To explore strange, new ports of call, to seek out new Trekkies …

I’m the kind of person who saves up and spends all her money on higher education, not vacation, but this was a trip I had been wanting to splurge on for months. Having returned from Star Trek: the Cruise II, there remains that voice in the back of my head calculating how many months of student loan payments I could have made instead, but I can usually shut her up with a good G&T.

50 billion bars on this boat and not one of them could make a good gin and tonic. I need to move back to Edinburgh.

I had been hoping to go with one of my friends from grad school, a doctor (not a moon shuttle conductor) from Monterrey. Alas, her work schedule was not compatible. I don’t know if I’d want to travel solo on a “regular” cruise, but I knew that all of us on the boat had at least one thing in common. I might not make any lasting friendships, but I was sure to have a few good conversations [Spoiler alert: this turned out to be true]. And so I booked two days before registration closed. Two weeks later I was on a red-eye to Miami.

I arrived at port around 11:30 am, a crowded mass of people filling the waiting area. A sea of nerdy t-shirts. I myself was beating the morning chill with my NASA hoodie (and constellation-patterned pants). And no – before you ask – no one was dressed up as a Klingon. That wasn’t until later.

Hey look, a boat!

I don’t remember the exact time I boarded, but it was only a few minutes until I had my first “celebrity” encounter. And by “encounter,” I mean Connor Trinneer (aka Star Trek: Enterprise‘s Charles “Trip” Tucker) passed me while I was waiting for the elevator and I gave him a head nod. This was, in general, how vacationers interacted with the on-board talent, unless you paid for a photo/autograph session. Exceptions exist, of course – I eventually got to have a somewhat lengthy conversation with him (and a hug) after a blackjack tournament – but we’re all decent enough human beings not to stalk the famous people.

Connor plays blackjack like I play any type of gambling game that doesn’t involve real money. Go all in on round one and then lose so you can just hang out with people and drink.

That doesn’t mean Trekkies don’t act weird when they accidentally find themselves in a star’s presence. Within an hour of boarding this random lady and I found ourselves standing about a meter away from George Takei, who was getting a personal tour of the boat. She was so embarrassed by being in his presence she scrunched up her shoulders and did a 180 in some terrible attempt to hide. I like to remind people in these moments that celebrities get diarrhea just like everyone else … or at least when said celebrities are not within earshot.

Our launch party began at 4:00 pm; most of the stars accompanying us on the voyage got to say “hi” to the throng of Trekkies on the pool deck and mention one or two of the special shows they were going to do. I learned a fairly valuable lesson on this trip: to sacrifice angle of view for proximity. That is, it’s okay to stand/sit to the side if it means you’ll be a few (or many) rows closer.

The other lesson is it’s okay to take off your shoes and stand in the shallow end of the pool to get a better view of things.

That evening LeVar Burton read us a couple of children’s books, including one he co-wrote. As someone who first knew of the man from Reading Rainbow, and then as Geordi LaForge, it was like an extra wave of nostalgia washing over me. Then Nana Visitor and Rene Auberjonois pretended to be chickens.

Okay, fine. That’s not the whole story. They were reading a bunch of different sketches, all portraying different kinds of love … one of which involved pretending to be chickens. I will not remember a single song Brent Spiner or Bob Picardo sang during their musical nights, but I will forever remember this ….

I can think of a few fictional characters who would have learned a lot from this performance

People were already breaking out the costumes by then, but the first themed party officially kicked off a few hours later. I didn’t have any costumes with me. I didn’t have any costumes in my closet back home, either. It’s just not one of those activities I’ve ever participated in. And of course not everyone on the boat did, either. There were plenty of people running around in t-shirts or casual dresses with a communicator badge pinned to their chests.

One of the fundamental tenants of Trek is the acronym IDIC: Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. The word “Trekkie” conjures up a very specific image in a lot of people’s head, and that’s just not a true representation of what we are. We come in all varieties.

And yes, that includes people dressing up as Darth Vader on a Star Trek cruise.

Complete with coneheads in the background.

Our first port of call was the island of Roatán, off the coast of Honduras. Since I was sola, and saving money by booking things directly through island tour companies (i.e. not the cruise line), I had to plan my excursions in anticipation that I might end up with a personal tour guide. That’s how I ended up with Ronald driving me around the island to go ziplining and have a monkey sit on my head, and him reading my copy of the Silmarillion while waiting for me to acquire some souvenirs.

Said souvenirs consisted entirely of rocks. And minerals. And sand. Yes, I’ve got sand from most of the foreign beaches I’ve visited. My degree might be in astrophysics, not geology, but I know a pretty rock when I see it.

It was humid AF down there, and I absolutely did not care. Any change from the freezing midwest is welcome.

I also acquired “rocks” from our next port, which I think is best described as Epcot!Belize. Harvest Caye (pronounced “Key”…um…no??? who made that decision?) is a private island run by Norwegian Cruise Line, and many will (correctly) tell you it’s a fabricated tourist trap.

Not shown in this image: the “Beware of Jellyfish” sign to my right

But you don’t have to spend money there if you don’t want to. I know some people who took a ferry to the mainland, but I used the day as my “relaxer” and just wandered around the beach area working on my nonexistent tan. Saw some starfish. Collected some seashells. Connected to Anakin Skywalker in a way I never thought possible (No, seriously, it was the worst sand I’ve ever walked on).

And I chatted with Armin Shimerman (aka Deep Space Nine‘s Quark) and his wife for like an hour about Shakespeare and the importance of Critical Analysis. Two amazing human beings, even though one of them doesn’t know how to use a smartphone.

You’re a great actor, Armin. But your photography skills need a little work…

Another awesome married couple I ran into was Dr. Phil Plait and Marcella Setter. As I, too, have a background in astrophysics and currently work as a science communicator, I was totally stoked at the opportunity to meet him. Like, more so than any of the Star Trek actors. Yeah. I’m that level of nerd.

He gave two different astronomy talks, during each of our “at sea” days: one addressing the question of “Is Earth Special?” (The answer, of course, is “yes, no, maybe, it’s complicated”) and the other about asteroids and Near Earth Objects that have impacted or might impact the earth. Yes, that one Bruce Willis movie did get mentioned, and I didn’t have the heart to tell Phil I actually love it. The science is just. so. bad, guys.

Unlike the Mayans. Great astronomers, those Mayans. (These are ruins at Chocchoben – and, ya know, the Moon)

There were a few other “scicomm” lectures on the boat that week, including a couple by a real-life astronaut. Due to scheduling I didn’t get to see all of them, but props to the program directors for getting these guys. (If they could actually get some gals for next year, then I’d give them all the props.) I thought about what I’d cover if I – a completely un-famous nobody – had somehow lucked into giving a talk, instead. Probably not what the rest of the audience was pondering while Phil was waving his arms around to demonstrate the transit method of hunting for exoplanets.

We Trekkies come in all shapes, sizes, and personalities. We’re people. We live different lives, work different jobs, but we’re all connected by a franchise we love. Some rock the cosplay game, some don’t. Some rock out on the dance floor. Some don’t. But we can all agree on at least one thing:

the price of alcoholic beverages on that boat was much too high.

I will, however, gladly give up alcohol again for the best Mexican food I have ever had in my life.

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