Confessions of a cruiser (part 2)

Perhaps the biggest surprise came when checking in at the cruise terminal. “Oh, there’s Davin from school,” said Son1, as though it was completely normal to come across a school friend some 8,000 miles away from home. They gave each other a dab. Davin’s mother and I, both clutching our suitcases and bags, thought the boys were joking until it became obvious our sons really did know each other – and we really did live just two streets away from each other, in the same compound.

Small world.

cruise ship swimming pool
Tourist trap: Not my favourite area of the boat, but the kids LOVED it!

The next revelation was that, although there were some 2,600 passengers on board, which did, at times, suggest no let up from tourism hell, you could actually lose almost everyone by finding a quiet corner of the ship from which to read, or just watch the ocean. At night, the moon sparkled on its dark, wrinkly surface, and without any bright city lights, the stargazing was amazing – like being cocooned (make that dwarfed) in your own enormous, outdoor planetarium.

I also loved having a porthole in our little room, from which (we were just above sea level) the docile white-tipped waves looked like carpets unfurling, splashing the side of the boat playfully. On the last evening, another cruise ship floated past on the horizon, its lights a necklace of glitter.

Of course, the kids had their ‘moments’, especially as they had to go cold turkey from wifi. “What? Seriously, NO wifi? Son2 whined, his eyes widening, pulling a tortured face like he’d eaten a lemon. [Whispers:] Actually there was wifi, but it was an extra and expensive.

Atlantis Bahamas
The Atlantis Bahamas – I always forget that Dubai wasn’t the first with this

Both DH and I lapped the ship numerous times looking for them when they went awol (my mind working overtime wondering if one of them had pushed the other overboard), and then, the worst ‘moment’, Son2 vanished while we were snorkelling off CocoCay Island (Royal Caribbean’s private island – perhaps not the Bahamian paradise advertised with some 2,000 cruise-goers all over it – yes, some did stay put on the boat! – but a wonderful stop nevertheless).

Put it this way, the island’s lifeguards are now on first name terms with my eight year old, who’d simply had enough and decided to swim half a kilometre back to shore all by himself. They found him on the beach, perfectly fine, his mask and snorkel jettisoned in the sand. I’m still recovering from that one.

All in all, I loved the cruise. It didn’t turn into a nausea-riddled, hermetically sealed cruise passenger pen; no-one went overboard; exploring Nassau was fab; and the 70s disco was lots of fun. While DH wasn’t looking, I even visited the ‘Next Cruise’ on-board sales stand and pocketed a few leaflets advertising longer floating jollies into Alaska, and to Mexico via Cuba. I’ve got a year to persuade him …


7 things I’ve learnt about cruising

DH and I are off on a little trip tomorrow. Adults-only! We’re going to Munich because, in a society where half of BB’s school friends are tri-lingual, I like to delude myself that I can speak German (sadly, it’s not true. I did German at school then forgot the lot, but I can say Bier bitte!)

Our Easter was busy – the best bit being having family, even second cousins, in town. I love it when home comes to visit. We’ve been to The Palm, the beach, the Dubai Mall to see the fountains, then, today, somewhere I wanted to recommend to mums of little boys: the Sharjah Classic Car Museum.

It’s a great little outing, easy to get to and you can play this really fun game where you have to find the petrol tank on each vintage car – not as easy as it sounds! Never occurred to me to look behind the licence plate (who knew!).

So you won’t be hearing from me for a little while. For now, I’m going to leave you with a photo from Mum and Dad’s cruise, and since my parents seem to be living The Travel Channel at the moment, a few words about life on the high seas – gleaned from them in between the kids jumping on them and hustling them off to the play area.

Entertainment in Cochin, India

● Their boat, the new Queen Elizabeth, sailed through pirate waters. Spotters had binoculars trained on the horizon the whole time and there was an armed guard on board. A pirate drill was also carried out, in which passengers had to sit on the floor in the corridor outside their ‘stateroom’ (aka cabin!)

● Things to do on the boat included eating for England, learning bridge, attending lectures, shopping, playing deck games, bingo, golf, croquet, softball, ballroom dancing, the pub and tea in the ballroom served by white-gloved waiters and accompanied by a string quartet (a lot to fit in then!)

● Passengers who’d spent months at sea – including one on a 700-day ‘the-world’s-your-oyster’ vacation – received awards at cocktail parties hosted by the captain. Mum met someone who told her she didn’t bother getting off the boat anymore. “Been everywhere,” she said.

● People-watching must have been just as fun as all the activities – from the glamorous mum who walked round Mumbai in heels carrying a 2-year-old, to the Russian family with beautiful daughters – perhaps meant to be on the look out for husbands, but more interested in chatting up the sailors.

● Mum was attacked by a monkey on a little island off Malaysia after trying to defend someone’s bag and hasn’t forgiven the tour guide who turned to his friend to say, “Don’t get too close, they’re vicious!”

● The dress code in the evenings ranged from formal to semi-formal to elegantly casual.

● Mum’s highlight? Arriving in Dubai (awww!)