After an extended sojourn, you will be glad to know that Grumpy Man has decided to return and brighten your mundane and miserable existence on this planet. So you will ask ‘What has Grumpy Man been up to?’…. well you may ask but I am certainly not going to tell all as it’s damn private so mind your beeswax you nosey lot.
What I can tell you is that Mrs Grumpy Man dragged me onto one of her most favourite activities… cruising. Now before you begin to salivate and giggle, I do not mean something you do late at night in a car (for god knows what purpose… seriously get a life you monkeys)… nor do I mean, you shady little perverts, something that certain people do late at night in the woods on Hampstead Heath. Honestly, sometimes I think that a lot of the ‘Great Unwashed’ seem to live in the. Pre teen sniggering world of the school playground.
What I mean is ocean cruises. Dear Mrs Grumpy Man is a fan of spending her time at sea in a slow moving 5 star hotel, with occasional stops ashore to visit ‘Johnny Foreigner’ in his home environment. Fortunately for me she is also a fan of the expensive traditional cruise that is aimed at the older, more traditional and educated traveller. I say fortunate not due to cost but due to the fact that, even on the High Seas, sadly its still not allowed to use capital or even mere corporal punishment on annoying fellow tourists and their often obnoxious spawn. (Ah the good old days of Keel Hauling and the Lash).The type and level of cruise that Mrs Grumpy Man deems appropriate reduces the exposure to such annoyances, much to my relief and hence my acquiescence to her suggestion.
So off we jolly well pootled to Southampton and shortly after arrival we were safely ensconced in our rather pleasant balcony suite overlooking the stern of a rather lovely cruise liner. Trust me, an 8th storey balcony with which to look down on the plebs does make Grumpy Man … slightly less grumpy, especially when holding a glass of rather pleasant (although non vintage) champagne.
Now dear reader you may start to have a feeling that Grumpy Man is about to enjoy cruising and that such a holiday could quite possibly make him ….. dare I say it … smile? After my missives from Bali, where I struggled to relax and felt oppressed.. you may now be thinking that Grumpy Man has found his Nirvana about a luxury cruise liner where he can ‘Lord it over the masses’. Well as usual reader I will have to educate you. I will admit to thinking the same as you, but read on and you will see what happened.
Our stateroom, which was well appointed and spacious, came with various features that actually caused Grumpy Man some consternation and almost a level of stress. Firstly there was our personal butler who was utterly at our beck and call 24/7. Now you may think this a godsend on a holiday but oh no its not. There is the constant checking if everything is perfect, the constant supply of canapés and chocolates being brought to the room (often at inopportune moments I might add) and lets not forget the constant topping up of the complimentary mini bar. It was like having a slightly psychotic, sycophantic parent hovering around you at all times. Oh and the constant smiling and being cheerful… positively nauseating to the likes of Grumpy Man.
As for the mini bar that I mentioned, it was refilled daily and fresh wine or spirits brought to the room when you finished a bottle. I almost felt as if i ‘had’ to drink so as to keep the butler happy….. no wonder the cruise ship had daily Alcoholics Anonymous meetings (seriously.. I am not joking) called the ‘Friends of Bill W’ I think a world cruise could quite literally kill me.
So enough about the Butler and the room, what about the wider ship you may ask. If the room was so oppressive and unhealthy, maybe Grumpy Man can seek solace and peace elsewhere aboard ship. The short and painful answer is …no.
The staff aboard ship are a bunch of cheerful service ‘fanatics’ .. I would go as far as to say sea going service industry ‘fundamentalist’ with a mental attitude to what is deemed fun. They, like the Butler, are constantly attentive, hovering around and checking to see if your every whim is being looked after. The are disgustingly and disturbing cheerful. Almost ‘Stepford Wife’ in their willingness to please….creepy! They also seem to take great joy in everything they do no matter how bizarre and cringeworthy. There are ‘entertainers’ who perform acts on stage that are positively embarrassing, either in style or content. There are Gentlemen Hosts (whatever the hell they are) to take you for a dance in the Ballroom. You can undergo such ritualistic humiliation such as keep fit, dance classes, karaoke and pub quizzes to help pass the time whilst at sea. And all this is done with a surreal cheerfulness that is utterly disturbing and possibly drug induced.
There is food and wine aplenty as you would expect, and the staff in the restaurants have the attitude that if you do not put on at least 1Kg per day they may well be thrown overboard for failure of their duties. Yes the food was exquisite and the wine list extensive but dear God after a few days even Grumpy Man just fancied a salad. Let’s just say that after several days of steak, Chateubriand, beef wellington, more steak and several chocolate heavy desserts…. our stateroom toilet had to be unblocked twice! Yet even the official toilet unblocker carried out his rather unpleasant task with the face and attitude of someone on an Holy Quest. Creepy…..
So we have discussed the room, the service, the wine and food, not to mention the inadequate plumbing…. what else did Grumpy Man find disturbing? Hmm well lets see….. oh yes … the ‘lower decks’. Even aboard a luxury cruise liner there is a social order.. a strata of existence you might say and its enforced by a well designed deck plan. The higher the grade of room and dining experience you have .. the higher up the the deck plan and social ladder you are. We were on deck 8 and our dining was on deck 11. Our stateroom door keys gave us access to our restaurant, bar and dedicated sun decks that is denied to lesser mortals. Now this in itself is a rather good thing, I mean if you are spending lots of money on a holiday you certainly don’t want to mix with those that are getting the same holiday (with less bells and whistles) on the cheap. You never know who you may have to interact with … shocking thought!
The problem comes when you actually have to descend from Mount Olympus to the land (decks) of the mere mortals. There are certain activities and facilities that, sadly, even the cheap seats are allowed to access. These include the lecture theatre, the shops and the ballroom to name but a few. This means one has to rub shoulders with the aforementioned ‘Great Unwashed’ with their terrible dress sense, child strollers and slightly bizarre social etiquette that seems to use the use of a language similar to English but it seems to be a loud and dumbed down version where worlds only extend to 2 syllables punctuated with regular grunting and whining about trivial rubbish.
Now you may think this is bad enough but there is a surreal twist dear reader. Down in the lower decks aboard cruise ships you will find a further under class of passenger. These are the living dead of the cruise world. Cruising has always appealed to the pensioner age group due to its sedate nature and the bizarre level of service and strange entertainment. But over the years this seems to have evolved into a scene from the Walking Dead. Hordes of grey haired, sallow skinned, Zimmer frame pushing (at 1MPH) zombies populate every deck below 5. I assume they cant actually migrate higher up the ship due to traps and clever devices placed around the stairs and lifts to keep them corralled on the lower decks. They travel in packs of at least 4 on some endless quest that even they don’t seem to know whilst muttering amongst themselves about days gone by and how things were better aboard the Titanic or something. They literally are everywhere and seem to congregate in all the bottlenecks and chokepoints around the ship, presumably to inflict the pain and misery they feel due to old age and imminent death on other passengers.
Yes the cruise ship does have a morgue in case one of the animated corpses finally realises it is actually dead and kicks the bucket.
So dear reader you can see why this was a stressful experience from dear old Grumpy Man. The cruise was a cross between various movies…. ‘Stepford Wives’, ‘The Living Dead’ ‘Carry on Cruising’ and the ‘Titanic’ … obviously without the intervention of the iceberg (who by the way should get a medal for killing off Leonardo di Caprio… oh and there was room on the damn door for him despite what Kate Winslet said… selfish cow). Grumpy Man needs another holiday to de stress from this supposed holiday…thank you so very damn much Mrs Grumpy Man!
And will Grumpy Man be doing the cruise thing again? All I can say is that Mrs Grumpy Man is already perusing the brochures with an intensity that she normally reserves for a wine list…. so will we be doing it all again? Apparently so dear reader… apparently so………..