By R E Ramakrishnan
From the balcony gazing out at the vast expanse of water occasionally interrupted by a sliver of a green patch of land, it looks like another time; when nature was not a thing that grew at the edge of civilization but a world unto itself where humans were invited as guests. It tugged at our hearts to stay still and gaze perpetually out at the never-changing scene that somehow manages to keep us enthralled; the mind seems to get numbed to stillness from the sameness.
The realization that there are scores of activities that the cruise abounds in to entertain you, pulls you out from there into the warm Jacuzzi of which there are four, or the azure blue and cool swimming pools of which there are three or just a slow-paced rambling walk past the glittering duty-free shops at the promenade selling intimidating labels which at those sticker prices seem anyway not to draw many souls in!
The pattern gets drawn quickly as we board the vessel. Gen Next collect themselves into a large group and set out on their exploits oblivious of the seniors. By Day 1 it was evident that we wouldn’t be granted visas to their world. Not that the men or the women had any issue with that since they seemed not to be having the breadth in their minds to be able to absorb the wide scene that spread out in front of them; the prospect of engaging in a wide range of activities of their choice overwhelming them.
With 3150 guests and well over 1200 crew the task for the kitchen hands is simply daunting. The sheer numbers will give even the most intrepid amongst them a spin of their heads. While during the peak times the restaurants (and there were atleast four of them) looked more like the dining hall at a large Indian wedding, at the nonpeak time, they afforded the luxury of sitting by the large glass windows and enjoy the meal all the while gazing at the occasional ship that cruised past, ever so slowly.
The evenings presented us a greater challenge of choosing from amongst myriad options; one day it was the group, duo and solo waltzing on an ice rink that ranks amongst the most significant of the attractions. On another day it was the acrobatics by an Ukranian couple that made the audience reflectively jump from their chairs in shock and awe at the spectacle in front of them.
To pander to one’s culinary demands is always a challenge and here we could safely say they were offering us more than a fair deal; the kitchen might have had a certain Western bias and a Chinese intent but we did find a few choices in the Indian cuisine.
You will soon hear from our Anns and Annettes as to their experience, but it suffices to suggest as a matter of universal judgment that this has been one helluva fellowship!