Although we have a week to go (six sea days and Praia di Vitoria), it certainly feels as though the trip is nearly over. People are muttering about cold and wind, some decks are closed, and the daily paper is full of disembarkation notices. Do this, don’t do that. We aren’t going to moor here, we’re going somewhere else. Do you want to pay extra to have your cases delivered back to your house? Here’s your hat, where’s your hurry?
In addition, we are starting to run out of things. We are reliably informed that there is only enough John Smith’s Yorkshire Bitter (the only ale on board) to last the pub for another three days, tops. The coasters for drinks have run out in some venues. There are no fresh avocados left on board. These have been replaced with soggy things which are alleged to be/have been frozen avocados. I have seen some incredible things done to avocados over the years – not all of them wise. In particular, I do not recommend freezing them. Utterly foul. Yes, this is me turning down an avocado. Things must be bad. Fresh pineapple also seems to have been taken off the menu. And whoever sold the chef the cuts of meat currently being offered needs to be offered Salesperson of the Millennium. The steaks and lamb cuts are so gristly as to be inedible. Even dad has turned away food these past few days. My dad, who normally eats ANYTHING.
The weather has also taken the hint, and deteriorated somewhat, right on cue. Last night was so bumpy, the Crystal Pool emptied itself. And that was even with the nets on! In case you were wondering why a net is tied across the pool in rough weather, allow me to explain. The net is stretched across the pool (or Jacuzzi) just above the water level, so that, when the ship’s movement causes a wave to build up, it is immediately broken up by the net. If this was not done, then the time lag between ship movement and pool sloshes could cause rather large waves to accrue, which could knock the ship out of balance, and maybe even tip her over. She would certainly be much more difficult to handle for those on the Bridge in the white uniforms, who stay well away from the passengers these days.
None of this is me complaining. Just observing. I’m still happy as a pink piggy piglet in a very muddy field. Lying here, listening to the coat hangers clinking against the wardrobe doors – quite possibly my favourite sound in the world, as you know – I am so grateful and blessed to have this life, these opportunities, and [just enough] health to go to these places and do these things. Even more so that I still have my dad to do all this with. Particularly big shout out to Dad’s GP, who said, if you’re not feeling very cheery, go on a cruise. Sir, yes, sir. So we can legitimately claim that we are here on doctor’s orders!
That being said, we are both feeling a bit old and creaky at the moment. Dad’s knees and back are taking turns to give him gip, my back is still a bit twingey, and I have not only turned a year older on board, but yesterday, my eldest goddaughter turned 18. EIGHTEEN, for the love of Heaven! I am now officially that annoying auntie, who turns up and embarrasses you by saying “I remember you when you were THAT high”. Only I remember the first time I held her. I was so terrified I’d drop her, I just froze! She is, sadly, one of the Covid generation, whose studies were so disrupted in 2020. But she’s smart. I have faith she’ll come through just fine. Next will be eldest godson, in March. Oy vey.
Notes on muzak. In the past, there has been a fair amount of bitching on here about muzak – song choices, genres, volume, etc. Sadly, it wasn’t until after Mum died that P&O finally grasped the idea that music can be turned DOWN. The volume around the ship is universally lower, and much more sensible. If you want eighties music, you go to the Pennant Bar (back of 12). If you want insipid Olivia Newton-John-breathy-style murders of rock ballads (Take My Breath Away with a flute?! – sorry, Fiona, but really?!), you go to Reception. The Horizon cafeteria varies. Today, it has been mostly full orchestral stuff – Chariots of Fire and the like – although I’m not sure I’m entirely comfortable with Abide With Me when on a small ship in the middle of the Atlantic… I have had some odd musical experiences on cruises in the past – remember Bat out of Hell on the banjo? But I’m pretty sure that Paint it Black on a SITAR is going to go straight to number one in this particular chart rundown. Although, to be fair, generally speaking, sitar dance music is rather good (late nights in the Horizon).
As regards the gluten free, we are still very much in the Land of the Puds. Mousses, gateaux, all very lovely. But heaven help you if you want a sandwich. There is gluten free bread aplenty, likewise the spaghetti (I have yet to learn if other shapes are available!). And plenty of dairy alternatives – oat, soya, Benecol margarine, and so on. One lady rather put a spanner in the works earlier today, by removing an ENTIRE one litre carton of Lactofree milk from the counter, but at least she had the decency to tell the head waiter she was taking it to her cabin, so that he could send a minion down to the stores for a replacement! There is now even an entire separate serving area for vegetarian and vegan food, although the gluten free segregation needs some further work. In fact, a couple of days ago, I had to point out to my dinner waiter that there was NO gluten free option for the main course at dinner! We cobbled something together, but I think a rather stroppy message probably made its way to the Galley!
One of the head waiters, Brigesh, has been with P&O for 23 years. He fusses over me like a mother hen. Want a smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwich on gluten free bread made from scratch to order at gone midnight? One bun or two? He really is very solicitous. He says he is very aware of how few gf options there are. He also agreed that this is a training ship. He said that 78% of his workforce are new and need training up. He usually allows a month to get them trained. They joined a week before we boarded. So that explains a great deal. It may also go some way to explaining the repeated blank stares we get when we make enquiries at Reception!