The driving rain no longer matters – we are now on board Seabourn. Life slows right down and comfort soars right up. We are met by smiling crew members with bottles of champagne. There is nothing like a little decadence, except perhaps a little more.
It takes a very short time to realise that this is not your usual cruise, not even for Seabourn. The shorts and T shirts crowd are missing. In their place is a group of extremely well turned out guests, dressed expensively and with good taste. Everyone is well traveled and presumably adventurous because we are, after all, going to places that very few people get to visit, and although we are doing so in considerable style and comfort, conditions off the ship will often be harsh and uncomfortable.
It is not a cruise for the faint of heart. All of which makes for an interesting group of people.
It is a crowd that we find much friendlier than we have found on other cruises. Already groups are gathering as people introduce themselves and chat. Champagne flows freely as does the conversation. There are a noticeable number of people much younger than we are which is good and a sizable gaggle of gays and lesbians which is even better. There is always an air of expectancy at the beginning of a cruise, but this is something else. Excitement is in the air, and it is heady stuff.
Suddenly we hear our names being called. We turn to find Mary and Joseph bearing down on us. Even in this elegant crowd, Joseph stands out. Not a hair out of place, he looks as if he has just stepped off the pages of a fashion magazine, elegant in a cream coloured cable knit sweater and blue slacks both of which look as if they cost more than I spend on clothes in a year. His boat shoes are worn without socks. Of course they are. Neither he nor Mary shows any sign of just having battled through the torrential rain that has left us looking soggy round the edges.
Mary starts talking several yards before she reaches us. Heads are turning, a fact that clearly pleases her. She becomes even more animated. She laughs a lot, and her laughter has a tinkle of money in it.
We finally reach our cabin. On the table sits a small vase of flowers and, much more importantly a bottle of champagne in a silver ice bucket. Such a nice decorating touch. But before we can open the bottle there is a knock on the door and our stewardess is there to welcome us. She is carrying two glasses of champagne and a small plate of hors d’oevres. Can there ever be too much champagne? It seems we are about to find out.
A sail away party has been planned on deck at 5pm where the crew plan to serve us cocktails and of course champagne, but because of the bad weather, the party has been cancelled. Instead we retire to the observation lounge where the group is already beginning to feel like family, perhaps partly because it is Christmas and partly because of the adventure that lies ahead.
At dinner we are given a table in the middle of the dining room where we can see and be seen. The couple at the next table immediately catches our eye. The woman is in her sixties with a rather strange hairstyle, back combed into a large frothy mess, the front half of which is white and the back half is dyed black. She is short and stocky, with an ample bosom on which rests a huge necklace quite resplendent on its plump velvety cushion. Gordon says she reminds him of a poor man’s Elizabeth Taylor. A very poor man, I would say. However she does have a wry sparkle in her eye and she keeps whispering comments to her husband that make him laugh out loud. She drinks glasses of white wine faster than the waiter can deliver them. Once the glass is empty she simply holds it high above her head waving it round in circles while continuing to talk to her husband. Her liver must be showing signs of domestic violence.
Gary is ten years older and looks every day of it. He bears a striking resemblance to Roger Daltry after a hard night. He is even dressed like an ageing pop star in black trousers, black T shirt and black belt. Short and stocky, just like his wife, his face has been ravaged by excess, with crevices and canyons where lines used to be. His hair is thin, colorless and receding, presumably to get away from his face. He has the expression of a man in constant pain until he laughs, which he does loudly and often, and then his face lights up and everything jiggles. They both have a great deal of charm and absolutely no class.
We know we are going to like them
It will surprise no one to learn that they are Australian, and he was indeed a musician in his youth. She talks and he laughs. Her name is Charmin, it really is, just like the toilet paper and judging from her alcohol intake just as absorbent. We talk of many things, including the royal family. She has great admiration for the Queen and felt very sorry for her when she had to give up the royal yacht Britannia.
“She has to work so hard, and the poor dear is over 90” Charmin says, adding as a seeming after thought “and she probably doesn’t have as much money as I do. ”
Now that’s a line that maybe only an Australian would say, and it certainly is a conversation stopper.
But before we can pursue that topic further, two men approach our table. They have apparently been watching us and wonder whether we are from Hawaii because we are wearing colorful shirts. A pretty poor opening line. Why couldn’t they just admit that we are so devastatingly handsome that they had to say hello. Unfortunately they don’t know when to say goodbye. They stand hovering over us for fifteen minutes saying little of interest.
We return our attention to Charmin and Gary, but now it is Gary who is talking egged on by Charmin. He tells some great stories about his time as a musician (he played on the original Queen Mary). He explains that his memory is not as good as it used to be and he forgets most of the stories until he starts drinking and then they all come back to him. He must have drunk a lot this evening because the stories keep coming. But his cure for Alzheimers is one that I can readily embrace.
Gary has reached the age of 28 in his story telling when two more men come over to our table. We are beginning to feel as if there is a flashing neon sign over our heads. These two are a step up in entertainment value from the last two and know not to stay too long. George is American, in the last quarter of his life and in desperate need of a cosmetic dentist. Miguel is Mexican and 30 years younger. He has been blessed with considerably better teeth but with little else to distinguish himself. Plain but pleasant as my mother would say. George does most of the talking. He lets us know that they have a house on the lake with a tennis court where they host various tennis tournaments for charity. We are beginning to feel financially inadequate in this crowd. He goes on to say they have sailed on Seabourn many times, always in a suite, for over a year in total – nearly 400 days. That alone is an impressive economic feat.
We later discover that they are so well known that as soon as they sit down for dinner, plates of caviar and glasses of champagne are brought straight to their table for them to enjoy while they decide what they are going to pick from the menu. I so want to be like them. We briefly discuss the likelihood of us going kayaking when we reach Antarctica (Seabourn does offer that possibility). George has been considering it, but had assumed in the way that only the truly wealthy would assume, that a member of the Seabourn crew would be paddling and they would just be sitting in the kayak taking in the view. When I explain that is not how it works and that they would have to paddle for themselves, George reels back in shock. Evidently they will not be kayaking.
We are still laughing when Joseph and Mary stop by. Joseph is now in a stunningly cut suit and looks more elegant than ever. Mary tells us that Joseph always has more luggage than she does.
At this point we are two of the last people remaining in the restaurant and sense it is time to go.
In the morning we are approached by a woman who says she was sitting behind us at dinner. She says she couldn’t believe how many people stopped by to talk to us and she was convinced that we either owned the company or were someone famous.
She asked her waiter who we were. He told her that we sailed on Seabourn all the time, that we always had the same table at dinner, and everyone knew us.
And that, dear readers, is how fake news is started.
It is also how our cruise started.