Watching the frigate birds wheel overhead, under a sky that at best would be described as menacing, I feel strangely calm. I am under the roof, which is only half open, so even if those clouds decided to make good on their threats and discharge their contents on the little white boat below, I’d say dry. The humidity is, as you would expect in the middle of a rainforest where it isn’t currently raining, rather high and I have been in steam rooms with less moisture in the air. My clothes were stuck to me anyway, so I figured I might as well go for a swim. My shoulder now hurts, which will wear off in an hour or so, I imagine, but I noticed that, when doing the breaststroke, my mobility in my left arm is still somewhat limited. Still, I have another massage tomorrow evening, after Limon, so maybe that’ll help. Aleksandra is worried about my posture, so I have to think about that now too.
Amazing how many flying ants managed to find my lunch… Well, at least I ate lunch today. That, itself, is an improvement on the last week or so, when I have had no appetite whatsoever.
The war against the noise continues. The only places on this ship where you are not constantly assailed by tinny muzak are the library, the card room and the Neptune pool. Yet today, the shop set up a stall by the pool and promptly started playing tinny muzak – from a phone, I think. When I asked, very nicely, if they would turn it off or at least down, the answer was “No”, and I was told that, if I didn’t like it, I should move sunloungers. I’m pretty sure this is not the way you are supposed to speak to the passengers… Luckily, less than half an hour later, the shift changed and Little Miss Stroppy went off for lunch. I asked the new bloke to turn it off, and, although rather surprised by the request, he did. Several other ladies nearby thanked me.
I don’t understand the obsessive fear of silence that seems to prevail on this ship. You get muzak in Reception, something different in the Intermezzo bar and either the pianist or the singer in the Piano Bar. This wouldn’t be such an issue if they weren’t all centred on the same atrium and staircase, so that, if you position yourself correctly, you can hear all three at once. Seriously?!
You go to a completely empty bar and there is muzak. I once went to check my emails at 4am (couldn’t sleep) and there was muzak playing. It’s like they’re afraid to turn it off. What are they afraid of? Are they afraid that, if there is no muzak, some sea monster will attack the ship? Are they hoping that the noise will drown out the complaints and whinges of the passengers? Is there some competition or bet going on to see how much muzak they can get through in one cruise? Are they hoping the sonic waves will keep whales out of our way? It’s a nightmare. The only silence is in the cabin and the corridor leading to it, and even that isn’t sacrosanct. The Palladium is at the end of my corridor, so during rehearsals or performances, there’s music wafting down there too. But at least the quality is (marginally) higher. Mercy, please. Will someone please turn off the bloody music?!
In certain bars, you can persuade the waiters to turn it down, but they always say they aren’t “allowed” to turn it completely off. Why not? We don’t want it. If we want music, we’ll ask for it, or go to where it is being performed. I know I seem whingey, but I do have hyperacusis, you know. Sensitivity to sound, for those who can’t be bothered to google it. It means that loud noises cause me actual physical pain, such as a knife dropped onto a plate, and also that my hearing is quite sensitive. But I’m not the only one. Everyone I ask is sick to death of all the noise. Cruises are supposed to be quiet holidays – that’s one of the attractions. No cars, no lorries, no horns, no roadworks and pneumatic drills, none of the noises of everyday life. When we arrive in port, we are supposed to be shocked at the noise levels, not relieved there’s no pigging music playing.
It’s not as though music makes you buy more or drink more or eat more. Ask Wetherspoons. They built an entire pub empire on the fact that they PLAY NO MUSIC AT ALL. They even started a separate chain (the Lloyds No.1s) for people who DO want music. And the segregation works perfectly. I’ve only ever once set foot in a No. 1 and that was to use the loo. I can’t take the noise. Give me a nice, quiet Wetherspoons, where I can converse with the person opposite me without having to raise my voice, any day. Funnily enough, some people seem to have forgotten that this is the USP of Wetherspoons. We just take it for granted now. If you asked people what the best thing about Wetherspoons is, they’d probably say the food, although if you then reminded them of the silence, they would probably then choose that instead. I’m sure if you asked Tesco, they’d tell you they rely much more on smells to sell than music.
So why is Arcadia so obsessed with playing music at every moment and in every corner? Sinatra in the Spinnaker bar, jazz by the Aquarius pool, muzak, muzak everywhere, and all of it uniformly terrible. There is some respite in the spa, where you get the plinky Oriental chillout music that’s supposed to make you feel sleepy – I can take that, and I can see the point of it – but not EVERYWHERE. Neptune Pool is a haven from the noise. It’s just you and the sky and the pool and the warmth and, if necessary, the roof. As it should be.
I can hear our engines starting up. We must be about to leave the last lock. Early again. Over an hour earlier than he said. Seriously, the Captain hasn’t given us a single timing on this ship that hasn’t turned out to be woefully inaccurate. Maybe he should just stop altogether. His hit rate can only go up.
There isn’t really anything to tell you about the Panama Canal that I didn’t tell you last time we went through it. Would you like some more stats? Have some more stats.
The first survey of the route was done in 1534 by Charles V of Spain, but nothing happened until the French started digging it in 1880. After 22,000 people had died in nine years, and the company had gone bust, they gave up.
In 1903, the newly-independent Panama did a deal with the United States and the Americans duly started the followed year and finished building it in 1914, ahead of time and under budget, having almost completely eradicated malaria and dengue fever from Panama in the process.
Control passed back to Panama in 1999.
It is 80km/ 50 miles long and knocks 7,873 miles off the trip from New York to San Francisco.
The one millionth ship passed through on September 4 2010. It was a container carrier called the Fortune Plum. Isn’t that the sweetest name?!
The whole canal is currently being widened and expanded and new locks are being built to double its capacity by its centenary in 2014.
There you go. Now you know.
Wandered through the art gallery today. There’s one sculpture and one painting I rather like, but neither grabs me enough, I don’t think. I’m also conscious of all the stuff at home I have yet to hang. I have no idea how much space I’ll have left, if any! Maybe not, then. I’m almost certain I have nowhere to put a sculpture, that’s for sure!
Went to watch the dancing this evening. I only stayed til 11. Most of the dances leave me absolutely cold, especially the latin stuff. The music is so repetitive. The square tango is, to my mind, the most pointless thing I have ever seen and bears no relation whatsoever to the ‘real’ tango. It’s just marching in squares. Ludicrous.
I like the Virginia Reel, the Gay Gordon, the Cheeseburger and the Mayfair Quickstep. All the rest are rubbish to watch. Unfortunately, I couldn’t possibly dance them; not with my sense of balance and tendency towards dizzy spells. I’d spend most of my time on the floor! In fact, just watching made me quite dizzy and I had to call it a day at 11pm. Probably for the best, as I have to be up at 8am. Yes, me, 8am. Scary thought isn’t it? Luckily the clocks go back tonight, so that’ll help.
For those of you following me on a map, we have come south to north through the Panama Canal and have turned LEFT, AWAY from Europe. We are heading back to Costa Rica. Don’t ask me why, I have no idea, but I’m glad of the extra hour, that’s for sure.