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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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