranger to a cover of Mamma Mia. You drink a six pack of cheap Danish beer and vomit ham into the sea.
Then, you return to land and forget that any of it happened. And if you’re me, you put your grandmother’s ring on eBay so you can afford another cruise before you’re thirty.