It began with a misunderstanding. Dreams of a leisurely drift around the Indian Ocean, stirring myself only to dunk a casual vegetable samosa in my G&T while awaiting the purser’s call to tiffin. Or, at the very least, some kind of executive style pub and biryani crawl along Rusholme High Street.
It transpired that what Mrs. Blog had in mind was neither of these but a 12 day package around the Baltic, or Hanseatic Sea, as we traditionalists still prefer to think of it. Carefully scrutinising my appointments diary — and finding it empty from 2007 until the Qatar World Cup in 2022 – I indicated that I might be able to fit it in. With one proviso: if I needed to be specially kitted out for this adventure, Mrs. B would carry this out at her favourite branch of M&S without the pleasure of my company. Most of our combined shopping trips involve us going our separate ways: a recent retail-based conversation went as follows:
Me: “I’ll be in Waterstones, then the bank, then I need to call in at the station to collect some tickets, then the beer shop. I’ll be about an hour. Where will you be while I’m doing all that?”
Mrs. Blog: “I’ll be looking round the hair conditioners.”
Mrs. Blog enjoyed a successful pre-cruise shopping trip, sourcing outfits for both of us, appropriate for ship and shore. Smart casual, but not too showy…
This blog has some limited experience of cruising.
I see that my Urban Dictionary carries the following definition:
“to search (as in public places) for a sexual partner; to go about the streets at random but on the lookout for possible developments.”
Neither of these prospects appealed to Mrs. Blog.
We had enjoyed a cruise along the river Nile a year or two back, just before the latest round of political instability developed full momentum. After suffering some minor back spasm (now I think of it, I omitted to mention this to my travel insurer but, as readers of previous blogs will be aware, I was refused cover anyway, so sod ‘em.) As I was saying, after experiencing some back twinges, I arranged for a robust, manly massage from the chap on the boat who had it in his job description. This took place on the open deck at the very rear of the boat (I understand “stern” may be the technical term.) Alongside me, and I occasionally knocked into him when turning over, sat a surly Egyptian in military uniform with a machine gun resting in his lap as he puffed on his cigarette and gazed down the river. I’m not sure whether I found this reassuring or not. On a happier note, I can also recall during the “Egyptian party night” seeing Mrs. Blog playing “pass the bottle through the legs” with the rest of our group – and that’s not a line I expected to write. (This event is disappointingly absent from the photographic record of our trip.)
Our only other “near cruise experience” took place during a holiday in British Columbia when Mrs. B and I took a BC ferry ride from the northern tip of Vancouver Island up the coast through the “Inside Passage” to Prince Rupert, near the Alaskan border. When hunting for the ferry schedules in order to make a booking, I came across some very topical news items about the sinking of the ferry on which we hoped to travel. There had been loss of life and the consequential suspension of the service rather hindered my attempts to finalise arrangements.
After some deliberation I opted not to share this potential bombshell with the head of the household on the grounds that no good would come of it. In the event, the schedules were reinstated just in time, the trip was safely booked and navigated – fortunately without passengers drawing attention to the scene of the disaster – and Mrs. B remained comfortably unaware.
Unaware, that is, until the last day of the holiday when we were guests at a barbecue in Victoria.
“So, where have you managed to get to while you’ve been over here?” asked our host.
We outlined our itinerary.
“The sinking didn’t put you off then?” he asked.
Silence ensued, with a noticeable raising of one blogwifely eyebrow.
“Did you not know about our disaster?” he pursued.
“Until a minute ago, just one of us did,” I replied.
You could have cut the atmosphere with… Anyway, it was at least a week before conversation was grudgingly recommenced in the Blog household.
Mrs. Blog and I savouring a private moment on our delightful voyage through the Inside Passage
So, our track record on the cruise scene is not an unblemished one. But we remain optimistic and we’re due to wave a fond farewell to the white cliffs of Harwich, or whatever they have over there, shortly.
Mrs. B and I take the view that, if we weren’t spending our pensions on trips abroad, Blogdaughter would only be wasting the money on fripperies like housing, paying off her student loan, and eating.
The brochure for our Baltic cruise helpfully contained some archive illustrations
We like to prepare thoroughly for holidays. I have been trying to train the goldfish to accept that “holiday blocks” lurking on the floor of the tank are in fact edible and a perfectly valid alternative to their usual “top down” provisions, but I fear their innate conservatism is a considerable obstacle. I may have to resort to seizing them individually and pointing their noses towards the revised offer.
For this holiday it has been resolved that a much postponed dental check-up should be fitted in before departure (this is for us, not the fish), as you can never be too sure that the ship’s part-time dentist cum engine stoker isn’t still deploying the “piece of string round the door handle” approach to extractions.
We have scanned the on-board cruise facilities and entertainment programme. Gym? I don’t think so! This is a holiday, for goodness’ sake. Nor are we likely to be taking up the casino option – the last time I gambled it involved a game of cards called Newmarket and my winnings from Aunty Win and Uncle Len were paid in matches. I like the sound of the live show and very much hope it will resemble the “End of the Pier Show” at Cromer, to which I took Blogdaughter, where the star turn was a ballad singer whose arms grew longer as he sang. Tell that to the kids today? Hopeless.
In preparation for our trip we have recommenced dance lessons. This will not be a pretty sight. Mrs. Blog tells me that, during our most recent lesson, and with her head turned elegantly – as is proper – to one side, she caught a glimpse of us in a wall mirror and thought that, in the right light, our embrace might conceivably pass for dancing rather than grappling. But the moment was fleeting.
Mrs.B is, I know, anxious about her iPad and whether she will have full access while onboard and onshore to the limitless treasures of the internet. If not, she fears that she may have to speak to me more than is decent.
Mrs.Blog is not what is called a good sailor, but she doesn’t lack pluck
For my part I intend to avoid the mistake, made on one previous occasion, of posting as my out-of-office message for my day job the words, “Yippee! I am now on holiday! You can send your urgent messages where the sun don’t shine, I don’t care!” (It didn’t read quite so well when I returned to work.)
We may just have time before we depart to fit in one or two classes to brush up on our conversational Finn or Estonian, which is sure to come in handy on our return. I have learned the majority of my Scandinavian language skills from watching The Killing and The Bridge on television so I can happily translate for you words like “blood stain splatter”, “scene of crime tape” and “perp” but not, sadly, such useful phrases as:
“Mrs. Blog would be grateful to know if your toilets flush”
“Do icebergs often travel this far south during May?”
“Do Somali pirates really travel this far north?”
“Your nation seems disposed towards introspection and, if I may so, surliness”
“When Mr Farage says you are a country of benefits scroungers, I’m sure he does not have you personally in mind”
Counting down the days now. We’ve committed to one or two excursions for when we arrive in port. I’m optimistic that I can manage to explore Harwich under my own steam, but I see that in Stockholm we’ve booked to go on a boat trip round the islands – as a change, presumably, from being on the cruise ship.
No doubt you’ll get to hear how we get on. I hope you enjoy the general election – but only if we’re on the same side.