So nearly at the end of 7 weeks
What have I learnt.
Cruising is seductive because it is so easy. The days slide by from meal to meal with difficult choices being confined to what event/talk to attend and what time to go to the laundry.
However there are elements of a floating retirement village such as the age of most of the passengers.
In many ways it is easy, beds are made, meals are prepared and removed, entertainment is provided, excursions organised. People feel safe, especially in the current uncertain times. They can dip their toes into a new environment in a safe controlled way. A number of people have told me of how fearful they are of travelling alone. One lady told me she would return to the ship at the end of her 4 hour excursion in New York as she had no confidence that she would not get lost if she walked along 5th Avenue, my suggestion, and get a taxi back. She had travelled a lot but always on a tour.
Many find the way cruising means you only unpack once the attraction and after a few weeks of moving on every other day, having the vehicle move instead of you has a lot going for it.
The ship is disability friendly and makes possible holidays for those with wheel chairs, walkers, and there are lots of people with motorised scooters. Between Sydney and Los Angeles there was one couple who progressed, in a stately manner, to the dining room each evening on matching vehicles, always dressed for the occasion. Cruising also provides a break for those where one partner has mobility limitations and the other is the carer. No steps, One can go on an excursion and the other stay on the ship if desired but help is given to enable those with walking frames and wheel chairs to participate on excursions.
It was very easy to me to slide into these 7 weeks. I made good intentions about walking up the stairs, laps of the deck and the gym but like the road to hell…
I had very agreeable dinner companions and enjoyed the dining room rather than the informal help yourself area. There are plenty of smaller spaces on the Queen Victoria so it is possible to feel as if you are in a cafe or bar rather than one of 2000. It was easy to join or stand back from any number of activities.
I had very many interesting conversations with people. And while people came from basically UK, United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and Germany they were drawn from all walks of life.
I can see how it is possible to slide into the cruising life. While I would not like to move from one cruising to another just staying on the ship where I know the routine, the familiar waiters, and someone cooks my meals and makes my bed has its attractions.
I had not thought that there were the opportunities for new careers for older travellers.
Speakers – this cruise has had a wide range of speakers, always 3 at any one time, who get on in one port i.e. Sydney, give 3 to 5 talks and get off at a following port such as Auckland. The speakers are generally retired and speak on an area of expertise, which might be on a book they have written or their work currently being undertaken or did prior to retirement.
Speakers on this voyage included;
- a retired British High Commissioner to Australia who spoke on various aspects of his life as a diplomat. One topic that interested me was as a junior officer in Bulgaria during the 1960s.
- A retired Australian Naval Officer who had researched William Bligh and gave a naval perspective to Bligh’s life,
- A forensic dentist who had worked identifying bodies after the tsunami in Thailand and in Christchurch after the earthquake
- A retired English policemen who had been a volunteer with the Royal Lifeboat Service for over 30 years,
- A retired astronomer who spoke on the history of space travel and how to read the night sky in the northern hemisphere
- Buzz Aldrin, who was part of the first manned space mission to the moon,
- A retired British policemen who had been body guard to politicians and members of the royal family
- Bill Miller, author on the great liners of a bygone age,
- Terry Waite who had spent 5 years in solitary confinement as a hostage in Beirut in the 1980s.
All these speakers had a number of different talks and gave them on different cruise lines. They were entertaining, good story tellers and gave us i sights into worlds beyond our owm. They were very well attended.
Dance hosts – there are 6 dance hosts, retired gentlemen from United States, UK, Australia and Germany who are contracted for specific lengths of time. Ie 41 days from Los Angeles to Los Angeles. They work for an agency which supplies dance hosts or dinner escorts to a number of cruise lines. Some hosts had worked as hosts for many years, some had been involved with ballroom dancing for many years and 2 explained at the introduction that they had learnt to dance specifically to work as a host. They are required to dance at the level of the lady. They are in high demand for dancing but roundly critisiced for dancing with other people more than me.
Art teacher – Christine, a retired teacher who went back to her art when she retired, gives watercolour classes on the ship. With her husband they sign up for a sector of the voyage. Many people who have not painted before use the opportunity to ‘give it a go’ and some continue lessons when they return home.