Sunday, November 8, 2015

Albania revisited ... and other places - part two

We're in the middle of the Atlantic. 

I’m pondering the shuffleboard court on which l've yet to see someone playing. Perhaps because, at nearly the ship's highest point, it's often seriously windy up here. However, I enjoy solitude, so sit in the lee and think about ships, this ship and this ocean.
Shuffleboard (also known as deck quoits) was once - bar a turn on the dance floor - about as active as it got on transatlantic liners. Now, the possibilities are extensive, not to say daunting. On one day alone, there're forty activities in which I could conceivably participate.
Having completed the daily quiz, I can pedal my way to fitness; hurry to the morning beginners' bridge class then onto an expert's lecture on 'The Ancient Mediterranean'; consume a massive lunch followed by a cooking class on paella and tamales; hustle myself to a dancing class (never, ever, ever) or digital workshop; pause for 'English High Tea'; conclude the afternoon with 'Total Body Conditioning' and a 'Happy Hour' pick-me-up.
But for the lecture, lunch and tea (not to mention breakfast and dinner), I have done none of that. 

I do, however, shiver in the storerooms ensuring there's sufficient ice cream ... 

... find plenty of Molson 'Canadian' (though I don't drink the stuff) ... 

... am gratified to discover Holland America serves Saskatchewan lentils ... 

... visit the (amazingly) cheerful laundry crew who deal with eighteen hundred people's (passengers and crew) towels, sheets and unmentionables. These activities distract from thoughts that we are crossing an ocean.

The seemingly dismissive (for such a body of water) term ‘the pond’ is not of our time, but dates to the 17th Century. A sailor who'd survived 'the pond' had boasting rights. How odd that this ocean, not long ago (at least in terms of history) a terrifying barrier, is now a holiday highway.
A few hours flight from Toronto to London, battling encroaching elbows, does not do the Atlantic justice. Nor does a shoulder season voyage to Europe. It's as well to remember modern ships sink in Atlantic storms. A cruise ship only becomes a ship in heavy weather; 'til then, she's a floating hotel.
This hotel is similar to a country club in the suburbs of a medium-sized, reasonably prosperous, Canadian or American city. A decidedly conventional country club with fees high enough to keep the riff-raff out. Most members, otherwise known as passengers, are friendly, have been, at the least, moderately successful, have the usual middle-class views, prejudices, aches and pains. Although the voyage is billed as an ‘Adventure’, their (and my) adventurous days are long over.
And how sea travel has changed, even in my time. Years ago, before my first voyage on Cunard, I received a handsome (although I suspect faux) leather wallet containing ticket and travel documents. Nowadays, you’re reduced to the Holland America website where you print out your own ticket and luggage tags.

Once there was glamour (pictures stolen from a Maasdam passageway) ... 

... on the other hand, look at how much luggage they took in the old days. And, unlike Cunard (so long ago my picture with the QE2's captain is marked ‘Kodak’) …

... I don't feel obliged to have a dinner jacket on Holland America - hurrah!

Aft to the stern pool. Closer to Europe, it's cooler and no swimmers. Or perhaps they're all having a restorative afternoon snooze.

Taking the hint, I'm titling this shot 'View from Deckchair Before Nap'. For those interested in a fuller description of Maasdam, here's a link to last year's post: