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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

 

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.

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 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. 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

 

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 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 assuming her knock-knees mean that she’s disabled like him, 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?” Other people 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 in for 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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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

 

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. 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. 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 woman in a visor and a family from New Jersey, whose 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 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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