Like everyone else, I spend a lot of time staring out the windows at the ocean (or “the sea,” as everyone here calls it, despite the fact that it is the north Atlantic, which is absolutely an ocean, as I learned in 3rd grade geography). There is a phenomenon I’ve noticed on every cruise I’ve been on: as I stare out at the water, my eye is always caught by movement just outside my direct line of sight. Thinking it might be a whale or some dolphins or a mermaid or some aliens or at least a large sea bird, I swivel my eyes, only to realize it’s a wave. And while staring at this disappointing wave, I again see some exciting motion just to the side and turn to see…another disappointing wave. Repeat until I have a crashing headache and need a cup of tea.
Today, though, there were actual whales. Unlike the whales I’ve seen off the coast of Mexico, these don’t surface, blow kisses (in the form of an enormous spray of water and whale snot), wave their tails in a flirting manner, and then slowly dive, making sure each of their vertebrae gets a good sunning in the process. These whales surfaced, exhaled, and went right back into the depths, where I can only assume it’s a lot less chilly than it is up top.
I spent the morning walking around every deck of the ship, trying to orient myself. It was educational, and I now feel (slightly) more confident as I go from one place to another. About half of the 13 decks of the ship are devoted mostly or entirely to staterooms, and while making my way from one end of the ship to the other, I discovered a whole world of people who wanted to walk laps, but didn’t care for the arctic weather outside, and so do circuits of the floors of staterooms. And because of the pitching and yawing of the ship, they veer from one side of the corridor to the other like they’re on a roller coaster. Which is kind of true. As I was making my way down one passage, one of these ladies said “We’re on a mission, aren’t we?” And now I’m really hoping there’s some kind of exciting spy ring operating on this ship. Wouldn’t that be cool?
We’re just over halfway across the north Atlantic. A thousand miles away from us, there is what the captain keeps referring to as “a complex weather system,” and even though it’s nowhere near us, it’s causing turbulence in the ocean that we’re feeling here as an increase in the kind of waves that make the ship shudder a little when it hits the bottom of them. It started last night and I admit I lay awake freaking out about it, but then I realized that the captain hadn’t come over the loudspeakers to say anything like “We’re experiencing rough seas, stay in your staterooms.” I looked out the window and the sea didn’t look any more turbulent than it had any other day, so I decided that if the captain wasn’t worried about it, I wouldn’t be. When we woke up this morning, the Pirate said he was very excited about it because it was like sleeping in a gently swaying hammock.
This morning as the ship continued rocking enough to make walking difficult, I was in the gym on an elliptical (mostly because they have handles to hang onto) and had a good laugh watching a man trying to weigh himself. I’m sure that his weight was something like 142…168….137…..180….150…..
At dinner, we finally met the people who have the table next to us. They’re from the Isle of Wight, which is right across the water from Southampton, where we’ll be docking – they’re practically home! Apparently, they go on cruises all the time (they listed five they’re taking this year alone, not counting this one). I said hello to the couple three tables over, whom we met in the elevator once when I had gotten us lost (again), and to whom I said “I could get lost inside this elevator!” I saw our neighbor a few cabins down and we laughed about how first impressions can be misleading (he’d met some folks at a singles’ get-together and the one he thought would be nice and kind and understanding turned out to be an intolerant cow, and the one who seemed surly and taciturn turned out to be a lovely person). I’m sad, because all these people are leaving the ship in Southampton, and I’ll have to make new friends all over again. It’s like being a kid who moves around a lot and ends up at a new school every year. Only I can drink.
Today was a day of learning. We went to the 10:00 church service, which is billed as the “traditional maritime service.” Our choices were that, or the Catholic service held at 8:00, and I just wasn’t up to facing God at 8:00am. The 10:00 service was conducted by the captain, and the sermon was about the clergy on board the Titanic, both of whom died because they stayed behind to minister to the spiritual needs of those who didn’t make it into a lifeboat. A few things I didn’t know about the Titanic:
- The crew had been warned seven separate times by ships going the other way about the dangerous ice ahead, and didn’t just ignore the warnings, they told at least one of the other ships to “shut up.”
- The Titanic had been billed as “unsinkable,” so many passengers refused to board the lifeboats when they were originally told the ship was sinking because they didn’t believe it.
- Many lifeboats were lowered with less than half their capacity, and by the time the holdouts accepted the fact that the ship was sinking (once the bow had gone under), it was too late – the lifeboats were gone.
- It took the Titanic two hours to sink, which would have been plenty of time to get everyone to the lifeboats, had they only gone.
After the church service, we went to a lecture on the rivalry between airliners and ocean liners, and how advances in each spurred advances in the other as people wanted to travel across the ocean both quickly and comfortably. I would like to say I learned a lot in that lecture, but the lecturer was awful – there was no narrative line to his lecture, and it was interspersed with things like slides of his childhood home and elementary school (okay, so I did learn where this guy went to elementary school).
And after that, a lecture about the Tudor dynasty from a woman whose book on the subject, “Tudors By the Numbers” is forthcoming in a couple of months. She was a great speaker – knowledgeable and entertaining and really passionate about her subject. A lot of the whole Tudor dynasty saga is familiar to me, and I thought I’d like to read her book, but then I realized that there is so much of world history of which I am utterly ignorant, so I’d rather read that first (if anyone would like to suggest a good English-language history of anyplace that is not North America, Great Britain, or Western Europe, I’d love to hear about it).
Years ago, my husband and I had looked at some cruises offered by National Geographic, whose main attraction was a regular series of lectures on various subjects appropriate to the location. We both said it would be great to go on such a cruise where we could relax and learn new things. Our younger child, then about 12, said that it sounded like her worst nightmare. And here we are.
We’ll be hitting Southampton day after tomorrow, so in preparation, all those who are going on were given COVID tests. I guess those people getting off in Southampton can just take COVID with them. Those people testing negative could go on about their day. I have no idea what would happen to anyone who tested positive. Maybe they’d be booted out in England?
Last night, I ended up staying in and resting up. I believe it might be partly due to the fact that, of the seven days we’ve been on the ship, we’ve had a time change on 5 of them. Our days have only 23 hours. We’ll get it back on the way home, of course, but that does me no good now.
Today was very quiet, except for the most hilarious thing that’s happened to me in a very long time. I decided that after a lie-in and a nice breakfast in bed, I would toddle over to the hot tub and have a nice soak. I spent three quarters of an hour in the hot tub chatting with a woman who is also doing the full world cruise. Once I was good and pruney, I got out and walked carefully over to my deck chair. When walking on this ship (especially on wet surfaces), I tend to walk very upright and smoothly, so that if I slip, I can catch myself. Once in my deck chair, I decided I needed an extra towel, so I got up again and made my slow way over to the pile of towels and back to my deck chair. I was sitting comfortably, reading a good book and sipping a glass of water when a man who looked to be my age stopped by and said “Excuse me, but are you a professional model? You have a lovely walk.”
I was gobsmacked. That is the WORST, most trite, tired, cheesy line I’ve ever heard. I don’t think I would have fallen for it even when I was in my very-gullible 20s, but now that I’m in my late 50s, you’d have to work a whole lot harder than that. I merely said “thank you,” and went back to my book. The man shrugged his shoulders and walked off, presumably to try his idiotic line on someone else. Now I’m spinning up scenarios in my mind where this guy has scraped together the cash to take a luxury cruise in the hopes of finding a rich widow to attach himself to. Well, good luck to him. If that’s his plan, he’s going to have to think up a much better line.