2. At Sea


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Mar 8th, 2011
2. At Sea

Tuesday 8th March

No seasickness, good!
But a restless night with the churning of the engines and the rocking motion of the boat rolling from side to side. The Melody is an old ship, and small as cruise liners go these days (only 1400 passengers). Being an old lady, she has developed rattles and squeaks, like an old car.

Company leaflets in the cabin inform us that laundry services will be pretty much out of the question – to wash and iron a pair of trousers/jeans will cost us 7 Euros, which is about R70. (Patience could have a field day, moonlighting for a cruise ship). Fortunately there is a little cord in the bathroom for hanging up smalls….

The breakfast deck pool on a calm day

A daily guide to What’s On and where to find what, has been slipped under our door during the night. We join other lost-looking passengers and eventually discover the breakfast deck, but the self service buffet is under siege – and there is nowhere to sit, so we retreat to the restaurant instead.

This offers the same menu as up top, but here it is served by white-jacketed waiters from Mauritius or Indonesia. We learn that the sous-chef who does all the actual cooking is from Malaysia and is very very good, madam.

First order of business after breakfast is to investigate the availability of internet access. Dismay. We can collect email (at US$20 for an hour – and the connection is frustratingly slow) but we are blocked from getting FTP access, apparently because of security concerns. Maybe hackers could get into the ship’s navigational website???? This means of course that any urgent website updates can only be done when we go ashore.

It is fun however, to pick up our emails, most of which are from vlei buddies sending after-party messages.

Our fellow passengers seem to be quite a mix – about one-third are South Africans, one third German, and the rest a mixture of various flavours of Brit and Irish. We hear a few French and Italian voices and there is one elderly Chinese couple. In the majority they are retired-age people; leavened by some honeymooners (one young husband wearing a “Game Over” t-shirt), and a few young couples with babies. Half a dozen children on the entire ship. Not school holiday season, I guess.

We investigate the cinema and catch a movie (The A-Team with that guy from District 6 playing the crazy one) and James takes out a book from the tiny selection on offer. I start a novel I have brought with me, a 4-inch thick paperback entitled Perdido Street Station by China Miéville. This turns out to be a sci-fantasy of unrelenting revoltingness wherein everything and every character is sick, filthy, rotting, poisoned, perverse, stinking, evil or crumbling to pieces. The story is interesting and the writing is top-notch, but it is not, in retrospect, the ideal book for a lighthearted cruise in the sunshine.

Lunch is served as from 12 noon, so we wait until the first stampede has passed. The food is presented cafeteria style, with a great deal of variety, from cold meats and cheeses, to soup, pizza, curries, roast meats, veggies, salads. Fresh Cape fruit & cubes of cream cake represent dessert..

On Sky News, which is showing on the public TV in various corners of the ship, Colonel Ghaddafi is blowing up and shooting down his taxpayers and countrymen for daring to protest his family’s right to rule as they please forever. Sounds familiar. We wonder if the world will protest,  Libya being such an important oil producer…?

But it is easy to feel detached from all that, as we have perfect cruising weather, sunny and calm. We stroll up onto the already crowded aft (rear) pool deck. Here on rank after rank of sun loungers, the semi naked flesh of every pensioner on the boat is on uninhibited display; mountainous, wrinkled and pale, here lie the passengers at work on their tans. I cheer up immediately; this means I can probably appear in my modest one-piece bathing costume without horrifying the public.

The ship is sailing smoothly up the west coast of Africa in the cold current (which produces all those sardines). The lacy white wake is clean and straight, just as remembered from childhood. No sight of land, though – and no sea birds. Down 5 flights of steps we go and along the carpeted corridor (like something out of The Shining), to cabin 115, Oceanic Deck.

View from the cabin


  • Peter

    07 Apr 2011

    Sigh… wish I could write like you Janet. You should make a whole book about it !
    OK so when do you get to the Atlantic swells – you remember, the first few are novel, and all the ladies pretend to squeal until a few teacups start crashing on the deck, then shortly after, there’s no queues to the dining rooms any more…

  • What a great account of the first day’s cruising! I hope the sun tans get better by the end of it!

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