Theatre and book reviews by Janice Dempsey
Friends were surprised when we booked a cruise from Southampton UK to the Caribbean, over Christmas and New Year 2016-17. "Which airline are you on?" they asked, confusing me for a moment because I hadn't even considered flying anywhere and I'd booked a sea-voyage because I don't like long-haul fllights. We live in easy driving distance of Southampton and it seemed a natural plan to hop on a cruise ship that would take us via La Coruña in Spain, straight to Barbados, St Lucia, St Maartens, Antigua, Grenada and home via San Miguel in the Azores. We have been married for six months now, but we treated the trip as our belated honeymoon.
Of course, we soon realised that there was much more to it than a ferry-ride. We were at sea on the Atlantic Ocean for a total of 16 days, while P & O did its best to keep us from suffering from cabin fever and scurvy. They certainly succeeded regarding the scurvy. The food was plentiful, delicious and varied, and available at all hours of day and night, all included in the price of our ticket.
The cabin fever was also catered for, with a daily programme of talks on the places we visited and other topics (many of which, sadly, turned out to be aimed at selling something), deck sports, tennis, golf practice, yoga, a small gym, a library, a painting class, a choir, guest comedians, film showings, quizzes, dancing, and music and dance shows by resident entertainers.
We also met a lot of people, through sharing dining tables with different passengers every evening. We found a number of like-minded souls, and had some good laughs with them. We were amazed to find that everyone we met had been on cruises several times before, and some virtually lived on cruise ships!
Not much of the entertainment suited our taste though we did enjoy some of the films, and particulary enjoyed meeting Eddie the Eagle, who joined the ship for the last three days, promoting the recent film about his life. His talks were highly enjoyable, because he is true enthusiast and a very honest speaker with a great sense of humour; those qualities give him huge charisma.
Of course I went along to the art group. which was run by a very pleasant man who had originally been an engineer but now teaches watercolour painting. I decided that I preferred to paint independently, though. The paintings and drawings I'm publishing below are from a small (A5) cartrige paper sketchbook and an A3 pad of watercolour paper that I took along with me.
On St Maartens we took a taxi tour and were shown the lovely nudist beach (unoccupied) at Orient Bay, and another beach next to the international airport there, where people go to admire the planes as they swoop in over the sea... an unusual tourist attraction, I thought, because I normally prefer my holiday resorts out of earshot of Boeings.
In Barbados we had a morning on the long white sandy beach between our docked ship and Bridgetown and admired the succession of rainbows over the turquoise sea. In the port of Castries, St Lucia, we found the park containg a bust of the Nobel Prize winning poet Derek Walcott, wandered round the busy market, and in a church yard came across the tomb of a colonial wife, Anne Otto Bayer, who died on a voyage to England in 1826 and was brought back to be buried in St John's Church "by her earnest desire". Her husband John was buried there too, ten years later.
Everywhere in the islands we admired the beautiful colours of the buildings, profusions of unexpected clashes and atonal harmonies we haven't seen anywhere else. In San Miguel, in the Portuguese Azores, we admired the wonderful baroque cathedral and I bought a pair of delightfully comfortable silver and black shoes in the sales.
In our 24 days away, we saw and photographed so many things, grand and trivial, that it would take 6 blogs like this to do them justice. (Go to the Facebook albums of my husband, Dónall Dempsey, if you would like to see more of our photos.) I'll sign off here, and leave you with some pages from my holiday sketchbook.