Musings and Cruisings

My octogenarian parents recently embarked on a three-week luxury liner boat cruise round the world.  A synopsis of my mother’s Whatssap messages to me over the duration of their travels tells the harrowing story of how a second honeymoon turned into “the cruise from hell”!

The happy couple flew to Italy and Mom’s first message relayed the news  that Dad had announced, while sitting in the splendour that is St Mark’s Square, that he would rather be in Hazyview than Venice.  Always the optimist, I had high hopes that he would really start to enjoy himself once he was aboard the actual ship and sailing into the sunset.  It all started off well and Mom’s first cheery message from the ship was very encouraging …

“Hi Sos.  We have boarded the magnificent Sinfonia and just spent your month’s entire allowance on a booze card. Sorry for that. I will toast you with every glass of champagne.  xxx”

The first cracks started to show when the battles that my parents consistently face when it comes to anything related to modern technology followed them onto the boat …

“Hi Sos.  Just had the trauma of having to sort out wi fi without you. Now having a glass of wine to recover.  Xx”

The next day …

“Really battling with whatsapp. Spent over an hour yesterday sorting it out with a lovely little girl who assured us we wouldn’t have any more trouble.  WRONG!!!”

As they couldn’t get their phones to work, they tried the computers instead …

“We are in a Greek port today and all the hardy souls left at 8 AM to go stomping around the little town. Dad and I are sitting at the computers trying to get online and have just realised they have been turned off while in the harbour. …duh.”

No luck in the desert either …

“No what’s app today because we were in the Suez. Lots of sand and little men holding big guns. Not much else.”

I guess this sums it up:

“Dear Sos, have sent you a couple of messages which all failed.   xx”

On top of the many technical hitches that they were facing, it would appear that Dad was experiencing a few wardrobe malfunctions…

“Hi Sos.  Dad forgot to pack any shorts so lives in his cossie!”

And, a few days later:

“Missed the message that it was the Captain’s dinner last night. Dinner jackets required.  Dad in his usual t-shirt and tatty fleece.  Got a few dirty looks which we steadfastly ignored.  Declined to have our photo taken with the captain.”

Then the dreaded lurgy hit …

“Dad has collapsed with a man cold and has gone to bed.”

Then it hit again …

“We are docked at Eilat in Israel.  Very hot. Dad wants to go ashore for the day but I have got his man cold plus a sore throat so I am not going.  “

At least they are enjoying the food …

“Food is actually awful!  ”
“Food here is such crap.  ”

Eventually, my Mom turned to alcohol to drown her sorrows …

“Had a nice supper last night with endless glasses of champagne.”

Oh well, my Mom might be turning into an alcoholic aged 81, but at least she and my Dad are making lots of new friends on the ship …

“Walked along the pool deck and saw a hundred fat blobs lying on the lounges. Dad quite convinced at least three of them were dead. .. xx”

My aunt tried to intervene and told them about friends of hers who are on the same cruise …

“We met Pat’s friends from Mount Edgecombe. They are charming but I don’t think we will see a lot of them because they don’t drink…”

Oh dear.  My Mom will only mix with fellow alcoholics now.

On the bright side, they are enjoying all the beautiful new places they are seeing, as well as magnificent weather…

“We are in Aquaba in Jordan.  Dad has set off on an excursion into the town. I am not moving off the ship. Yesterday was 52 degrees…this is the asshole of the world.”

Mom is very impressed with the entertainment on offer …

“Saw a show at last.  Not bad but Studio One could have done better.”

The next day …

“I have just watched Tanya Koenderman do a one woman show called Liza with a T. Quite good but I am better (except maybe the singing). Dad decided to give it a miss once I told him there were no half naked dancing girls. So he is in his usual position in front of the TV.”

The day after that …

“Hi again Sweetheart.  I am sitting in solitary splendour in the theatre waiting for Tonya Koenderman to start throatily purring je ne regrette rien.  Meanwhile, your father is muttering, ‘Je ne regrette rien … except ever getting on this bloody boat’!”

Later that day …

“The little French sparrow was lovely except she needs a new wardrobe mistress. She wore a sort of frou frou dress in black and shocking pink which was cute but not with white pantyhose and clumpy black sandals. Sang lovely French songs and has a good stage personality. Same girl who did Liza.”

She attends not only the shows, but the rehearsals too …

“I watched two hunks rehearsing their act which entailed standing on their heads and balancing a girl in their crutches also standing on her head I think.”

Soon, it began to look as if they were not going to go the distance …

“We are due back on the 2nd Nov. But dad making noises about getting off at Seychelles and flying home from there.  He has decided two weeks is enough of crap food and nothing to do. Just because he won’t play bingo, join the aerobic classes, learn how to cha cha, enter the ball room competition with me, learn how to fold our hand towels into little dogs-with eyes, make origami rabbits and enter the adult colouring in competition, learn how to tango and do a flower arranging course or even a course in Italian pasta making.  The other delights include Meryl Streep and Liam Neeson speaking Italian in the movies and catching repeats available all day of how to hide away if we are attacked by pirates.  I think dad would view this as a welcome diversion! The man just does not know how to enjoy life. He is now on the computer trying to book us a flight home after we jump ship in the Seychelles. Xx

It got worse and worse …

“Dad is still not entering into the spirit of things. He wouldn’t go to a craft class making rabbits out of felt and flatly refuses to join in the frantic excitement of line dancing.”

And worse …

“Tried to talk dad into learning how to carve animals out of vegetables and fruit. Some people just don’t know how to get the most out of life!”

Until eventually …

“Dad says would you phone Dennis Hayden and ask him to recommend a hotel for us to stay in the Seychelles. As expected he wants to jump ship there and come home early.”

Luckily, things suddenly started looking up for the second honeymooners …

“Have finally found a cool lounge on the ship.”

And then …

“A bit cooler today and we have found a restaurant with much better food.  So maybe we won’t abandon ship.”

And finally …

“We are definitely not abandoning ship and have booked for a coach tour of the island when we get to the Seychelles on Sunday.  Hooray.  xx”

Things definitely began looking up on the Love Boat.  Mom’s latest message read as follows …

“At last! Dad has found something to entertain and amuse himself. We are sitting in our nice cool lounge and people are quietly reading and playing bridge etc and suddenly there is a loud squawking and screeching.  Everybody gets up and rushes outside to peer over the rail with much pointing and excited cries of “there it is and where where”. I look at dad who hasn’t moved from his seat and he is cackling evilly to himself (as he does). Then I realise he has got his bird call tape on his I pad….well this went on until a meisie from the Vrystaat who obviously has the same tape caught on and bellowed Ag nee man ek sal jou donder… end of our visits to this venue for a few days. I think we have been banned but at least dad had some fun. 😅 I must add that having been at sea for six days and not seeing ANYTHING other than endless sea and sky the thought of seeing a bird was beyond exciting.”

I fear my parents may have contracted scurvy.  Mom’s latest message is a bit concerning  …

“We are about to sail out of Mauritius and the PA system is bellowing your song. (Editor’s note: my song is “Time to say goodbye”.) Wish you were here.  Dad and I got up for breakfast then spent the rest of the day on our beds. We have been really sick these past few days and I haven’t even had the energy into talking him into taking an interest in cake decorating or salsa dancing. Hopefully my pills will kick in and I will be better tomorrow.  Never saw anything of Mauritius and now longing to get home. 😊 Love and miss you madly.❤💙💚💛💜

(Editor’s note: Clearly, someone (probably an eight-year old) on the ship has shown my Mom how to insert emoticons …)

My Mom continued to seek solace in alcohol. I will be booking her into rehab the minute she gets back …

“We have dragged ourselves up and into the bar to drink away our germs. Couldn’t think of anything else that will work.”

Mom just loved the balmy weather …

“I feel a bit better this morning but still far from my usual energetic self. We are docked in Reunion for the day. Still hot as hell. I think I should go and live in Iceland. Will you come with me? Next stop Durban Yay! 💞💟

At least they enjoyed seeing the world …

“This has been our view for most of our time on this beautiful ship …” (see pic attached).

Trying to find something positive to say, I commented that at least they had nice orange blankets on their beds.  The reply to my encouraging message was as follows …

IMG-20161028-WA0000

“Sorry to burst your bubble.  That lovely orange blanket is a towel. No blankets on this ship. After all what can you expect for R50 000 … BLANKETS? ???😧 Towels are standing in for blankets for dad because he gets cold in the air conditioning which cannot be controlled by the passengers.  One size fits all.”

I was very relieved to hear Mom finally found a non-alcoholic beverage to enjoy …

“Dad is still being a man and insisting he is sicker than me and is still reclining amid the Orange Towels. I am in a bar drinking hot chocolate. 😊

This cruise really seems to have been a series of all my poor Dad’s worst nightmares rolled into one. Mom’s next message focused on the extra-mural activities on offer …

“We are sitting in a lounge and suddenly there is much action and they are having a repeat of cutting flowers out of veggies. Dad is frantically casting around for an escape route.  No chance.  He is hemmed in by lots of over excited very large women.😃😄😁 (Editor’s note: my Dad is a serious fattist. If the vegetable cutters had been slim, he would probably have joined in.)  Your father has named this ship as belonging to the Sabena line. Which translates as Such A Bad Experience  Never Again…😐. We are now having a Samba lesson. Dad has fled back to the cabin. I am thinking of joining in using my cane as my partner. Dad says you have made him even more miserable by talking about roast lamb.. I think he will really appreciate Ethel and me from now on. Have you managed to get hold of our lift from the airport yet?  Dad of course shredding at the thought of us sitting at Lanseria with no welcoming arms to meet us. It would be the absolute finale to the whole experience.😢

Well, at least they made it out of there alive …

“BTW we heard today that there are two corpses in the fridges with our smoked salmon. One lady burst her intestine (I guess through coughing) and a 90 yr old man just gave up… We sat next to a man at breakfast who had been their dinner partners.  Suddenly there was an empty chair at the table. … it’s all happening on the Sinfonia 😣. We actually diverted to Madagascar in the early hours of the morning to drop off the old doll but apparently they wouldn’t take her. Poor dame – fancy being rejected even when you’re dead. 😢

Well, if nothing else was gained by this ocean-bound trip, one thing my Mom DID learn was how to swear like a sailor…

“We are now sitting in Durban harbour waiting to disembark (sailing talk for f$€king off the ship). We are lined up for take off between 10 and 10.30. We fly home at 3.30 pm. Swathed in orange towels.”

Just as I thought they were over the worst and started feeling hopeful that they would make it to dry land without any further disasters, Mom sent me her penultimate message …

“I have tied dad to a chair because they are throwing us off in groups and we are due to leave about 10 am. You can phone us now if you want to. 😃

When I called her, she told me that it was pouring with rain and that an announcement had just come over the loudspeaker that “due to the poor weather conditions, disembarkation would be delayed”.

So, you see: money can’t buy you happiness, but it CAN buy you two tickets on a cruise ship … which is kind of the same thing.

Editor’s note:  FOUND IN THE ARCHIVES: Actual photographic footage of the only time Dad smiled the entire cruise …

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