Fred and Jackie have the cabin next to ours. They are from London. The English as you know are rather class conscious and Fred and Jackie would be described as lower class, or if you want to be more politically correct, working class. My mother who never wanted to be politically correct would describe them as “common as muck”. Fred is a small man in both stature and intellect. He must be around 70, but tries to conceal this by dyeing what little hair he has an unnatural shade of brown. He then gamely combs it from one side to the other in an unsuccessful attempt to cover his scalp. Jackie is an ample woman who sounds and looks like Barbara Windsor (sorry, only the English will know whom I am talking about) but without the formidable bosom and uplift bra. Her hair is bleach blonde and teased without mercy.
We haven’t spoken to them as yet, and have no plans to do so, but we already know more than we care to. They spend most of the time on their balcony with their television on in the cabin, turned up to full blast so that they can hear it. One might think that this would cause conversation to be at a minimum, but one would be wrong. They talk constantly and very loudly so that they can be heard over the TV. We get to enjoy both their TV and their conversation although the second is not only vapid but extremely hard to understand as they speak with a heavy London accent.
Our balconies are separated by a 7 ft tall panel which they seem to think affords them privacy. They are wrong. There is a large gap either side of the panel allowing us a clear view, which they appear to be blissfully unaware of, as they both spend most of the time in their underwear. I know we shouldn’t look, but it is like a train wreck. Our eyes keep being drawn back to the horrors. He wears a very small pair of brown briefs that cleverly match the color of his hair, giving a new twist to the old joke about matching drapes and rug. A small and perfectly round pot belly hangs over the top of the briefs. He spends most of the time in a reclining chair while his wife fetches and carries drinks and snacks . She wears a large white bra and (mercifully) an even larger pair of black panties. Her underwear covers large areas of skin, but no where near enough. We are now on day 3 of the cruise and they either have a supply of identical underwear or neither of them has changed as yet.
They are of course the passengers of the week and I have been trying to take a surreptitious photo of them through the gap between our balconies, but it has been impossible, and I think they are becoming suspicious!
Day three is notable for several other reasons too.
First and foremost is that we have been summoned by the Captain for a “Passenger Piracy Briefing”.
We are used to every cruise starting out with a life boat drill, but a passenger piracy briefing is an entirely new concept in safety and does not seem to install confidence in the 600 passengers. We are asked to assemble in the theater as if this is going to be a half hour of entertainment. It is anything but, although the captain cuts a dashing figure in full uniform. He is surprisingly young and handsome and speaks well. In other circumstances he would look good on a stage, and even his name, Captain Justin Lawes has a theatrical ring to it.
He starts out by telling us that we are going to be in the high risk piracy area for the next 14 days. There is a giant sucking sound as 600 people all draw in their breath in shock. None of this was explained in the cruise brochure. The Captain sensing our dismay goes on to say that there is absolutely no need to worry. He then spends the next 30 minutes giving exactly the opposite impression.
Captain Lawes says that he has just been on a 16 month sabbatical from Princess Cruises during which time he was working on a world wide research and advisory panel on Piracy, which is comforting in a strange way. He at least is an expert. He then says that most piracy action takes place immediately after monsoon season when the seas are calm – and guess what!! That is precisely NOW! That is not comforting.
He describes how the pirates operate in some detail, showing photographs of pirates heavily armed with machine guns and rocket launchers, and describing them as “well prepared, heavily armed and with little respect for human life”. Captain Jack Sparrow they are not. If this is supposed to make us feel better, it is not working.
Next he describes the ships defenses against these alarmingly well armed pirates.
At the first sighting of a pirate ship, the ships alarm bell will sound seven times, and then an announcement over the speaker system will be made which says : “ Code Sierra Papa “. Captain Lawes explains that this is the code for pirate attack so that we all understand why the alarm was sounded. I fail to understand the need for a code. Is it to fool the pirates? Besides, we might have forgotten it by the time the real announcement is made. What is wrong with just saying “Pirate Attack”. We could all understand that. Or if a little more urgency was needed he could just yell “the fxxxxxx pirates are coming” We would all react very quickly to that.
He then continues with more details of how the crew will protect us from an attack, First of all there will be an extra lookout positioned on the Panorama Buffet balcony at all times. Very reassuring.
The ship also has a series of water hoses that will be aimed at the pirates and their ships if they try to board. OK, now we are feeling better. The pirates have machine guns and rocket launchers and we have hoses.
Our final weapon is something called an LRADwhich when aimed at the pirates can cause deafness.
I am not convinced that being hard of hearing is going to affect the pirates aim with their machine guns.
Finally Captain Lawes asks if anyone has any questions.
There is of course a flurry of hands from nervous passengers.
My hand is up too. I want to suggest that all we need do is put Fred and Jackie out on their balcony in their underwear and no self respecting pirate will come anywhere near us.