Wow, what a day

I give up. It is 18.15, fifteen minutes til dinner. My day has gone thus:

0850 Woken by the 9am announcement. This happens every day. I just go back to sleep.
0950 Woken by CHURCH BELLS being piped into my cabin. They normally don’t do this. They normally keep the bells to the corridors, allowing those of us who aren’t Christian or aren’t well or aren’t interested to avoid them. Not today.
1050 Woken by an announcement from the Captain about the arrival of norovirus on board. Surprise, surprise. Well I never. Someone who embarked at Barbados (remember? 500 off, 500 on?) doesn’t wash their hands properly and now we’re all at risk. Marvellous. Thanks a bunch.

At 11 I gave up and got up, because at 12 we had The Grand Voyage Luncheon, which was a surprisingly pleasant experience. Our officer was Andy Beaton, the Head of Security, and what a joy he was. What a lovely person to spend time with. We spent nearly two hours chatting and laughing with him. He told us all sorts of stories about cruising, and his life before, as a policeman in Hertfordshire, and plied us with free booze. This took us to 3pm.

The more eagle-eyed among you will have spotted that we are now three hours ahead of where we were after a two-hour lunch. That’s because at noon, the clocks were put FORWARD an hour to 1pm. Don’t ask me why we have to change time zones between Costa Rica and Mexico, but we do. So that’s the missing hour.

After lunch, I went back to my cabin and prepared to go out on deck and do some sunbathing, but I was so tired that, at about 4pm, I went back to bed. I promptly went out like a light, so I obviously needed it. And guess what? At 1810? Another announcement by the Captain about norovirus. And, yes, I was sound asleep at the time. But not after he started, as there is a speaker in the HEADBOARD. No, really. When they want you awake, they want you AWAKE.

So here we are. It’s 1830 and all I’ve done today is eat, sleep and get woken up by announcements. Ain’t life grand?

2030 Norovirus is a pain in the behind for the passengers (if you’ll pardon the pun), but I feel bad for the staff. The extra working and cleaning that the waiters have to do is a nightmare, but hopefully we won’t reach the next stage. If the problem persists, they will close the self-service restaurant, and then the staff are in real trouble, because everyone will have to be served by a waiter, for six meals a day (breakfast, elevenses, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and late night snacks). Every chair has to be wiped every time someone gets up and every handrail wiped and every lift button wiped every time they are used. There are 2000 passengers, and they have a tendency to not stay still. The cleaners and waiters get about three hours’ sleep a night during the bad patch, because there is so much cleaning to be done. It must be a nightmare. So here’s hoping we don’t reach that stage. On the plus side, we have two port days in a row, so that will take the pressure off the staff a little, although there are always those that don’t disembark to take care of.

It never ceases to amaze me the number of people who don’t get off the ship, sometimes ever or at all. They get on in Southampton and they get off in Southampton. It seems totally alien to me to go to a place and not disembark. You haven’t seen a place if you don’t get off and there is nowhere on Earth that doesn’t bear another viewing. In addition to which, newer guide books, such as the Berlitz Caribbean Ports of Call Pocket Guide I have, positively beg the reader to go ashore. I have already explained the local benefit of a disembarking passenger, who eats and drinks and takes a taxi. Many of these places have economies largely or even entirely based on tourism, and if we don’t give them our money, there is nowhere else to get it from. The Berlitz guide has a How You Can Help page which says:

• Disembark at every port.
• Check out tours at the quayside or sign up for locally run tours.
• Use local restaurants and cafes.
• Buy island-made souvenirs and visit museums and churches.
• Only take photos of people with their permission and offer a tip.

It amazes me that any of this needs spelling out, but there’s nowt so queer as folk. Places change, so having been before is no excuse. We went to Phuket many years ago, and went again only months after the tsunami. When we had the chance to go again, of course we went! We wanted to see what had changed, what remained the same, what was better, what was worse, what was different, how much the prices had gone up (answer: lots). We go to Madeira fairly regularly, but last year they had mudslides that tore through the capital, killing over 50 people. So the next time we had a chance to go, we went. Not only to see for ourselves the damage, but also to contribute to the cleanup and recovery by spending our cash on the island. We’ve been to some places many times, but there is always more to see.

But there are people on the ship who stretch their money to the absolute limit. They don’t disembark, they eat only in the restaurants that are free of charge and they spend only their onboard credit and no more. It is possible to do, if you don’t use the internet, wash your own clothes and drink only tap water. This essentially transforms your trip into an all-inclusive holiday. You paid to get on board and you never pay again.

But, with the best will in the world, what kind of a holiday would you be having? Doing your own laundry is clearly doable, if sitting in a steaming hot room for a couple of hours guarding your knickers from those who would do them harm is your idea of fun. No internet, easy enough for the non-technology minded, I suppose. No spa treatments or hair dos or manicures or pedicures or massages is easy enough, I suppose. No alcohol, fair enough, if that’s your idea of fun. No new experiences, if that suits you. You can sail the Caribbean, the World, even, and not buy anything, not see anything, not do anything, not go anywhere and not eat anything. But no ice cream?! Seriously?! Madness, utter madness. What’s the point?!

2200 local time. Holy cow, Osama bin Laden is dead? Really?! Wow. That’s huge.

I stayed up to listen to Obama’s speech live and then I went to bed. Not going to end the day any better than that.

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