Sea Day 1 of 3

What’s the point? Why am I washing and gelling and washing and gelling and re-gelling and re-washing and washing and gelling? Why am I bothering? When I sign for a drink, I’m using the same pen the wine waiter hands to every other passenger he serves. When I get up from the table, they wipe the table, but not the chairs. It is the most lackadaisical Red Level Alert I’ve ever seen. They should be wiping down the handles and backs of every chair on a rolling basis, preferably as each person gets up and leaves. If I can’t pick up my own plastic sachet of vinegar without having to have a member of staff put it on my plate with a set of tongs, and my mum is served a jar of marmalade at breakfast the same way, what’s the point if every time I sit down on a chair, I can pick up the germs of whoever sat here before?

Now, this may all sound a bit OCD to those of you who have never been on a ship with norovirus on board, but, trust me, there is no such thing as too paranoid. You use your elbows to call the lift and select your floor, you go down the middle of the staircase, with your hand hovering over the handrail, so that you can grab it if you need it but avoid it if you don’t. We wash our hands and then we gel them every time we go in and out of the restaurant. But what’s the point if, when you sit down, the chairs are just as dirty as they were before? If someone sick pulled in the chair in that you’re now sitting on, you’re going to catch it. Norovirus is contagious, not infectious. You don’t get it from the air, you pass it on by touch and to find that the chairs are not being wiped at this level of alert is, frankly, alarming.

Yesterday, when coming back aboard, our tablemates spotted that the six members of staff getting back on board in front of them did not gel their hands. They went BERSERK, and I don’t blame them. They and several other passengers screamed the place down until they were forced to gel their hands. It’s all very well saying we’re too risky to serve ourselves but if the staff who serve us instead have not cleaned their hands, we’re not really any better off, are we? In fact, the risk increases, instead of decreasing.

There is simply not enough cleaning going on on this ship. Particularly in view of the fact that we will shortly enter US waters and be subject to the most stringent cleanliness checks on Earth. If we don’t get 85% or better, we won’t be allowed into America. Simple as that. They should be cleaning the drinks gun hoses with toothbrushes by now (they really do this). Instead, the level of activity is so low, you’d never know we had a norovirus outbreak at all, never mind the US Public Health Inspection in less than 48 hours’ time. If you’re not even wiping the chairs down, you really don’t care.

I appreciate there may be a balance to strike, between alarming the passengers and making them paranoid, and getting the job done, but right now, we have neither, which isn’t balance. It’s negligence. And that’s no way of getting norovirus under control, believe me.

In the queue for the burger grill, I spoke to the restaurant manager, who is a friend of ours, and told him that I hadn’t seen a chair wiped in over two hours. He said he would get onto it and, less than 15 minutes later, a man with a bucket appeared and started wiping chair arms. Only the arms, mind you, not the backs, not the seats and even then, only the bits he could reach. Seriously, anyone putting any less care or effort into it would have had to have been actually asleep upright. It was clearly just an exercise in getting the restaurant manager off his back, and probably getting me off the restaurant manager’s. It seems a shame that it is so little, but I suppose every little helps.

The woman behind me in the grill queue said that the attitude of the staff was noticeably deteriorating and that she had complained about the lack of chair wiping to the Head of Catering yesterday. She owns a restaurant and says this is the dirtiest ship she’s ever been on. Seems a BIT strong, but, like I said, they really don’t seem to care much. It’s all just extra work to them. Her comments actually bordered on the racist, and I won’t repeat them, but I can’t fault her as regards the general attitude around the ship at the moment. Coming back to my cabin afterwards, I noticed that my corridor doesn’t seem to have been hoovered in quite some time either, although there was a boy with a bucket doing the stair handrails. When was the last time I was woken by a hoover wand being slammed into my door? It is a while ago, now I think about it. Maybe I should have an afternoon nap? That would guarantee some hoovering, if only in order to wake me up.*

On the plus side, sitting in the shade, on deck, watching the cleaning, I got a lovely breeze on my sunburn. It’s gorgeous. I really am a stupid. I will show you a picture, but I am in surprising amounts of pain. The main problem seems to be that my swimming cozzie straps are narrower than my bra straps, which means that the sunburn is under my bra. And that hurts. I may have to admit defeat and go back to the cabin and take off the bra altogether, which is lovely at the time, but raises the spectre of having to put it back on again later, which hurts even more. Decisions, decisions.

Monica has spoken to her friends today. It wasn’t a burst appendix, it was her gall bladder, which has now been removed. I know nothing about gall bladders, so I can’t comment, but she still thinks they’re getting back on in Seattle. Call me a cynic, but I doubt it. Five days to recover from gall bladder surgery? Nah.

*The Captain made an announcement today, explaining the lack of hoovering (!). Apparently, it kicks up more dust than it clears and causes the spread of infection. No HEPA filters then?

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