The trip was advertised for months as the "Sir Charles and Friends Supercruise!" Sir Charles Barkley, superstar forward of the Phoenix Suns, would lead a madcap group of well-heeled travelers on a seven-day, seven-night voyage from New York to Bermuda and back, aboard the Dreamward, a 10-deck ocean liner that can accommodate 1,242 passengers and a crew of 483. Not since Groucho, Harpo and Chico chased Margaret Dumont from stateroom to stateroom had there been the promise of so much nautical fun.
On July 13, two days before the trip was scheduled to begin, Barkley sent word through his agent and his attorney that he would not be going. " Barkley's decision was necessitated by the inability of the promoter to provide contractually required liability insurance and the nonpayment of half of Barkley's agreed fee," read the Barkley camp's statement. The passengers, alas, had paid their nonrefundable fees; it was too late to cancel reservations. The Sir Charles and Friends Supercruise! took place as scheduled last week...without Sir Charles. This is a report from those understandably choppy seas.
ABOARD THE DREAMWARD
The days go past in a sun-splotched blur. An attendant named Rudi sprays a fine mist from a bottle of Evian across red and anxious faces to help relieve the heat. Thank you, Rudi. A waiter named Danielo delivers pi�a coladas, complete with pineapple slice, maraschino cherry and paper parasol, to counter the ever-present thirst. Thank you, Danielo.
Nothing seems to work. Faith has been shattered. Hope seems lost. Charity certainly does not exist. Where is Charles? No one seems to know.
"What is purple, orange and black, and invisible?" comedian Randy Pryor asks during his first routine in the opulent but overstated Stardust Lounge. " Charles Barkley!"
Badda-boom! Thank you, Randy.
Charles is not at the pool. Charles is not in the Observatory Lounge disco. Charles is not in either of the two Jacuzzis. Charles is not at the Caribbean Stud Poker table in the Casino Royale. Charles is not at the Chocoholic Buffet. Charles is not at either the first seating or the second seating at Viking Night in the Sun Terrace Restaurant. Charles is not dribbling across the swaying basketball court on the top deck. Charles is not shooting skeet.
"I guess this is just the 'And Friends Cruise' now," longtime backup forward Kurt Rambis, a 14-year NBA veteran who played with the Los Angeles Lakers last season, tells the 138 travelers assembled in the Stardust Lounge who bought the Barkley package.
All had paid roughly $1,000 more per person than anyone with comparable accommodations on the ship to be close to their hero. What are they supposed to do now? Jump overboard? The "friends," who all were scheduled to be part of the original trip, are Danny Ainge of the Suns, Muggsy Bogues of the Charlotte Hornets, Hersey Hawkins of the Seattle SuperSonics, Jeff Hornacek of the Utah Jazz and Rambis. Rambis does much of the talking that Barkley was supposed to do. One of Rambis's four former teams is the Suns.