So, here we are onboard the Seabourn Ovation on a 14-day cruise up to Hongkong.
“Fourteen days?” Saffy had said a few months earlier when Amanda first floated the idea. “Do I want to be stuck with you guys for 14 days on a ship?”
“It’s a big ship!” Amanda had replied. “You won’t even need to see us if you don’t want to. Not even for meals. They have, like, six restaurants onboard. And there are only 300 rooms and every room is a suite with its own private balcony. And there’s Wi-Fi. Oh, come on, you’ll love it!”
Saffy had wrinkled her nose. “Won’t it be full of retirees?”
Amanda stared. “Uhm… You just came back from aerobics at the local community centre where the median age is 67.”
Saffy shrugged. “Well, that’s only because the instructor is super cute and he’s got thighs that could choke a bear!”
“Well, they’ll have Ukrainian gym instructors on the Ovation, so you’ll love it!”
Saffy had remained unconvinced. “But it’s going to be so expensive! We’re not all made of money like you are!”
“You have no children,” Amanda had pointed out. “Think how much you’re already saving from not having to raise, house, feed, educate and entertain two ungrateful kids!”
“And who, when they turn 15, will tell you how much they hate you and wish you were dead,” I’d added, having just spent two hours at lunch listening to my best friend Karl moan about how he wished he’d never had his evil ungrateful offspring.
Which is how last weekend we found ourselves crossing the gang-plank at the cruise centre in HarbourFront to board the all-white Ovation, the pride and joy of the Seabourn line.
“Well, this is rather nice,” Saffy said, a little reluctantly, as she settled into the lounge chair on her balcony, a chilled flute of champagne by her side as she looked out over the leafy hills of Sentosa.
By our second day out at sea, she’d basically fallen under a spell, spending hours on the pool deck, alternately lazily flipping the pages of volume two of Game of Thrones and being hypnotised by the unending blue horizon that circled around us.
One afternoon, she leaned over her chaise lounge and peered at me over the top of her sunglasses. “Don’t tell Amanda, but I’m totally sold on this whole cruise thing.”
“Isn’t this just the life?” I murmured as I stretched supine on my towel, drowsy from the warm sun and hazily wondering if I could be bothered to lift my hand to check the time. “When’s lunch? I’m thinking of sushi.”
Saffy picked up her daily schedule and scanned the list of activities. “There’s lobster tonight at the Colonnade,” she said. “And escargots! Or we could do Thomas Keller?”
“I can’t think that far ahead,” I told her. “Let’s just get through lunch first.”
The passengers are, as Saffy predicted, mostly on the retiree end of the spectrum. Large contingents of Americans and Germans, almost all broiled by the sun and happy to spend the whole day playing bridge or parked by the pool bar drinking spritzers, and gin and tonics.
After lunch, we retreat to our suites for a nap, waking up just in time for afternoon tea of fluffy scones, cakes and cucumber sandwiches, after which Amanda invariably heads off to the spa for a manicure or a facial, whilst Saffy and I sprawl on the couch in my suite and watch the latest Hollywood blockbuster.
Tomorrow, we arrive in Thailand. All around us, people are busy planning day trips, their guide books and maps spread out around them.
“Do we want to go into Bangkok?” Amanda asked this morning at breakfast. “Or do a temple tour or something?”Saffy’s bosom deflated with a sigh. “Not really. I’m too lazy to move. I might do an acupuncture session for my knee with that cute Japanese acupuncturist. And I want to watch The Favourite as well. Plus there’s pizza at the Patio today.”
Amanda turned to me with an enquiring look.
“There’s a dancing class that I want to try out,” I said.
Amanda looked relieved. “Oh good, no one wants to go. I wasn’t keen to get off the ship either, but I didn’t want to spoil the party. Great, I’ll get a hair treatment, then.”
Tonight, there’s a magic show after dinner, an entertainment prospect that, if someone had suggested it on dry land, would have caused us all to raise our collective eyebrows. But here, out on the blue on blue of the South China Sea, with the salt-tinged air ruffling our hair, it just feels like the most natural way to end a day of complete, indolently pleasurable non-activity.
Honestly? I could not be happier.