03.05.2012 - 04.05.2012
A few days along and I have settled in. As is normal for me on a ship, I have acquired a basic routine now I know what is going on. One logical curiosity of the trip is the combination of time zones and journey time mean that the clocks change virtually every night (6 out of 7) – thus on a Westbound voyage, the days are generally 25hours long. After the first night the scene was quite empty, with just the occasional bird to be seen until Day 5 when occasional cargo ships started to be spotted as well as a random airplane that circled the ship one evening and came, I assume, from Newfoundland. After 24 hours on board, I was further West than I have ever been in my life and rapidly moving more into the unknown hemisphere.
Though I have found my niche on board, I have felt increasingly out of place. Whilst I freely admit that I haven't 'played the game' fully, at no point have I have ever really felt welcome on the ship. I have thus found it much harder to relax than normal, and making connections has also not really happened. In theory, I should find it easier to fall into conversation with people on this trip than on my HAL trips - the vast majority of people on board are native English speakers, and whilst many passengers are much older as a percentage there are more younger people. In practice, I have found it harder to connect with people. Although I talked to any number of people, I only managed to have anything resembling a meaningful conversation in isolated cases. For the first time on departing a ship, there is not a single person who I will stay in touch with once ashore or would wish to become friends with.
Thus instead of being social, making friends with crew or drinking beer, all of which were regular features of previous trips, I have spent more time alone, often in my cabin or reading in the library. Plans to attempt some work rapidly went up in a plume of smoke – literally - when the power supply on my macbook went BANG! on the first sea day, rendering me sadly mac-less for the voyage. Frequent strong winds and squalls (it was, after all, the North Atlantic in April/early May and not prime summer weather. Heck, 100 years ago this month, the Titanic and other ships were encountering icebergs on this very journey) limited the amount of time that could comfortably be spent on deck or that I would normally spend outside, although I still went out as much as possible and also tried to do a few laps every day at least. I went to a solo traveller meet on Day 2 (which was very, very scary being full of mostly retired American and Canadian ladies who seem to virtually live on cruise ships and I can only assume are not lacking the odd dollar – several had just completed the 4 month round the world voyage, and at least 3 had been on board for more than a year. To put into context, at the very cheapest rate that would cost me about 3 years salary just for the cabin alone), took in a couple of lectures, and watched some films and sport shown via satellite link in the main auditoriums.
In the early evening of Day 5 we passed 50miles north of the final resting place of RMS Titanic, a slightly eerie and sobering moment on any transatlantic voyage, but more poignant in the 100th anniversary of it's sinking and barely a couple of weeks after a memorial cruise had come this way. But onwards, relentlessly we sailed. I tried hard to empty my head, to relax, to forget things and to a point it definitely worked. Perhaps not quite as well as I would have hoped, but it was not bad. After all, I was no longer in Newbury. I also managed to sleep about as much during the week as in the previous month or two combined, and for that reason alone the trip has been worthwhile.
Though it has not been a bad voyage, I admit that it has probably been the least enjoyable of all my voyages to date. It is also the first time that I have been increasingly happy that I will be disembarking soon; on all previous ships I would have been content to remain on board for longer. I am not entirely sure why, but guess that my mental and physical state have probably not helped and the novelty of passenger trips has also probably worn off. But as previously noted, I don't fit the desired demographic of passenger and feel quite awkward because of it. This does not necessarily bode well for the return voyage, especially as an administrative balls-up has led to my paying in excess of 400gbp more than I should have done – something I had resigned myself to before this voyage, but after this experience it certainly hasn't helped my mood about the incident. I may well have company on my return trip, which will force me to get some fancy clothes and play the game more, and it may mean I enjoy it more. I should also be much healthier, which will be a definite help. Time will tell. But on this trip at least, though I have enjoyed being at sea again, especially after finding a nice spot to watch the sea, I have found the whole experience just a bit, well, oddly underwhelming. I have realised that I miss the slight chaos of German chartered HAL ships, but more than that, I really miss the freedom of cargo ships.
Oh well. Tomorrow is a new day, and assuming I can prize myself awake in time, I should see the promised land – America; New York City – slowly appear though the dawn.