Tuesday 12th January 2016 – at sea
By ‘eck, it’s bumpy. We are just coming to the Western Approaches, where the Channel meets the Atlantic and the Irish Sea. We are right at the tip of Cornwall. This is usually the worst possible bit of any journey. The best way through is to stay sat down, or better still, lie down, until it’s over. This is when a not snowy tv reception would be most useful, as it is one of the times when I stay in the cabin and move around as little as possible. I don’t get ill, I just don’t like falling over, and when the ground is moving from under you constantly, in a variety of unpredictable directions, sitting is definitely the safer option. This is also the time when it would be most advantageous to have a cabin on a lower deck. Sadly, on this trip, I am on C deck, which is the highest I have ever been, and, most bumpy it is too. I also have a cabin right near the back of the ship and also as far to one side as possible, which just increases the movement possibilities. It is a cabin that we have laughed at others for taking. I’ll cope, but probably by sleeping a lot. The unceasing rocking motion has the rather beneficial side effect of making you feel like you’re being rocked to sleep, so, provided you don’t mind a bit of creaking, and the unused wooden coat hangers chiming against the sides as they attempt to make a break for it out of the wardrobes they are shackled to (yes, we have the ones that are welded in – cruise passengers will nick anything, given half a chance), it’s a very soothing sensation, and quite hard to stay awake. Allegedly, outside, according to the Passenger Information Channel PowerPoint on channel 24 (why don’t they start at one like normal people?!) it is currently a Force 8 wind and the air temperature is 9 degrees. The sea state is described as “rough”. I’m staying right here. *nods*
Fyi, the only channels that have no snow, and are therefore watchable, are Sky News and Sky Sports. Not my first choice, but it will have to do for now. Actually, the mast cam channel is playing some decent music (Cruise Radio Arcadia, I kid you not) and the picture is surprisingly calm-looking, so maybe I’ll leave it here for a bit. The camera on the mast can be accessed via the P&O website, if you are seized by a desperate urge to see what I see at any time. It is currently at a slightly jaunty angle, but the horizon is (pretty much) horizontal, so it’s not too disorientating. The number of white horses seems to be diminishing, which is nice, but I could have established that just by standing up. It’s when the bow disappears under the waves (which I have seen in the past – can’t watch that for long, believe me), you need to worry. This is fine. The music is currently a Terence Trent D’Arby song I’ve heard before. I’d know that voice anywhere, but the song is not familiar. Very odd, but pleasant, nonetheless.
Right, can’t sit here enjoying myself. Spanish class starts in half an hour and I’m still in my pyjamas.
Some time later: Couldn’t join the Spanish class. There were people standing in the doorways. Not enough seats for all. Couldn’t see, couldn’t hear. Gave up. Went up to the canteen/self service restaurant had had some fruit. Whatever anyone tells you, don’t believe them when they say you cannot eat healthily on a cruise ship if you want to. Ate a whole plateful, so that’s the five a day done for today – cantaloupe, galia, watermelon, two plums and some pineapple, for the detail-minded among you. Met Janet and David, the first couple I have found who are doing the whole thing, like us. Everyone else seems to be getting off at either Rio or Valparaiso.
Then lunch. And it all went to hell. I had been dreading it so much that Dad offered to come with me. And I was right. They had done nothing we were promised in our emails with Southampton and the head chef of Arcadia. They had not labelled gluten free food options. They had not MADE any gluten free options. Apparently coeliacs are not allowed hot food for lunch, unless they are happy to eat, and I quote “curry or chips”. That’s it? That’s it. Salad, curry or chips. Not even a hot vegetable. Needless to say, I did not consider that this was an acceptable offering for the next four months of my life. I tried asking for gluten free pasta. “No”. NO?! Are you kidding me? Have you EVER heard of customer service?! You don’t say NO to a customer! EVER! Particularly not a customer who, paying single person supplement for her holiday, has already paid TWICE for every meal anyway. Head waiter very unhelpful. Just shrugged and offered me soup. In the end, the restaurant manager saw me crying and came over to see us. He said he would fix everything. I don’t have to decide today what I want to eat tomorrow. I don’t have to book, beg or ask permission. I CAN have gluten free pasta, if I want. I WILL get the gluten free burgers I was promised IN WRITING. He will take care of my lunches personally, every single day for the rest of this cruise. In the end, I just ate some chips and a bowl of tomato soup and a jelly. It’s enough, and by then I was so distressed, I had difficulty swallowing anyway. I cancelled everything I had planned for the afternoon and went to bed. Couldn’t go for a walk anyway (raining), couldn’t do yoga (too rough), couldn’t face trying to get into Spanish again. Will try and start my life again tomorrow.
Maybe I should rename this entry: “How to ruin a passenger’s entire sea day in one easy step”. Just lie to them. Say anything to get them to shut up. Whether that’s in person, on the Oceana, when we discussed this trip with the Executive Chef, and he said he would pass on our concerns THEN to the Head Chef of the Arcadia. Whether that’s in writing, by email in our correspondence with Karen – head of Special Diet Reservations in Southampton, because I wrote when we got back and said how much I was dreading lunch on the Arcadia (that’s when I was promised gluten-free burgers that would be made ready for my arrival). Or when the Only Coeliac on the Ship Who Apparently Eats Lunch pitches up and says, well, having made me all these promises, what can I eat? Just lie, prevaricate and insult her until she gives up and goes away to cry. That’ll cover it. That’s not going to cause any problems for the next 114 days. Oh no, not at all. That’s all dealt with now.
Watch this space. Tomorrow will either be fine or ALL HOLY HELL is going to get loose.
By contrast, dinner went very well. Hugh is very entertaining, Bob was a bit more vocal and Peter got more chatty whilst we were examining his gluten-free beer (from Suffolk). The only fly in the ointment was that, for some reason, our corner of the restaurant was FREEZING. In the end, the head waiter had to lend me a spare jacket (kept for those who don’t come up to dress code on posh nights). I bought my own diet cokes in from the bar outside the restaurant and drank them veeerry slowly. I’m pretty sure the wine waiter saw them. And he’ll be seeing them every night for the next four months. Aside from that, everyone seemed happy with their meal, which was nice, and we discussed power cuts we have experienced on previous cruises. Turns out Bob has travelled on Costa ships, as have Peter and Nicky, but he’s done it SINCE Costa Concordia. Wouldn’t be MY choice…but he had no complaints, other than the fact that muster is carried out on deck, come rain or shine. Different, but you can see why they would feel it necessary.
Update: After I went to bed, I made the mistake of getting up in the night. This was a mistake because… No, from the beginning. Usually, on P&O ships, empty suitcases can be stored in the hold, out of the way. I won’t need them for months, after all, so why have them cluttering up my cabin? However, when I put them out on this ship, the steward informed me that they were not allowed to put them in the hold on the Arcadia, and I would have to have them in my room. He assured me he would make them fit. When I came back after dinner, the big case had, as promised vanished. I assume he got it under the bed somehow. Good for him. However, what I did not notice was that one wheel of a case was now sticking out from under the bed. The coverlet thingy that hides the base hid this also. Which meant that, when I got up in the night, the little toe of my right foot slammed straight into it. I tried to run cold water on it, but the shower would only give warm water. So I rang for some ice. Which helped a little, but not enough. And, of course, I am at PRECISELY the opposite end of the ship from the medical centre. But I limped there anyway. A shop girl found me near the medical centre and telephoned them for help. The nurse came to the door and greeted me with “You do realise we are closed, don’t you”. “Oh, I apologise”, I said. “I will try and ensure I break my toe during normal working hours in future”. She backtracked, saying she was concerned I had been waiting outside, despite the fact that no one had suggested any such thing. She looked at my toe and said it was “probably” broken, but any examination by a doctor and/or x-ray would have to wait til morning, and would be chargeable. I’m damned if you’re charging me for damaging me!
So I got sent back to my cabin (a porter pushed me there in a wheelchair) and told to ICE (ice, compression, elevation) it. Here endeth the day. Again.