If it’s Monday it must be Muscat – Ali Bacon offers some tongue-in-cheek advice on taking a cruise

So we recently succumbed to the siren call of all those fellow retirees who live their lives on the high seas by taking a short cruise around the Arabian Gulf

We loved the sunshine but if you’re thinking of doing it, you might want to take this short test to decide if cruising is for you!

1. Time to pack! So do you:
a)  Start planning your wardrobe a month in advance, using a printed timetable of which nights will be formal, casual, or themed and with your favourite weather app to hand. (You can always pay for extra baggage).
b)  You assemble most of last year’s summer wardrobe and your one posh frock, throw in a few panic buys then throw them out again in case you go over the baggage allowance  
c)   Your Rohan gear is light and crinkle-proof. You share a rucksack as usual

2. After an overnight flight you’ve been embarked (yes, this is a transitive verb) but have yet to be  reunited with your luggage.
Embarkation day - now where are those flipflops?
Do you:
a)  go straight to the pool, slap on the sunscreen and have a swim using the gear from your carefully packed day bag. 
b)   go straight to the all-day café then throw yourself on a lounger and fall asleep, waking to discover you are red all over (apart from the sleeve and trouser marks)
c)   go straight to the walking track where you complete your daily step quota despite having to negotiate all those plebs on the sun-loungers.

3. At dinner:
a)   you’ve opted for ‘freedom dining’ which means you have a different audience each night to regale with your previous cruising experiences (of which this is by far the worst)
b)   you’ve gone for ‘fixed dining’ as it was cheaper. By the third night you hate your fellow-diners so much you fork out for freedom dining and run straight into the people from a)
c)   you dine a deux in the sushi restaurant because some extras are worth it 

4. First day ashore: 
a)   Ashore? You’d rather have the pool and spa to yourself for the day. (Anyway you saw this place last time around).
b)   Despite the extravagant cost of the ship’s excursion and the fact that it leaves at dawn, you take it. At least you’re guaranteed not to miss the evening sailing time and won't have to grapple with local currency, or food, or locals.
c)   This is the life. You have a copy of Lonely Planet and supplies of Omani Rial. If only you didn't have to be back by four p.m. At least there's time for some authentic local cuisine

5. Day two:
a)   As day one. You may stroll off the boat in the afternoon as the TV channels on this ship are a bit rubbish, or catch up with friends using the on-board internet (easily worth the $20 a day).
b)   You don’t really miss being online, honest, but you’ve spotted a café advertising free wifi. After two coffees and half an hour’s internet rage you decide there’s something wrong with the wifi or your phone or both. Too late you discover the café has no loo.
c)   You left your phone at home so you can give yourself entirely to the holiday experience. 

6. Dressing up:
Party time!
a)  You knew tonight was going to be the 'Arabian white party' and have brought your white palazzo pants .
b)   As it happens you brought a white top which you throw over some trousers. You add some dangly earrings for good measure and think this looks okay until you sit next to someone you could have really got on with if they weren’t suspicious of your dress sense.
c)   After dinner you’ll be in your cabin reading from a selection of novels by local writers.  

7. Day three: a sea day (this means you’re not getting off)

Towel-folding anyone?
a) This is your favourite kind of day but you have to get up early to bag a sun-lounger. You signed up in advance for the ladies pamper session as a break from sunbathing
b) Since you don't have to rise at dawn you linger over breakfast then can’t find a sun-lounger except in the wind-tunnel on deck
4. The only activity with spaces left is decorative towel-folding as practiced by the cabin staff. You decide your life has been adequate without knowing how to fold a towel in the shape of a rabbit or a bull-dog and settle for watching T.V. under the bedclothes as the cabin air-con is quite chilly
c) You spend the day on the top deck with your travel binoculars but fail to spot a single dolphin (unlike those who took the pre-paid boat-trip on day 1). 

8. Swimwear choices
a)   you have a sarong that matches every swimsuit
b)   you brought a baggy t-shirt you thought would do
c)    you only swim before breakfast when the pool is empty, do your 20 lengths (that’s 100 in this size of pool) and go straight back for breakfast in the cabin

Seventies night, apparently
9. Evening entertainment
a)  you’ve seen most of it before and prefer to hit the all-in drinks package
b)  you can’t afford to drink all night so you experience a mime-artist who looks suspiciously like the guy who served ice-cream by the pool and an act rumoured to have won BGT. Actually, it could have been worse.
c)  Book, cabin, smug.

10. Beauty routine
a)   you’ve brought your enriched handcream to counteract the constant sanitising and your acrylic nails should easily last the week
b)   after two days of constant sanitising, the nail polish administered pre-cruise by your daughter is looking a bit ragged, so rather than shell out $15 in the shop you brave an on-shore pharmacist who sells you something you’re too scared to use.
c)    nail polish is bad for the environment and remover is worse. Anyway you’re not going to dinner tonight having picked up a bug, possibly at the Omani lunch. 

11. Tipping
a)   you signed up for set tipping but will obviously give a little extra to the cabin boy who folded the towels so nicely
b)   you signed up for set tipping by mistake, you’re certainly not shelling out any more no matter how many towel creations are lined up  
c)    you waived the set tipping and have been keeping a log of every crew member who has gone beyond (or beneath) the call of duty so that you can reward them appropriately

Don't get left behind!
12. Last night
a) now’s the time to make sure you get full value from the drinks package. You can sleep it off on the flight home
b) now’s the time to have a single cocktail then put your back out in the disco
c) now’s the time for a last foray into local culture. Unfortunately your desert trip takes longer than expected and you get lost on your way back to the port. You can’t contact the ship as you have no phone and so you miss the evening sailing time. You need all your remaining cash to pay for a night in the Abu Dhabi equivalent of a Travelodge, for whose cleanliness and convenience you are profoundly grateful, even if the lack of dinner leaves you feeling decidedly empty. 

So how did you do?

Mostly As
Obviously you’ve done this before and have the whole thing sussed. Just try not to make it quite so obvious - please!

Mostly B’s
A good try but you have a lot to learn. Next time consider going with friends. That way you can create your very own dining club. 

Mostly C's
Well really what were you thinking? You would clearly be happier trekking across the Indian sub-continent or touring the coast of Ireland in your camper van.
But if you do decide to do it again, please bring something decent to wear!

Ali Bacon was mostly Bs and Cs but still had a great time. she might even do it again!
She's now back at her desk concocting short stories and blog posts for Authors Electric.  Find out more about her published writing here or at alibacon.com


Bill Kirton said…
Excellent, Ali. You've confirmed a long-held suspicion - a short cruise like this or a longer stay in purgatory? I'll take the latter thank you.
Susan Price said…
With you, Bill.
Ali - you've confirmed me in my deepest suspicions of cruises. I don't think I'd survive one.
AliB said…
Oh dear, I have come across very jaundiced! IN fact I felt I had had a midwinter tonic! A.
Chris Longmuir said…
Best laugh of the day. I've only ever done one cruise, a Norwegian one, so no problems re pool, loungers etc and had a fab time. It was on my bucket list, so that one's scored off and not sure whether I'd do another one. It's less fun when you're on your own.
AliB said…
Hi Chris - I think there were a few 'singles' on ours, but yes it was geared up for coupledom. I hear cruising is popular with families, though. Not sure it would have suited our kids unless the boat had been a lot bigger which of course some of them are.
Dennis Hamley said…
We've been on five cruises so far and thoroughly enjoyed each one. My only concession to formality was to buy a tuxedo, if I may use an Americanism, for £25 in Oxfam for the evening the captain comes to dinner. It actually looks quite smart. Swan Lake in the Hermitage, St Petersburg, has been the all-time highlight - and that was on the cheapest cruise too. Most of them we get on Travelzoo, so they've had quite a bit knocked off them already.
AliB said…
I agree Dennis - dressing up is nice (we already have stuff from ballroom dancing) and apparently St. Petersburg is best done by water - I did say I might go again - will just be more aware of the pitfalls :)
Lydia Bennet said…
I'm not attracted to cruises, because it's torture for me to be stuck on board with a teeny pool full of bods throwing balls around and not be able to be in the sea which is all around you looking amazing and teeming with critters: plus I don't like being confined: plus they seem to be about a lot of eating: and I love to fly. I'd quite like to see Dennis rocking his oxfam tux though!
Elizabeth Kay said…
Great post! My only experience is a three day trip down the Yangtse. It was all a bit of a shock, especially the appalling entertainment. My holidays usually need a D rating - Day one, arrive minus luggage, clothing totally unsuitable. Day two - on a drip in the local hospital thanks to meal the night before. Day three - get bitten by a dog, and have to get a rabies jab. Day four - everyone goes down with salmonella. Day five - landslide blocks road. (Okay, I conflated them) However, these stories go down awfully well when you're talking to a group of schoolkids about where you get your ideas...
I went to Finland a couple of times on a cargo ship, back in the 1970s. They had about half a dozen cabins and it was wonderful - extremely luxurious and in those days a lot cheaper than flying! I always thought cruising wasn't for me, but with husband's increasing mobility problems it's beginning to look more attractive.
AliB said…
What I couldn't quite get used to (although I knew it would be like this!) was the time-limit on being ashore. That feeling of getting to know your way around your holiday destination just wasn't going to happen. (Of course the destination is the ship!)and the clock-watching seemed at odds with the holiday feel.
also the gulf although gorgeously hot and sunny probably had less to offer in the way of local colour than Mediterranean or other European itineraries. A case of pros and cons, but I suspect if offered 5 days in one beautiful European city or a 7-day cruise I would go for the stay.

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