PART I: WITH OR WITHOUT THE VIRGIN ?
ship was a sixties rust bucket all spruced up for the umpteenth time,
just like Bette Davies in Whatever happened to Baby Jane?
love old ships. Ever since I was a kid and travelled on one with
my parents way back in the forties Ive been fascinated by
them. I keep weeping like a three year old every time I watch the
Titanic movie and see the old lady sink to the bottom
of the Atlantic. Despite the dangers of being shipwrecked, it was
not surprising that I should leap for joy when my wife suggested
that we take a holiday in the form of an ocean cruise around the
Greek islands. God, I thought. I hope she doesnt
book us on one of those floating ice-cream cakes that have as much
seaborne character as a plastic beach in the Bahamas! When
she brought home a mountain of brochures from the travel agent,
and started on a dissertation on the various options of our voyage,
I had only one thought on my mind. How old is the ship?
Although the name of our floating hotel was still a mystery the
travel agent didnt have clue our itinerary was pretty clear.
My other half had selected a week-plus life on the ocean waves
holiday that would take us to some of the well known spots in the western
Mediterranean. This particular package included connecting flights from
Barcelona to Athens, a traffic jammed bus ride to Piraeus to board our
ship and apart from a couple of stops in Turkey, a hop-on hop-off journey
to some of the most beautiful islands in Southern Europe. Whilst my wife
was busy taking notes of the various sites and dilapidated old buildings
we were meant to visit, I was preparing my own list of reporting utensils
in order to write about our trip. Binoculars, tape recorder, notepad,
ballpoint and my for-fools-only camera were among the items,
no fancy laptop nor telescopic lens. D-day arrived and we were all set.
By the way, I should mention that it was our fortieth wedding anniversary
and this mini voyage was the climax of a lifetime devoted to world-wide
adventures, albeit wrapped in tinfoil!
After a routine set of flights I cant stand airports
a night stop at our Athens hotel. (Greece by the way, is preparing for
the 2004 World Olympic Games and Athens is one enormous construction site.
This includes all the known monuments which are held together with scaffolding)
we arrived at wait for it! our ship. As expected, a sixties
or seventies rust bucket all spruced up for the umpteenth time, just like
Bette Davies in Whatever happened to Baby Jane?. Her name
was, very aptly the MTS World Renaissance. You can tell an
old lady from the chicken pox marks on her hull after years
of paint. Nevertheless, I was overjoyed. I felt young again! I couldnt
wait to go onboard to check out all the other nooks and crannies of my
Before we boarded, our tour guide had gone through all the possible excursions
that were on offer during the journey. For those interested in paying
the extras a proper interpreter come guide plus a bored bus
driver would keep you busy most days of the cruise. The list was pretty
comprehensive. As if addressing a political rally and without taking a
breather she blasted away: Your first stop will be Istanbul, and
here we will take you to see the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia which is the
Church of the Divine Wisdom and the Topkapi Palace. We will then end up
in the famous Bazaar where you will be able to buy any article available
on this earth and haggle to your hearts content to pay the right
price. The tour will cost 83 Euros per person!. Whilst my wife was
taking it all in and making notes, I kept thinking about the smoke-room.
The guide went on: Our next port of call will be Kusadasi, also
in Turkey. Here we will first visit Ephesus, one of the most preserved
ancient sites of the roman world
My mind was beginning to
Listening to this petite woman in her mid.-forties go on about the tours,
I began to picture the scenes. Each day, together with dozens of other
camera laden and T shirt clad tourists, I would receive an
abridged version of Greek history prior to disembarking and boarding our
awaiting bus. We would then arrive at our destination and meander through
fields and fields of marble and stone as our tour guide would tell us
how the Turks and the Greeks bashed each others brains out. As this brief
history began to sink in, the abrupt cry of this way please, hurry
the bus is waiting! would bring you back to the present. Come six
oclock, about the average departure time, wed go back to the
ship for a quick shower, change of clothes and into our bib a tucker,
a healthy meal, after dinner drinks and cigar, cabaret and finally go-go
dancing to pass the night away. All this, I suspected, would be awaiting
you on board as you returned broken and bruised from so much mountain
climbing and church hoping on the islands. These thoughts were going through
my head even before I had actually walked up the gangplank. No way! I
will not succumb to becoming a member of a human flock of sheep. As Frankie
would say: Ill do it may way. Ill go it alone.
I was beginning to figure out a plan that would include my wife as historical
tour guide when it hit me!
Our tour guide (remember were still on the bus on the way to the
ship) was repeating the phrase:
without the virgin, it will
cost only 45 Euros!
Part Two - Life On Board next week May 8th
© James Skinner. 2002. May
James Skinner has a problem
Ive got these icons jumping about and some bastard in the Middle
East is probably buying guns with my credit cards.
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