Thursday, 24 December 2009


Tuesday 22 December

At breakfast this morning I’m appalled at the manners of some of the passengers on neighbouring tables and grateful at least that among our group there’s absolutely no issues of questionable dress, manners or personal hygiene.

Some people have no idea how to speak to the staff. The Welshman at the table behind me, his voice roughened with cigarettes and coal dust at the dog-end of a lifetime of hard physical work raises his voice to mineshaft drilling levels but throughout the meal never uses the word ‘please’ or ‘thankyou’ and expresses his every requirement in the ‘I want’ phrasing. The people at the next table over are self-proclaimedly ‘from the Midlands’ which you know means somewhere desperate like Walsall or Smethwick because if they were from anywhere with less knife-crime they’d boast about it, and I’d wager their last upscale dining experience was probably in the local equivalent of the Crossroads Motel.

Their Malaysian server is polite and listens carefully, but with such strong regional accents and idioms even I have difficulty making out everything they say, and it’s understandable if sometimes the staff don’t get the food orders exactly right.

I think there’s a bit of an undeclared hierarchy operating in the dining room because this less-popular area under the sweeping staircase - where I’ve deliberately chosen to have breakfast today because there’s a Russian/Indonesian tag team of waiters who I like because they’re unfailingly helpful, friendly and efficient – seems to be filled mainly with the sort of people who bought their cruises from advertisements in the Daily Express. It’s quite different in the wing where our group is allocated for dinner, we’re surrounded by a more international clientele, and people who don’t necessarily look like they need a wash.

I have to compact this, otherwise we’ll all get bored and in fact after such a busy day on Monday I’m glad to scan the ship’s programme and find there’s very little I want to do, except I need some exercise so I make several circuits of the walking deck, interestingly during the crew’s boat drill where they spend a lot of time standing about being counted, so I use Volodymir as a handy lap-counter (three times past him makes a mile) and suitably warmed-up by the walking go to a simple line dancing class. This is far more enjoyable than I expected it to be, and I remember groups I joined in London and wonder if it’s time to have another go. Makes my legs ache, though, which is probably a good thing.

But otherwise, it’s a quiet day, catching up with the blogging and - oh the bliss – enjoying a first hour in the sun.

After dinner we meet some of the other ‘Friends of Dorothy’ for the cabaret show in the theatre, a song-and-dance spectacular featuring everything from the tango to the Charleston. The dancers work extremely hard and whilst most of the team is Ukranian and the girls look like they chose this career as a fallback alternative to mail-order bride, it’s slick, colourful and engaging and Akjan as a professional dancer is particularly impressed. The four singers are English, and average, but the audience seems to love it.

Still not Shirley Bassey, though.

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