I'm on the Emerald princess. Having a few days ago just left the Crown Princess. They are sister ships, something that I didn't quite understand until recently. They're identical. Completely the same, down to the last rivet, the last centimeter-square tile on the mosaic floor of the piazza, down to the last pebble placed artistically in the water feature by the atrium lifts. Identical. But they're thousands of miles apart. One is sailing between Caribbean islands, the other - the one I'm on - is currently moored at Venice, and will, in a couple of hours, set sail for Dubrovnik.
Except they're not quite the same. Everything that has been designed is identical, but just occasionally - particularly as I wander around the crew-only parts of the ship - one stumbles across tiny, but jarring differences.
Obviously, that the two ships are facsimiles of each other is useful, as it took me a good 36 hours to stop getting lost on every journey on the previous ship, but here I am, knowing where everything is, which is great. So, without thinking, I can walk through the art gallery (with the same pictures), to the stairs, drop down a level, go through a crew door into the M1 corridor, right to the far end, cross through by the staff lifts, through the little green door, up the stairs, turn left and into the crew mess, where there is the same juice machine with the same flavour juices under the same buttons. Except that on the journey, some of the health and safety posters have been put up in slightly different places, and there are slightly different notes on the staff noticeboards, and in the crew mess the little portable televisions that are constantly on have been placed in slightly different positions. About a quarter of a percent of everything is different. Slightly.
This gives one a feeling of intense and creeping deja-vu. I've been here before, but not quite. It took me a while to figure out what it was, and now that I have, I'm fascinated by which things are different. The things that the corporation have no control over, or more likely, don't care about. I don't get lost, but as I find my way around the ship, there's the tiniest feeling that I am lost, because every so often a visual cue that my unconscious is looking for isn't there, or is different. Weird.
And I'm not even talking about the biggest difference on this ship. The crew mess serves chips. Never saw chips on the Crown Princess. Someone must have told them I'm trying to lose weight, and they're just trying to fuck with me. You'll be glad to know that I remained resolute and avoided having chips, then went out to explore Venice and have calzone. I did think long and hard about it, and then thought to myself, "Dude, you're in Venice and that calzone looks badass", all subsequent internal discussions were redundant by that point as the calzone did look, and indeed was, badass.