More about the cruises I’ve done.
27 July 1984: I was 37. This was a fly-cruise, flying from Perth to Singapore then taking the M. V. Turkmenia, a Russian cruise ship going from Singapore up through the Malacca Strait.
The first stop was Kuala Lumpur, but KL’s port is Port Kelang on the coast, and KL city is about 30Km inland. Port K’lang looked drab and I didn’t want to spend the time and money for the bus tour so just stayed aboard that day.
Next stop was Penang and I did go ashore because that’s where the sister of my Malaysian girlfriend at the time (in Perth) lived. I met her and she gave me an island tour in her car. Unfortunately, her daughter was with her occupying the front passenger seat so I had to sit in the back where I could hardly see any of the things she was pointing out. I ended up with a splitting headache. I didn’t enjoy that day very much. Even so, it gave me a taste for Penang and I’ve been back there a couple of times. I could live there, easily.
Next stop for the ship was the Thai island of Phuket. The ship had to anchor offshore and we had to transfer to a launch to go ashore. I don’t remember much except that I was told that a beach called Rawai was “very beautiful”, so I caught a local bus there. Sure, it was quite nice but not worth going all that way sitting on a hard seat in a cramped bus in the heat. On returning I got a brief look at the town centre which was very small in those days, then it was back to the ship in the late afternoon. Nothing much, in other words.
Then the ship headed back down the Malacca Strait to Singapore again. Did we stop anywhere? Surely we must have, but I don’t remember it. We passed Malacca which is a very interesting town, but it doesn’t have a port. I’ve been back there since for a stay of several days and I liked it a lot.
There are only two main memories from that trip: first, one passenger was a wharfie from Brisbane, a burly, fair headed guy. The thing was that he spoke fluent Russian! I asked him how come. He said his father was an Aussie but his mother was Russian, that’s how, and she taught him as he grew up. I found it quite incongruous, this true-blue Aussie wharfie, yet he spoke Russian. The Russian crew ran classes in one of the saloons if anyone wanted to learn the language on board. Pretty hard in only eight days or whatever it was, but they got 6-8 people, I recall.
The other memory is that one of the kitchen ladies, servers in the dining room, was a very cute Russian girl, quite young, and I found her very attractive. I found her up on deck one day getting some sun and attempted to talk, but she just indicated no English and that was that. Oh well.
I think the other thing (and I may be getting my cruises confused) was that I shared a dining table (and cabin, that’s right!) with two elderly Perth guys, from Bayswater or Belmont or somewhere, and they were both retired TV techs, the TV Repair shop type of tech. One was Clarry and the other might have been Bert. So we could talk TV and electronics, not that we did much. This was also where I was introduced to borscht, that typical Russian soup. Not bad. The cooking was nice but very plain fare, three courses and that was it.
Finally, that was the time of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, at the height of the Cold War, when the Russians were banned from competing. Did it make any difference on the cruise? Nope.
So, back to Singapore and a few days in a hotel while I bought an Aiwa AD-F770 cassette deck:
I gave that away to a mate, free, when I moved here in 2013. What a fool I was. It was one of the best bits of gear I’ve ever owned, but with four Mini-Disc decks now, I don’t need it. 🙂
March 2014: it was a long break, 30 years! but my next cruise was from Fremantle to Singapore again, also on the Arcadia. This was a new ship, no longer P&O, now Princess Cruises. I was 67 by now.
I remember clearly, my mate Barry drove me down to the Fremantle passenger terminal to join the ship at about 10am. I took my luggage to the loading bay and the ship guy consulted his clipboard, furrowed his brow, chewed his lip, sucked his teeth, then made a phone call. I found something to sit on and waited.
Soon he came over and said, “Sorry sir, but you are not on the passenger list.” What?! I had my documents and he perused them, but asked me to wait upstairs (escalator) in the main hall.
Long story – I waited three bloody hours, buying an expensive and crap lunch from the kiosk, getting more and more browned off, before they finally came over and told me the travel agent had not passed my fare money on to the cruise company. Therefore I wasn’t officially a passenger. GRRRRRRR! The travel agent phoned me, very apologetic and said she’d fixed it up, passed my money on and as compensation I would have $200 credit on board and would get $200 off my next cruise booked with them. (This cruise cost about $1,400 I think, for an inside cabin.) Strike 1!
So finally, I was able to board at about 4pm and started to calm down, helped by a beer or two. The QE2 was also in Fremantle at this time and departed before us:
I explored the ship and found several restaurants apart from the buffet that were sit-down dining and looked very nice. So one or two evenings into the cruise, I fronted up at one of these and asked for a table. The waiter looked at me and mumbled something about standards. To be brief, this being a tropical cruise stopping at Bali to Singapore, I was dressed as I always dress, shorts, T-shirt (with a collar) and sandals. Not good enough. They required long trousers, shoes and socks and a shirt! I hadn’t brought any clothes like that. As I said, this is a tropical cruise!
The result was that I was banned from all seven sit-down restaurants and banished to the buffet only. GRRRRRRRRR! I paid the same fare as everyone else, yet I was not allowed to use the restaurants. Strike 2!
I also discovered that the drink prices were the same as if we were on land. In other words, they buy all their alcoholic drinks free of excise (hence the 10c cans of beer on the Eastern Queen in 1974), but charge the customer full retail price. Nice little earner, guv’nor.
I also discovered that the fridge in the cabin was not cold enough to store my insulin (or make ice). I complained to the service desk and was directed to the doctor’s surgery way down below decks. Maybe they could store my insulin for me. I went there and found it closed at about 3pm. Open between 5-5.30pm or something. I went back at that time and still found it closed. Strike 3!
Also, knowing I was going to be on the new Arcadia, I took copies of the old 1977 Arcadia logs and menus (see yesterday’s blog). I presented these at the service desk, expecting a fair bit of interest, but all I got was “Oh, thanks very much, very interesting.” And that was all. I didn’t hear any more about it. I thought the captain might have been interested. Strike 4!
As an unattached bloke at that time, I admit I was also aware of the tales of shipboard romances and widows looking for a new partner on cruises. I don’t mind admitting, I was surveying the field all the time.
But I’m certain I was the only person on board who was alone! Everyone else was either one of a pair or a larger group. At meal times, I sat alone, wishing someone would ask to join me but no-one ever did. It was a bit disheartening. I did have a very brief chat with a woman from Adelaide who seemed interesting, but we were in a queue and when it was over, I never saw her again. These ships are huge, with 2,000 to 3,500 passengers so it’s not so surprising, but I was a bit disappointed. (One Aussie guy was a bit weird, though. He came up to me at the railing on deck and started chatting, but he was a touchy-feely kind of guy and put his arm around me, as if we were lovers. I wasn’t too happy and disengaged myself. He introduced me to his wife later. It wasn’t the kind of company I was looking for.)
I also gained 5Kg on that cruise, in eight days! Ugh. I got it off later.
Then it was another couple of days at sea heading for Singapore up the east coast of Java.
The Java Sea is known for pirates. This is an “acoustic cannon”. It’s a big diaphragm which when pulsed delivers a very loud aural pulse to the front, as shown in the diagram on the unit above. It doesn’t do any permanent damage to the pirates (well, maybe burst eardrums?) but they’d find it very uncomfortable and think twice about being near the ship. Did we see any pirates? No. But what a rotten thing, to have pirates ready to attack big ships.
Frankly, I was glad to get off the ship and into a hotel again. I was sick and tired of that cruise and vowed “Never again.” Little did I know what the future would hold.
That’s enough for today. This blogging takes a long time, but I’ve got plenty of that. I’m also building the spreadsheets I call “weight_graf.xls” Yeah, I’m a nerd, but I weigh myself every morning, almost without fail although I do forget sometimes. I keep a notebook in which I enter what I spend every day, and I write my weight at the top of each day’s entries. Now I’m transferring those figures by hand into the spreadsheet. It doesn’t take too long, 365 entries per sheet and it took me about two hours, in two sessions, to add the 2018 figures yesterday. I’m starting 2019’s now.
They’re talking about retail expenditure for March on the radio at the moment. People spent a lot on groceries and so on when the virus first got serious, and I suppose I did a bit too, but these days each diary entry is virtually blank. I’m spending much less than I usually do, which is good for me, not so good for the retailers I guess.
Anyway, I have graphs of my weight for each year since 2013. They say you shouldn’t weigh every day but I disagree. I can straight away see the trends. I dare not show the graphs for the past 18 months. Glum.