Cruising Solo (pt 2)…Four Nights, Three Days at Sea

by Anna Buckley

RCI_RH-Izumi-2F.jpg (600×400)I have booked a table at the Japanese restaurant Izumi. After wandering aimlessly a helpful crew member points me in the right direction and eventually I make my way to the back of the boat, find the correct lift and arrive at level 12. I’m greeted and led to my table for one. The restaurant fills.

IMG_5788[1]I sit staring at the glorious sunset, sipping a glass of Prosecco. The couple next to me smile and ask whether I’m dining alone. “Yes” I reply and explain my situation. “Come and join us.” I hesitate, not wanting to interrupt what looked like a romantic dinner for two. But they insist and reassure me that the food here is much better shared.

IMG_5789[1]My companions, Dorothy and Wayne, are a forty something professional couple who, every year, celebrate the way they met…on a cruise. I ask “why this boat?” and they tell me it’s got that something special, a personality all of its own. Friendly, welcoming, a place that feels like home. They always dine at one of the specialty restaurants on the first night and Izumi is a favorite. Wayne asks for the wine list and chooses the Argentinian Malbec, something unfamiliar but so terribly appropriate. I’m happy to let them order and the first of an array of delicious dishes is brought to our table.

IMG_5790[1]I confess I’m a first time cruiser and feel completely  lost. Dorothy is happy to be my guide. We swap room numbers and she tells me I shouldn’t hesitate to call if I get into trouble. I tell her I have no sense of direction and she mentions there’s a map on the back of the ‘Welcome Aboard’ leaflet. I pull out the scrunched up paper and she shows me we are dining in one of the highest points of the ship. The view is stunning.

IMG_5791[1]I ask her about the dining options. Apart from the specialty restaurants all meals are free and there are lots of choices. Dorothy suggests a shared table at the more formal Edelweiss restaurant for dinner tomorrow night. She asks to look at my swipe card, shows me my allocated time and says to go to the front of house desk where I’ll be given a table number. I confess I wasn’t quite ready for the shared dining experience and that’s why I’d opted to eat at Izumi tonight. Dorothy understands but reassures me it’s a great way of meeting people. Sharing with them tonight proves her point.

IMG_5792[1]The time passes quickly, the food is sensational, we chat like old friends. They insist on paying for dinner and I make a mental note to return the favour…maybe at the Italian restaurant, later in the week. After dinner they take me on a tour of the boat, pointing out their favourite places. I leave feeling much more confident and truly ready for the adventure to begin.

Back in my cabin, I climb into bed, content and am gently rocked to sleep.

IMG_5795[1]I wake early, 6.30, to a grey dawn morning. I gather up all the information leaflets and this time read through them properly. The restaurant opens at 7am. By the time I shower and dress the sun is up and it’s a bright blue day. I’m starving, check my map and easily make it to the Windjammer on deck nine. It’s not busy, and as I’m not really a chatty breakfast person, choose a small table by the window. A waiter brings me a coffee and I look around, getting a feel for the place and see that it’s buffet service.

IMG_6132[1]I can choose eggs cooked anyway I like, with muffins, toast, bagels etc.

IMG_6129[1]But opt for a bit of fruit first…kidding myself that I will eat right and not overdo it on the food front!

IMG_6136[1]The buffet calls and I load my plate with bacon, sausage, omelette, scrambled egg and ham. I barely make a dent in this mountain of food and wonder why the hell I took so much. Normally I skip breakfast, usually a coffee is enough. I’ve succumbed to the temptation of the ‘all you can eat’ thing and vow to show a little restraint next time.

IMG_6130[1]But not before I’ve sampled the exquisite patisserie.

IMG_6139[1]And finished off another coffee and croissant with strawberry jam!

In an attempt to counter this diet breaking eat fest I decide to always take the stairs and stumble, panting, back to my room. It’s only 7.30, ‘what’s the rush?’ so I put my PJs back on and continue reading my book… and somehow sleep till 11am.

The daily cruise guide has been delivered and as nothing takes my fancy, just yet, I don my swim suit and head for the pool.

IMG_5829[1]The deck chairs around the Solarium pool are all occupied so I wait patiently, looking for any signs of movement, in the hope of securing a spot.

IMG_6143[1]Whilst still keeping an eagle eye on the chairs I follow the lead of others and quickly grab some towels. A woman vacates her spot and, unceremoniously, I race, ahead of the pack, victoriously claiming my piece of pool deck territory.

IMG_5807[2]The towels are laid out and it’s so hot I’m in the water after only a few minutes.

IMG_5806[1]I chat easily to other bathers while relishing the comfortable temperature of the water and the vivid blue of this perfect summers day. Bliss! The Solarium pool is a friendly place, a quiet sanctuary, adults only.

Being school holidays, I’m informed there are at least 600 children on board! The kids don’t miss out as they have free range of the large pool next door. On this ship there is childcare and a huge range of activities to entertain all age groups. Happy kids…relaxed parents. I think how great this would have been when our children were little and remember nightmarish holidays, driving around, different locations every day, fights and tears with the unfamiliarity of it all.

IMG_6009[1]By 1 pm I’m starving and check out the little Park Cafe to my right. I see the fruit salad, the baguettes, the rare-beef rolls and finally opt for the Thai prawn and noodles.

IMG_5809[1]It’s delicious and my neighbor asks where I got it from… now I’m feeling like the expert.

IMG_6144[1]Opposite the Park Cafe is the licensed Solarium bar and I grab myself a glass of Californian Sauvignon Blanc, swipe my card and think how easy that was!

IMG_5843[1]By late afternoon I’ve had enough sun for the day and consider a little afternoon nap would be good. Perhaps it was the wine? Dinner won’t be till 8.30.

IMG_6189[1]I call past the Edelweiss dining room, where they’re setting up for that night’s dinner. The charming maître d’ zaps my card, asks whether I’ll be dining alone, skips over the key board and smiles, “I’ve put you on table 170, I think you’ll like the people there.”

IMG_6117[1]That evening I slip on my little black dress, pearls, heels and totter up the stairs. The dress code is formal tonight. Many of my fellow passengers have made an extra special effort, women looking elegant in floor length gowns on the arms of men dressed in dinner suits. What a pleasant scene. I’m taken to a table of 8 diners, introduced and seated between the lovely Steve and Marie…

IMG_6118[1]And Roy and Sue.

IMG_5841[1]The menu is extensive, but finally I choose scallops, duck and finish with a chocolate souffle.

Marie and Sue make me feel so comfortable and we talk as if we’ve known each other for ages. At the end of dinner they ask if I’d like to come with them to see the stage show and I say yes.

IMG_6169[1]The 1000 seat theatre fills quickly.

IMG_5873[1]We watch a magician perform, and will be treated to a different act every night… dancers, comedians, a full orchestra, a pianist, a tribute show, singers.

IMG_5814[1]We walk through the casino… maybe I’ll have a flutter, and go our separate ways. “See you at dinner tomorrow. Goodnight”

IMG_5827[1]The band in the Atrium is serenading the night with a gentle ballad.

IMG_5812[1]I return to my room to discover a cheese and fruit platter has been delivered, with compliments from the Food and Beverage Manager. I feel utterly chuffed and am delighted at what a great day this has been.

IMG_5820[1]Over the next few days at sea I’m spoilt for choice with things to do (and eat!) I even take a napkin folding class and almost master ‘The Swan’ but find I’m more a ‘Candle’ kind of girl… the wine helped!

What would the inner city hipsters think?!

IMG_6166[1]I do attempt the Cha Cha and am surprised when the instructor, seeing I have no partner, grabs me by the hand and helps me perfect my style.

IMG_5877[1]The party ramps up… is that really me dancing Reggae to a Bob Marley song?

I chat freely to complete strangers, discover their stories, swap cruise notes, make new friends and sip far too many Pina Coladas.

Seriously… I’m getting my cruise mojo and having a bloody great time…Christina would understand!

Cheers Anna x.

Coming up next…Idyllic tropical islands and adventures on land.

Anna Buckley Books

Love you to read my books.

The Lost Woman series follows the sexy adventures of Christina as she makes her way through a world of new media, design, fashion,  travel, and … men.

A perfect read for those of you looking for something after Fifty Shades of Grey.
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