“All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by…” – MSC Opera

“All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by…” – MSC Opera

All Aboard? Last weekend we cruised to nowhere on the MSC Opera for two nights. And before you also ask me: so, what was it like? Let me offer my two cents: For me, (and I shall re-iterate, for me) it was a bit of a few worlds – a bit of genuine fun and relaxation; the proverbial teeth pulling and a bit of a senior primary school excursion. Why senior primary? Well, you no longer need to hold your classmate’s hand as you perambulate the streets of the big bad world, but you still need to stay with the group for fear that you might get lost.

We were a group of ten. Initially a group of eight, but then good friends surprised us by rocking up at Dunkin Dock under the pretext of coming to say goodbye, and eventually not only spent the weekend with us but also got us to embark via a personally organised “fast track”. Won’t go into detail; suffice to say that before we could say “All Aboard”, we were! No queues! Felt a bit like a celebrity…a VIP! And, it, along with the surprise of their joining us, may, in retrospect, easily qualify as the highlight of the weekend.

The positive side of the cruise: no cell phones ringing in anyone’s ears at dinner tables or anywhere else on the boat for that matter; nobody sitting on laptops or tablets or fablets or whatever other device that may distract you. It was refreshing to see people having genuine fun with one another in any language, creed, shape or form. And boy, are there shapes on the ship! They made me, a large fellow, feel like Twiggy. And, a thought that consumed me while watching these large specimens of the human race was: how do they fit into that tiny shower in the cabin’s bathroom? I just about make it, albeit with the shower curtain sticking merrily to my backside. And don’t even think of bending down to wash those hard-to-reach nether areas, or to pick up a dropped soap!

Thing is – it’s not all that bad this “trip to nowhere”; it’s just no bleeding good either. As for it feeling like “pulling teeth” (cf. paragraph1) here’s the thing: and I can’t believe I am going to say this: It is what it is! You pay quite a few rand to get a balcony cabin (how people with an inside cabin, with no sea view can deal with this is beyond me) and you make the most of what is on offer.
You eat and follow the daily programme of activities from bingo, oops, sorry, MEGA bingo (my mistake) to napkin folding and then you eat followed by (mostly) mediocre performers trying to entertain you as best they can. Then you eat – sorry, did I mention that before? You eat all day long, and I am not sure how the adage goes, but there is definitely a king, a pauper and a prince somewhere in the line-up from breakfast to lunch to supper. Then you eat late at night, before you go to the disco and dance until you can’t keep your eyes open any longer or until your poor feet can’t carry your drained, overfed body, or until they ask you to leave – whichever comes first.

So, in essence, it’s all about dress codes, eating, shopping, eating, drinking (for those who are that way inclined), eating, being entertained and giving it your all in pursuit of a good time. It’s about “following where the path may lead” – there isn’t much of a “go instead where there is no path and leave a trail…” The whole tepid affair is like dragging Canal Walk, with all its patrons, to the edge of the ocean, and letting it loose on the open sea. And, if marble, mixed with gold and brass is your thing, then this is the sort of trip you have to put on your bucket list.
As for me, I am more of an earthy type person who enjoys a dingy alleyway somewhere in India or an independent eatery in Istanbul. Or, perhaps to have a few friends around a simple dinner table, talking until the wee hours. And on this journey I had the good fortune to share the experience with some wonderful people who made it so much more than bearable – and for that, as Daniel Tosh might have said, I thank them… But be that as it may. Within the context of what it’s worth, that, as they say in the classics, is why the world is so interesting. Imagine we all loved the same things, and did them all at the same time? You mean like on the ship…?

Email: rafiek@mweb.co.za