Cinelandia

Cinelandia

The second half of the first week, and conversations are starting to get repetitive. As two girls, on a cruise trip alone, we’re a slight curiosity to the other passengers. Everyone else is a cruise veteran and are either much older than us, or if nearer to our age, holidaying with their families. So far four words seem to sum up the cruise experience; Butlins. On. A. Boat. Though actually, we’ve never been to Butlins. This must be rectified, and soon. Anyway, on with the tale…

Day 4 Curacao

Willemstad

Willemstad

We decide to explore Curacao’s capital Willemstad properly, rather than heading for the beach, so after a leisurely breakfast (blueberry blintzes!) we head for shore. Willemstad at first glance is like a film set, all multi-coloured Dutch colonial houses, but as we wander further in, the edifices start to crumble. Hooray decay! The prize is a beautiful derelict art deco cinema – cracked glass bricks and sinuous curves. We spot a dead lamp post; a wrought iron column sprawled on the ground in the park, rusting away. There are also shops called ‘Rim Jim Corner’ , ‘Beyonce Nails’, and our favourite, ‘Mr Tablecloth’ (which doesn’t just sell tablecloths. It also sells doilies). The town is made of two halves, connected by a bridge. The day is humid.

untitled

untitled

We find a shop with a shelf of Holy Blessed Virgin Mary candles below a shelf of WD40. Then we spot some teenage skaters hanging out on the bandstand listening to death metal. So, despite the clichéd adverts, not everyone in the Caribbean listens to ‘Stir It Up’ constantly. We finally find an internet café (in the Columbian embassy weirdly) – the main news from Blighty? Dawn French and Lenny Henry have finally split up.

untitled

untitled

Back on the ship, that evening we decide to start photographing all our cruise-wear outfits street-style-blog fashion. As the cruise progresses, this becomes an increasingly obsessive vanity quest. By the end of the trip, what are supposed to be casual snaps resemble David La Chapelle photo shoots in terms of effort expended.

untitled

untitled

We go for a promenade around the deck and wish there were opportunities for assignations and passing of state secrets. However, some groupings of teenage youths have now developed and are hanging sulkily around in different areas– on the stairs, at the corners of decks. They try to look hard and rebellious. They are hampered by the fact that they’re on a fucking cruise ship.

untitled

untitled

We decide to make a night of it with a drink at the Wheelhouse Bar, a cross between your nan’s living-room and Phoenix Nights, with its singing duo Gabrielle and Jumari. Gabrielle has a lovely voice with a laughing lilt and is a pretty blonde. Jumari has a horrid growl and looks like Meatloaf except more toad-like. They do all the clubland greats: ‘Hotel California’, ‘Living Next Door to Alice’, ‘American Pie’. Gabrielle sings ‘Oh What a Night’, remarking “It’s like I’m singing this to a lady, which is kind of strange. But I like to be true to the song”’. But when they do ‘I Love Rock & Roll’, they unhilariously sing ‘I love sausage rolls’ instead, to Nhung and Tamsin’s absolute horror. We watch couples dancing to the tunes, some haltingly, some expertly, in particular a couple we nickname the Pros, so Strictly are their skills.

untitled

untitled

We chat to Gabrielle, who is from Tasmania, and very sweet. Nhung is having a soft rock power ballad moment (well, more than a moment) and requests Bonnie Tyler, Stevie Nicks and Heart. Every time she suggests a song, Gabrielle beams, “Oh, I love that one! But I don’t know it”. She says she gets quite bored doing the same songs all the time, and “some people laugh” (we immediately feel hideously guilty), and it doesn’t even pay very well. But she gets to save money and see the world, so it’s just about worth it.

We decide to make a night of it and proceed to Crooners Bar, where Alan & Alana (Renee & Renato with less hair) are just finishing up with ‘Green Green Grass of Home’. On deck DJ Nikki is ‘keeping the party going’. The ‘party’ seems to consist of 8 or 9 people shuffling around awkwardly to Journey, in Hawaiian shirts. It’s time for bed

untitled

untitled

Day 5 Bonaire

After our night of decadence, debauchery and power balladry, we oversleep slightly, but we eventually make it out and get a taxi to the nearest good snorkelling beach, Bongos Beach.

Straight from the beach there are scores of brilliantly-coloured fish: blue and yellow Ikea fish, black & white Newcastle United Magpie fish, huge pale grey fish with iridescent turquoise and pink bits and long thin wriggly fish (not eels though – phew!). Nhung is very pleased with her brand new, bright yellow snorkel mask and fins, but then she gets sick and dizzy from too much snorkel action, and it starts to rain and she’s forgotten her towel. So we scramble under cover and have a drink with a talkative couple from Glasgow who tell us how the Up Helly Aa festival in the Shetland Islands teems with burly men dressed as Geishas. They also reveal that they ‘won’ a piece of art last night on the ship, but so hideous was it, that they hid low down in their seats when their names were called, so they didn’t have to claim it. Their holiday tip is Beirut; apparently you can swim in the sea or ski in the mountains within half an hour and it has great brothels.

Bongos Beach

Bongos Beach

Over lunch, we chat to a retired Canadian couple who tell us they always go on cruises and organised tours because they’re too scared to venture out independently. Then we go and watch a some amusingly inept people learning to line-dance and then to jive (with the exception of the smug Pro Couple). Alana teaches the jive lesson, giving breezy advice on breathing, “In with love, out with hate” in the manner of a smear test nurse. Then we go for afternoon tea – silver teapots, miniature crustless sarnies and colourful little cakes – the works. We do some more chatting to the couples sharing our table, but by now we’re starting to feel the strain of constant polite and boring small talk. The same 3 questions every time: “Is this your first cruise?”, “Have you been on any excursions?” and “Where did you fly from?”. Yawn.

After dinner, we decide to attend our first show – a talent show performed by the cruise staff. Four of the entertainment staff dance to ‘YMCA’ segued into ‘Hey Jude’, and try to get the audience to sing along. It’s like a scene from a nightmare. Luckily Abano the deckhand pulls it back from the brink by playing ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ on the trumpet in a sweet and charming way. A band made up of Filipino crew members do ‘Sex On Fire’. The audience clap along out of time. Though actually, as a boy-girl duet in Filipino accents, the horrible song becomes a thousand times better.

Everyone has to wear their uniforms. “Please appreciate English is not their first language -they’ve done a lovely job tonight” says the compère patronisingly. We hate the compère.

sea princess

sea princess

After some piano playing, a saucy belly-dance, and ‘Yesterday’ performed on the sobilka (a Ukrainian flute) , we finish with a turgidly unfunny skit from the entertainment staff which includes a man wearing a turban doing a fake Pakistani accent and pretending to be a taxi driver who likes to grope naughty nurses. It is all very surreal and frankly hideous, and the ship lurching from side to side helps contribute to a constant feeling of drunkenness.

Most of the ship’s staff are Filipino and are fascinated with Nhung. She seems to be the only person of Asian appearance on board as a holiday maker not a staff member. Allan, the barman in the Wheelhouse Bar, is particularly intrigued, but even waiters and waitresses who aren’t serving us, come up to us in the restaurant to ask where’s she’s from.

We return to our cabin where we find Joseph has left an extra chocolate on Tamsin’s pillow (though he’s folded Nhung’s pyjamas and not Tamsin’s). “I don’t care, I don’t want a chocolate on my pillow anyway” says Nhung. “I’d much rather have a, a” (pauses to think of the the ultimate succulent snack), “a pork pie!”

Day 6 At Sea

untitled

untitled


All cruise veterans know that on at-sea days, you have to get up at the crack of dawn to make sure you secure a sun-lounger. As tyros to this lark, we don’t realise and seem to be scuppered, but eventually we find a spot at the rear nose of the Sea Princess, which only slightly smells of shit. (A drain-like smell often seemed to pervade the sun deck, contrasting with the ‘glamour’ of it all). Nothing of interest to report, we sun bathe all day.

untitled

untitled

Tonight is another formal evening. Women on the ship really don’t get the whole formal thing though. Once again, glamour and style is thin on the ground. Once again, Nhung and Tamsin look fabulous.

The show tonight is ‘Piano Man’ – song and dance routines by the Sea Princess dancers to the tunes of Billy Joel, Neil Sedaka, Barry Manilow and Elton John. Pert buttocks. Spangly outfits. Hand-shimmies.

Day 7 Grand Cayman

untitled

untitled

Today we get a tender from the ship to land and then join a trip to Stingray City – a sandbar at sea teeming with tame rays. The vehicle to take us to the boat is an old school bus. “It’s an old school bus!”, remarks every single passenger as they climb aboard. The boat’s photographer tells us that he’s descended from Blackbeard.

blackbeard

blackbeard

The rays are huge, beautiful and amazing. We stand waist deep in the water and they brush against our legs like big velvet exclamation marks. Some people are scared of the ray’s tails, but as long as you keep your feet on the ground, it’s fine. The boat’s crew catch one so that the tourists can feed it kalamari and be photographed with it in 3 different poses; holding it, kissing it (apparently worth 7 years good luck) and standing sideways on with it flapping against their neck like a fish cape. The crew says that the rays don’t mind this treatment – there were no obvious signs of distress, but who knows?

Stingray City

Stingray City

The boat is full of Americans, who are all much more interesting to talk to than the average Sea Princess passenger. There’s a fat woman in a visor and a family from New Jersey, whose buck-toothed Meadow Soprano lookalike 12 year old daughter has a crush on a blonde 15 year old on the trip and keeps walking past him in a delightfully obvious way whilst the two 14 year old sons of the house stare at Tamsin’s tits in a not quite so delightfully obvious way. “He was looking at you!”, says the dad to the girl, “Was he looking at me? Was he really?” she demands to Nhung.

Meadow Soprano

Meadow Soprano

Dinner is a success tonight. Jackpot! We finally meet some proper characters! A hugely obese cruise-a-holic couple who have been on 33 cruises with Princess alone but never get off the ship. They like having the pool to themselves and are scared of being robbed by foreigners. They did once get off at Jamaica, but a sign in a shop, banning weapons, sent them scuttling back to the ship in terror.

pink & black

pink & black

They eat 8 courses each in all, including 2 portions of snails and 2 puddings, and encourage everyone to order 2 main courses, if they can’t decide which they want. The woman produces a pepper mill from her handbag, “They never put enough on”. They tell us about the one other time they got off the ship and swam with dolphins. “I thought you’d just get to pet them, but it was so much more”.

What could have happened? A dolphin blow job?

Too cool to cruise

Too cool to cruise

Lost

Hairgrip in the sea

Photo of Virgin Mary (got told off for taking one in Curacao)

Interest in small talk

Chocolate on pillow

Respect for the dress sense of British women

Found

Nivea crème (for Nhung’s sunburnt lips)

Johnson’s Baby Powder

Obsession with street-style snaps of our outfits

Obsession with getting clubland duo to sing more power ballads

Love for Sea Princess dancers

Beautiful fish

A liking for Ukrainian flute music

Comfort in sparkliness

untitled

untitled

Advertisements