Bon voyage to our cruise ships

Torbay Weekly

As the beautiful liners leave our Bay should we join a cruise once it is Covid safe?

When friends invited us to join them on a cruise a few years ago I had mixed feelings.

Were cruises for the elderly with no sense of adventure; over-charging groups of tourists taken in a bubble to see the sights or were they a marine version of hi-di-hi playing Karaoke or bingo on the sun deck?

As a child I remember being taken to Southampton to watch the great ocean liners. And a trip to Barbados during a wet, cold January did have a certain appeal.

As we left port there was a 'sail away' party on the top deck. I enjoyed watching the ship cast off and sailing out to sea but the party could have been in Ibiza.

A loud DJ, the entertainments team and a general sing-along is not quite me.

I left the party and walked to the stern - you see, I’m already using nautical terms - where there was a quiet bar with a man playing the piano. Relax; this is a cruise.

With six restaurants I was not going to be hungry but, if I felt peckish between a full fried breakfast, a three-course lunch, a large afternoon tea and a six-course evening meal there was always a 24-hour self-service restaurant and a burger bar.

The two top restaurants were some of the best I have ever visited.

We went to the self-service restaurant for breakfast once. It was a bun flight; closer to a motorway service station than a restaurant.

Without attempting to do battle we headed to our normal restaurant where we were met at the door by the senior waiter, taken to our table and handed a menu. “Tea or coffee, sir?”

Why does anyone choose the self service?

There was a gym but I wondered whether using the stairs to our cabin on the 11th deck would give me enough exercise. I might even lose a few calories. I managed it a few times until the lift proved too tempting.

When we were docked in a beautiful island, I noticed some people stayed on board playing on slot machines. They might have found it cheaper to go to Torbay Road in Paignton.

In one bar there was a Cliff Richard tribute singer. Excited ladies of a certain age seemed to believe that the man himself had joined us from his Barbados home.

Being naturally curious I booked into the behind-the-scenes tour.

We went to the bridge and met the captain but it was the chief engineer who was really in control.

With his bank of computer screens monitoring everything from the massive diesel engines generating power for the electric engines which powered the ship to the toilets and sewerage systems.

We even went to the foc’sle, which I thought was only found on the Pirates of the Caribbean sailing ships.

The medical centre was a home from home. I realised I could have been a ship’s doctor but it’s a bit late now.

The galleys were massive. We were given the statistics for the amount of food consumed during a two-week cruise - 1,500kg bacon, 14,500kg beef, 3,700kg cheese, 8,600 bottles of wine and even 13,500 toilet rolls; but not all for me.

Wi-fi was free in some ports and I so rushed ashore with my smart phone to hear the latest Torquay United score.

The game had been postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. Funny, it’s wall-to-wall sunshine here.

We did go to the 'great British sail-away' as we headed back to Barbados.

When playing Land of Hope and Glory and waving a Union flag, I did not want to spoil the party by pointing out that P&O are now American owned, the ship was built in Italy, registered in Bermuda and the captain was Polish. Oh well, Rule Britannia.

As we wish bon voyage to our friends on all the cruise liners, yes, I’d love to join you when I can.