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Barbados

Barbados

Day 15 and counting…the scenario reads like a plot from a disaster movie. Stranded on a ship in the Caribbean as a volcanic ash cloud takes over the world. Our only weapon an extensive wardrobe of retro cruise-wear, our only ally a disaffected ballad singer. The Lost Promenade relationship becomes strained. Tempers flare as Nhung and Tamsin start to gripe at each other. Nhung gets irritated by Tamsin. Tamsin gets irritated by Nhung. Will the Lost Prom ever make it back home again? And if we do, will we still be friends?

Day 15 Barbados

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This was to have been our leaving day, but instead we’ve been allocated a new cabin. It’s not so conveniently placed as the last one (which was right by the buffet and pool), but it has a window! We regretfully leave Joseph though.

After lunch we go out to explore Bridgetown. It’s an attractive town with New Orleans style buildings, a vibrant yet relaxed vibe and lots of smart, well-dressed people. Tamsin sees, for the first time, a souvenir she would actually like to buy, a pineapple-shaped oil dispenser. But sadly the shop is closed.

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As we stroll back through a pretty park full of courting couples, they all say hello. “Everyone’s so friendly”, gushes Nhung. We pass a bench where an old man sits with a small black cat. “Ahhhh” coos Tamsin, looking at the cat. “Are you smiling at me?” shouts the man, “Fuck off you stink-arsed woman.”

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In the evening we watch a ‘Barbados Folkloric Show’, replete with dancers, fire eaters, acrobats and an actually quite hot stilt walker. At dinner we sit with the most boring people yet. Back in our stateroom we climb up onto our windowsill, turn off the lights and sit behind the curtain watching the waves outside.

Day 16 St Lucia

Tamsin gets a phone call from her sweetheart. It’s sunny in Brighton and Melita’s cycling to Shoreham. The cruise is starting to blend into one big melange of eating and burning and boredom. Tamsin and Nhung are starting to bicker quite badly.

 

No Bathing, No Swimming

No Bathing, No Swimming

We feel jaded and tropical islanded-out. We walk into town, but it’s raining and everything is closed. We’re running out of money and can’t really be arsed. It all looks a bit dull; buildings that look like banks, greyness and ‘Everyday is Like Sunday’ in our heads. Snatches of mournful sounding bluegrass drift out from a building called Prio’s Country Palace which is supposed to house a market but is empty but for a few dejected looking stalls. By the harbour is a sign saying ‘No Bathing and Swimming’ with a discarded pair of jeans hanging over it. We get a cab back to the ship and sulk in our stateroom reading and watching rubbish blockbusters. There’s nothing on TV though. It’s a typical rainy Sunday.

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We pull ourselves out of our torpor to go to afternoon tea where we ask the couple sharing our table what the St Lucian countryside was like. “There was a good dual carriageway” says the man, “And there was a Sandals. And the beach was the best yet. It had lots of great hotels built up behind it – just like the Med.”

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Day 17 Trinidad

We’re looking forward to seeing Port of Spain, it has an exciting ring to it and true enough, it lives up to its name. The docks are pleasingly industrial, lots of cranes and multicoloured containers, and sitting behind them is a proper city. Until now we hadn’t realised how much we were missing the urban. There are lots of high-rise glass office buildings and the people again, are friendly – old ladies help us across roads. It’s not as exotic as we expect though – there’s no sign of carnival culture.

 

Port of Spain

Port of Spain

Suddenly we’re caught in a torrential downfall and soaked through but luckily some kind men let us shelter in their lock-up garage . Though they’re disappointed that we’ve never seen the Queen.

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In the evening, tiring of repetitive small talk, we eat alone. The dining room is half empty, so maybe others are feeling the same reluctance to chat. We discuss who will star in the blockbuster movie of the ash cloud, and plump for Daniel Craig as the hero, Billie Piper as the female lead, Shia Labeouf as the young upstart and a cameo from Bruce Willis as a scientist. We disagree on who will direct, but we’re agreed that Jerry Bruckheimer will produce. And for the title? Tamsin goes for ‘Death Cloud’. Nhung had a much better idea but on reading it on the printed page, she decides it’s shit, so censors it from the blog. You’ll just have to make your own suggestions, readers.

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Day 18 Grenada (again)

We’re out before breakfast to find an internet café and contact home. Nhung immediately starts getting chatted up by a young man called Denkie, “because you’re Chinese and Chinese babies are the best-looking”. He gives us his address (his mum owns a bar) and tells us to come and say hello on our way back to the ship. So we do, and are introduced to his mother and son. “So when are we getting married?”, he asks Nhung. “Can you take him back with you?” asks his mum.

Broiling

Broiling

Back to the ship and we lie by the pool, broiling in the heat. We hear a rumour that UK airspace is about to open. Could we be home soon?

It’s another formal night, and another quiet night in the dining room. We manage to rinse a free rum punch from the ‘Captain’s Cocktail Party,’ then we go to watch a Movie Under the Stars. Comfy cushions and tartan blankets are arranged on loungers and there’s popcorn, milk and cookies. Two old ladies are sitting next to us. “The wonderful thing about a cruise is that there’s something for everyone”, says one, and her friend agrees. Then she says it again. And again. Later on she falls asleep and snores.

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We finish off with another hand shimmying sparkly song and dance show; ”Tribute’, which consists of songs from the Beatles, the Beach Boys and the Rat Pack and then a strange diva segment peaking with ‘Sisters Are Doing it For Themselves’.’We still wish we were a Sea Princess dancer or at least could get to hang out with them.

Day 19 Bonaire (again)

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The transformation is compete, we’ve finally morphed into the other cruise passengers. We sleep in, and give Bonaire a miss as we’ve already been there, and instead head for the sun loungers. Heart FM type music tinkles out by the pool; Frank Sinatra, Donna Summer, Lipps Inc, when suddenly and bizarrely, Rammstein’s version of Kraftwerk’s ‘The Model’ comes on. This is followed by ‘Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini’. We both heard it, it wasn’t a dream.

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We’re on tenterhooks, waiting for news of our flight home. Tamsin goes back to our cabin and nothing. She asks at the passenger service desk and nothing. But then in the lift, who is it but the Captain! “How is everybody?” he says. “Fine” we all mutter like dutiful school children, then someone asks if there’s any news and hooray! Flights have been confirmed and he’s about to make an announcement. Finally at dinner, we get our flight times. We’ll be flying out from Aruba tomorrow.

Day 20 Aruba. And home!

Our last day and after breakfast we lie by the pool, observing the passengers for the last time, before going for a walk around Oranjestad in search of confectionery. The town is glitzy and Vegas-like, with a theme park feel and a plethora of designer shops. Out of all the places we’ve been to, it comes across with the least character.

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Back on the ship, as we wait for the passport officials, two teenage girls wrapped in towels come in to say goodbye to their holiday romance boyfriends. While we wait for our plane, random thoughts cross our minds:

  • All the passengers seemed to come back from land each day in t-shirts/baseball caps/bags with the name of the place they’d been on them. All the items of clothing are exactly the same other than the slogans. Do they get one for everywhere they go?
  • With flights grounded was there a UK shortage of gigs as touring bands couldn’t get in?
  • And did it also affect the drugs trade?
  • What a shame we didn’t get to go home via the navy on the Ark Royal and be able to do Cher impersonations astride canons
  • Who comes up with some of the phrases on the dinner menus on the Sea Princess? ‘Ladyfingers’, is a recommended delicacy and all the food is served with ‘fresh and enhancing sidings’. Incidentally ‘ladyfingers’ becomes the Lost Prom’s new name for women’s sanitary items
  • And how much food is wasted and thrown away?
Sea Princess

Sea Princess

Finally, after a 2 hour wait, we’re on the plane, and some time later we’re home. So glad to be home. The chance to go to the Caribbean for free was amazing and the cruise experience an eye opener. But never again. Never. Again. I, Tamsin, will move from the third person for just a minute. I laughed at the British passengers for their laziness, but by the end of the cruise, I felt I was almost as bad as them. Staying in our cabin and watching turgid Hollywood pap rather than going out and experiencing new sights. Gobbling and gorging on free food instead of spending money in communities that could do with tourist bucks. Making vacuous judgements, about the locals, “Oh they’re all so friendly” instead of getting to know people properly (hampered by the fact we were never anywhere for an evening). Bickering and sniping at each other on a free holiday. I can’t really explain why a cruise brought out the worst in me but it did. I felt the poetry in my soul dispersing. I felt my thighs become tree trunks and root themselves to the ground. I felt rivulets of fat forming into thick membranes and cutting off the flow of blood to my brain. I felt myself morphing into a completely different person.

This never happened in Portslade.

Lost

Pineapple-shaped oil dispenser

Tamsin’s digital camera (stopped working)

Company at dinner

Diamanté hair slide (somewhere during the cabin move)

Barbados

Barbados

Found

A hottie on stilts

2 bottles of Hawaiian Tropic

Blue Magic Pressing Oil (for hair)

G.B.s Balsam: For Relief of Pain from Arthritis, Backaches, Sciatica, Lumbago, Muscular Pains and Strains, Also Used for Relief of the Symptoms of Colds

Calamine Lotion

2 types of soap

Ennui

2 dresses – one yellow floral, one cream & multicoloured floral

Green striped wood bangle

Bronze twisted wire earrings

Blue flowery baby outfit

2 calabash tree decorations

A prospective husband for Nhung

An inner idiocy

A dislike for cruises

Trinidad

Trinidad

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Samana

Samana

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

Martha Brae River

Martha Brae River

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.

Martha Brae River

Martha Brae River

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.

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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’.

Luxury Plaza

Luxury Plaza

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.

Universal Church of the Kingdom of God

Universal Church of the Kingdom of God

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”).

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Devil's Bay

Devil's Bay


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.

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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.

Nails & Tings

Nails & Tings

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.

Frigate bay

Frigate bay

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
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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.

No entry

No entry

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.

Basseterre

Basseterre

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.

cool as ice

cool as ice

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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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…

Lost

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

Flights home

Tortola

Tortola

Found

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

3 shells

2 ice creams

New belief in the magic of hypnotism

Power balladry

An extended holiday

Samana

Samana

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