After a lovely day spent hugging Couchsurfers, I returned to the ship to get ready for our fancy night out. A stretch Hummer limo had been booked and 10 people had been invited, leaving lots of space to spread out. It’s nicer that way. Limos are not clown cars and you’re not meant to pack as many people as possible into it.
Evidently in some cultures this is not as apparent nor do they recognize that it’s poor etiquette to bring people uninvited. One guy had “generously” invited 6 of his countrymen along – people no one else in the group knew. But that’s not all. They decided that they would drink as much cheap vodka on the ship as possible, to save money on more expensive booze in St Petersburg. By the time we had left the ship, they were loud and completely obnoxious. It was like being with a group of low-life thugs who had just been let out of prison, and given alcohol for the time in years.
We went through customs to exit the port. The thing with Russia is that most people need a visa to enter. But for crew members, we are allowed to buy “shuttle bus tour tickets” for $20, which allows us to visit Russia for a few hours without having to get a visa. We need that ticket to enter Russia, regardless if you take the shuttle or not. Yes, it sounds a bit scammy but it’s still cheaper than organizing your own Russian visa. As this was our second cruise in Russia, the information had long been posted in crew areas and none of this was news.
Unfortunately, some people seem to find enjoyment in being ignorant. Four people in our group forgot to get tickets. Rather than allow us to leave and catch up later in town, they insisted on making us wait for them while they attempted to find tickets at this late hour. We were forced to wait, while the limo was on the clock. And this comedy of errors was only destined to become exponentially worse.
The hooligans were growing increasingly rowdy in the parked limo. They had finished their vodka and decided to help themselves to the girl’s wine. The girls were too polite and clearly overwhelmed to say anything so I decided to step in. Their obnoxious behavior was bad enough but stealing from the organizers was completely unacceptable. We were all advised to bring whatever drinks we wanted to have but they opted to chug vodka beforehand instead. Some other guys who were sober and now bored, decided they wanted a share of everyone’s wine as well. It was so awkward. I could not believe the sense of entitlement by these people. Our numbers had by now, somehow grown to 14 men and 5 girls because of additional freeloaders – and the girls and I were the only ones who had brought drinks. The ridiculous thing was the simplest solution was just to walk 5 minutes back to ship, and buy something from the crew bar. After all, we were still waiting for the people looking to get tickets!
Finally at 1:45 am, a full hour and 15 minutes after our scheduled departure, we left. The football hooligans were out of control, having purchased even more vodka and drunk it all. It had become their party, blasting their own music and acting far beyond any measure of sanity. The rest of us were left in a horrible mood. The guys who were too cheap to buy drinks were belligerent because I had attempted to stop them from stealing the girls’ wine and wouldn’t share mine. And I was pissed that these freeloaders had so much nerve. The girls were upset that the night had turned out to be a disaster.
We had an hour and 45 minutes left on the rented limo. But with such a large group, we had no chance of getting anywhere. We had to stop at a liquor store but when a dozen highly intoxicated men piled into the place, the owner got too nervous to sell them hard liquor and only agreed to beer. Even that took forever. Of course, that meant that the girls who didn’t want beer had nothing left to drink – as most of their wine had been stolen much earlier. Then we had to stop at an ATM. Then it had to be a toilet stop. Finally, the driver informed us that time was up and we had to turn around to return to the ship. We had used up all our time and done nothing!
Half the people jumped out, some opting instead to take a taxi back to the ship rather than having to endure more time with these hooligans. Others headed to a club. I wasn’t sure what to do as it with just 2 of the organizer girls, the hooligans and myself left. I felt that I should stay for the girls’ sake but unfortunately even that turned out to be a poor decision. Incredibly, the hooligans behaviour only got worse, now armed with a large supply of beer which they had previously purchased. They were spraying beer everywhere in the limo and over everyone and everything. My suit was drenched. I was finally at my wit’s end and grabbed one of their beers and sprayed it back at them. One of the guys freaked out at me and punched me square on the jaw. Fuck you dude. I punched back.
Let me just say first that I hate drunk fighting. I’ve been involved in a grand total of 3 drunken brawls in my life and this was the only time I’ve thrown a punch back. It’s one of those male behaviors, which I just don’t understand. When I get drunk I like to dance or chat up women in order to maximize my chances of getting lucky. I find fighting completely pointless and very unattractive. Plus, I like to wear nice clothes and don’t want to risk wrecking them.
But there’s only so much shit one person can take. Fortunately, with my recent Muay Thai training, I had learnt how to take a punch. Turns out though, it would have been far more advantageous if Muay Thai had trained me on how to duck. This guy was twice my size plus he had a group of his buddies on his side. Eventually, someone broke us up after we traded a few blows.
It was an awful end to an awful night. I just could not believe how disrespectful, abusive and destructive these wankers had been. They had behaved in such a horrible manner, you’d think we had all been Punk’d. They had completely hijacked the event. What was supposed to be a lovely night organized by three sweet girls, was completely wrecked. Plus, the wine they had purchased had mostly been stolen and I even found out later that one of the girls in the group had been sexually harassed the entire night. I feel so awful for them.
There’s this whole illusion of peace and love among the crew on cruise ships, but the reality is there’s harmony because crew tend to self-segregate. They also stay in line not because they are all good people but because they are obviously just scared to do anything wrong onboard and lose their jobs. With such a wide spectrum of backgrounds, it’s times like this when I realize how absolutely necessary it is to have the draconian rules onboard.