James Skinner on Carrys On Cruising The Med
Part 4: my cabin was tucked away between the ships kitchen and the
No, this is not about any pushers party! Im back on
track with my Mediterranean cruise.
First day is strictly sailing, from dawn to nearly sunset heading towards
the first destination on the vacation agenda. Its probably the first
and last time youre able to enjoy a full day at sea on most modern
day cruises. From then on, its non-stop port-to-port calling. Its
also known as exploration day or sniff-sniff day.
In other words, its when four hundred or so passengers play hide
and seek, keep bumping into each other and all act as Indiana Jones searching
for the hidden beauty saloon, the toilets and eventually the nearest bar
for an early morning snort. Its the time when most are trying to
get to know the way around their floating hotel. What is incredible is
the number of times they keep tripping in and out of the various exits
leading to the numerous open-air decks. Its as if they were checking,
yet again to see if the sea was still there! Gee Maude! Look how
blue the water is. Bill, a retired yank from Boston looked at me
and added, Sir, would you be so kind as to take our picture?
He hands me his super-sophisticated photo-taking gadget and as a Good
Samaritan, I oblige. Ive made yet another new acquaintance. As you
see, I was no exception. I mustve been in and out about ten times
during the first hour of the morning. The sea hadnt changed a bit.
My old rust bucket was by no means a pushover. She had her history and
secrets like any grandiose lady. The paint encrusted portholes, the obstacle
race passageways, the antique winches transfixed in time and seemingly
glued down to iron, wooden-and-tar, seen-it-all decks, the
majestic funnel and complementary masts; they all seemed to complete a
picture of the past. As mentioned very early on, the beauty of sailing
on any sixties or seventies liner is the feeling of real contact with
the sea and its surroundings. Youre part of its history. Looking
over the bows, as she ploughed her way through the ocean, grudgingly tossing
and rolling, clocking up the miles, I felt as if she had only one thought
on her mind Istanbul here I come again with a new bunch of
holidaymakers! Yet somehow, she was still very much alive and well
and full of life!
Upstairs, downstairs and in your ladys chamber passengers continued
to bump into each other. I go back to my cabin to fetch my binoculars;
a must on this kind of holiday. On the way out I run into Niko. How
do I get out on deck? He asks: Port or Starboard? I
suddenly realise, seamen have a language of their own such as fore and
aft, speed in knots, poop deck and so on. I dont know. Which
is the nearest exit? He smiles and points, straight along
that way, first staircase to your right, up onto Apollo deck. Go through
the dinning saloon and turn right again. He chuckles, you
cant miss it! Im not kidding. As these old ships have
been renovated and re-renovated, one thing they keep doing is adding
cabins. Hence you could find, as I did, that my cabin was tucked away
between the ships kitchen and the funnel shaft (Im guessing!).
Nevertheless, I finally made it back on deck.
Eleven oclock is Bingo time. Oh, yes! No sea package-holiday is
complete without having a go at putting a series of dry peas on a cardboard
full of odd and even numbers as they are shouted out by your cruise director.
Whoever invented this dreadful game must have been a masochist. Having
suffered a couple of sessions, I decided it was beer time. Once again
I go exploring. One thing is certain, any cruise ship worth its salt (pardon
the pun) has more bars per square knot than any other holiday
spot in the world. I love it! Ive found the Venus deck open-air
bar. It also caters for a buffet lunch. Cold lobster salad followed by
Greek fish soup and an apple did me fine. Coffee, brandy and a Montecristo
number 4 finished off my first lunch on board. Im slowly drifting
into a sea style siesta when the loudspeaker comes to life,
16:00 Quiz time! I am dragged down into the El Grecco saloon
by my wife who had somehow persuaded me before we embarked on this voyage
to participate in all the activities offered during the cruise.
I hadnt counted on entering a how to be a millionaire
contest or any other intelligence testing games. The rules are simple,
says Gary with mike in hand, pouncing around on the stage. Join
up in gangs, he lets out a false chuckle, no more that six,
or have a go on your own. Ill be asking you twenty questions of
general knowledge based on you as an international public, another
chuckle, and the group or person with the most number of correct
answers wins a bottle of champagne. He blears out the last word
as if Pavorotti were ending a Verdi opera solo. I look at my wife and
she detects the poison in my tears!
As it so happened, this turned out to be one of the most entertaining
events that were generally repeated on most days of our holiday. I now
realise why so many television viewers enjoy this type of program. Questions
ranged from politics to movies to geography and of course, anything to
do with our voyage. What President of the USA wrote novels? Did Ingrid
Bergman smoke in her role in Casablanca? What is the island
of Rhodes famous for? All these might seem simple, but believe me that
as the ships engines continued to pump away en route to Istanbul,
I couldnt think of a better way to continue with my
second brandy and cigar as I triumphantly wrote down under question 5:
Chicco. I was answering the question: What Marx Brother
played the piano?
18:00. Engines have stopped. Tugs are taking over. I look out over the
railings of Dionysos deck and notice a similar activity going on to when
we departed from Piraeus. Were arriving at Istanbul!
© James Skinner.July 2002.
PART I: WITH OR WITHOUT THE VIRGIN ?
ship was a sixties rust bucket all spruced up for the umpteenth time,
just like Bette Davies in Whatever happened to Baby Jane?
CRUISE Part Two & Three
MANY AMERICANS; FROM BOTH ENDS...
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