We were, once again, late in leaving port. Those gathered for the traditional deck party, had a long wait before we left Port Elizabeth at about 11 for four more sea days. The relatively cool and stubbornly windy weather of South Africa was gradually left behind as we rounded the south west coast of the country and set a steady east-north-east route back toward the Equator and Reunion. The sea calmed and with time in hand the ship progressed serenely at around 16 knots, which meant that conditions on deck were very warm. We generally ate breakfast before nine before sitting at the back of the ship in our now usual spot on deck seven with a great view of the Ship’s wake:
Later in the morning, and as I struggle with the sun we retreat to the steamer chairs on the shaded part of deck seven before returning to our balcony for the last couple of hours of the day. When booking, we were careful to secure a cabin on the Portside of the ship because we’ll get a lot of the sun en route to Sydney, since we face north. And then, after Australasia, and back in the northern hemisphere, we’ll face south and again get the benefit of sun for most of the day.
The evenings have been particularly lovely, as we have set out across the Indian Ocean with Passing Madagascar to our north. This was the view from our balcony as we lost the last of the sun on the last day of January:
The star speaker on this leg of the journey has been Martin Bell. We didn’t see him live but watched his first lecture – largely about the Balkans – on our TV the same evening. In truth, it was a bit tired. Neither did we attend his Q and A since he required questions to be submitted in advance, surprising for someone who’s been a professional journalist and politician. But we did go and listen to two other speakers during this four-day spell. A pathologist, Dr Andrew Adam, drew a very large audience to the cinema and spoke about Doctors who poison their patients, with lots of welcome lurid details. But the most impressive speaker to date has been the ex leader of the Opposition in South Africa, Parliamentary leader of the Democratic Alliance, and retired Ambassador, Douglas Gibson. He spoke with great conviction and with lots of evidence about why we should all be optimistic about the future of his country, particularly when the current president is – eventually – replaced. It was uplifting stuff.
Internet provision on board has much improved since we first cruised (on the Queen Victoria) in 2009. But it’s still slow, and because it’s slow, it’s expensive at 75 cents (US) a minute if you pay as you go. So most people buy packages, the most common of which, the Gold package, is $47 for 120 minutes and with an additional 15 minutes free if the package is purchased on the first day of one of the World Cruise sectors. Because we have previously spent more than 30 days on-board Cunard ships, we have Gold status and that means that we each get one of these 120-minute packages free. So we had four hours free Wi Fi between Southampton and Cape Town and we have another four hours free between Cape Town and Freemantle. But it needs careful management, and I usually download emails very early morning, or during first sitting for dinner, when fewer cruisers are online. I’ll then deal with the emails offline and they’ll be sent when I next log on. Facetime has been impossible up to now but we may try again during a port day as our dinner companions, Nick and Geraldine, have had more success.
The two young women who work in the Internet centre are Saints. They’re unbelievably patient, as a constant queue of customers – sometimes with more than a touch of asperity – blame Cunard for IT failures which are more often related to the customers’ own equipment (or their scant knowledge of that equipment) rather than the internet service itself. It’s really important to have a working knowledge of whichever device is being used but more than a few people seem to have bought a new Ipad or laptop before embarking but don’t have much of an idea of how to use it. The IT staff deserve every accolade for the way they help people out, including returning precious internet minutes lost when passengers forget to log out.