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2003-04-15 All at sea but loving it just the same

Spectacular scenery, delicious food, ample sleep, swimming, entertainment, sun - sounds great? As a singer, one is constantly offered work on cruise-ships, but our manager only allows us to do a couple a year. In my previous operatic existence, I got a nice taste of Russia on a Volga cruise, discovered the magical Danube and its' wonderfully diverse cities of Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest, and more recently sailed from Capri via Sicily to Greece, crossed the Atlantic to the Virgin Islands, and the Pacific from Tahiti to New Zealand. Each of these trips lasted a week or less, and for me that was just nice.

 

Huge money is forked out by holiday-makers in order to take these trips, and many people spend up to 6 months traversing the worlds' waters, but if you have the money, why not? It's a good enough way of seeing the world, witnessing a kaleidoscope of cultures, and conversing with an international crew and fellow cruisers. There is lots to do on these vast liners other than simply soaking up the sun, and in my case turning lobster-red! Most ships have a jogging/walking track, swimming, tennis, golf, gyms, health spas, shuffleboard, Tai Chi, Yoga, Origami, Line Dancing, as well as "Sit to be fit" classes, "Cellulite secrets unfolded" (there's a pun there somewhere!), Advanced napkin-folding classes (I kid you not), Masonic Meetings (if that's the kinda guy you are : not my cup of tea), and Grandparents' Bragging Sessions (honestly) to name but a tiny selection from what is a packed itinerary. At each port of call, various excursions are on offer - I have climbed Mount Etna while it was still hot after a recent eruption, visited a Chilean penguin colony and have recently had my "White-water rafting debut" on the Rangataiki river in New Zealand! 

There is entertainment of all kinds and all standards, and entertainers of even more kinds and standards! Food is available 24 hours a day, and some guests clearly overuse that service - a lot of cruise time is inevitably spent eating. The cabins are normally well fitted, especially if you are fortunate enough to acquire a suite with a balcony. Most ships' televisions have a news channel (normally CNN), a variety of films and sitcoms, as well as their own ship channels, some of which are `special',and let's just leave it at that, shall we?

The ships' motion seems to have a cradle-rocking effect, and so sleeping is easy enough. When we travelled for 6 days with no ports of call, it never ceased to amaze me how the food (especially the fruit) was always incredibly fresh, and that 2000 or more people showered at least twice a day from a seemingly never-ending water supply. However, the waste of food can only be phenomenal.

On the longer trips you will lose or gain an hour a day, and I found it particularly disconcerting crossing the International Dateline when New Years' Eve led straight to January 2nd! The fashion sense of some of the guests has to be seen to be believed, and the variety of tans, hairstyles and physiques is no less than spectacular. One thing that always overwhelms me is the vastness and power of the sea. We travel thousands of miles with no sight of land and are aware that below us is up to 4 miles of deep blue sea, and that is not allowing for those bottomless trenches. The ships and even planes that have `met their Maker' on these seas now litter the sea bed miles below us, a sea-bed which continues to unfurl a wealth of mysterious species.

As I write this, I am witnessing a dazzling display of flying fish as they shimmy across the sparkling surface. There sometimes seems to be a certain mentality required to qualify as a cruise passenger. Many pay thousands in order to behave in a superior and snobbish way, implying that this is the norm for them - tiaras to dinner and all that! And there are the `professional moaners' who are to be found daily (hourly) at the Pursers' Desk complaining of, for example, someone not adhering to the dress code on deck.

A cruise is a nice break, especially on such luxurious lines as Crystal or Seabourn, and once or twice a year is just perfect thanks!