I was on a cruise travelling back to the UK from the Caribbean across the Atlantic when I overheard two ladies bemoaning the fact that there were five sea days on the trot. “You’d think they would find a port for us to break up these sea days” says one, “Yes, it really is too much” says the other. I wondered just where they thought we could dock in the middle of the Atlantic!
For me, sea days are brilliant because there is so much going on, however you have to be very discerning and make sure that you use the programme to plan your day, to do what you want to do, as there will be clashes.
There are the sea day games like carpet bowls, (lots of fun when the ship rolls), shuffle board, baggo (don’t ask), dolphin racing, deck quoits, skittles, darts and many many more. For each game there are points awarded and the race to be grand champion is keenly contested. These games may sound like a bit of light-hearted fun, but there are those who take them so seriously it can be like the finals of the Olympics.
Then there are the lectures, two or three a day. There are history lectures, scientific lectures, human interest stories as well as the port lectures on where to go and what to see. These really depend on who is giving the lecture. Some university professors can be a bit dry and over your head but others are super. We have seen a lot of ex-coppers reliving old cases, and a concord pilot giving his view on the blame for the Paris crash. For me, the best speakers put their tongue firmly in their cheek and don’t take it all too seriously.
Cookery demonstrations: some very talented chefs will show you how to cook the speciality dishes of the region, there will be a printed recipe to take home so you can have a go yourself. These are usually well attended as there will be food to taste at the end of the show. (As if you could possibly want more food, in the middle of the day, on a cruise.)
Next up are group experiences like the ukulele band, where you can learn to play the instrument from scratch. At least, you learn a couple of chords and how to strum in time, then you use the cords to play a couple of songs. There are now people who have their own ukuleles, who only go on cruises that have the band. There will be a choir who will be trained over the cruise to perform a few songs. These can be the same songs as the Ukulele Band have learned and they often give a combined concert on the last sea day.
There will be a bridge club where even total beginners can join in (in theory); I have found this group can be very excluding if you are not one of them. Line dancing can be very entertaining to watch, especially when the ship moves. On one cruise the dance tutor asked one of her ladies at 10:15am if she was really drinking a cocktail at that time of the day. “Yes” was the reply “I use it to loosen up”. And of course there are ballroom dancing classes as well.
For those of us who like a more sedate day at sea there are the lounges to sit and relax in. There will be a library with real books on board but most readers are using electronic devices. You can sit in the coffee shop or tea room and imbibe your favourite daytime beverage while the world passes slowly by.
For those who miss their retail therapy there are usually plenty of shops, quite willing to take your money. Due to trading laws these shops are closed in port so if you wish to indulge, then it is one more item for the sea day agenda.
Up on the outer decks you may find wildlife experts who will gladly tell you all about the whales they saw at 05:30 while you were still in bed. When a pod of dolphins comes to play in the bow wave, the excitement is electric. On my last cruise there was a group of bird watchers who sat with their thousands-of-pounds-worth of equipment in the observatory lounge ticking off their sightings and arguing what the latest little brown bird was.
Then there’s the pool areas for the sun worshipers, but you do need to get up early if you want to claim one of the best positioned sun loungers. As I have skin cancer, I am not allowed to take part in this. I just have to sit in the shade near the stern, people-watching and seeing the ships wake disappear into the horizon.
On the larger, more modern ships you will also have the upper deck “Disney Land” where you can queue up to join the water sports games. My daughter and my two grandsons, when they were teenagers went on one of these large family orientated cruise ships. It was fly cruising in the Canaries. There was a computer club on board where teenagers could go and be safe and play games and surf the net. (Only nice safe sites were available). Then my daughter was summoned to meet with some senior officers who told her, in no uncertain terms, that if they were not already disembarking the next day they would be thrown off at the next port. Apparently the grandsons had hacked into the ship’s system and had been playing around. The eldest boy is now a senior IT technician with a major UK insurance company.
Suffice to say, life at sea will never be dull. There is always something going on and usually something that will suit you.
Roger will continue to share his adventures at sea in this special cruise ship diaries series. These will be published here on the blog every Tuesday into the New Year.