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Category: Travel Date: 08 Apr 01


Tipsily, I decided after the sunset sail-away party by the poolside on the upper decks to explore the ship. We were moving now, Commodore Mike Moulin told us in his Scottish accent, at the rate of 22 knots per hour.

Foolish idea.

 

We were lost in minutes somewhere in the bowels of this ship nearly 1,000 feet long with 18 decks. We emerged blindly from the lift on Deck Five into the three-storey atrium, balustrades, floors flashing yellow and gold marble, and see-through, cylindrical elevators.

 

To rough travellers like us, it felt like being on the Titanic - a string quartet filled the air, people already in cocktail dresses and blazers, milled about, sat about drinking in the bars, or on plush sofas, leaned over the curvaceous balconies.

 

Gormlessly, we made mental notes of the writing room, the library, the fine arts gallery, the players’ card room, where people were playing checkers and chess. We wound around the stairs quickly to the Purser’s desk which we spotted above us, and procured a map of the ship which was a relief, because it was bewilderingly huge, more like a floating town.

 

“Deck Six is lethal,” muttered my mate (husband), dragging me away from a huge, smoky casino where patrons were absorbed in winning and losing huge amounts, and the boutiques selling diamonds and clothes.

 

“Oh, look!” he said, trying to distract me, “here’s ‘Da Vinci’, our dining room,” not to be mixed up with the “Botticelli” and “Michelangelo” dining rooms, each in its splendour, paying homage in there to these respective Italian masters.

 

One level up, I was pulled away by more duty-free shops. We peeped into a flower-festooned chapel and watched a happy couple walk in to renew their vows. Later, we saw the bride dancing, her white dress billowing colour in the disco.

 

We were late to dinner, but also last to leave our table because by the time we were past the first of the four-course meal, we were already friends with our dinner companions throughout the trip - an older, amusing mid-western couple, Gary and Marilyn, feisty 87-year-old Hanya, who escaped Hitler’s death camps and could gamble anyone under the table, and her dry-witted, literary recently-widowed niece, Becky, who reminded us of Dorothy in the Golden Girls. Snap! Snap! went the ship’s photographers, who were at every table as they would be on every occasion throughout the trip.

 

We parted after dinner, they to the casino, us to the disco on Deck 18, which was 150 feet above water, accessed by a moving skywalk and surrounded by glass. Initially, we recoiled from the sight of the rush of water frothing in the dark beneath us, but soon we were dancing to Shaggy.

 

Two in the morning found us on Deck 16 sitting in the Oasis Spa - above us, dark sky and bright stars, warm water swirling around us, and a wicked breeze in our faces to give it a kick. We were rocked to sleep gently that night with a gentle rolling of the ship.

 

Monday, March 12

We would have slept all day if Hector, our trusty steward, hadn’t come knocking on our door with the continental breakfast which we had watching the ocean from our balcony.

 

After some pastry in the poolside patisserie/caviar bar, eating some more in the 24-hour cafe heaped with exquisite desserts, sea food, fruit, cheese and every imaginable type of hot and cold dishes endlessly laid out, it would be easy to get fat.

 

Guiltily, we headed out on Deck Seven (three times around the ship equalled a mile said the crew who handed us a 50-cent voucher for every mile walked) and walked around the ship 12 times. It was the most exhilarating walk of our lives, being blown backward and forward by the wind, salty air stinging our faces.

 

We collapsed on deck chairs where we cheered the Trini band’s calypso and reggae beat, and observed more food consumption around the pools, in the pizza shop, the hamburger grill and ice-cream bar.

 

My mate retired to our cabin for a nap, but not before rudely suggesting I could go off to the “nail care and colour coding” or a “non-surgical, absolute lifting facial” in the spa above us.

 

While he slept, I wandered around, lost, panicking a bit, wondering if I could find my way back.

 

I saw kids going mad in an enormous video game arcade, teenagers frolicking in their own pool playing a water polo match, a hall full of contented bingo players, people dressed for golf, checked my e-mail in the business centre, and happened upon an art auction where the prices were steep and the atmosphere packed with serious art collectors.

 

After watching the sun turn the deck golden and dip into the sea, we dressed for dinner, took in a Broadway musical show in the enormous Princess Theatre, which was packed with over 700 people, and heaved ourselves to the disco.

 

Three in the morning saw us playing table tennis, without either of us hitting a ball.

 

Next week: Galley of a thousand lobsters, and St Thomas.

 

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur