12+ Should have done this years ago. But don't tell Pearl I said that because she's been on at me for ages to do a cruise. I kept telling her I didn't want to be stuck on a floating hotel with a bunch of strangers. I'd rather spend our holidays towing a caravan around Australia, where I know the score.
But then Pearl spotted a round trip cruise to New Zealand for seniors. I had to admit, the ship looked well-appointed, with bars and casinos and all sorts of entertainment, and it was a good deal, with food included. A slice of luck, Pearl called it. And the Barnsdales, Ed and Kate, said they come along, too. I like Ed, he's good company over a few beers, and Pearl and Kate get on like a couple of old schoolgirls.
So I said okay, and we booked the cruise with the Barnsdales. And before I knew it, we were sailing past Sydney Heads. I've never been outside of Australia before, except once to Bali, which hardly counts. New Zealand was a pleasant surprise, with beautiful scenery along the coast and around the Bay of Islands. And picturesque sightseeing stops in harbour towns and cities. And massive mountains up the Fiordland, just like in Bali. Only there's more than a sprinkle of snow on their peaks, even in March!
Pearl's been sending the family postcards from every port along the way. She even borrowed a stamp from Kate in Auckland because she ran out of them. I told her it was silly because we'll be back home in a few days and then she can show the kids and grandkids all our photos and videos.
But apart from the sights, what I've liked, and don't tell Pearl I said this, is the ship. It's more than a floating hotel. It's like a mini-world, but with so many venues and organised activities on offer, I don't have to spend any time with strangers, which suits me.
I have spent a lot of time with Ed in the bars and casinos. We've enjoyed more than a few beers and the occasional win on the pokies. And afterwards, we meet the girls for dinner at one of the restaurants and let them talk us into a dance, before heading back to the bar for a nightcap.
Though please don't tell Pearl or Ed, what I've liked doing most on this cruise is relaxing in a deckchair, staring out to sea at the horizon. Don't get me wrong, I like company, but I'm happy on my own, too.
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So when the Barnsdales said they weren't feeling well tonight and Pearl said she had a sore throat and a headache, I was happy to switch plans and skip the Captain's farewell party. And sit here on deck by myself.
You know what, I reckon I could get used to cruises. Perhaps I'll let Pearl talk me into doing another one when the Ruby Princess gets back to Sydney.
© 2020 Robert Fairhead
The Cruise Ship was my entry for the Australian Writers' Centre's September 2020 #FuriousFiction short story competition. The 500-word story had to be inspired by the photo of a ship deck, begin with the letters SHO, and include the words SCORE, SLICE, SPRINKLE, STAMP and SWITCH. (Can you find them in my short story?) The 55-hour submission deadline for the #FuriousFiction competition ends at midnight on the first Sunday of the month. As I later tweeted, I submitted my September entry with one last furious minute left on the clock!
A middle-aged dad and dog owner, Robert Fairhead is an editor and writer at Tall And True, and blogs on his eponymous website, RobertFairhead.com.
His favourite pastimes include reading and writing, walking his dog, and watching Aussie Rules Football with his son. He is also a part-time dog trainer and runs classes at his local dog training club and through Robert's Responsible Dog Training.
Robert has worked as an electrician, a computer programmer, and a sales and marketing consultant, and he is the principal copywriter at Rocher Communications.
His book reviews and writing on dogs have appeared in newspapers and online. And in 2020, he published a collection of short stories, Both Sides of the Story.
Robert has also enjoyed a one-night stand as a stand-up comic.