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"Paradise was not a cruise ship. It was the home away from home for billionaires who wanted to avoid the paparazzi while they luxuriated in decadence. It was also home to a few legendary lotharios who spent time aboard Paradise philandering anonymously with other passengers or crew, or perhaps toting a movie star along with them for a little play time—while their wives spent time at home, or were cavorting with the local tennis pro. And they did all this while basking in unsurpassed luxury." 



"Eva paused, aware she had captured everyone’s attention. She thrived in the courtroom during moments like these. She stood and walked toward the front of the room where the covered easel had been positioned. Standing next to it, she continued. “We have to get an amazing review to make this really work. Not just four or even five stars. But something even higher. Bigger. Better.”


“That shouldn’t be difficult. There are a million reviewing platforms. If you mean something, like Orbitz, TripAdvisor, or Yelp, I’m sure we can wow those guys into giving us five stars. But what could be higher than five stars?” Mario asked.

“No, I mean a multi-page spread in Travel & Leisure or even a full page article in the New York Times. Not just a review, but an article. A great, big, fat, juicy article.” Eva said.

“What makes you think they’d want to write about Paradise?” Mario asked.

“Why wouldn’t they want to write about Paradise?” Eva asked, her voice now evolving into a strategic crescendo. “We’ll make some noise in the media, do some press releases, maybe even a few interviews. Once we get on their radar screen, they’ll just have to write about us. I even have a plan in mind.”

“What’s that?” Marc asked.

“Peyton Flynn,” Eva declared, as she dramatically whisked the cover off the easel. The presentation board was creatively comprised of a series of magazine and newspaper articles all of which had yellow highlighting over the name Peyton Flynn wherever it appeared.

“I’ve heard of her. She writes reviews, right?” Mario asked.

“She doesn’t just write reviews. She is reviews,” Eva said authoritatively. “She has a website, Peyton’s Places, that’s picked up by all the top newspapers and travel magazines in the world. At 6:00 p.m. on the first Sunday of every month, she publishes a review of a hotel she’s recently visited. She only visits the best hotels and they all clamor for a few good sound bites. If they get a great review, they see an immediate bump in their ratings and their rooms sell out for months. She has never reviewed a hotel ship. And she’s never given any hotel a 100 rating. But then again, she’s never seen anything like Paradise.” 



“Marvelous. And we don’t need anyone trying to fix Mother up with any eligible, handsome bachelors. She’s so old she knew dirt when it was still a rock. On the other hand, if you just happen to have any Justin Timberlands walking around here, feel free to send them to my cabin.”

“I will definitely do that, Mrs. Tarpley,” Donna said with a faux serious smile. “And, by the way, we refer to them as visitor flats. You’ll find them to be far more spacious than a cabin on a cruise line.”

“Cabins, flats, whatever. Thank you for the correction,” Ginger said with appreciation. “I never mind being corrected. I used to be an English teacher, you know. So I’m very particular about pronunciations and mispronunciations.”

“Then I should let you know that if a certain singer shows up at your visitor flat, you may want to refer to him as Justin Timberlake, not Justin Timberland.”

“Honey, if Justin whatever he’s called shows up at my flat, I’ll refer to him as the bottom sheet.”



"On occasion, lucky guests of the super wealthy were permitted to sail aboard Paradise. It was often joked that the only thing better than being an owner aboard Paradise was being a friend of an owner aboard Paradise. Even though these guests were not subject to the same rigorous financial background investigations as potential luxury suite owners, they did have to endure a more than rudimentary background check. 

Once they were permitted aboard Paradise, guests were treated like royalty. In fact, there were special apartments made available exclusively for their use. These apartments, known as visitor flats, were often the same size as the bronze or silver level luxury suites that owners paid anywhere from $10 million to $30 million to acquire. Even though guests had to pay $4,000 a night to sail aboard the ship, that was far less than the $30,000 to $100,000 a month the owners had to pay as condo association dues.

If the guests then decided they really wanted to become members of the Paradise community, they had to pony up the $25,000 application fee, tender a $300,000 deposit on their condo association fees, and have their names circulated to all the owners so they could acquire the necessary approval of the entire community. So far, in Paradise’s young life, no potential suite purchaser had been denied ownership for failure to meet the 85% approval threshold. Rather, that was a precautionary safeguard Marc Romanello had devised in case an applicant met all the other financial criteria but was deemed “unacceptable” by much of the community. He had in mind such miscreants as Bernie Madoff, Jeffrey Epstein, or others who clearly fit all the financial requirements, but were not the type of owners the board considered acceptable for Paradise."



"Craig McDougal had been accused of bringing one of his nieces to his home after a family wedding while Craig’s wife was in the hospital. Becky was sickened by what she heard. No one ever learned with certainty what occurred that evening, but the local newspaper reported that Craig, who was then 59 years old, had sex with the precocious teenager in his own marital bed before having his driver return the young lass to her home. The incident was only discovered when the girl’s father stumbled upon a text message from Craig extolling the fun they had enjoyed and pleading with her not to mention it to her mother, Craig’s sister. The father became enraged. Rather than involving the authorities or doing anything that could bring the incident to the attention of the media, he decided to handle things himself. At breakneck speed, he drove the six miles to Craig’s home, rang the bell, and proceeded to pummel Craig mercilessly with a cricket bat for almost ten minutes. Craig sustained fractures to both orbital sockets, his nose, jaw, and many of the fingers he had raised in a failed attempt to break the impact of the blows. Although the goal had been to keep the matter private, that had not happened. When someone as esteemed and highly visible as Craig McDougal appeared in public with broken bones about his face and scarcely an inch of skin that was not black and blue, questions were raised. Initially, Craig tried to play it off as having been in a car accident. However, the local police, who were not very fond of Craig due to his endless drunken episodes, debunked that story quickly. It didn’t take long for word to circulate around town that Craig had indeed been beaten to a pulp by his brother-in-law after he’d forced himself on the man’s fifteen-year-old daughter."



“The economics are simple. We either have to raise more revenue or reduce the amount we’re spending,” Eva said.

“So let’s reduce spending,” Mario suggested.

“It’s not that easy, Mario. Our two largest expenses are fuel and wages. A ship without fuel is no more than a barge tethered to a pier somewhere,” Eva said. She stood and walked to the table where light snacks had been laid out. Marc stole an appreciative look at Eva’s always firm backside, especially visible in her tight white slacks. He wondered if she was wearing a thong and if so, what color.

“So let’s reduce wages,” Mario said, ignorant of Marc’s wandering eyes.

“Great idea,” Eva said, with her back still to the table as she put a few dumplings on her plate. “Except we sold the concept of Paradise being a super luxury yacht with the best amenities and services in the world. We hired the finest, most experienced, discriminating crew we could put together. They command the highest wages on the sea. So reducing our spend is not an option.”


“Yeah, but . . .” 

“There are no buts, Mario,” Eva said as she walked back towards the table and sat back down. “I gave people my word that this ship will blow them away in terms of the quality of hospitality they would receive. I can’t go back to them now and say: Thanks for your money, but instead of performing to the standards of the Ritz-Carlton, we’re going to operate more as a Courtyard by Marriott. That’s just not going to cut it. Moreover, it’s not the person I am,” Eva said."



"A few minutes before 9:00 p.m., Harrison donned his white shirt, bolo tie, ill-fitting jacket, and black boots and wound his way through the common areas of Paradise. He had even managed to style his hair with some sort of conditioner to approximate John Travolta’s coiffed style in Pulp Fiction. Although most of the suite owners were still at dinner, or enjoying after dinner cocktails, he did run into a few who glanced at him askance. He most definitely did not look like a multi-millionaire, or a guest of a multi-millionaire. He looked more like a car service driver who had just completed his eighteen-hour shift. Just as he arrived at the appointed spot, a robed Ms. Rasmussen exited the fitness center and looked at Harrison inquisitively. If utter disdain could be reduced to a single glance, Heidi Rasmussen had just perfected the art. 

Rather than being shamed, Harrison rose to the occasion, looked directly into her eyes, and said, “You look so comfortable in that robe. You must not be wearing anything underneath it.” But for the two inches of MacCallum he had inhaled before coming downstairs to meet Stephanie, he never would have said such a thing."



“Welcome to Paradise,” offered Candy Podeski, the ship’s perky Sales Manager. Because Paradise hosted so few visitors every month, it was Candy’s job to meet and greet each one individually. Over the course of their stay on the ship, each guest was given a personalized tour of the ship as each guest was to be treated as a prospective new owner. Indeed, because management had elected to eschew traditional marketing channels, several of the new owners of luxury suites had come to the ship by virtue of the visitor flat program.

The sales process for luxury suites was sleek and sophisticated, yet almost invisible. Before joining Paradise, Candy had worked as a sales manager at the Four Seasons Residence Clubs where she convinced wealthy and pampered luxury travelers to buy into the lifestyle presented by those Four Seasons offerings. Her job aboard Paradise was not much different. 

Without wanting to appear outwardly sexist, the management aboard Paradise realized the importance of curve appeal in a sales director. While Candy was highly qualified for the position and came with excellent recommendations, her outward appearance didn’t do anything to hurt her hiring prospects. A former college softball pitcher at the University of Tennessee, Candy maintained her honeyed and convincing Nashville accent. At thirty-five years old, Candy was naturally radiant and possessed one of the most beautiful smiles imaginable framing Crest-perfect teeth. Candy’s obsessive compulsion with fitness yielded a remarkably athletic body. And she was not uncomfortable displaying her ample cleavage, especially around male potential owners. For her thirtieth birthday, Candy had treated herself to two elastomer silicone implants, and she wore them like trophies. Their effect was not lost on Craig."


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