Harry’s Ramblings My First Cruise Lecturing Part 2
We checked into our twin bedded cabin in the crew quarters, resigned that for the next six nights we weren’t going to snuggle up to each other as usual over the past 46 married years. But hey, it was free. Because this was our first cruise with me as a paid lecturer.
The ship was the Oriana, she was docked in Gran Canaria harbour in the Canaries, and we had been flown by scheduled BA and Iberia flights. My, but the life of a cruise ship lecturer is not the most glamorous, as we had left our Eastbourne home at 2am to check in at Heathrow for our 6am flight to Madrid.
We don’t fly that often, so took a little while to acquaint ourselves with the phone app where you can check your flight details, as well as check in online. When we arrived in Madrid, there was a message informing us our check in desk for the onward plane. The Duke of Edinburgh was asked by the mayor of Newcastle ‘how was your flight.’ The Duke replied ‘have you ever flown?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Well, it was just like that.’ Same goes for our two flights.
Transfer taxi waiting for us, we arrived at the ship to be greeted at the bottom of the gangplank, not allowed to board until we had surrendered passports, to be redeemed against issued receipt, at Southampton. Passenger cabins start at deck five, we were on deck four, occupied by officers and entertainment staff. Small beds, I stood between them and almost touched both side walls. Plenty of storage room under the bed for unpacked cases, very small shower room, you could sit on the loo and lean against the sink.
Within an hour we had listened to the safety instruction, then an hour later we joined the other joining entertainers for WTD. These initials stand for water tight doors. The chief engineer took us to level three, to show us a water tight door that we could possibly have to close. But only under strict supervision, because previous crew members had suffered due to being stuck when they were closing. Don’t know how because it was a very loud noise.
After that, it was free time, so we changed, then up to the Crows Nest for the first drink. This is an observation bar on the top of the ship, at the front or to be technical sharp end, huge windows allowing a panoramic ocean view. And time to test our payment card, because as entertainment crew with passenger status, we had the staff discount on drinks of 50%.
Dinner was enjoyed at the blunt end, atop the Beach House. Some of this was on the open deck, the rest indoors, but we much preferred to brave the occasional breeze as we enjoyed our meal. There is an extra nominal charge, willingly paid on five of our six nights. There is another supplementary restaurant called Sindhu, specialising in Indian cuisine, apparently very good.
Day two was in Arrecife, Lanzarote, we just had a wander around, shops, coffee and cake, shops, seafront, bought a hat at E7.99, sat on harbour wall, lost new hat into the sea, bought another hat at same price, then lunch.
We have only been here for the day on a cruise, never holiday, but our impression is one of a pleasant, clean, harbour, main street with lots of local shops as well as cafes, am sure there is a different atmosphere when a ship is in port. The locals seem to be well dressed, the shops sell the usual things but at sensible prices. Two black coffees and one large cake was less than five euros. All within an easy stroll of the ship, or £4 charged by ship for coach transfer, somewhat over the top.
Day three was at sea, my first performance. This was in the main 500 seat theatre, theme ‘They Made Us Laugh’, about comedy hero Tommy Cooper. Cruise lines insist that lecturers have a power point presentation to accompany, I also had to provide laptop and leads. The technical staff were great, all went well, with about a third full due to competing attractions such as drinking cocktails by the pool, watching people drinking cocktails by the pool, and line dancing for beginners.
The next day was in Lisbon, a favourite city of ours. The ship’s reception were selling open top bus tickets for E19, on the bus E22. If you bought in Lisbon, there was a confusing choice of four different bus routes, so unsure beware. Ships dock within a comfortable fifteen minute walk of first main tourist square, with lots of building work in progress. Watch your step. Many of fascinating shops, including one selling mainly vintage port. E1,000 for a 1912 dusty bottle, or E35 for a selection of smaller new ones.
We had lunch in the main square alongside the river, the restaurant was also a beer museum. A bowl of pasta, a glass of the local Vino Verde, relaxing in the sun wearing my new hat, idyllic.
Days five and six were at sea, both lectures, first about Norman Wisdom, the last Max Miller. Both well received, after Max, quite a few people came up for a chat, one a photo, one to say ‘your talks are more-ish. I wanted to know more.’ That made me almost preen when I told Pam after.
As joining the ship mid-way through the voyage, we had to report to the library on last, docking day, to be interviewed by UK Passport Border Control at the silly time of 6.45am, then as crew we could disembark at our leisure.
There is something very pleasant, sitting on top deck of a luxury ship appreciating a large gin and tonic paying half price, as the ocean slowly waves past, soporific noiseless peace while in the company of civilised passengers in a crime-free society.