10 things you learn on a cruise

  1. Ships have morgues. Statistics, innit.
  1. Lots of couples don’t talk to each other. At all. It makes you wonder how profoundly unhappy they must be – spending all their time with a person they don’t seem to like. I sat near two separate couples in their 70s every night for a week and not a single word threatened the complete silence between them. At one point during the day one of the women had a big fat insect on her head but her husband was so disinclined to speak to her that he said nothing. He just looked away, looking sour and permanently disappointed.
  1. It’s true that you get the face you deserve by the age of 50. Because most of the people on many cruises are well into their retirement, you’re exposed to a greater concentration of older people than in normal life. And you see how much their faces are set into their most commonly used expression. If you have resting bastard face that’s how you’re going to look for the rest of your days. If you’re a smiler, it’ll show. Start putting in the training now.
  1. It’s hard to see how cruising is romantic unless you’re paying top dollar for a big suite with lots of space. The average cabin has twin beds and a shower room that’s not that much bigger than that of a train, and most have portholes that don’t open so you can’t get properly fresh air unless you’re on deck. Many of the public areas can be pretty crowded so your only privacy is in your room or out on deck when it’s nippy or raining.
  1. The staff work unbelievably hard. In many cases they’re on eight or nine-month contracts, during which time they don’t get days off – just “time” off, which usually means a couple of hours here and there. I recently spoke to a waiter who would have loved a couple of hours on dry land – to smell the greenery and have a bit of time to himself – but it was more important for him to be able to use the time to Skype his wife and two-year-old son back home. In many cases staff get a couple of months off between contracts and won’t be paid during this time. While on board they live in very close quarters, usually with shared bathrooms, and don’t have much privacy or fresh air. They start work early and finish late, and will likely experience extreme temperatures, and if they’re in a customer-facing role often have to remain calm and friendly while dealing with rude, bewildered or patronising passengers. I don’t know how they do it.
  1. Like Kardashians, ships require an extraordinary level of upkeep, and it’s a 24-hour job to keep them maintained and shipshape. Something’s always being cleaned, repainted, tightened, loosened, greased, repaired, pulled up, pulled down, covered, uncovered, replaced or varnished.
  1. It’s awesome when you discover that your captain is a geek. You want someone alert and communicative, with an obsessive knowledge of – and deep love for – his or her vessel. Those louche guys in their dodgy white outfits can do one.
  1. There’s something wonderfully soporific about being warm and dry on the open sea. If being rocked as a baby is anywhere as good as this, then infants are lucky little bastards. On ships you can fall asleep wherever and whenever the heck you like and nobody gives a toss.
  1. Lots of old people bloody love live entertainment, no matter how cheesy.
  1. You will be alarmed by the behaviour of some old people at the buffet. Pause to let someone through and they’ll smell blood and pile in. This is their revenge on society for being treated as if they’re invisible. This is their turf. Do not fuck with them.

Ashley Davies

@msashleydavies

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