Getting to know the world of Star Trek and its devoted fans while on a week-long “Cruise Trek” to Bermuda is like visiting a foreign country for travel writer Rolf Potts.
Potts, a casual fan at best, admitted to being intrigued by Star Trek culture. “I want to confess that I’m fascinated by the idiosyncrasies of Trekkie culture in the same way some people are intrigued with Inuit or Maasai culture,” he said. “I want to admit that I have a weakness for counterintuitive travel strategies, and this seemed like a wacky, entertaining way to enjoy my first-ever sea cruise.”
When the fans found out that he would be writing about his experience, they were naturally suspicious of his motives. “I bet you want to poke fun at the weird people who bring Vulcan ears and Starfleet uniforms on their vacations,” one woman told him.
While Potts didn’t want to make fun of fans, he admitted that he was hoping for interesting behaviors. “I’m hoping this Star Trek cruise will yield a cornucopia of color and eccentricity—not just Vulcan ears and Starfleet uniforms, but Klingon-speakers and Cardassian-costumed cross-dressers,” said Potts. “I’m hoping for Trek-themed folk-band sing-alongs and angry three-hour arguments about starship registration numbers. And, as much as anything, I’m dying to know what it’s like to experience a sea voyage to Bermuda when your travel companions would rather be making a space voyage to Romulus.”
What he found instead were people who although they were passionate about Star Trek, didn’t quite fit the basement-dwelling nerd image. A couple married for thirty years renewed their vows on the ship. By initial appearances and early discussion, they seemed like the typical Trekkies that non-fans picture when thinking of Star Trek fans. But when Potts asked the couple if their mutual love of Star Trek had made their marriage easier over the years, the husband Wayne said, “Well in 30 years of marriage we’ve never had a fight. Except for tae kwon do, I guess.”
Potts was surprised by the answer. Wayne went on to explain that “…whenever we decided we needed to fight, we’d just put on the sparring equipment and go. Rita has better technique, so she’d usually win.” Both were active in martial arts and had many other interests in life besides Star Trek.
Potts also found out that there are casual fans everywhere. After asking two fans to wear Star Trek shirts for their Bermuda trip, he found out that love of Trek is everywhere as more than one person engaged them in conversation about Star Trek. A Bermudan bus driver, seeing the shirts, told them that his wife liked “that movie with the whales in them.”
Even on the ship, there were passengers not affiliated with Cruise Trek who liked Star Trek. But some of those did not want to be marked out as fans of the show. “While I’m eating my lunch by the swimming pool on Deck 12, for instance, I hear two men in the hot tub arguing about why Klingons in the original series look different from the Klingons in later incarnations of Star Trek,” said Potts. “The guys look to be in their mid-forties. “I walk over, introduce myself, and ask them if they’re with the Star Trek contingent. The instant they realize I’ve taken them for Trekkies, their eyes go blank with a look of hard-wired adolescent terror. They eventually regain their composure and explain that they’re just taking a regular cruise-vacation with their families, but for a brief moment the awkwardness is palpable: I feel as if I’ve just walked into a junior high locker room and asked a couple of boys if they’d like to kiss each other.”