19 March 2021
I have already mentioned that back in 2013 I treated myself to a holiday on a lovely cruise ship. This was to celebrate my improving health and my sixtieth birthday. I had let my mother know I would be away for a while, but I found out that sending her the full itinerary of where I would be each day gave both her and the other inmates in the Care Home where she was something to look forward to! I had to see my local doctor to get sufficient supplies of all the medication I needed to keep my epilepsy and asthma under control, as well as the relatively new set of tablets related to my heart condition. I also had jabs of things to keep me inoculated. All entertaining stuff, but necessary. This was all based on the countries I would be visiting and the cruise line, P&O, were really good in providing details as to what I would need. For some places I had to have a visa as well as my passport. I used a couple of suitcases and soon everything was all sorted, including train tickets down to Southampton and a hotel booking. I planned to go down the day before, just as I had done previously. I had been purchasing additional memory cards to use in my camera, I made sure they were all in good working order, my iPad was then set up, as that way I could download the photos using an adaptor, review them and send a few to folk back home when the ship’s WiFi or a shore-based service was available. I also had all the battery chargers!
The day before the ship sailed, a good friend took me to Leicester station and off I went. It was January 4th. I got help at Birmingham getting all my luggage over to the other train which would take me to Southampton and I got on board, found my reserved seat and sat back. It was a lovely day to travel. I stayed in the same hotel I’d previously been in, it was near to the train station and a local McDonalds, so that night I had a good sleep. All passengers had been given checking-in times, which was a good idea, so the following day, after an easy morning I went by taxi to the dock. It was clear that this service was well-known to the local taxi firms, and as before, all my suitcases with the proper labels (which had been supplied by P&O some weeks before) were quickly whisked away. No doubt they were both security checked before being taken to my cabin. Just as is found in an airport, I went through the security and I was given my ID card as before. I learned later that a few passengers had to get inoculation jabs before they could travel, so they would have to join the ship at its first port of call, Tenerife. This time I knew the layout of the ship as I was back on Arcadia! I will admit to deliberately choosing an ‘adults only’ cruise, I wasn’t terribly keen on having youngsters around. That was my choice. With all on board, at the appropriate time the mooring ropes were let go, the siren was sounded and off we sailed as a brass band played. Because I had been on that ‘taster’ cruise, I knew the routine on board and that did make it easier for me. I settled down after a wander round, I read the daily pamphlet about all the events planned for the following day and I made a mental note of a few. I had a quiet evening meal in the cafeteria, it meant I could have as much or as little as I wanted to eat. The time soon passed, I listened to some quiet music and then it was time to rest. It took a little while to get used to the new environment with the unusual sounds, but I slept.
The following morning I went down to the restaurant where passengers largely helped themselves. I saw many having a full cooked breakfast but I had my usual muesli. I began chatting to a few of the people sitting near me, it was pleasant and relaxing. I didn’t know how other passengers felt, but I was already settling in to this way of living. I was, after all, here for quite a while! With such a mix of passengers, it was clear we had couples as well as singles travelling. So a clever idea had been put into practice, where every day that we were at sea us ‘singles’ who wished to do so could meet together after breakfast for a cup of tea, some biscuits and a chat. A few members of the crew would join us, we would talk about anything and everything. There was no pressure, those who didn’t want to for any reason had that choice. There were odd occasions when I wouldn’t, if something else was on or I simply felt like I wanted to be on my own, just watching the sea. I began doing gentle walking round one of the open decks, in that way I was getting fresh air and exercise. The first evening in the main dining room was all formal dress, so I went along and was guided to my table. We were served excellent food, some had wine but I had juice as I preferred that. I was avoiding alcohol anyway, with all the tablets I was on. I found that music and the Arka Dhyana relaxation therapy was far more refreshing for me. After the meal, most of the other people at my table went down to the theatre, but I was tired so sat quietly in one of the lounges. I listened to the relaxing music, then returned to my cabin. The following day I joined the ‘Arcadia choir’ – I loved it! It was a little emotional for me to begin with as it had been so long since I sang in a lovely mixed-voice choir, but that feeling soon passed. Then in the afternoon I attended a talk about the Concorde aircraft. I also got to watch the ‘Star Trek’ film which was on television! Again that evening I was invited to the theatre with the others at my table, it would be a female singer. My reply was rather non-committal, even though they were saving a seat for me, which was good of them. I did go to the theatre and stood near the back, but when the singer began with an aria, I quietly walked away – opera singing isn’t my style! I returned to one of the bars for a quiet sit-down and coffee. It was really quiet too, with so many folk in the theatre and others in the dining areas for the second sitting.
Two days later we arrived in Tenerife. I was booked on the Northern tour of the island, but having never done this sort of thing before I followed exactly the detailed instructions printed in the daily pamphlet. So I was off the ship and on the dock-side just before the stated time. I saw my bus a bit further down the dock begin to move, but a member of the ship’s crew told me to stay put, as the bus was simply moving forward to where I was. Except it didn’t. It carried on past me. Crew were on their radios within seconds but this meant that the driver had to turn the bus round, come back, turn again and then collect me. My fellow passengers cheered as I climbed aboard, so I smiled and bowed! I did get the opportunity to explain to a few what had happened though, as it really wasn’t my error. The Northern tour was very good, we stopped at a few places, I took photos and really enjoyed the experience. But I hadn’t realised that the mountains were so high on that island so I was partially deaf by the time we returned to the ship, due to the changes in air pressure in such a short time. Happily my ears soon settled. I had a meal and then rested. I had no inclination to watch a show, so I walked around later, had a coffee, listened to some live piano music by John, the choir conductor, then returned to my cabin.
One aspect of this holiday was time travel, as after leaving Tenerife our
clocks went back an hour at 2.00am the following day. I found it easy to adjust, which was good as it would not be too long before the clocks went back yet again! For me it was far easier to cope with than travelling by air. But even more entertaining was learning that because we cross over the International Dateline several times, we would not see two particular days whilst other days would occur twice for us! Choir practice was brilliant – the depth to my voice was returning, as was an amount of power and control. I needed to take it steady though and not rush things too much or overstrain myself. I also needed to remember that this was a holiday. A few days later our clocks went back again, so we were now two hours behind London time. That morning was definitely warmer, more humid, with 5/8ths cloud cover, the wind was North-easterly force 4, temperature 26C, or 79F if you prefer! The sea state was reported to be ‘slight, with an average to low swell’. But at this latitude I guess warmer is what we should expect! The Arcadia Choir had its first public performance, first at 6:00pm and then another at 8:00pm. It all went really well. The timings were done that way so as to provide pre-dinner entertainment because with all the passengers on board there had to be two separate dinner sittings in the main Dining Room, one at 6:30pm and the other at 8:30pm. The only thing it did mean for those choir members on the first meal sitting was the need to finish our meal and then go back ready to sing again! I was in that category, so in my case I did not have a starter or pudding, just a main course which was a light meal as I cannot sing well on a full stomach. I did get myself a light snack after we finished the second event though! The following day we crossed the Equator at around 2.00am local time, which was 4.00am UK time. In keeping with an old tradition, there was an article in our daily newsletter saying that “Permission has been sought for Arcadia to cross the Equator. Word has been sent to King Neptune, Ruler of the Seven Seas. A message has been received that he will visit Arcadia and all passengers are required to attend to celebrate the crossing of the line.” I attended the celebratory event that was held later in the day – I did not wish to incur Neptune’s wrath, or see inside Davy Jones’s locker thank you very much!
Next week – we arrive in South America…