Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sailing south

Well, I'm not sure whether cruising in an 80,000 ton vessel really counts as sailing, but here we are anyway. 

Sam and I are on board P&O Oceana, heading from Southampton to Lisbon which we last visited in 2006 in Kalessin, then on to Lanzarote where neither of us has been before, Gran Canaria where Sam started the ARC in 2009, Tenerife where I have sailed and Sam has been on business, La Palma which again is new to both of us, and finally Madeira where Sam has been several times, including a visit on passage to start the ARC, and I have never been. We return to Southampton on 10 May. 

Cruising ought to be perfect for us. Not only are we at sea quite a bit (six sea days out of 13), but we are aboard a ship with superb disabled access, going to warm and beautiful places most of which are just familiar enough to feel comfortable but not enough to feel stale. There is masses to do including options where I can leave Sam and go and do my own thing, endless amounts of food, and very kind and helpful people. 

Yet I do feel slightly suffocated in a middle-England, middle-class, Daily-Mail-reading enclave of Jack Vettriano lovers. I'm also very conscious of how little Sam can do and say, and how often he is inevitably frustrated. I didn't realise until we got aboard, for example, that there is no disabled access to any of the pools or hot tubs. The lifts are distinctly annoying, because with so many fragile and elderly people on board, and 10 passenger decks, they are extremely full at busy times. Several times we have had to board a lift going the wrong way, just so that we can get the wheelchair in! London Aviva people will recall the similar frustrations in St Helen's. 

Our cabin is spacious and bright. It would be lovely to have a balcony, but I believe Oceana has only one balcony cabin with disabled access, so it's probably booked up two years ahead. 

On the other hand this morning Sam went to a talk about great escapes of WW2 - perfect for him, and I went and had a swim while it was on. (The pools are outside and are lovely until you emerge into 12°C air and a F5 northerly breeze, which at least is right behind us and only about 5 knots of apparent wind). After lunch and Sam's art class, where we put an ink wash on to his drawing of an elephant, I went to yoga, then we relaxed and dressed for dinner, and after dinner we went to a classical music concert - not quite Royal Festival Hall, but definitely a bit of culcher. I can't think of anywhere else where we could pack all that into a day and have a lovely view of the blue Atlantic, not to mention being gently rocked by swell all day. 

The perfect finishing touch came at the end of the day. I had left Sam's elephant drawing propped up on the bed so we could admire it, and when we got back to our cabin, we found that our steward had made it an elephantine friend....

I was so touched, I was almost in tears. Hooray for P&O.