Mathur concludes a series on her experiences on board a Grand Princess
were spread out on our balcony in that rare state of just ‘being’,
mindless, mesmerised by the fluid sameness view of the ocean, now a deep,
moving blue, out of which a dolphin would occasionally leap in a spray of
I didn’t hurry, I was going to be late for the tour of the navigational
bridge. In five minutes we were tearing through corridors and lifts to
meet the officer who was to escort us up into a wide circular room that
looked more like a glass-encased computer suite than a ship’s bridge.
One of the officers there was talking to a party of passengers.
if computers crashed? Where was the wheel, the officer looking out to sea?
husband read my mind and pleaded with his eyes for me not to ask
embarrassing questions about icebergs and the Titanic, but out popped the
the Titanic was built like the Princess, could she have survived that
iceberg? The answer was a smug “yes”.
The officer informed us the bridge was equipped with
state-of-the-art electronic navigational systems operated around the clock
by a team of four watch-keepers; that its security surveillance and safety
management system continually watched 15,000 sensors around the ship, that
even if the computers broke down, it would sail.
evening, the Princess Patter informed us, was a formal night. I got dolled
up in the spa, and Hector had laid out my evening dress so I was ready for
the Captain’s Circle cocktail party, where the Commodore acknowledged
passengers who had done up to 40 cruises.
Bay, St Thomas, US Virgin Islands, the “American Paradise.”
strange. No movement beneath us. After being wracked by several
hurricanes, St Thomas depends on mainland America and the cruise ships to
keep going. It’s all charm, a Mecca to tourists from the shivering
north: bougainvillea, heavy
foliage, beaches. Island voices and faces. American twangs. A touch of
home for us.
from colder climes went off snorkeling, sight-seeing, sailing, but we were
more interested in our appointment with our quintessential chef Antonio
Cereda, rotund, gesticulating, more artist than chef.
did he cook gourmet food for 2,700 passengers and nearly 1,500 crew, for
eight separate eating places and 24-hour buffet and room service, I asked
him in a sparkling, never-ending galley, which was one of five. He pointed
at various areas of the galley like a policemen. “Thoonith I coook a
thouuusand lorbsters, 500 pheasants, meelions of escargot. I have five
chefs, and 210 staff,” he said, stirring soup in an enormous barrel.
told him I missed spicy food. At dinner that night I was served a gourmet
North Indian dish with mango pickle.
for the wealthy traveller, because it was lined with diamond shops, and
sun-starved travellers who headed straight to the beach and water sports.
Since we are neither, we turned back and read in the library, and
meandered into silver afternoon teas and siestas, like lazy fish.
Sampiero, the ship’s bursar, showed us the area where reverse osmosis
creates water for the ship, the generator that was big enough to power St
Thomas, the sewage plant, the extensive staff rooms.
said there were no West Indian staff on board because it’s simpler to
hire staff from countries whose per capita income quarter ours,
(Philippines, Romania, Thailand) and all of them have worked in five-star
hotels at home for at least five years. Why are they all unwaveringly
basic salary. They earn about US$2,000 in tips.
ship was deserted because everyone got off to go to Princess Cays, the
Princess’ private island in the Bahamas for a barbeque and frolic in the
chilled. In the evening at dinner we waved napkins in applause to kitchen
staff parading live fire puddings, and afterwards, leaned over winding
balconies in more confetti to watch an officer make a champagne fountain.
Then we poured until it flowed over.
end to the cruise.
away from the ship, thinking with warm feeling of the friends we made of a
luminous sun softly falling into the ocean, of a floating world away from
it all that made people fall in love all over again.