With no port days planned for a few days, we settled down into a routine on board. It was actually a really nice feeling to know that this was it, and we could relax into the long slow days, with nothing to worry about – no internet, no stops, no choice of food, no obligations to do anything. It’d probably drive me mad if we didn’t have some kind of structure to the day, so we developed our own routine.
We get up at 0730 for breakfast – the bread and butter fare provided by the ship supplemented by Weetabix and muesli and yoghurt from Hamburg, some lovely ginger jam and even some mango. It won’t last but while it does we are enjoying it. I should mention, as its an important part of my comfort on board, that we do have a proper coffee machine and a great tub of coffee. Making myself coffees takes me back to when I was 16 and worked at a restaurant in Portugal and it was my duty to make the coffees sometimes. The whole ‘fill, press, twist, on, coffee’ routine.
Some rules – such as you are only allowed coffee at mealtimes – seem totally irrelevant and ignored. Others – no access to the lower decks – are strictly enforced. It’s all very Italian. The crew seem incredibly hard working and professional and all health and safety boxes are ticked, but other stuff seems a little more… negotiable… hence, coffee whenever I like 😊
After breakfast (where the French table gabbles on at high volume – goodness they can talk – we sit quietly waking up, and the Germans don’t appear at all), we make a quick trip back to the cabin to clean teeth, then have a 5-minute walk around outside to clear our heads. I tend to take my phone and locate our position on google earth. It’s cool to see the ‘jump’ from the previous day’s position as the phone finds a satellite.
We do schooling from around 08.45 until around 10.45, when all the other passengers come to the lounge in anticipation of the main meal of the day. Often someone will challenge Lauren to a game of table football while we are waiting.
It’s amazing how people become so conditioned to a routine and so obsessed with food when they have no choice over the matter. There was actually a cheer when we got real dessert (seriously, one profiterole each) in Hamburg rather than the rather dull apple/orange/banana we are used to.
The excitement yesterday when we got tiny bottles of wine each for the first time was palpable.
After lunch, which has settled down into an English-speaking table (ourselves and the Germans) and a French speaking table (the two French couples and the new arrivals from Hamburg who turned out to be Swiss), the Germans disappear back to their cabin and we restart schooling. Some combination of the 6 other passengers tends to hang around in the lounge for a natter before sloping off for a siesta. We do an hour of schooling after lunch, which still means we are done for the day around 1pm. I quite enjoy having the excuse of schooling to avoid all the talking. I don’t consider myself particularly antisocial, and over the last few days have had long conversations in French about Brexit, how to set up their phones with mobile data, Africa, and our reasons for leaving/travelling… and have listened to many life stories. But I cannot do the constant natter. I can hold serious conversations in French with some effort and concentration, but general natter and banter is beyond me.
I talk enough with Lauren, who is unstoppable on the verbal diarrhoea front. My brain needs quiet sometimes.
We tend to have showers after lunch, then to maintain my sanity I have instituted a ‘quiet hour’ when we read our books for an hour in silence. After this, we watch a film, play ping pong, play monopoly (Lauren never seems to tire of it, she loves holding onto her money and building up a pot, but hates actually spending anything so eventually loses every time), go for walks on deck, do jigsaws etc. I have also instituted ‘mid-afternoon veggies’ where we eat a fresh vegetable bought in Hamburg as an antidote to the protein and carb heavy diet. These won’t last the journey but we are both missing veggies. I actually dreamt of stir fried broccoli last night!
Before we know it its dinner time (6pm) and we reconvene for a lighter meal. For both meals we tend to skip one of the courses, otherwise its just too much. Some days there is a menu, although the English can be very misleading. Lauren was most disappointed yesterday when the last course was listed as ‘gateau’ – it was actually a slice of mashed potato with bacon!
After dinner we generally go out on deck for another walk around, to clear our heads and wake ourselves up. Then we either watch something on my laptop, read, or finish the afternoon’s activity. Lauren goes to bed at 08.30pm and reads til 9.00pm, and I read until much later. And that’s it…. Days pass.
We are struggling to cope with the extreme heat of the cabins, even our steward (yay, we got our own ‘passenger’ steward at Hamburg, the lovely Vincenzo who actually changes our sheets and empties our bins and does his best to answer our questions) agrees they are too hot and has promised to speak to the chief engineer. There are aircon units in our cabins but they just blow hot air. The ventilation/heating system seems to be fairly rudimentary, with vents coming from the engine room blowing hot air throughout the ship, and some kind of lever determines how much hot air vs. outside air is blown through the ship. In some places like the lounge there is the ability to shut individual vents off, and to open windows, but in our cabins, we have neither option. One day I had a persistent headache all day and actually think I may have had heatstroke! It makes sleeping quite difficult, and poor Vincenzo struggles as he actually has to work in it. I just worry what it will be like when we are in hotter climes and can’t even pop outside to cool down.
Apart from the heat though, we are adapting well to life on board. It’s good to have a project though, as the days would be fairly dull without some structure. The German couple are working on their Spanish and the woman is finishing her masters’ thesis, and of course we have schooling. I guess if I were alone I could just read and read all day and that’d be a luxury, but Lauren needs some organized activity.
We still haven’t got the treadmill working, but Vincenzo is on the case. For now, our only exercise is walking around the deck and playing ping pong. Mind you we are both so bad at that that it ends up being quite a workout chasing the ball around the sweltering gym. …
Last night the poor cadet – youngest officer and basically gets all the grunt work – came into dinner and announced (in broken English) they had malaria tablets for Dakar should we like to take them, and asking us to sign a disclaimer if we didn’t want them. One of the French couples lived in Dakar for a few years as he was ambassador there, and I have been back and forth to Dakar a few times (and had malaria 3 times in Mozambique) so we led the way in saying there is absolutely no need for taking mefloquine for a one day stay in Dakar. Everyone refused the tablets, and I felt quite sorry for the poor cadet. But I mean really, its just the company covering their backs for insurance reasons.
Of course, we are all hoping there will be some kind of break in the routine at Christmas, although its not really clear what if anything will happen. I asked one of the crew if there would be a party and he mumbled something about bad weather being forecast. I guess it also depends where we are, as if we are in port everyone will be busy. Vigo is scheduled for the 24th, but having left Hamburg quite late, its not clear if we will recoup the time. I guess we will find out and I am sure something will happen….