Dune Spiced up My Sea Life

Dune Spiced up My Sea Life

By: Jen Richards

I started working on cruise ships after college because I wanted to see the world. I had only been outside of the US once- a six week trip to Europe where I sipped cappuccino by the Eiffel Tower, Island hopped in Greece, kissed a British guy in a botanical garden, and realized that traveling was much more alluring than living in my home town of Seattle.

Like countless crew-members before me, I started out sailing in The Caribbean and the waters of Alaska. I was hired to work as a staff member in the youth center and was promoted to director of the program one year later.

Jen's ship in Alaska

Jen’s ship in Alaska

Working on a cruise ship is a lot like being on perpetual spring break. Months quickly turn into years when you work a few hours a day and get to spend the rest of your time exploring new places, and partying with fellow crew members from all over the world. Whether or not you are seeking an escape from the real world and “normalcy”, cruise life provides it.

After a couple of years at sea I fell for a Dutch engineer. His name was Vincent, and he was tall and the shy-nerdy cute type.

Jen and Vincent

Jen and Vincent

We started dating while our ship was touring S.E. Alaska and as our romance heated up we sailed south through the Panama Canal en route to The Caribbean. Vincent and I shared a love of travel and tarot cards. For our first date we drank wine and watched Best in Show in my cabin. I was so nervous, so smitten. The dvd, which I had borrowed from the crew office on board, skipped and froze near the end of the film. I can still remember hearing my heart beating loudly, wondering if he could hear it too. That awkward moment seemed to last forever and was broken by an amazing kiss which turned into one of the best make out sessions I can recall to date. From that night on, we were a thing.

In our honeymoon phase we hiked together in Ketchikan, strolled the waterfront of San Francisco, explored the country side of Guatemala, and ate ice cream on the beach in St Thomas. Ships provide a very romantic setting for budding relationships and affairs of all sorts.

Love is never easy, and though ships are a bit like Never Never Land, romances at sea are not immune to the challenges all relationships face. In order to be on the same vessel as Vincent, I passed up more interesting Syfy Dune-miniseriesitineraries and spent the better part of two years with him in the Bermuda triangle of cruise treks- Alaska, Panama Canal transition, Caribbean- repeat. It was worth it, for love, without a doubt. But the charm and excitement of those ports faded with each visit. I needed more to keep me stimulated and content. Vincent easily worked two to three times as many hours in a day as I did, which left me with too much time on my hands and not enough to do.

One night, the Syfy channel (for crew only) was playing their edition of Dune. I was immediately sucked into the story. Vincent came in from a long shift in the engine control room delighted to see the adaptation of one of his all time favorite books and we stayed up late watching it. He was shocked to learn that I have never read Dune.

A few days later, in Pt. Canaveral, Florida I picked up a copy of Dune. I devoured it between afternoons in the cabin, and beach trips in Grand Cayman, Cozumel, and on our company’s private island. The book provided the excitement that before I was able to find in the ports of call.

Dune was a perfect escape, just as ships had initially been the perfect escape from the real world. I went on to Dune book coverread the other original five books by Frank Herbert. As the spice was dying down in my own life I was all too happy to take solace in the Dune universe. If you have read the books, then you know how well crafted the story is. The series is rich in political conflicts, mysticism, and romance. The characters have such depth in this elaborate saga. Dune, for me, is more than a sci-fi classic. It is a classic, period.

Vincent and I had vacations that lined up almost perfectly after that trip. I spent my two months off at his home in Haarlem, in The Netherlands. We rented the 1984 movie version of Dune at his local dvd shop. Vincent and I were both left mouths agape when the credits rolled. It seemed as if the director (David Lynch) had been under the influence of hallucinogens during the filming. Even now, several years later I am not sure what to make of that adaptation. I am huge Lynch fan- Twin Peaks is high on my list of best shows ever. But perhaps it should not have been called Dune, since he strayed so far from the source material. Many of the changes made can be forgiven, but the overall cheesiness of the film is truly disappointing. Lynch changed the ending completely, which is never a good idea with a beloved piece of literature. All that said,  Sting is rather entertaining as the villain, and it is necessary watching for anyone who loves the books.

The first six books in the series felt so complete to me that I have never been compelled to read the thirteen books that followed written by Herbert’s son Brian and Kevin J Anderson. I am the proud owner of the Parker Brothers Dune board game, a super thrift store score.

Dune boardgame

Vincent and I broke up after two years of love at sea. We both moved on to other itineraries and relationships. After being on the same loop for so long I was elated to sail to Europe, South America and Africa! Destinations like Togo with its voodoo ceremonies, and Antarctica with its shimmering ice formations came with even more of the thrills and spice that had faded for me on earlier trips. Science fiction was not required, though I still found myself reading and watching things from the genre purely for entertainment pleasure.

A love for Dune and science fiction more generally is one of the best things I took away from my time with Vincent. Positive memories of reading those books are just as vivid in my mind as many of the hot, beachy, ports we visited. For me, Dune and adventure will always be beautifully intertwined.

About the Author: Jen nerds out about many things, particularly: travel, pop culture, and wine. Jen grew up in Seattle in a family of all boys. Her early obsessions included The Labyrinth, The Go-go’s, NW masterpiece Twin Peaks, and all things French. In her teen years music became her primary focus- especially the Riot grrrl scene, alternative, and Brit pop. College was filled with the likes of zine writing, feminist activism, The X-files, Tori Amos, and the novels of Tom Robbins. World travel started as a hobby and evolved into a way of life after university. After more than eight years at sea working for a major cruise line, two years in the Peace Corps in Senegal, and numerous backpacking trips, Jen has travelled to all 7 continents and over 125 countries. Jen has a BS in Psychology and a BA in Women’s Studies from the University of Utah.