We sat for a short while in the panoramic lounge bar, the panorama was dark outside, not dark because it was night but dark because we were sailing towards a very dark storm indeed.
The ships captain didn’t seem to care, all of the passengers sat quaking in the panoramic lounge bar cared, we all cared so much that we were pooping our pantaloons, “Why doesn’t he turn back ?” we all mouthed silently at each other above the howling, screaming wind that could be heard even inside the locked and bolted-up panoramic lounge bar, “Why ?”
It was a good question, “Why ?”, indeed most of our party asked it of my boss for it was he who had said it would be a jolly jape to come along on this cruise to Hell, he just sat there clinging to the arms of his chair with a lop-sided grin fixed permanently on his face muttering “I didn’t know, I’m sorry, I just didn’t know…”
It wasn’t too long before the pendulum-like rolling of the ship grew to the stage where furniture started to move and at that point a man in a ships uniform announced that the panoramic lounge bar would be closing now and could we all vacate to the self service restaurant on the floor below, so we did.
The main reason why they moved us to the self service restaurant on the floor below was because all of the chairs and tables in that room were bolted to the floor, so no danger from sliding furniture then, it was just the flying knives and forks that we had to worry about now.
Now the whole point of our trip in the first place had been the self service restaurant and its Scandanavian Smorgasbord selection of meals, where we in the UK would queue up at a serving hatch and be given our meals the Danish simply laid all of the food out on huge platters and you helped yourself, including going back to the table as many times as you like, it was a revolution in restaurant eating for us English people in 1982 and brought much mirth on our part before we sailed with comments like “How stupid must they be to let you just eat as much as you want” or “I’ll eat the value of my cruise ticket in the first ten minutes”, how wrong we were.
The Smorgasbord was indeed impressive, a huge array of food all laid out on self service displays, take your plate and pile it as high as you like and pay one price for the lot and yet strangely no-one seemed to be interested, in fact people were actually starting to move away from the tables as the smell of the food wafted around the room a little.
Truth is, people were starting to turn a little green around the gills, people were excusing themselves from the public rooms and going for a lie down in their cabins, two of our group had a go at eating something and very quickly left the room, and I don’t think they made it all the way back to their cabins either.
Within a short space of time there was only me and another random bloke from our party left sitting at our table, everyone else had excused themselves from public circulation.
“Don’t you get seasick then ?” he asked me
“No I don’t think I do” I replied and then told him the story of our seafishing expedition from a few years earlier when even our Ned throwing up all over my face hadn’t left me feeling even a bit queasy.
So we helped ourselves to the Smorgasbord, us and about three other people and we sat and tried to eat it at a table which wouldn’t lie still so that our plates piled high with food rotated between the two of us every ten seconds or so and eventually it was just easier to eat from the plate that was in front of you at that precise moment.
Later we took a stroll around the ship, that is to say we were pitched up and down the ships corridors by the mother of all storms whilst being treated to staff and passengers vomiting where they lay in the corridors and staircases, and in one case a man who was doomed to spend the next 26 hours going up and down in the lift trapped by his own seasick inability to move, sitting in the corner of the lift surrounded by what had previously been his stomach contents, as if the up/down/side-to-side motion of the ship was not stomach churning enough he also had to contend with the lift on its relentless quest to go somewhere other than the first seven floors of this cork in a bathtub called the Newcastle to Esbjerg ferry.
We found ourselves sharing a sauna on the very bottom deck of the ferry with four professional fishermen who were on their way to Denmark to collect a boat and bring it back to South Shields, they scoffed at the sickly landlubbers on board, laughed at suggestions that The North Sea was a little inclement tonight, they fished in the Arctic Ocean they told us, this was a mere puff of breeze to them, and then the close and heated confines of the sauna grew too much for one of them and he staggered outside to be sick in the swimming pool.
Whilst down in the very bowels of the ship we stood for some time staring out of a porthole at the maelstrom outside, still supposedly two decks up from sea level the porthole we were staring in wonder out of was regularly under water and when it wasn’t under water it revealed huge white topped waves as far as the eye could see, which admittedly wasn’t very far, it being night and you view being obscured by the wave immediately in front of you, the one that was going to hit your side of the ship any second now…
Everything that classed as “entertainment” on the ship was cancelled, the dancing girls in the cabaret lounge could not dance on a stage that would not stay still, the casino operator could not play their games of chance on tables that bucked and pitched and threw all of the cards and chips to the floor, the bars were all shut and all their bottles of spirits locked away, the “disco” operator had a brave attempt at starting up but with only a handful of hardy seasick-less souls in the room it was doomed to failure especially when two people did try and have a bit of a dance and were thrown unmercilessly into a row of tables sustaining cuts and bruises, “I think we’ll call it a night” said someone in a uniform, and so we all did.
Not one wink of sleep was obtained that night for a even ship that big makes a lot of groaning, whining, thumping, clanging, rumbling, straining noises, constant noises, no respite from the noise of being in a big steel box during a storm at sea, no-one slept a wink, but at least I didn’t have to keep crawling to the toilet to throw up nothing all night long.
The storm only abated when we arrived in Esbjerg and a hundred or so ill, sleepless, faded people disembarked into the city to wander the streets like zombies for six hours before returning to the ferry to do it all over again.
It wasn’t one of my bosses best ideas, not by a long mark.