Posted by Steve Lettau on Sep 14, 2022

A one-time drinker at sea, but no longer three sheets to the wind

Rotary Magazine by Neil Steinberg Illustrations by Andrea Ucini

You don’t have to go looking for booze, it will find you wherever you are, even at the end of the world. Or make that, “The End of the World,” part of the official slogan of Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city on Earth.

The Royal Canadian Geographical Society had invited me to travel aboard its polar, ice-class cruise ship for two weeks as it traveled the coast of Chile, getting up close and personal with glaciers. Of course I’d been reluctant: Glaciers? Big walls of ice? Lectures by scientists? For two weeks? Won’t that get old? 

But the trip was free, and I figured: Go, see what it’s about. 

So a flight to South America, a few days in Buenos Aires. Then a 1,900-mile hop south to the tip of the continent, where the RCGS Resolute was moored, waiting.

I had just been shown to my stateroom and was exploring, pulling open drawers and peering behind cabinet doors. Behind one was a well-stocked minibar: rocks glasses, little bottles of Jack Daniels lined up, soldiers ready for duty. 

“Oh,” I thought, quickly closing the door. “I’ll have to ask the purser to take that out.” 

I’m a recovering alcoholic. And yes, I had considered, before agreeing to the trip, the risks of taking a cruise for a fortnight. To paraphrase Samuel Johnson’s pithy description — “Being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned” — being on a cruise is like being locked in a bar with the chance of relapse. But I decided to risk it. “I’ll not drink there the same way I don’t drink here,” I assured my wife.