|Image: David Goehring|
Welcome, dear readers, to the first blog post on ‘Freedom from the Mundane’ for over a fortnight. Just when you thought it was safe to direct your angst-ridden browsers to my blog, in the false hope that I had been cast adrift somewhere in the Med, I have but returned, full of chirpy tales and woeful catastrophe.
Well, not quite, but you’ll see what I mean in a moment.
This post sees me write my first words in any form since the 6th of the month. I have written nothing in the way of notes, poems, prose or text, and have read little other than most of The Butt by Will Self, which I can highly recommend.
The holiday was—long. When our cruise ship, Island Escape, left Palma, Majorca, on the evening of the 7th, little did we know what we had let ourselves in for. The positives were accentuated and the negatives—well, there were more of these than we imagined.
Our floating city basked majestically in each of the many ports we visited, and provided us well with panoramic views, scrumptious food and drink, and enjoyable entertainment in the form of theatrical shows, musical gigs, and poolside shenanigans. That’s what the brochures insisted we would get, and on the most part, that’s what we got: fun in the sun visiting some of Europe’s most delightful towns and cities.
What they never told us was the actual size and location of the cabin we would be living in. Picture me, my wife and daughter in a room no bigger than an oversized version of Davey Jones’ Locker, complete with bunk beds and shut off from all time and space, and you will start to get the picture.
They never mentioned that cabins in the aft of the ship (ours was as far to the front of the ship as you could physically get) would be subject to the most awful spine shuddering noises every time the berth ropes were laid out or the anchors plopped into the sea. Aft cabins are also subject to the full force of any level of wave, for being at the front of the ship means even the tiniest of motion the ship makes in a vertical or otherwise direction, is magnified ten-fold.
Another thing they don’t tell you is the possibility of the most freakish weather the Mediterranean Sea has experienced for two decades. In my head I never once imaged that a cruise ship could ever be moved by mere waves, or at least, not noticeably. Our first night on board, though, we assumed was to be the norm: swaying, rocking, creaking, and the thunderous noise of large waves crashing into the hull. Nobody slept much that first night.
During the course of the fortnight we were all ill at some point. My worst night saw me sleeping on the toilet seat simply because I could not lie down with the rocking being so strong it induced instant wooziness. It also meant I was in handy reach for the sink, as I was left to vomit my way through the dark hours until we finally docked somewhere in Europe.
Gail had it worse: missed meals, missed days on shore, and a lot of sickness. Even Laura had her moments. As I write this, three days after returning, I can still feel my head’s inners swaying to the motion of the waves and still have problems walking in a straight line. Not good.
All that aside, the places we visited and the awesome Med weather helped to make up for the few days and nights we had ill. We saw Palma (Majorca); Mahon (Menorca); Olbia (Sardinia); Trapani (Sicily); Livorno, Naples, Pisa, Civitavecchia (Italy); Barcelona (Spain); Cannes, Villefranche (France).
Visiting these places gave us a taste of places we might return to on longer visits, and others we won’t. For example, Barcelona is most definitely a city break weekend Gail and I will be taking in the future, as is more time to be spent in Italy and Sicily, and a few days on the south coast of France. Our time spent in Naples will be our last—it’s a dump and a nightmare to walk in.
My only gripe with the cruising method of seeing these places was that I never felt I had enough time to absorb myself in the different cultures and get to know the people. There I was, snapping away with my camera in my ridiculous hat and shorts like some mad kind of tourist, when I realised I much prefer to lap up a new place over a few days, not hours.
Of the places we visited, I would have to say that the two stops in France—Villefranche in particular—Sicily and Barcelona were my favourite. We had glorious weather everywhere we went—35 degrees in Naples—and hardly a single cloud throughout the holiday. Other than the wind while at sea, that side of things was good and I returned with a decent colour about my fair skin.
On board, Laura made several pals as did Gail and I. Our best pals during the first week being two elderly Welsh ladies, who had the ability to out-dance and out-drink everyone on the entire ship. I kid you not; Linda (67) and Peggy (79) hailed from Port Talbot and have to be two of the most energetic pensioners I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.
During the second week we hooked up with a Welsh family—Karen and Simon with daughter Chloe (who made pals with Laura)—and we quickly found they were on the same wavelength as us when it came to letting down hair.
We also became pals with the entertainment team (yet again!) in particular the two musicians from the Sundowner Bar, who, when we weren’t in the theatre watching a show, we sat and watched Bobby and Assen play their piano and guitar magic every night over a few whiskies and rum.
I’m glad I had the experience of a cruise holiday, and I think given enough time I might come around to doing one again, but it will be a while. The memories of never-ending nights spent inside a room no bigger than a jail cell, with no way of telling if it was night or day while vomiting your heart out, is still too fresh in my mind. Maybe one day.
Of the positives, we met a lot of lovely people, saw a lot of great places (some of which we will return for longer), and ate some wonderful food (I nearly collapsed into ecstasy after enjoying a coffee and canoli while in Civitavecchia).
Of the negatives, I will never forget the hell of sea sickness, the state of my nerves after living cooped up with my family in a jail cell for two weeks (they’ll say the same about me!), or the fact it was impossible to relax entirely at any point. I’m home and it’s great, but I’m as tired as ever and feel like I need a week away all by myself just to get over the experience.
I think I returned with circa 800 photographs, so please bear with me while I select a few to post and get them uploaded.