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Into the second week and cabin fever is starting to develop a whole new meaning. Other passengers become familiar faces with imaginary back stories to help pass our time away. And as is the way with friends holidaying together, cracks start to appear in the Lost Prom’s pavement. (OK, we start to get on each other’s tits). We remind ourselves we’re pretty damn lucky to be on holiday so we’d better make the most of our limited time. Or so we thought….
Day 8 Jamaica
The Lost Prom have learnt to base their cruising life around the nightly ship’s newsletter, the Princess Patter. The Patter is placed in staterooms each night, and gives information on the next day’s destination and activities. Somewhere we read a message telling us to put our watches back an hour , so we do, and we also get up extra early that day as we’re going on our first official excursion. However, it’s looking a bit quiet – where is everyone? Aargh, it turns out, it was tonight we were supposed to change our watches and we’ve accidentally got up at 5 in the morning. Still the upside is that we get to see the sun rise as we sail into Montego Bay.
We are to go rafting along the Martha Brae river and our tour guide is Candy; cool, funny and knows everything we might ever, ever want to know or not know about Montego Bay. The names of resorts, the biggest KFC in Jamaica, the time she saw Steven Seagal (“smaller in real life”). And she’s got a great singing voice too.
The Martha Brae is a lovely shallow, green river surrounded by plants. Simon, the tie-dyed captain of our bamboo raft is taciturn. However, that’s OK, it just makes floating along even more relaxing and peaceful.
We’re taken to a souvenir tat-filled mall on the way home, which we abandon in exchange for a supermarket to buy our bodyweight in crisps, and a bottle of the soft drink ‘Ting’, purely so Nhung can pose in her military-inspired frock a la Althea and Donna, with a ‘khaki suit and ting’.
For a change, we get to spend the whole day in a place so we take a taxi downtown. The taxi driver acts like a controlling dad and insists on driving us everywhere (for a fee), but eventually we persuade him to let us explore on our own. Downtown is hectic. Very crowded, horns beeping, music blaring and the sun blazing down like a dominatrix with a whip of fire. People look at us a bit suspiciously, especially our cameras.
Back on the ship at dinner, and now we’re into the second week all the passengers have started ordering extra puddings.
Day 9 At Sea
This time we know what we’re about and got up early to baggsie a pair of sun loungers for the day. We spend the day people watching. Again we see the Pro Couple, who never speak to each other and only seem to communicate through the medium of dance. There is also the Elegant Couple (not as showy as the Pro Couple, but tall, stylish and much more well-matched) and The Man in the Speedos (who also wears a gold crucifix and a Captain’s peaked cap). We read our books (Nhung having saved Miss Marple’s A Caribbean Mystery, specifically for the occasion), we inspect the special gateaux buffet and we chat to a woman in the whirlpool who is on her 7th cruise (she likes the “freedom”).
Ater a trip to the Vista Lounge to watch passengers dancing rhumbas, waltzes and cha cha chas to a big band, we hear about the time a couple at our table booked a weekend at the Grand Hotel in Brighton. They drove there following instructions from their Sat Nav, never having been to Brighton before, but when they arrived at their destination they realised they were on the outskirts of the town in a completely different hotel called the Grand. So they got their money back and drove home again.
After the excitement of a dessert on the menu called a Ménage a Trois, the couples all depart for tonight’s entertainment, a ‘comedian’ called Maxwell Plum. “we like a comic”, they say.
We head to the Razzmatazz nightclub for karaoke and are just in time to see a sight that we’ll remember all their lives; a large woman singing ‘D.I.V.O.R.C.E’. Out of tune and in a West Indian accent. Then her husband sings ‘Green Green Grass of Home’ and everyone joins in and goes to bed happy.
Day 10 Samana, Dominican Republic
From a distance Samana looks the most ‘tropical island paradise-y’ looking yet. All waving fronds of palm trees and luminous waters. However, in reality, it’s one of the poorest places we’ve visited. We decide we’d like to see a bit more of it, so we get into a tuk-tuk and ask the man to drive us around the island for 3 hours.
First he takes us to a waterfall, tumbling muddily into a poo brown river. where a bunch of lads are willing to plunge from the top for a few dollars. He also shows us a church, the market, a beach and an outstanding view. But more interesting is to see small glimpses of people living their lives. There are lots of colourful and crumbling shacks and there is desperate poverty. One hut looked like it only had foundations, yet it still had a satellite dish. We feel a bit voyeuristic as we ride by from a distance with children waving to us as if we’re the Queen.
In the evening we venture out to watch a stage hypnotist, who’s surprisingly, the most entertaining evening act we’ve seen so far. All the mesmerized victims have to pretend to be cowboys on horses, chasing a bandit and are asked what they’ll do when they catch the varmint. Most answers are along the lines of , “kill him”, “whip him”, “interrogate him”, but one particularly zombiefied Scotsman replies, surreally, “Give him a hat”. And a woman says her horse is called Andrew. And then cries tears of joy when she’s told that Elvis is still alive.
Day 11 Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Today we get the ferry to Virgin Gorda (‘Fat Virgin’) to visit the Baths; a beach framed in volcanic boulders, caves and grottos.
To reach Devil’s Bay Beach, you must scramble through caves, wade through water, climb rocks and crawl under things – we feel like we’re in the Famous 5. But it’s worth it, because once we get there, it’s the most beautiful beach we’ve seen yet. White sugary sand and perfect clear powder blue sea with rocks planted all round like jagged ogres. We have a wonderful snorkel around an amazing undersea cavern.
Then as we have a rest on the beach, Tamsin is disturbed by a large rooster pecking around her head; orange plumage, green tail and resplendent red coxcomb. This for Tamsin is a strange experience, because she realises she has had her first ever prophetic dream. The previous night she had oddly, dreamt that a hack from the Daily Express tried to put his cock in her hair.
Day 12 St Kitts
Frigate Bay has grey sand so isn’t as pretty as some of the beaches we’ve seen, but it’s still nice. The sea is warm and so are the people.
Nhung chats in the sea with an old lady from Manchester who tells her the following things:
- Her daughter is being ordained as a vicar
- She’s on holiday with 3 widow friends who like partying at Razzmatazz
- This is her second cruise (the first was around the Med)
- She likes dancing – her favourite couple, like us is the Elegant Couple and she agrees that the Pro Couple are show-offs
- People from the North are friendly but don’t always talk
- Her son likes bagpipes
Back in Basseterre, everyone is friendly, and everybody, especially the ladies are smartly and stylishly dressed. We see the first cat of the holiday so far and lots of colourful old buildings, built in the traditional ‘skirt and blouse’ style. The smell of cooking is in the air and the backdrop to the town is jungle, apparently overrun by vervet monkeys that can be kept as pets.
Tonight, we decide to bow to the inevitable and in the spirit of trying everything on the cruise, decide to watch the comedian. He’s a Scouse comic who looks a bit like Warren Clarke and tells mother-in-law jokes, ugly wife jokes, Irish jokes and jokes about young people on mobile phones. Jokes that everybody here has heard a thousand times before. As we leave, we overhear an old woman whinging, “You’re not allowed to tell Irish jokes anymore, and we’ve been doing it for years”. Whilst coming out from an event that had been dominated by Irish jokes. Like whatever.
However, we’re excited to be sitting next to the lady who was hypnotized and named her horse Andrew. She confirms that none of it was faked, though she remembers everything. Apparently Andrew is the name of her brother-in-law.
Then there’s some more excitement, as Tamsin manages to lock herself in the toilet and a crew member has to rescue her. We recover at the ‘Country Jam’ showcase, another sparkly costume-change-tastic song and dance show. The fat couple who’ve done 32 cruises are there, singing along to ‘King of the Road’. Nhung decides she wants to be a Sea Princess dancer.
Day 13 Antigua
Today we’re on another official excursion, and in an attempt to try at least one scary thing, we’re going zip-lining high above the rain forest canopy. The jungle is absolutely scorching (like duh) and we’re more sweat then flesh, dripping liquid like hot, sticky lollies. We’re strapped up and in by lady rangers with long jewelled talons, encouraged to scream as loud as we can, and off we go. Except, it’s a bit of an anti-climax. There are so many safety precautions (and rightly so), and neither of us mind heights that much, so it’s actually not that scary.
On the car journey back, Tamsin gets a text message from her girlfriend, “You may not be back as soon as you thought due to the volcano”. “What volcano?’” she texts back. And that’s when we find out that eruptions from the volcanic Mount Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland have caused a gigantic ash cloud which is grounding planes all over Europe. We’re due back in 2 days time. What’s going to happen to our flight?
It’s another formal night, and we have a conversation with the honeymooning couple at our table about eating dog. When the prawns arrive, the woman makes a newlywed faux pas by saying excitedly, “These are the biggest things I’ve ever seen!”
After dinner, while posing for our obsessive but now slightly tedious street-style photos, we get talking to Gabrielle the clubland singer again, who admits that she despises the set she has to sing. She also tells us that one of the performers from the staff show (it’s a secret who) is a creep and that sometimes wild parties go on on Staff Deck 4. They’re denied to us though, because staff and passengers are not allowed to consort. Nhung once again harangues her to do a power ballad, so just for her, she does ‘The Power of Love’. Nhung is vindicated when it goes down a storm and has the most couples of the night dancing to it.
Day 14 Dominica
Another earlyish start for a snorkelling trip to Champagne Reef. Bubbles spout out from an underwater volcano, so it’s supposed to be like swimming in a champagne goblet. It’s not quite like that, though it’s very pleasant to watch the glittery bubbles and feel warm streams in the sea that aren’t wee. The snorkelling isn’t so fun though. We’re being led through the sea in a big group and can’t really hear what the guide is saying. People keep barging into us and we start to get cramp from all the stopping and starting. Also, we’re bitten to buggery by little ocean stingy things like shards of glass. However we do see a sea horse, flying fish, a brown booby and frigate birds that look like bats.
Later on Tamsin goes off to explore the town by herself. She’s almost immediately approached by a one-armed man called Nick who says, “What’s wrong with your leg?”, “Nothing”, “Oh it seems to twist when you walk”. And identifying her knock-knees as the sign of a fellow cripple, he falls in beside her and starts telling her all about Henry VIII. “He had 6 wives, and he beheaded two and he founded Protestantism, is that true?” People seem generally very friendly. They beam and go “Hello English!” as Tamsin walks along.
Back on board, by the pool, there’s news on the ash cloud. Our flights home have definitely been cancelled and we’ll be staying on the cruise indefinitely until they can fly us home. A great cheer goes up, echoing around the ship. We’re incredibly lucky; on the news, there are all sorts of tales of people being stranded with nowhere to stay and no money.
We go to a talk called Hypnosis Revealed where we’re taught a technique that’s supposed to change our lives. In the interests of “research” and trying everything out, Nhung buys the CD. 8 months on, as we finally publish this, we can ask Nhung if it made a difference. Nhung? “Did it fuck!”
Then we watch the passenger talent show. There’s an offkey ‘Mandy’ from a man in an Arsenal tracksuit, followed by a hearty ‘Your Song’. A teenage boy does a strange dance without moving his feet, to ‘Pass Out’ by Tinie Tempah. “Everyone knows this” he says, to blank looks from the aged audience. Another bloke does some cab-driver-style jokes and then the final man plays the keyboard, accompanying Lindsey, one of the cruise entertainment staff, who we’ve grown to hate, as she sings ‘My Way’, milking every word Mariah Carey style like she’s in a competition for who can bellow the most notes in the shortest time with the least soul. However, there’s a moment of excitement at the end of the show when the compère lets slip that we’ll be staying on for at least 4 more days. With frenzied speculation about how the volcano could continue erupting for 2 years., we’re starting to wonder if we’ll ever get home. Will we remain trapped on a cruise ship forever, watching the same acts every night on rotation and having the same conversations over over and over again? Tune into the final instalment…
Powder compact (broken)
An hour of sleep
Our turn on the karaoke
Restraint in the face of buffets
Another hairgrip in the sea
Nhung’s underwater watch (stopped working on the ferry back – so is all lies)
Red lipliner pencil
Two more powder compacts
10 packets of crisps
6 more packets of crisps
2 bottles of Ting
3 packets of Blue Mountain coffee
Wide straw hat
Straw basket with multi-coloured floral raffia embroidery
Unexpected entertainment from a stage hypnotist
200 Marlboro Lights and 120 Camel Lights cigarettes (Nhung decides to stock up)
A dream that comes true in a metaphorical sense
2 ice creams
New belief in the magic of hypnotism
An extended holiday