Ahoy there

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The Queen Mary II departs Fremantle 6 March 2014

I’m back on air, after a week with no internet.  It felt a bit frustrating at times to be so out of touch.  Boy, we’ve certainly come to rely on it.  It’s part of daily life now, for me anyway.

So here goes with eight days of posts in the form of my diary of the trip.

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Thursday 6 March 2014  Departure from Fremantle on the P&O Arcadia

What a day! At this moment, 9.15pm, I am upset and angry on board Arcadia.  Uh oh, Pete’s upset again, what a surprise. It’s my normal state, isn’t it?  Maybe I shouldn’t have been upset when I found that P&O had cancelled my ticket without telling me.  Or finding that the fridge in my cabin doesn’t work (I need it to keep my insulin cold) and getting a dismissive attitude from Reception. “It’s not a fridge sir, it’s just a chiller.” (They never followed up – no-one ever came to look at it. Other passengers told me theirs is really cold.)  Things on the ship aren’t available or can’t be done or don’t agree with what I’ve been told.  So far.

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Start with the good things.

The cabin is very nice.  Even though it’s an inside cabin with no porthole, I don’t feel claustrophobic.  It’s like a 4 or 5 star hotel room and quite large. There’s a queen sized bed with nice linen, the decor is very tastefully done, I’ve got an L shaped couch, an armchair and another chair, a small table and a fresh chrysanthemum on it.  And a 24” LCD TV.

The bathroom is en-suite and plenty big enough.  Good shower.  Lots of cupboard and wardrobe space. A safe in the wardrobe.  Mood lighting. A desk to write at.  All in all, very nice.

On the aft pool deck the entertainment guys were going in overdrive, playing loud music and getting everyone to move with it. He was trying to get the Queen Mary passengers to respond, but to no avail.  What a reserved lot they were.  They must have heard his calls to wave, but very few did.

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The Queen Mary II passengers.  What a stuffy lot!

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The feeling on our ship was great.  Even though I didn’t join in all the dances, I thought it was fun.  I was feeling quite “pumped”. 🙂

The departure of both ships, the Arcadia and the Queen Mary from Fremantle, was delayed an hour because, I was told, someone hadn’t turned up. The Queen Mary II was in front of us and I’m not sure who was lacking a passenger, them or us, but I got to see the QM II ease away from the wharf and motor out into the sunset. It was quite spectacular.

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The Queen Mary II

They don’t need tug assistance because they’ve got side thrusters, so they just very slowly start moving away after they’ve cast off.  Notice how I know all these nautical terms?  Aft, cabin, cast off, deck.  I’m an old salt from Rockingham days.

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The sun sets on the British Empire.  Bloody Poms everywhere.

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Shortly after 7pm we too pushed away, turned 180deg. and then headed out through the sea walls to the ocean.  A nice cool breeze and calm sea meant it was super smooth.

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At 7.15pm all the lights of Perth, Fremantle and Rockingham stretched for tens of kilometres in both directions.  Perth is no small city!  By any world standards, we’re big and this is the way to see it. Lights as far as the eye can see.

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That’s the good bit.  Now for the P&O hassles.

When I arrived at the terminal at 1030am, P&O did not have my name on the passenger list!  When I checked my suitcase in downstairs they didn’t have a cabin number to assign it too.  “Just go over there please sir, and wait.”

So after a five minute wait I was ushered upstairs for more waiting, an hour and a half before check in started at 1220pm.  I got through the chaotic queues (the aisles are too narrow!) only to find that they really didn’t have a booking for me.  “Hmmm, please wait over there, sir, while I look into this”, and he took my ticket and passport away.  As of now, I still don’t have my passport – they keep it! Not happy about that.

I had paid by BPay last week, directly to the travel agency. It seems that Holiday Planet didn’t pay P&O, so P&O cancelled my ticket two days ago, without telling me.  Yet I had a confirmed e-ticket and a booking number and a cruise passenger number.

All this took about 90 mins to sort out, so I twiddled my thumbs some more.  “A diabetic never willingly goes without food.”  I was hungry, but at the small bar in the passenger terminal the only thing I could get was chips or a blueberry muffin.  So I settled for the $4 muffin and $3.50 (!) for a bottle of water.

Finally at about 2.30pm they came and got me and I went through check in.  The travel agent lady said she’d given me $200 credit on the ship as compensation.  That’s something I suppose, but when I asked about it at Reception, they didn’t know anything about it.  We’ll see.

Next job, take my insulin pens and put them in the fridge.  But the fridge is barely cool, let alone cold.

I ask at reception for the fridge to be turned on or adjusted. “Oh no, sir, they are only meant for chilling.”  So there’s no fridge in the cabin after all.

“Well, I need to keep my insulin refrigerated. What can I do?”  Um, phone call in Urdu or something (they’re all Indians) and I’m told to go to the Medical Centre between 3-6pm and they’ll store it for me.

So I arrive at 3.30pm and it’s closed. Dial 999 in emergency.  Oh well, I’ll leave it until later.

My suitcase had arrived at my cabin by now so that was good.  I settled down for a nap but was woken by a faint announcement over the PA of a lifeboat drill at 4.30pm, so that was that.

After we reach the open sea, I tried the desk again about keeping my insulin cool.  They don’t seem to understand what I want or why.  But, I say, there must be hundreds of diabetics on this ship.  Given that nearly all the passengers look 60 or over, with several in wheelchairs and walking frames and some who look as if they could drop dead at any moment,  and people much bigger and fatter than me, I cannot be the only diabetic with this problem!

We don’t get many requests like this, he says.  What?!  But even if they only get a few requests, they should be aware of the need and make provision for it!

The Reception guy phoned the medical centre. It’s closed (of course) but the nurse answered and said she would store it for me, but I must bring it down in a plastic bag. She’d open the door for me.

Can I have a plastic bag please?  Umm, ummm, they don’t have any.  A steward finds one in his rubbish pile. So much for hygiene.  I take my insulin down to deck A and find the Medical Centre closed and locked.  I knock loudly, two or three times.  No response.  So my insulin is still in my room in my esky, and cool, but not cold.  I’ll try again tomorrow.  “Can I just ask one of the barmen to put it in their fridge?”  No sir, hygiene rules prohibit food items being in the bar fridges!

By this time it’s nearly 8pm and I’m famished. But all three of the restaurants I try won’t admit me because I’m not wearing long trousers and shoes and socks!

This is a tropical cruise!  I didn’t bring any trousers (and besides, I don’t own any and I can’t get socks and shoes on anyway, due to my swollen feet.)

So it appears that there’s only one restaurant open to me, the buffet. Oh well, that seems OK.

Aaarrrgh, this was some of the worst food I’ve ever been served.  By any standards, this was gluggy, sticky stodge.  It’s yer standard chicken or beef curries, overcooked spring rolls and samosas, awful hard, doughy pork buns, stale bread rolls …  It filled me up, but I did not enjoy it.  Some others I talked to loved it, but I don’t think their standard was very high.

It’s 9pm by now and I’m not satisfied, but it’s too late for a drink even if I could find a bar that will serve me.  And they charge for drinks!  Beer is GBP3.50 ($6.48) for a 330ml bottle of Carlsberg.  That’s higher than I pay for draught beer at the pub near me at home.  A 250ml glass of wine is GBP6.50 ($12.03!)

As you can tell, things started out badly, seemed to come good for a short time, then rapidly went bad again.  I was very crapped off.

Oh, yes – there’s only one power socket available to me and it’s not near the bed. That means my CPAP machine has to sit on a chair with its power cord pulled as far as I can pull it, and relying on the air hose reaching me.  It seems to work, but when I ask the steward for a power extension lead, he can’t provide one. He’ll  get back to me. I’ll bet he doesn’t. (7pm next day – one has appeared in my room.  It takes time … I give him credit, he did what I requested.)

Again, this is a cruise for oldies.  With around 2,500 passengers, there must be hundreds of CPAP users.  Why aren’t we thought of and catered for?

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End of day 1
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