Not all plain sailing
We had a good journey to
and then the panic of finding our actual embarkation point but as usual all
became clear and thanks to the labels Fred Olsen provides with one’s name,
cabin number and deck colour my large case was whisked away and I entered the
We had to stand in line to be registered and given the magic card – like a credit card - which identifies you and is your Open Sesame to your cabin - getting on and off the ship and is used to buy anything on board so no cash or credit card is required.
I have now learned to put all cash and credit cards into the safe in one’s cabin and only get cash out when going ashore.
Ahead of me in the line I saw my old ship mate Dylan so I nipped over to exchange greetings then dutifully nipped back to my place. After being registered we had to go to the floor above where we could have a coffee and wait to be called to board.
D and I arranged to meet when we were both on the upper floor. Eventually I reached customs and had to remove my coat and flash my passport.
Thinking back the customs man was unusually pleasant and friendly which could account for my being a little flustered. Carrying my coat and passport in one hand and my hand luggage in the other I walked towards the escalator stepped on it, overbalanced and started to fall backwards. I don’t want a fractured skull was dominant in my thinking and managed to do a mid fall twist landing flat on my back and right elbow. As I lay there I saw my coat and bag disappearing up above; my handbag was slung round my torso.
There was no way I could get up without putting weight on my damaged elbow so I lay there being reassured that my coat and bag would be restored to me. A poor little Philippino steward couldn’t raise me but by the time a first aid worker arrived – a sensible older woman – between the three of us I managed to be put upright on a chair. To my great relief my head was unscathed – I had one black finger on my left hand and my right elbow was grazed and bloody in spite of layers of clothing.
The/sensible older woman put a dressing on my arm and told me the doctor was around and he was super. He appeared and seeing it was already dressed asked how I was and if I visited them on board I could have ice for my finger. I did feel a bit shocked but was fairly sure I was OK and wanted to avoid the doctor route as it shoots up your travel insurance quite out of proportion – as I found out when I broke my arm. They decided no-one should get on the escalator unless they had one hand free and I was taken up by lift.
It was a relief to get into my cabin and cheering to see a beautiful bouquet from Dylan. I made a cup of tea and reflected. Why did it happen? Was I becoming a liability? Should I start pulling my horns in and behave more sedately? For a day or two I took it very quietly – even using the lift instead of the stairs. It was a nuisance that the painful tip of my elbow came in contact with the arms of the very heavy restaurant chairs every mealtime. As it healed I got my confidence back and carried on as normal but made a point of a rest in the afternoon on sea days and tried to be in my cabin soon after 10pm. Thank Heaven for John Cleese who was on my Kindle.
Before too long I was striding round the deck – being ultra careful (4 times round is 1 mile) and feeling fine. Anyone new to cruising should know that the most hazardous times on board are when you are boarding the ship or getting off it. There are different levels to contend with – every port is different and you need to keep your eyes peeled and go slowly. The crew are there to remind you but it’s up to oneself to be careful. It can be disquieting walking down a steep ridged gang way with a wobbly hand rail.
There are countless people with wheel chairs and every type of walking aid and one admires their gutsiness when you see them ashore. The info about the excursions is helpful pointing out if there is much walking and what the terrain is like. Some of them choose to ignore the warnings of ‘not suitable for passengers with walking difficulties.’
I was really looking forward to the excursion to Santiago de Compostela which houses the shrine of St James. There was a lot of walking as the coach is not allowed in the city but it was a lovely experience and ended with refreshing drinks and sweet meats in a beautiful Parador. After using the loos – full marks to Spanish loos – my how they have changed over the years – we gathered in a square to start the walk back to the coach when I noticed an elderly woman waving her stick and looking quite panicked. She cried out that her husband had disappeared and he had macular degeneration and couldn’t see. I tried to calm her but she raced off and fell over a kerb.
Why do people always rush to raise a faller from the pavement? From my own experience I know how important it is to just get oneself together first – both mentally and physically. But she was determined to fly off in search. Fortunately she wasn’t very big so I grabbed her and remembering all the. Rescue programmes I have seen on TV said.
‘What is your name?’
‘Brenda and I must-‘
‘Brenda listen to me. We are not going to leave without your husband. What’s his name?’
‘Leo and he’ll be-‘
‘They are going to find Leo and we must stay here so we can all go back to the coach together.’
She was still struggling to get away but I hung on. She has already had a hip replacement and I wanted to avoid her falling again. Leo apparently was 94.
Slowly to my relief she calmed down, held on to my arm of her own volition and asked me if I would stay with her.
We decided it would be better if we walked back to the coach so at least we could sit down. The walk seemed endless – Brenda was now feeling the results of her fall but told herself that if she had broken anything she wouldn’t be able to walk.
A long time later we got the news that Leo had been found. After another long wait this frail little man entered the coach apologising profusely and we all breathed again.
We thought we had missed lunch but a phone call was made and lunch was waiting. Leo thanked me profusely later over the phone but Brenda was confined to her cabin.
By now I had decided that I wasn’t a liability and must just be more careful.
Another 91 year old had two copious nose bleeds. He was taken to hospital and because he hadn’t mentioned a previous condition he was told that either he should pay £30,000 for a helicopter or be prepared to die on board. I’m happy to say I spotted him at
Southampton about to disembark.
En route to Southampton our captain pointed out our sister ship the Balmoral on the horizon which was being diverted to
to meet a helicopter as they had a
medical emergency on board. Plymouth
I had to have a wry grin when one dear man on saying goodbye said:
‘You can add me to your list of admirers Pat. I would never have believed you were a day over 70.’
Poor dear – he wasn’t to know in my mind I am about 46.
I’ll post some photos later. Something I learned on board: if you are 65 or older you are entitled to a pneumococcal vaccine jab. I’ve booked mine.