I’m staring at the ceiling, wiping a stray tear that slipped out of the corner of my eye. I set the book “Wild” aside. I picked it up in the ship’s library just yesterday right after we boarded the Ocean Princess, our floating home for the next 16 days. I can hear the ships horn blowing as I type this.
I did not know much about the book other than it was the autobiographical story written by Cheryl Strayed about her journey walking the Pacific Crest Trail. I also knew that I would be without the Internet for much of the next 16 days and that I would need something to occupy myself with as I tried to break my computer addiction. This book seemed like a solution.
I was not prepared to read the first chapter that narrates her feelings caring for her mother during the last couple of months as she was dying from cancer. It immediately takes me back to the last year of my own mother’s life battling the same incurable, awful, insidious disease (with Altzheimer’s thrown in just to make it harder).
Ms. Strayed says that when her mother died, it was the springboard that propelled her to walk “the trail”. I am taken back to the emotions, helpless feelings, pain and sorrow that I felt during that time. Watching my mother slowly disappear day-by-day was part of the catalyst that propelled Tim and me into this chapter of our lives – traveling the world.
Mom came to live with us on April 1st, 2012 and passed away peacefully on January 22, 2013. We also lost Tim’s father last year after a battle with Parkinson’s Disease and cancer. It was a very rough couple of years for our family.
Since I last updated my blog, we left Prague, flying non-stop to Gatwick Airport in London, hopped on to the Gatwick Express train followed by a short jaunt on the Underground to King’s Cross. Only two short blocks away, our one night hotel was quite a come uppance after spending a week in the Executive Suite.
Teeny tiny hotel in London
Oh how we laughed when we walked in the door. The bathroom in Prague was larger than our entire room here! It was just for one night, convenient to the train station for the next morning, so we settled in and made the most of a cozy situation.
Yesterday we checked out early, rolled our small suitcases to the St. Pancras train station, purchased two tickets and headed southeast on the fast train to Dover Priory.
High speed train
An hour and 12 minutes later we arrived to the “White Cliffs of Dover”. Just outside the terminal at the Taxi stand we teamed up with four others heading to the ship and less than 10 minutes later we were filling out our short pre-boarding health questionnaire. Then a two minute check-in procedure where we offered up our passports for inspection and got our platinum boarding cards.
Boarding started at noon and we were among the first to go through an airport style security check, then a walk down the gangplank, followed by a cheery “Welcome Aboard”.
Finally time to get settled in, unpack, and explore the ship. Or that was the plan anyway. My suitcase was delivered in short order to the cabin, but Tim’s was nowhere to be seen.
Our cabin on the Ocean Princess
Sitting area in our cabin
So, I unpacked and we set off to get some lunch. The buffet was open and we enjoyed choosing from a lovely variety of dishes. Sitting outside on the back balcony overlooking the port allowed us to soak up some vitamin D and watch several busses arrive and unload anxious and excited newcomers.
This is one of Princess’ smaller ships. It carries around 600 passengers. It will be perfect for us!
Main entry and reception area
The mandatory safety drill got underway an hour before sailing. I overheard two women sitting behind me talking about recent ship and ferry tragedies. Not what I wanted to concentrate on as we were about to leave the dock…
Of course by now it had been about two hours since Tim had eaten anything and he was hungry AGAIN, so back to the buffet for lunch number 2.
And then it was time for Sail-Away! Up on deck we enjoyed a beautiful, sunny (but windy) view of the harbor and watched the glistening white cliffs as we left Dover behind us.
Gus looking anxiously out the window. He does not have a life jacket.
White Cliffs of Dover
Finally Tim’s luggage managed to find our cabin. After getting him unpacked, we sorted our dirty clothes and headed to the on-board laundromat. There are eight stackable washers and dryers on board. For $2 a load you can wash and then another $2 to dry. Within an hour and 1/2 we were done, clothes clean, folded and tucked into drawers in our cabin – just in time to go to our 8:15 dinner in the main dining room.
Laundry room complete with a TV
Did I mention that our room had an oder to it? I’m guessing that whoever used the cabin before us had a sweating problem. The bed still smelled of body oder. The sheets had been changed of course, but the smell had permeated the covers and pad. So, before we go to dinner, Tim strips all the bedding off the bed including the pads, pillows and comforter and asks for it to be replaced.
In the dining room, we have an assigned table for six. Marcie and her husband Ted are a Korean couple also from the Los Angeles area. They are both dentists and are celebrating that the youngest of their three children has just graduated from dental school as well. They have successfully put three children each through 8 years of college. That is 24 years worth of paying tuition finally completed. A worthy thing to celebrate indeed!
The other two seats remained empty. We don’t know if they changed tables, ate somewhere else, chose to catch up on sleep after a long flight, or got switched to the earlier more popular seating time.
Tim had already spoken to the Matre d’hotel regarding his food allergies. He in turn sent the head waiter to our table to verify the information. Finally after a couple of back and forth trips to the galley, the head waiter brought the head chef to our table to discuss food options with Tim. I think we got things all sorted out.
A wonderful several course meal followed topped off with a passion fruit soufflé. By now it was 10 o’clock at night, and we were too tired for the evening show, so headed back to the cabin.
I felt like I was waddling down the corridors.
Our cabin was freshly made up when we returned, and I slept like a baby.
Today is a full day at sea. Tim is off to find some coffee and breakfast while I type and gather my thoughts for the day. Time for me to try out the shower and then wade into another chapter of the book, a bit apprehensive on what other emotions will get unleashed.
6:00 pm. The water is like glass outside our cabin window. We spent the day admiring the view and the various shades of blue: The deep blue of the painted deck, the lighter ocean, and the even paler sky blue.
Our cabin steward, Orlando is from the Philippines. We spend half an hour getting to know him as he once again replaces more linens in our room. He is married with two children and one grandchild. I contemplate what it would be like for him being away from his wife, children, friends and family for months at a time while under contract at sea. Then I realize that is exactly what I will be doing for seven months – away from our son, friends, family and the comforts of home and what is known. The difference is that I am doing it with my partner and best friend, not alone.
People are about the ship on their way to early dinner, all dressed in their finery. It is a formal night on board. Of course we are totally unprepared. Traveling with only carry-on luggage meant that casual, easy wash-and-wear clothes that were all color coordinated in gray, black, white and a hint of red filled my bag. There was simply no room for fancy formal wear. We make do with Tim in black slacks, a black and gray striped shirt and a black sweater we picked up last fall in Thailand.
I have yet to change, but contemplating my options. OK, I figured it out…
Our table of six
Gratitude Moment: Today I am grateful for the power of the written word. I have been an avid reader most of my life. In the past couple of years, that has gone in waves – reading everything in sight, followed by periods of total neglect where I am absorbed by hours on the computer instead. I’m thinking this bout of limited Internet time will be good for me.