4. Cruising Along

5

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Mar 11th, 2011
4. Cruising Along

Thursday, Friday
We now have 2 days at sea before our next stop. Time to start getting into a little routine. This mostly revolves around meals… and sitting in the Wi-Fi zones, working on our laptops.

Breakfast is a generous affair, an enormous buffet served canteen style. Lunch too. Then there is afternoon tea and pastries, then dinner. We hear via the passenger grapevine that there is also a midnight buffet laid on for those revellers who are still up at that hour…. we only make it on one occasion, just to see if it’s as good as it sounds. But by the end of our first week, we have reached our limit on daily food intake, and start to skip many of the several courses on offer at each meal. Other passengers we observe, seem determined to devour everything in sight. The ratio of flesh to deck lounger is set to increase by several tons during the trip, I expect.

Midnight feast - with chocolate volcano

The ship has a team of ‘Animators’ whose job it is to get deck games going, make sure everyone is having a good time, and to dance with the passengers in the evening. One of the animators is a tiny, slim Kenyan. It is fun to watch him ask various large old tannies to dance, and then jive round the floor with them. I think he is picking the largest ones on purpose!

There are three live music areas on board – Club Universe, upholstered in red plush, which has a lot of seating, a dance floor and a small stage; this is where each evening a cabaret show is held, with alternating acts – a troupe of quite good dancers, an acrobat/contortionist (called Janet), and a ventriloquist/magician who is pretty awful, and a pair of gauchos who stamp and strut and and crack out rhythms on the floor by whirling large marbles on the end of a piece of string in each hand.
The gauchos don’t take themselves too seriously, and accompany their act with an amusing commentary, e.g., “Thees is how we keel cucarachas in Argentina”…

Enjoying the floor show

The improbably named Junkanoo Lounge, upholstered in blue, is the other, smaller nite-club area with a small dance floor; here a Latino trio provides cha-cha, tango, salsa, etc. songs. A surprising number of passengers actually dance the appropriate ballroom dance, and there was I thinking it was a dying skill. In the afternoons there are dance lessons for those who want to learn the tango etc. I go for the Italian lessons instead.

There is a fully-enclosed cigar bar which contains a baby-grand piano. At night one ‘Joe’ can be heard playing the piano and crooning in rather civilised Casablanca fashion. Play it again, Joe… For smokers there is also one side of the pool deck covered area, and of course in the open air one can puff away as long as one doesn’t flick one’s fag ends into the sea.

There is also a team of classical music performers on board; an Italian (of course Italian) tenor; a wobbly-chinned, over-expressive and busty soprano who warbles so much you can’t make out a single word she sings; a lovely English mezzo-soprano, a good baritone and to accompany the singers, a pair of hair-gelled young musicians, one of whom plays piano and the other the violin. This group puts on occasional after-dinner performances on the forward pool deck area.

The advertising blurb for this cruise specified that what is included in the price is serviced accommodation, meals and entertainment. They weren’t kidding. This is a slick money-making business. Everything else, even the drinking water, has to be purchased. There is not even a jug of tap water placed on the dinner table. There are ‘duty-free’ shops on one deck selling clothing, perfumes, toiletries, swimwear and shoes. Cigarettes are on sale and so is liquor – but one is not allowed to drink the booze one purchases at the duty free shop – they keep it for you until you disembark. (otherwise you might not buy drinks at the bar). Every day there are photos of the passengers from the day before, which are on sale at 10-20 euros each. There is a casino with blackjack and roulette etc., and rows of slot machines of the one-armed-bandit variety. The small gym is free to use though. There is a hairdresser/beauty salon and Thai massage ladies. At least four bars are open so you can buy booze or coffee at any time of day, starting at 9am. Every day there is a ‘cocktail of the day’ on promotion at a whole 10 cents less than the regular price. Everything is priced in US$. The South Africans on board mostly plump for the ‘Bucket of Beer’, 6 for the price of 5.

Really good juggler

The theme on Thursday is Italian, with Italian food and an Italian cabaret. We manage to slip into a pair of fairly good seats near the front, but as the show begins our view is obscured by a late-arriving person with an extremely large head, made larger by a generous amount of puffy hair. He is dubbed Mr Melon Head for the rest of the cruise.

On Friday after breakfast we watch in horror as Sky News reports that a devastating earthquake has struck Japan. This is shortly followed by worse – a huge tsunami. We see dreadful footage of ships in the harbour being swept away; torrents of mud ten metres high tearing through suburbs, and appalling devastation. We along with most passengers are thankful that we are sailing in a completely different ocean. What does shipping do in that situation – man the lifeboats, face the oncoming wave and hope for the best? The movie Poseidon Adventure springs to mind. The tsunami is scheduled to hit various other Pacific ocean islands within the next 18 hours, and forecasts are that the height of the waves will be greater than the height of some islands.

The sea we are sailing through however, is calm and an almost unbelievable blue colour, it really does look as though it has been tinted with blue ink. The ship’s daily programme reports that the sea temperature is now 20 degrees. Occasionally we spot a couple of flying fish, fluttering and gliding out of our way. We’re in the tropics!

It seems we have minor royalty on board. The previous evening was designated a ‘formal’ one, and we all had to dress for dinner. As 6pm diners, we must have missed the spectacle, but on the Lounge deck the next day were pictures of passengers taken by the ship’s photographers. One couple is dressed in evening garb that out-formals everyone else. He, blond and slim, is wearing a white jacket with abbreviated sash and various medallions, while she, short and dark, sports a gown and tiara. There is speculation as to whether the tiara is real or if she brought the paste version along to wear on the ship while the real one resides in the bank vault.

5 Comments

  • Vee

    07 Apr 2011
    Reply

    oh Jan this is marvellous! Laugh out loud funny :-) You’re a brilliant writer m’dear. I can’t wait for the next installment….

  • Claire

    07 Apr 2011
    Reply

    Nice one Jan, keep up the blog. Love reading your stories. I will be in touch soon re our website.

  • Nikki D

    07 Apr 2011
    Reply

    Hey guys. So lekker to hear from you. Apart from pricey things the rest doesn’t look too shabby to me. Enjoy Florence. Would like to see some of those photies.

  • Peter

    07 Apr 2011
    Reply

    Did you stock up all that food in your posteriors like the bushmen, in provision for leaner times in Florence ? (wait till you see the price of a cup of coffee on the Ponte Vecchio…)

  • Connie

    08 Apr 2011
    Reply

    Nope – real minor royalty they would have been on Silversea or something – they were just posers I reckon

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