What image first springs to mind when you think of a holiday cruise?
For me it’s the gentle stroll around around the promenade deck nodding politely to immaculately dressed ladies sporting frilly white parasols; conversing with Lady Wasername and her dowdy companion while ignoring the bounder in his garishly striped blazer. I expect to be sleuthing with Miss Marple, complete with her knitting and to round off the walk bumping into a dapper Hercule Poirot then, much to his obvious annoyance, mispronouncing his name and referring to him as French.
Taking “a turn” around the promenade deck these days involves far greater dangers than the odd knife or bullet seemingly ever present in the 1930’s of Agatha Christie. Firstly there are the hordes of keep-fit fanatics. Banned from running elsewhere on the ship they are to be found on the promenade deck going round and round like hamsters in a wheel. Like the bell-less cyclists on the streets…sorry pavements…back home there is no warning of their approach, just the print of their soles on the back of your shirt to mark their passing. But even they have to contend with the starboard side puffers.
Around each starboard side door lurks a huddle of desperate smokers. Driven outdoors by the civilised world they mutter, plot and dream of the post WWII era where their vice was glamour incarnate. These days they spitefully haul chairs onto the centre of the walkway and raise their feet onto the handrails to create as big a barrier as possible, no doubt blaming the speeding fitness fanatics for their plight.
Having had a most enjoyable amble around most of the deck, notwithstanding the fact that we’ve yet to encounter anybody resembling either of Ms Christie’s great characters (or minor characters for that matter), it’s time to brave the starboard side smoker’s smog. We steadily increase our pace until we are within 10m, then turn on the afterburners and blast past before the fug can reach our noses never mind enter our lungs. Danger past we ease off and drop back to an amble, returning to our contemplation of our view of the…um…sea. A quick check of the stopwatch tells me that I have now notched up a qualifying time for the 100m hurdles for the Rio Olympics. Unfortunately there would appear to be a host of qualifying times set today as, behind us, the keep fit fanatics fly across the lounging smokers with far greater speed and panache than I was able to achieve.
But look, at last we have a view on our horizon! Soon we will be arriving at the home of the apes, internet gambling and thumbing a nose at Spain…all with a bit of colonial jingoism thrown in for good measure. Next it’s Gibraltar!