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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

 

St Vincent

St Vincent

Introduction

OK, time for something a little different from our usual posts. The Lost Promenade have left the British Isles to sail the Caribbean seas on a cruise ship holiday!

Admittedly, this isn’t the kind of holiday we’d usually choose, but Tamsin won the trip through the ‘This Morning’ TV show (yes, people do actually win these things) so we decided to take the opportunity to continue our coastal explorations further afield and observe what the British are like when they visit the seaside on (almost) the other side of the world.

There is also something intriguing about the idea of a cruise ship. We were curious about the characters we might meet and the experience of life on board, but most of all, we were excited by the glamourous and romantic notion of 1930s cruise liners, chock full of murder, mystery and adventure…

We resolved to talk to as many people as possible and to try out every experience we could so we could immerse ourselves in the full cruise ship experience. However, the reality was not quite what we had hoped. This is the story of The Lost Promenade Abroad…

Part 1 Red Pants Do You Want To Dance?

Day 1 All Aboard

The Sea Princess

The Sea Princess

And we’re off! Not sitting together due to another one of Nhung’s loser exes making her late, so instead Nhung is in a draught with nowhere to put her feet and Tamsin is on an aisle seat jolted by massive, quivering arses every 2 seconds.

We check out the free toiletries – not bad but the film selection is piss weak. Tamsin tries to watch ‘500 Days of Summer’ but gives up after 30 minutes, unable to take the simpering fake indieness and bum-obvious references.

We look around us at the other passengers. It doesn’t look like we’ll have much competition in the ‘belle of the ship’ stakes and there are enough Daily Expresses to wallpaper a medium-sized asylum seekers’ detention centre.

Middle-aged Lady 1; “I’ve decided to have wine with my meal”

Middle-Aged Lady 2; “You told me that 2 weeks ago.”

Arrival – Barbados

Barbados

Barbados

We are shunted straight off the plane onto a coach, are photographed looking our absolute worst, Tamsin’s polka dot shoes are admired and then we stumble out against a big white wall. A door in the wall opens, we inch through and find ourselves in a cavernous lobby bedecked in palm trees and mirrors like a 1930s hotel, a spiral staircase at the centre, cascading like a disco double helix. We are aboard the Sea Princess.

A bit lost and confused, we eventually find our way to our cabins. We put down our suitcases, look at each other and break into big grins and high 5s. We’re on a Caribbean Cruise and it’s free, free, free!

Barbados

Barbados

Our stateroom steward, Joseph introduces himself to us. He is lovely and very impressed that Nhung is half-Chinese. We immediately reveal ourselves for the divas we are and request waffle bathrobes and fresh fruit. Because we can.

There is a fire drill in the theatre – more 1930s chic – all red velvet and geometric lighting.

We’re starving by now and pretty knackered so we decide to leave exploring Barbados till the return leg and go for our first cruise meal instead, before we set sail. We’ve plumped for ‘anytime dining’, which means we turn up when we like for meals and don’t sit at the same table with the same people every night. We’re too tired to make much conversation with our dinner companions tonight, all we can do is order something random from the menu, which features 1970s sounding dishes like ‘Frozen Pina Colada Soup with Pineapple Tots’, but the food is fine, and we’re so sleepy that we miss the ship setting sail. Damn, we’d planned to go on deck and wave to the departing land.

Barbados

Barbados

We go for a little walk on deck. The ship’s band Opus are playing ‘departure songs’. As they strike into ‘Summer of 69’, some Dad dancing can be observed amongst the passengers, also some wheelchair dancing. We leave to the sound of ‘Crocodile Rock’ and ‘Valerie’ and on the way back to our cabin observe a Scottish couple having a screaming argument of which the only intelligible word is “och”

Day 2 St Vincent

St Vincent

St Vincent

We wake at 7am but it takes us until 11.30 to get ready. Nhung has an infinite amount of stuff in her bag and every day she tips it onto her bed then takes ages assembling it together again.

Breakfast is a bountiful spread – nearly everything you could ever want to eat in the morning, not least lots and lots of cake.

St Vincent

St Vincent

Off the ship and straight into a water taxi to Indian Bay. Tamsin loves skipping along the surf in a boat and can’t stop smiling. The first choice of the other passengers is Villa Beach, but it’s tiny and packed. Indian Bay is almost empty apart from locals and is much nicer, with sand that’ s partly black lava. It’s Easter Sunday and gospel singers in white robes are singing to the sea.

Once we’ve found our spot, we chuck down our things and plunge into the sea without a frisson of cold. The luxury of warm water! We gambol and splash and giggle then we have a lie down in the sun. Various local blokes go past in pairs and all of them are flirty little devils; “Hi, you look lovely”, “I like your tattoo”, “Would you girls like some company?” We decline but regret it when we’re joined by a man who smells of wee and tries to sell us some gourds.

 

St Vincent

St Vincent

After a while it’s time to return (we’re paranoid we’ll miss the ship and get left behind) so we head back and Tamsin manages to lose her first item of the cruise – leaving her polka dot sunhat in the water taxi. We take some photos around the docks – no cheery palm trees and azure seas for us, instead we photograph the grime: ruined buildings, graffiti saying ‘fuck you’, rusty bus shelters, rotting fish heads.

St Vincent

St Vincent

As we walk back, a friendly man says hello and asks if we’re mother and daughter (Tamsin is in a prim dress, Nhung an on-trend playsuit). Tamsin loses her second thing on the trip: her confidence. But as she walks on, she hears the lovely rocksteady tones of June Lodge’s, ‘Someone Loves You Honey’ trickling out of a building and it’s suddenly a beautiful moment.

St Vincent

St Vincent

Back at the cabin, we continue to be impressed by Joseph’s ministrations, he’s folded a pair of knickers Nhung left lying around in the bathroom and arranged all our shoes into a neat line.

We head for the pool, have a ‘dirty banana’ cocktail and proceed to explore the ship. We find

  • An art gallery with horrendous paintings for sale, mainly involving women’s bottoms
  • A photography room showing the hideous pictures of passengers embarking – not even worth looking for hotties, everybody looks awful
  • An internet room – it’s $55 for a hour’s use. We won’t be using that then
  • A perfume shop – Nhung spends a lot of time trying different scents and we bemoan the fact that all Chanel perfumes smell of old lady.
St Vincent

St Vincent

For our evening meal, Tamsin experiments with a frozen daiquiri soup for starters (basically melon milkshake) and we sit with the dullest people we’ve ever met. They have a protracted conversation about how one of their sons has unusually curly hair, “like a darkie”. As they get merrier, the off-colour jokes start: “What’s the difference between a chicken leg and a man’s penis?” We never find out. Any suggestions?

We expected to meet lots of interesting freaks on this trip , especially Americans. But in fact this ship is aimed at the Brits, so there are no Yanks, just the odd Canadian. Instead the Sea Princess is Middle England on sea.

Day 3 Grenada

Grenada

Grenada

We knew exactly where we wanted to go this time as Tamsin had been here before – straight to Grand Anse Beach.

After a frolic in the sea and posing for waterproof pictures in the surf, the Calypso Man does the rounds, singing bespoke songs to all the sunbathers (all with a suspiciously similar tune). To Tamsin, “Hey lonely girl, sexy sweet girl”, and magnificently, to a man in scarlet trunks, he sings,

“Man in red pants

Do you want to dance?

Red pants. Red pants.”

The man is stony-faced.

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Grand Anse Beach has become more commercialized since Tamsin was here 3 years ago – there are many more loungers, parasols and people selling stuff.  But it’s still beautiful.

In the water taxi back we pass a yacht, “Old man in a thong!” shouts Nhung and the whole boat titters.

Back on board ship, by 3pm everyone in sight is snoozing. Apart from 2 Yorkshiremen who held a 10 minute long conversation about shaving. There’s a big screen to show films on deck, but, oh Christ, it’s ‘500 Days of Summer’ AGAIN! Other poolside entertainment includes a golf competition, cocktail making and an ice carving demonstration.

 

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Tamsin has an ice cream, and then brilliantly at about 3.30, a lady with a trolley comes round , calling “Cookies and Milk!” She also has an apron and a hat (coveted by Tamsin) emblazoned with the same slogan. It seems certain that the Lost Prom will end this holiday at least a stone heavier.

Then Nhung sees IT. She lost her heart, her soul, falls head over heels in love, becomes obsessed. The object of her desire? A powder blue trench coat pictured in a fashion magazine. “I can’t stop thinking about it”, she says. For the rest of the holiday, she every now and then gets a faraway look in her eye that means she’s dwelling on her love. At one point Tamsin asks her, “What have you thought about most since you’ve been on holiday, the trench coat or your boyfriend?” Reader, suffice to say, when Nhung returned from holiday, she split up with her hapless beau within a few weeks. And the tragic postscript to the tale, is that when she finally got to see the coat in the flesh she didn’t like it after all.

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So it’s all very exciting because tonight is the first Formal Night! However, although Nhung and Tamsin look splendid (if we say so ourselves), most of the the other passengers are a bit disappointing. The men all look dapper in their DJs and dickie bows, but they don’t have to think much about that. The women show a general lack of flair and imagination and mainly look insipid in black dresses. There’s nobody really glamorous though we do spot a lady with a Barbara Windsor bouffant.

So 3 days in and we’re starting to get to grips with life on board. The short length of time we spend in each destination does mean we’re finding it a little difficult to get the essence of each place. And starved as we are of warm sun and seas for most of the year, we’ve not been able to resist some serious beach action, but visiting the beach means there isn’t time to see much else of a place. However, we’ve got ages to go yet, so hopefully some glamourous noirish escapades or screwball scrapes will develop very shortly. And no more Zooey bleeding Deschanel.

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Lost

Polka dot sunhat

Confidence momentarily

Heart to a powder blue trench coat

Found

Middle England far from home

Free in-flight toiletries

Joseph the lovely stateroom steward

How to carve ice

Cookies and Milk

The cruising life

 

Barbados

Barbados

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