Those brilliant people at British Airways, still my favourite airline if not the worlds, gave me a very heavily discounted ticket to anywhere I wanted to go.
Whilst North Oxfordshire has many attractions, it is not the warmest places on earth in January and February and my ageing body works better in the sunshine and warmth, so Barbados here I come!
At least that was the plan, then I started looking at hotel prices out there, blimey I could buy a semi-detached in Banbury for the price of a two week stay out there.
Then my daughter, she knows everything, suggested I went on a cruise, I’ve always resisted cruises, I mean they are for old people, aren’t they.

So, a cruise booked and off I went, there is always something magical about getting on a plane at a freezing fog bound Heathrow and just a few hours later getting hit in the face by the heat and smells of somewhere exotic.
A night in a hotel sipping one too many rum punches with my feet in the Caribbean and next morning off to meet my home for the next 15 nights, the mighty MSC Seaside.
Embarkation was an absolute doddle, and I was soon settled in my cabin on the 12th deck of 20, this was one seriously big boat. I live in a small village with 500 folks, there were more people in the next cabin than live in my street.

Time to start exploring, 16 bars, numerous restaurants, a theatre that wouldn’t disgrace the west end, a casino, pools, waterslides, zip wires, a full-size bowling alley, loads of shops and even a full-size formula one race car simulator…I hated it.
Dress was much more casual than I had been expected and after a swift Jack Daniels in the bar into the massive restaurant for dinner, I had been allocated a place at table 311 for 7pm, if you were not sat down within fifteen minutes of that time the doors were shut, not that you would go hungry.
MSC are very clever all the solo travellers are tabled together in a far corner, to make sure we all behave, my fellow guests were businessman Oliver, who was using the ship as a floating hotel whilst visiting clients on the various islands we were calling at. Jane who had spent many years in the travel industry and was full of useful tips. A mother and daughter from Liverpool who disappeared after that first night and a lady called Helen.

Day one was spent at sea, a good time to explore the ship and the various bars, talking of bars one the stars of the cruise was bar waitress Tammy in the main seaside bar, three stories high, I kid you not, she got to know me very quickly and always greeted “Mr Pink” with a fabulous smile. Indeed, the whole crew never stopped smiling, everyone of them a credit to MSC.
Instead of joining my allocated table for dinner that night I took myself off to one of the specialist restaurants, the Teppanyaki Japanese restaurant, pure theatre and magnificent food including a lovely succulent lobster,
As relationships and friendships were formed there was lots of table hopping at dinner which didn’t go down to well with Italian Maître’D Paolo, now I have to be brutally honest the food was not quite what I expected, plenty of it and much to choose from and it must be very difficult to cater for so many nationalities.
I shall return to the food later.
Every Island is a different story, Grenada, home of the nutmeg, was a beach day, taxi to Great Asne beach reputedly on of the finest in the Caribbean where I overdid the
beers and sunshine, a brief snack for supper before an early night shivering from too much sun.
Day 5 saw me arrive in St Vincent from where I took a speed boat across to Bequia to research their historic and still active whaling industry Bequia is stunning I would happily move there tomorrow.
But that night it all changed, table 311 had been joined by a fellow widower from Rugby who really upset me with an indelicate reference to my late wife, to be fair to him I don’t think it was intentional. But I had to excuse myself from the table, where in a great act of kindness Jane tracked me down to the bar and cheered me up a tad.
But I am an emotional person and had had enough, cruising was not for me and the next day in Martinique I made enquiries about jumping ship and flying home, Martinique was hot and dusty and very French.
That night I went into dinner with every intention of confronting my new friend, but I thought what’s the point, Jane and I then table hopped to the adjoining table where I was introduced to Lisa, Karen, Sue and Lynn and that was that, from this point everything descended into one long party. Indeed, late that night I was singing Paranoid by Black Sabbath in The Garage Karaoke bar.

The Islands came and went, with some terrific highlights, sat in a bar at the end of the runway at St Maarten people watching holiday makers getting blow jobs of Boeing 737s, visiting the fictitious town of St Honore where the BBC film Death in Paradise. Spending Karens birthday on a deserted beach in Antigua, with a great
lunch in OJs where I left a pair of underpants 25 years ago (Long Story).
Visiting some stunning botanical gardens in Martinique, some great meals in the evening especially at the speciality restaurants on board, and a magnificent rendering of Mustang Sally by all of us in the Karaoke bar.

On a serious note, it was very cathartic to talk to and listen to those who have
suffered similar circumstances to me, but my god I have had it easy compared to some of these ladies, brave an inspirational they really are.
Also, a tad brutal, whilst I am content on my own, they did point out that my chances of meeting a 49-year-old supermodel are the wrong side of slim.
Quick recap, MSC Seaside is a magnificent ship staffed by some super friendly people, and spotless, the food in the main restaurant is a bit disappointing, indeed the always available buffet is better, and the food in the speciality restaurants’superb.
Remember the two ladies from Liverpool, I eventually tracked them down and they came up with the best quote of the trip, “Just because we come from f***g Liverpool, doesn’t mean we eat shite”
And the Caribbean is everything it should be, blue skies, fantastic warm blue seas, a swim in the Caribbean Sea is one of life’s great experiences, the smells and colours of the islands is everything you expect
And cruising, I said I would never go on one, after three days I wanted to come home and guess what I’ve just booked another one


  1. Love it, I just laughed out loud reading this and I’m not in a laughing mood (just editing my new book, editing is not a laughing matter). I feel the same, I wasn’t keen on cruises but – I did my first cruise last year with CroiseEurope to Corisca, and guess what I’m booked on another cruise too! Great post Peter, absolutely love it…

    Liked by 1 person

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