Gay & Granny go on a cruise
Way back in 2015, I had the best holiday I’ve ever been on. Before I go into why, it’s probably important that I set the scene. It’s not every day a 28 year old goes on a three week cruise with his 82 year old Granny.
Granny had booked this trip with her sister who unfortunately wasn’t able to go, so I was invited instead. I discussed this with Hugh and Ben, as I know they both love a cruise. We decided I’d have been a fool to say no to a free holiday. What did I have to lose?
Granny and I arrived at Heathrow for our 12-hour flight to San Francisco to join the P&O Arcadia. The flight was chartered only for people going on the cruise and by looking at the rest of the passengers I could tell I was going to be bringing down the average age quite considerably. But that was ok, there were plenty of people for Granny to talk to. When we arrived at San Francisco airport, we were taken to a nearby hotel to spend the night before we joined the ship. And late next morning we were finally taken to the P&O Arcadia, a mid-sized adult-only ship, with just over 2,000 passengers and 880 crew.
The boarding process wasn’t quick. We were the last group to be called so we had nearly two hours of waiting. And then once we were finally on board and found our cabin, we had five hours before the ship left. Granny was tired so she stayed to rest, but I ventured out to explore and we agreed to meet back in the room before we set sail.
I wandered round and took in the sights. I’d have liked to have gone to Alcatraz, but you need to book in advance and that wasn’t possible. It’s on the list for next time. The sun was shining and walking up and down hills kept me busy.
Back on the ship, it was time to sail. We went up on deck to go under the Golden Gate Bridge, but it was surprisingly chilly so Granny went to get her jacket. An hour later, she finally returned having totally missed it.
It was time for dinner. There were five dining options on the ship and nine bars and lounges. We went to all of them over the course of three weeks, but regularly dined at the same table with the same group of people. The food was always good quality and there was plenty of it, but after three weeks it started to get a bit familiar so I wouldn’t have wanted to be there much longer. After dinner we’d go to the theatre on the boat and see whatever was scheduled, whether a guest performer or one of P&O’s in-house productions. I found the in-house productions to be lacking, but this may well be due to the fact I work in theatre. I may have been over critical as this was the only bit on the feedback form that Granny and I disagreed on.
People have since asked me whether the sea days were boring. My answer to that is: no. They were my favourite days. You can lie and sunbathe all day and embrace doing nothing. We got into a good structure on sea days which generally went like this:
Paul – gym then sunbathe. Granny – knit and natter
Lunch by the pool
Paul – sunbathe or cinema. Granny – choir or reading
Afternoon snack (this evolved into eating quite a lot)
Get ready for dinner
After four days at sea it was time for a port: Honolulu. We weren’t quick enough to book onto the group excursion to Pearl Harbour so we didn’t actually do much here. I wasn’t feeling adventurous enough to arrange anything myself, so we walked along the beach, ate some lunch and went to some shops.
The next day we arrived at Lahaina, Maui. This was the only port we stopped in where we had to disembark using a smaller boat, in this case the lifeboats. This was not a particularly pleasant experience. Don’t get me wrong, it’s reassuring to know they work but they aren’t built for comfort. Lahaina is just how you’d imagine Hawaii: crystal clear blue water, golden sand and palm trees. Idyllic. We visited the Whaler’s Village which was a little touristy but still pretty, and the Whaling Museum. I wouldn’t rush back there, but it’s always good to get some history about a place.
Five sea days later and I was ready to get off the ship, as were the rest of the passengers. Every day, the Captain made a daily announcement about the weather and shared a little fact. My favourite fact was “The water is so deep, if the ship were to sink now it would take 20 minutes for it to hit the ocean floor”. I digress. We were in Pago Pago (pronounced Pango Pango) in American Samoa. Humidity was high and it was very hot. Granny exclaimed “I didn’t think it would be this hot”, but we had crossed the equator two days before so I’m not sure what she expected.
We crossed the International Date Line during the night and next stop was Apia, Samoa. On the advice of a guest entertainer, we visited Robert Louis Stevenson’s (who wrote Treasure Island) house. This was the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. The gardens were stunning, and the house was light and airy. If it had good internet, I could have quite happily lived there!
One more sea day and we were in Suva, which wasn’t golden sandy beaches, but a port town. I needed to send some emails by this point so went to find an internet café.
On the penultimate day of our trip we were disappointed to discover that we wouldn’t be sailing into Sydney Harbour during the day. They said this was because it wasn’t allowed, but I later found out it was apparently due to docking costs. A bit disappointing, but we rose before dawn and went to gather at the front of the ship anyway to see Sydney Harbour. Sydney is a vibrant, fun city with plenty to see and do and we couldn’t wait to go out and see it. The next leg of the cruise was from Sydney to a few more Australian ports and then on to Asia.
Things I loved about the cruise:
- Made some amazing memories with Granny
- Went to some countries I probably wouldn’t have ever thought about going to
- Discovered that I like a cruise - you only have to unpack once and can eat as much and as often as you want
- The ship was big enough that you could find somewhere quiet to go but not so big it was overwhelming
Things I would change:
- There weren’t many laundry machines and trying to find an empty one was a nightmare
- I would also like to go with a larger group of people closer to my age
- I would have liked to have arrived a day earlier in San Francisco so I could explore there properly
Overall, I loved the cruise and I’d definitely go on another one. I keep asking Granny when we’re going again, and she asks me if I’ve won the lottery yet. I reckon I can wear her down :-)