The story of any cruise holiday is made up in no small part by the characters you meet.
Today, in the pool, I met a slightly mad Scottish lady called Edith. We discussed the various pros and cons of a variety of different ships and lines and places we had visited. She came to have a nose at my single cabin, which is causing quite a stir – there are only two and they have only just been put in – she is not my first tour group! She travels with a bear called Barnaby. He is larger than other such ursine companions of people I have met previously. He doesn’t cancel out the single person fare uplift, though, so we promised to spend our futures fighting for the single cabins on every cruise. He looked very smart in his shorts and t-shirt.
The pool, incidentally, was FREEZING. I got two thirds the way down the ladder before I realised I couldn’t feel my feet any more, by which point I thought, “Oh well, I’m committed now” and continued downwards. It wasn’t long, however, before I was instead thinking, “I should be committed”, because it got no warmer once you were immersed, so I did 12 lengths and a bit of a chat and then got out as sharpish as one can with wet feet that are rapidly losing all sensation.
Tonight was the only formal night of the cruise – a gala party with free booze and nibbles and a speech by a relatively senior officer (usually the Captain or Staff Captain, but today the Executive Purser or, as he described himself, the Second Reserve, as the proper bods were busy steering us back through the canal to the North Sea). Said party is just before dinner, which was a Heritage Dinner, with old-fashioned menus in old-fashioned fonts and a glass of free bubbles to toast to the next 175 years. Another speech, more stultifying than the last, as it was clearly drafted by Southampton to be read out on all the ships at once; no other reason why I would be yawning my head off at 6pm. Bumped into Edith and Barnaby. Edith had a lovely red dress on and Barnaby had a full formal wear outfit, complete with kilt, sporran, little boots and proper hat and everything. He looked very smart indeed.
The people on our table are lovely, which is nice. It’s only two nights, but that could feel like a very long period of time if they had been ghastly. They are Alison, Dorothy, Kathleen and Linda. Alison is Linda’s daughter and Dorothy is Kathleen’s daughter. Linda’s husband can’t travel as he was diagnosed with Motor Neurone disease last November and it is progressing very fast. Linda is a joy and she was next to me, so we had a great time. The food was a bit over-fancy – when P&O try too hard, they really try too hard – but it was edible and Alison said the ham was perfect and my roast beef was excellent.
Alison was sad that she hadn’t been able to have the beef. She was under the impression you had to share one between two. It wasn’t Chateaubriand by any means, so it took us a second to realise what had happened. The menu had been sub-divided into sections: entree, sorbet, etc. and she had seen “Joint” next to the beef, and assumed it meant you had to share it! Raised a bit of a giggle, that did.
Disconcertingly, there is a woman at the table next to us with one of the most disturbing digestive conditions I have ever come across. At least three times during the meal, she coughed and spluttered and then produced a cough/burp so loud, deep and long that everyone in the restaurant (about 300-400 people) stopped talking and turned around. It must be very embarrassing for her, but it sounded bloody disgusting at the next table. Seriously, a foghorn comparison would not be unkind. It was an atrocious noise.
I think I’m coming down with a cold. I have that sore feeling at the back of my nose and throat. I have gargled with Listerine but I think it’s too late.
Today was Amsterdam day two. It wasn’t as hot and sunny as yesterday, but it was still very warm and as it was overcast, it was mad humid. You could barely breathe. It was like Singapore. Silly humidity. We went to C&A and shopped the sale til we could pretty much carry no more. They have a cafe inside which served us with a perfectly adequate light lunch. We then wandered back towards the station in the sunshine. Dad was trying to find a cheese shop marked on the map and after I had put us on the correct road, despite his protestations, we found it, only to find they had never heard of what they wanted – they only know the stuff they make themselves on the premises. Seems like a pretty rubbish sort of cheese shop that hasn’t heard of any cheese except its own. I wouldn’t walk into H&M and expect that they had never heard of C&A!
The humidity was getting to all of us, so we stopped at a good but rather pricey creperie, for sugar and lemon yumminess before weaving our way carefully across the four million lines of traffic (bikes, island, cars, island, tramlines going both ways, island, cars, island, bikes, pavement) between us and the rather spectacularly beautiful train station, where we grabbed a cab back to the ship.
Not only did we not need our passports today, there was no one at all in the terminal, except the souvenir sellers, so we couldn’t even bend anyone’s ear about the behaviour yesterday. Cunning.
So, all in all, I still don’t like Amsterdam. C&A Centruum is marvellous, don’t get me wrong, but the rest of the place I can take or leave. I’m sure others will have a wonderful time here, but it’s not a place I will rush back to. Meh.