First Cruise, Worst Cruise
How it all began.
What the floating hell is this? Stuck in the middle of the ocean, no land in sight, with 2,000 people who think this is fun. Send me a speedboat out of here.
On the one hand, I get it. The sun is shining, the drinks are flowing, and nobody cares where we’re going. We have exclusive access to this offshore party, far away from solid-ground reality. But as I observe this familiar yet foreign scene, I feel bewildered.
A cruise ship may as well be a spaceship, with the passengers abducted by aquatic aliens. Whooshing across the water, we’re enclosed in this bizarre bubble. We have no internet, no phone reception, no television, no police; absolutely no contact with the outside world. It’s the weird, wild west at sea.
I should feel free, albeit within the confines of this gigantic boat, in the same way that I can let loose within the walls of a nightclub or the field of a festival. This ‘taster’ cruise is only three days long, so I try to think of it as a weekend away at a very waterfront resort.
Although we are sailing in the vicinity of Australia, life is different out here. The outdoor deck is covered in largely uncovered couples, spilling out of bikinis and Speedos as they recline on sunlounges around the pool; it’s like being at a beach that moves with the view. On a stage, a band is playing summery songs, while waiters bring cold beers and cocktails. Smiling strangers are talking to each other and the crew seem happy to help.
Not the ship in question - apologies the whatever cruise line this is!
I ponder the alternative ways to travel between two cities. On a flight, we would be trapped in a smaller space with no fresh air, sitting upright in seats, eating our mush, watching shows on tiny screens, waiting hours for our holiday to begin. But this vessel is a venue where the celebrations start immediately, before we reach our first port of call. We can stretch out, walk around, dance, swim, soak in the hot tub, drink and dine alfresco.
So why am I not enjoying it? It must be because I’m alone; a travel writer at work, without any friends or family onboard. Drop off my mates in a helicopter and we would tear this place up. Or would we? This is not our style. Everyone is twice my age. There are no hot men. The music reminds me of a wedding, where the dancefloor is a drunk crowd of cringe. I can’t wait for nightfall, to go back to my cabin and close my eyes from this nightmare.
My room is a haven, where the only sound is the soft sloshing of waves below. As I settle into my pillowy bed, I can sense it gently swaying like a crib, and I realise this is the most blissful way I have ever been lulled to sleep. If only I could stay here.
I remind myself why I am cruising for a living: I’m on a mission to get to Antarctica, my dream destination, so I must stick with this job until I achieve my goal.
What a whinger. I soon learn that not every cruise is like this stereotype. In fact, I could not be more wrong. I have unknowingly entered a parallel universe that will change my life forever…