There are two sorts of cruise passenger: those who love days at sea as an excuse not to do anything at all except eat and snooze; and those who see them purely as a necessary, and quite boring, evil. To placate the latter there are extra activities laid on, so today I attended the Captain’s Chat first of all.
He is (I asked) still cheerfully unrepentant about giving the NZ marine forecast people a hard time – “I have lost all faith in Kiwi forecasters!” – and now jokily relies on Siri for his weather predictions in his PA announcements. Not that, he admitted, he would have done anything different back at Tauranga if he’d been given more accurate information about the storm and sea conditions.
Then there was a lecture on Australia’s dark history of transportation – a subject always good for some horrifying facts and figures: 300 lashes with a cat o’ nine tails was pretty standard on the ships coming out, laying the bones bare with just 100; in Tasmania men running alongside the jigger acted as the engine for a railway; a full quarter of the convicts on board the second transportation fleet died at sea; it didn’t end till 1868 in Western Australia.
And then he moved onto the topic of the treatment of Aboriginals (no excuse for the several incorrect spellings of the word, by the way): “Not a pretty story”. Their population in Tasmania was reduced, in 1873, to just one, Truganini, who died three years later. The ‘Keep Australia White’ campaign of the first half of the 20th century today sounds (though this American professor chose not to make the connection) alarmingly like current news.
Next I did a galley tour, full of steam and stainless steel and spotless white uniforms: 59 cooks, 5 kitchens, 24-hour activity which, during the tour, involved much stirring, frying, rolling and cutting. Of course, by the time it finished, it was lunchtime and I had to eat some of it – for form’s sake, naturally.
Afterwards there was art: an attempt to do a version of an Aboriginal dot painting that was not a great success, thanks in equal part to having to use a fancy brush instead of a stick; to having to listen to nerve-jangling, apparently inescapable and absurdly inappropriate musak (Frank Sinatra) given that the average age on this ship is 63; and to a total lack of talent on my part. But I learned to respect the inspiration and dexterity of the original artists. (My pale imitation consigned without regret to the rubbish bin.)
Outside, the pool deck was well used through the afternoon by sunbathers, snoozers and readers, with an alarming number of tats on full display (remember: 63). On the jogging track above, serious women in stretch pants swirled around above the recumbent forms below, presumably keeping count of their revolutions in their heads: 13 to cover a mile. I wondered: if they jogged instead of walked, would they have to do more circuits to make up for the ship moving below them with each stride? Or would going first with the ship’s direction, and then against it, cancel each other out?
Dinner tonight was at Prime C on the top deck, one of the two specialty restaurants on board, which are not included in the fare (so thanks, Azamara, for hosting us). It was a very classy affair, from the décor through the service to the food itself, which was beautifully cooked and presented. Chateaubriand, since you ask. Delicious, and so tender!
Finally, tomorrow being the last full day of this cruise, there was the Crew Parade – a cheesy affair, but irresistible, especially on a small ship, where so many of the faces are recognisable. Captain Johannes was jolly, and keen to share how many passengers are staying on board, or have signed up already for further cruises. The ambiance was so friendly that it was even more of the shame that the mood was so totally wrecked five minutes later by sodding jazz on the piano.