Centenary World Cruise Day 94: I Can’t Sea Straight

We have discovered a new passion. The Great Pottery Throwdown.

Much like the Baking (my term for the Great British Baking Show), twelve people get together and meet challenges given by two experts in the field. The show is hosted by Siobhan McSweeney, who played Sister Michael on the show Derry Girls. She’s every bit as hilarious and acerbic on this show, but also sweet and supportive and just generally delightful. Also delightful is one of the judges, Keith Brymer Jones, a big man whose eyes well up with tears every time one of the potters presents something really good. It’s so sweet and touching that it’s impossible not to cry with him.

Centenary World Cruise Day 79-85: Let Me Sea

Day 79:

The first day with a new group of people on the ship is always hilarious, because it gives me a view of what we looked like when we first came on board: standing around near the elevators, looking at the directory to see where different things are; walking around making confident pronouncements about where things are or how they work that are completely wrong; complaining about the food, the entertainment, or the lack of interesting activities.

Most of the new people are only on for a couple of weeks, and I think if I was only on for that long, I’d be a little sadder. Being here for four months makes me less demanding – not every day can (or should) be a non-stop cavalcade of fun, gourmet meals, and Broadway shows.

Day 80:

For the very first time since being on the ship, I had lunch in our regular dining room. The dining room is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but it’s such a pain in the neck to go down there and spend an hour on a meal that I’m normally only willing to consider it for dinner. But today, the lunch menu included a TUNA MELT! It’s the closest I’m going to come to a grilled cheese sandwich on this ship.

Tonight was the Red and Gold gala (the third since we’ve been on board). I wore a suit that’s largely metallic gold – a huge departure from my normal black and white wardrobe. We stopped at the lounge for a pre-dinner cocktail, and not long after we showed up, a woman on her way to dinner stopped by our table to gush about how beautiful she thought I was. This has happened to me a few times, and I never know what to do about it. It’s just…weird. I understand that people who do this have nothing but good intentions, and on one level, it feels very good – it affirms my wardrobe, makeup, and hairstyle choices. On another level, I still have a hard time believing that anyone would ever think I’m attractive on any level. I still feel schlubby. I may never get over that. But I’ll keep dressing well anyway.

Day 81:

Ever since Freemantle, there has been a lady that gets to the gym about the same time I do. The first time I saw her on the stationary bikes, she was laughing and joking with everyone, even though she was brand new and couldn’t have known anyone – she was just fun and gregarious. Just as I was leaving, she asked me if I could get her a cup of water, since I would be walking past the water cooler. I gave her the cup of water, and she laughingly asked me what the charge would be. I told her “the first one’s always free,” and she laughed hard.

I’ve seen her most days at the gym now, and every time, she’s happy to chat. Normally, people like that just make me crazy, but there’s just something about this woman’s lack of agenda; willingness to judge the food, the décor, the terrible internet, but not the people; desire to share things she’s discovered and thought without expectation of agreement – I just love her.

Maybe it’s because of this woman, and maybe it’s just a change of passengers, but for the longest time, I was the only woman using the stationary bikes. Normally I’d be surrounded by guys all acting like they had something to prove (something shared by a lot of men at the gym on this ship), but now it’s all women. We chat, we laugh, and none of it feels uncomfortable or unnecessarily adversarial. I’ll be sad when she gets off in South Africa.

Day 82:

Today, I kind of never woke up. I blame it on turning the clock forward so many times. So I lay around in bed for too long, then got dressed and went out to the pool and lay on a deck chair reading (which here is a euphemism for napping), then went back to the room and sat on the chairs on the balcony and snoozed, then went back to the pool and slept before coming back to the room and having a bit of a lie down.

The tiredest monkey on the ship

The whole time, I was berating myself for being lazy – I have chapters to write, readings to do, there’s always Zoetic work to be done. It wasn’t until around dinner time that I reminded myself that this is supposed to be a vacation. It’s okay if I have a day when I’m not productive, for crying out loud.

Day 83:

Yesterday’s Extend-O-Nap meant that I was awake and working at 5am. That’s okay – I’ll take it. I’m working to finish a novel I’ve been working on for a while, and as of today, I am four and a half chapters from the end. The real motivation has been that I’ve been reading it to the Pirate before bed every night, and I have to finish it or he’s going to be left hanging.

Tonight was another gala night, and I wore my black dress, while the Pirate wore his kilt. Again, people around us made a fuss over us. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it. The nice thing is that the people making a fuss over us are people whose style I also admire. That’s a nice feeling.

Day 84:

As of today, we have 34 days left in this trip. I was in a shop this morning chatting with one of the salespeople who has decided that the Pirate and I are fashion icons. We were talking about the fact that as of yesterday, there was no cream left on the ship. That’s not strictly true. They’ll still give you cream, it’s just that once you’ve poured it into your coffee or tea, it just floats to the top in chunks. He told me that in the crew mess, they’re out of eggs. They’ve got eggs that come in a box, but he says that they’re disgusting. Frankly, I suspect those are the ones they use for the scrambled eggs, since they look as though they’ve already been digested. The hot tip is not to eat anything containing cream or milk for the next two days until we get to our next port.

Then I mentioned how nice it will be not to have to wait in line for the washing machines (which, to be fair, I never do because the Pirate has taken on laundry duties because he’s the nicest), and a couple of women passing by stopped and laughed over that, and we started talking about how long we’ve been on board (they just got on) and how much longer we’ll be. They asked me how I liked the trip so far, and I told them that it just doesn’t even feel like a vacation anymore. My attitude has become “I live here now.” I realized that in 34 days when I have to take all my possessions off the ship and cart them home, it’ll feel like moving out.

Day 85:

Every country has their own requirements for entry. Most of the ones we’ve visited are content to come on the ship and check over the passports without having to clap their actual eyes on us, but a few require each person to present their passport in person to an official who looks at it for a tiny fraction of a second, smiles and says “good morning,” and lets that person by.

This means that there is a constant hokey-pokey of handing in our passports, getting them back, handing them in, getting them back. For some countries, we have to go online and fill in extra paperwork as well. Today, we got our passports back for entry into Réunion. We looked them over, and we were both surprised at how many new stamps we’ve gotten since we boarded. I have no idea why we were surprised – we’ve been to a whole bunch of countries, and all of them stamped our passports. Wouldn’t it be cool if I filled up my passport with visa stamps before it expires in 2026? What would be even cooler is if you win some kind of prize for filling up your passport. Like…expedited processing of your next passport.

Centenary World Cruise Day 34-39: I Can Sea Clearly Now

Day 34:

After being stuck on buses with a zillion other people and visiting crowded tourist destinations, we were feeling DONE. We decided to order breakfast in and spend a relatively lazy morning hanging out on the balcony. I made some tea and took my breakfast outside, where I immediately put my feet up on the railing and sipped my tea with a contented sigh. I could actually feel myself unclench.

Living my best Toast Life!

Day 35:

I spent most of today working on work stuff. It’s really hard, because the wifi on the ship is really spotty. Every time I’m in the dedicated lounge set aside for World Cruise folks, there’s always a queue of mostly old ladies complaining to the concierge about how they can’t get on the wifi. The concierge probably has a script for this situation, since it seems to happen 17 times an hour.

Day 36:

I spent all today doing work stuff while the Pirate stayed in our cabin, because he’s now in the throes of the same creeping crud a lot of folks on the ship have had. It’s annoying, because on every shore excursion, there have been people on the bus coughing like they’re bringing up their internal organs (we call them “Hacking Nancies”).

All of them seem oblivious to the fact that they’re making everyone else sick. One woman, after a truly wet, disgusting, loud round of coughs, looked at everyone defiantly and said “Well, I don’t feel bad.” It’s no surprise to us that about a week ago, the captain announced that there had been an increase in COVID cases. Suddenly we were no longer allowed to dish up our own food at the buffets, and they started being a lot more strict about making people use the hand sanitizer before going to the buffet.

Day 37:

I’m exhausted. For the last few days, we’ve had to set our clocks ahead an hour every day. Right now, we’re 14 time zones away from where we started in California. Today, I woke up at what was 4am just a few days ago. I hate being woken up early. It always feels like a punishment. I also dislike the feeling of sleeping all day and so missing out on events and getting things done. It’s weird to exist in a world where days are 23 hours long. I can hardly wait until the return journey, where our days will be 25 hours long, and I can get an extra hour of sleep without missing a thing.

Day 38:

Today, I was looking through the program and saw that there was a matinee of Gulliver by the theater troupe Box Tale Soup. I’d seen in the program that it was a puppet show, and I thought it would be fun. It turned out to be more than fun. It wasn’t just a puppet show – there were three live actors playing all the parts, with one guy being Gulliver and the two others both playing characters themselves and using some puppets that weren’t the normal person-in-a-box, hands-above-head kinds of puppets, nor were they marionettes. They were more like articulated dolls, manipulated by the cast members like puppets. The staging was really clever, and the original music (all done a cappella) was really lovely.

You can see their YouTube intro here: https://youtu.be/RWOGdubGyHE

The ship they’re talking about in the video is the ship we’re on right now. If you ever happen to be where they are, absolutely check them out!

Day 39:

Tomorrow is Penang, Malaysia, but now it’s my turn to be ill. I want to go on our field trip, since it’s to a spice garden and a butterfly farm. We’ll see how well that works out!

Centenary World Cruise Days 18-20: Oh, I Sea

Day 18:

The weather is getting warmer as we go further south and east. We’re in the southeastern part of the Mediterranean, and tomorrow we’ll get to Port Said, where we’ll wait for clearance through the Suez Canal.

Thus far, the coffee bars and lounges have been completely full of people, but today they were relatively empty because everyone is out on deck enjoying the warmer weather. But let’s be clear: when I say “warmer,” I mean that the high was 72 degrees. I’m still wearing sweaters and drinking hot tea at every opportunity, but the British folks are all in their shorts, getting some sun on their blinding white knees.

The other nice thing is that, after the turbulence of the Bay of Biscay, the water has been completely calm and lovely. Standing on the deck and looking at the water feels almost the same as standing on the shore of a river and watching the water flow past. I can’t feel any motion on the ship at all – but I guarantee you that at the next port, I’m going to get off the boat and be all unsteady on land.

Day 19:

Today, we did our pirate drill. Yesterday, I went by the library and asked if they had old newspapers, because I wanted to fold myself up a nice pirate hat for the drill. They didn’t. For the drill, everyone with an outside-facing cabin had to go into the corridor and wait while the stewards counted us. Since we knew the drill was going to be at 10am, I took the wise precaution of making sure my phone was fully charged and I had a hot cup of tea so I could sit in the corridor, sipping my tea and playing a stupid game. Everyone in the corridor speculated about the likelihood of even seeing a pirate ship, and I think it’s unlikely. Why go after a bunch of over-80s when they could go after any of the skillion of container ships laden with consumer goods?

Later, I ran into a woman I knew and asked her how the drill went for her. She has an inside stateroom, and she said that she just got to hang out in her room. She expressed regret that on this trip, we will not have a complement of hunky NATO guards like they had the last time she’d done this run. Now I feel cheated.

Day 20:

Today we were transiting the Suez Canal. The Pirate opened the door to our balcony, made a face, and shut it again. That part of the canal is apparently where cabbage goes to die.

Transiting the Panama Canal takes about 6 hours, and there are lots of ships going both ways, since a lot of it is very wide. Suez, on the other hand, is extremely narrow. Ships travel in a single long line going each way (there are two separate channels) with no locks to change the water level. Transit time through Suez is 12 hours.

As the day progressed, most people were out on the decks checking out the canal banks. When I travel, I always map the landscape to similar landscapes back home. A lot of the Suez Canal looks like Bakersfield. Or maybe Riverside. Hanging off the side of the railing was a warning to stay at least 50 feet from the ship. It struck me as funny, because about 50’ from our ship, the water was so shallow that any ship trying to pull around us would have to have wheels.

Because we traveled in a long line of other ships, we could see the ones in front and behind. It turns out that the ship behind us was the largest container ship in the world, with 19.5 thousand containers aboard. It looked like a Borg cube.