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Tales from Tawa: Taste Of The Pacific

In this tale by Eve-Marie Wilson a young lady allows herself to be talked into a cruising holiday, only to discover that she has stepped into a nightmare.

“But, Peter I don’t want to go on a cruise, it’s the last type of holiday I’d choose.”

“Come on, Amy you’d love it, “her fiancé Peter said pleadingly.

“No, I wouldn’t,” replied Amy, pouting. “I think it would be terribly boring.”

“It certainly wouldn’t be boring. We’d have a great time. Ships these days are like big floating hotels, with bars, restaurants, night clubs, theatres and shops; you don’t even know you are on a ship half the time. There’s all sort of activities to join in during the day, if you want to, it’s anything but boring.”

Amy wrinkled her brow. “It might be rough and I’d be seasick,” she countered.

“If the sea’s rough, the ship is equipped with stabilizers to counteract that. Come on, Amy just imagine cruising the Pacific Ocean and visiting tropical Islands. You could spend the day swimming in sparkling, crystal clear lagoons, and lazing in the sun on pristine, white sand beaches. Then when you went back to the ship you’d be waited on hand and foot. You’d be treated like a princess. Like you deserve to be,” he added, placing his arms around her. He kissed her lightly on the forehead, then held her at arm’s length and looked into her eyes. “I‘ve been on a cruise, trust me. I wouldn’t put you wrong.” He sensed she was wavering, so he held his breath as he continued to look straight at her.

“You can be very persuasive when you want to be, Peter, but I’m not convinced.”

The look of utter disappointment on Peter’s face tugged at her heart strings. “Tell you what,” she conceded, “I’ll think about it and let you know.”

During her morning tea break, at work the next day, she discussed Peter’s proposition with her workmates. “You’ve got a man who wants to take you on a cruise and you don’t want to go?” said Jill from Accounts, “you must be mad.”

Cherie, the General Manger’s P.A., said she thought it was every girl’s dream to find a man who wanted to take her on a cruise. While Sara in records said she’d go with Peter, if Amy didn’t want to. By the end of the day, Amy had come around to thinking maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea after all. When she met Peter after work she told him she’d decided to take him up on his offer of a cruise holiday, but only a short one in case she was right all along and she didn’t like it.

Peter was delighted. “Good girl,” he said giving her a squeeze. “I knew you’d come round, so I took the liberty during my lunch break of organising one. How does 10 days cruising around New Caledonia and Vanuatu, leaving from Auckland four weeks from today sound?”

“Nice,” said Amy trying to sound enthusiastic, “but isn’t 10 days a bit long?”

“Not really, it takes two days sailing to reach the first port.”

Two whole days on a boat, in the middle of the ocean and not being able to get off, she thought, but bit her tongue, not wanting to deflate Peter’s obvious excitement.

The next month sped by and they were soon boarding the ship. Amy was impressed when she saw their cabin, although Peter said they were called staterooms these days. She had imagined a poky little room with a porthole, but Peter had booked them a mini suite with its own lounge and outside deck, and it had ensuite. For some reason she thought the ablutions would be communal. Maybe this wasn’t going to be so bad after all. After they’d completed the compulsory lifeboat drill the ship pulled away from the wharf and set sail for the South Pacific.

Peter and Amy went up on deck to join in the sail-away party before going down to their stateroom to unpack and dress for dinner.

“Where are our bags?” asked Amy, they should have been delivered to our cabin by now. How am I supposed to get dressed for dinner without a change of clothes?''

“I’ll talk to our stateroom attendant,” said Peter.

The stateroom attendant told Peter their bags should have arrived in their cabin by now and he should go and report the matter at the Passenger Services Desk. When Peter did so, the woman on the desk, said it was possible their bags had been delivered to the wrong deck and she would get somebody to search for them.

Amy wasn’t at all pleased. “How can I go to dinner wearing my travelling clothes?” she moaned. “What if our bags don’t turn up at all? I can’t spend ten days wearing the same clothes!”

“You look beautiful, no matter what you are wearing,” soothed Peter. “It’s been a long day,” he said, “you’ll feel better after a shower and a meal. We’ll probably find our bags here waiting for us when we get back.”

The meal was superb. And Peter was right she did feel better now. He’d been right about another thing too; she really didn’t feel as though she was on a ship at all. After dinner they took in a show, followed by a couple of hours in the nightclub. By then Amy was exhausted and pleased to retire for the night. Unhappily their bags still had not arrived, but they were too tired to care.

They had just snuggled down into bed when Amy suddenly sat bolt upright. “What’s that noise?” she said. They both sat still and listened. Scrape, scrape, the noise seemed to be in the ceiling. “I won’t be able to sleep with that going on all night”, moaned Amy.

"I'll go and see what I can do,” said the ever patient Peter, as he started to get dressed again. He was gone quite awhile, but when he got back he told Amy that right above their cabin was a semi closed-in conservatory with a wooden floor. The area was furnished with plastic tables and chairs and every time somebody moved their chair, the sound reverberated into their stateroom. He’d been to the Passenger Services Desk and had been told the matter would be reported to the Night Manager.
The noise didn’t worry them for the rest of the night as they were so tired nothing could have kept them from sleeping.

However when Amy woke in the morning she heard another sound which worried her. The whole room was creaking. As she lay listening, the sound not only got worse, but the ship started to pitch and roll as if it was in an earthquake. Peter was still asleep so she didn’t like to disturb him; instead she lay there listening to the creaking of the ship. As she did so, the scratching on the ceiling started up again. Really what were people doing with those chairs, she thought?

As she lay there growing more and more annoyed, a message from the Captain was broadcast into their cabin. He told the passengers, as they had sailed into a cyclone, he had slowed down the ship’s speed and extended the stabilisers to make it more comfortable for people moving about. Unfortunately, he said there was nothing he could do to reduce the ship pitching.

By this time Peter was wide awake and he suggested they should have breakfast then explore the ship. Once Amy had washed and dressed, she didn’t feel very comfortable at all. She accompanied Peter to the cafe where breakfast was served, but found the sight of food made her feel worse. While Peter tucked into a hearty breakfast, she went back to their stateroom to lie down.

Mid morning she thought she’d venture out on deck to see if some fresh air would make her feel better. She was alarmed, to find the doors to the decks were sealed off as it was considered too dangerous to go outside.

“I thought you said it wouldn’t be rough,” she riled at Peter.” You said those stabiliser thingies would stop the ship from rolling.”

“They are,” said Peter, “but unfortunately, as the Captain said, they do nothing to stop the ship pitching.” Peter added he thought she’d feel better if she had something to eat. Taking his advice, at lunchtime she forced herself to eat a meal. It was a bad move as she didn’t even make it back to their stateroom before she had to race for the nearest bathroom where she lost the lot.

Once back in bed, Peter suggested she visit the doctor, but she groaned she just wanted to be left alone.

For the rest of the day and all of the next she lay there listening to the sounds of the ship creaking and the scratching on the ceiling and wondering what had happened to their luggage. She’d gone to great expense buying her cruise wardrobe. Not that it really mattered. If she was going to be sick for the whole cruise she wouldn’t be needing clothes.

While Amy was sleeping, Peter paid another visit to the Passenger Service Desk to complain once again about the scratching on the ceiling and to ask if there was any news regarding their bags that still hadn’t turned up. His patience was being sorely tested. The woman on the desk told him there wasn’t much that could be done about the scratching noise during the day, but she would endeavour to get the area roped off at night. As for Amy and Peter’s luggage, their records showed it had been located.

“Well, we haven’t seen it since we left Auckland. There is only so long you can go on wearing the same clothes,” Peter replied crossly.

“One minute”, said the woman. She made a phone call. No matter how Peter strained he couldn’t hear what she was saying. She returned to Peter with a big smile on her face. “So sorry, Mr Ackroyd, it seems your luggage has been located, but not delivered to your room. I will see it is sent there straight away.”

Peter hurried back to their room. “Good news, Amy they’ve found our luggage and it will be here any time now,” he said with a big smile. He had hoped the news about their luggage would shake Amy out of her lassitude, but Amy was too sick and tired to care. She was placing all her thoughts on arriving at Port Vila where, she told Peter, she was getting off and flying back to New Zealand. However, this was not to be as the Captain informed them in his regular midday talk, because he had slowed down the ship’s speed for the passengers comfort, there would not now be time to visit Port Vila and the ship would sail straight to Mystery Island.

Amy and Peter agreed the whole holiday was turning into a nightmare.

By the time they reached Mystery Island, the sea had calmed down and the sun was shining. Amy was eager to get ashore and to arrange a flight home. Unfortunately for her, Mystery Island turned out to be an uninhabited tropical Island from which there was no escape. To make matters worse it didn’t have a wharf and passengers had to go ashore in the ship’s tenders. Before they could do so, passengers were required to get a ticket for the tender, and then wait until the number on their ticket was called. Peter and Amy had risen late, had a leisurely breakfast and a walk around the deck, so it was mid morning before they strolled down to get their ticket. Because of the number of people ahead of them they had to wait two hours before their turn on the tender came. They were not pleased.

The next day they docked off shore from the Isle of Pines to which the tender service was again being used. Although the day was fine, there was a gusty wind blowing. Nevertheless, Amy and Peter were sure they would be able to find a sheltered area somewhere on the island. This time they got up early and were one of the first to get their tender ticket, so could not understand why they had again been kept waiting an hour and their number had not been called. In fact, as far as they could fathom no numbers had been called. The waiting area was becoming very crowded.

Peter went back to the Passenger Service Desk to find out what was happening. He was on first name terms with the women on the desk now. He was told the wind was making it unsafe to launch the tenders, but the ship would remain at anchor in the hope the wind would abate later in the day. It didn’t and that evening they sailed away from the Isle of Pines without even having step on shore.

Their next port of call was Lifou, where because of the tide, the ship docked so far off shore it took twenty minutes to reach the island. As the ship was scheduled to stay there for only a few hours, if you were not in one of the first tenders it was not worth going ashore.

The final Port was Noumea from where Amy was determined to catch a plane home. She packed her bags and headed down to the gangway. When she told the security staff there she was disembarking, she was informed that as no preparations had been made for passport control and customs clearance, she was not permitted to do this and she had no alternative but to carry on with the cruise.

Amy was furious and she blamed Peter for all her woes. “How I let you manage to talk me into a cruise in the first place I don’t know, but if you ever mention the word cruise to me again then we are finished Peter Ackroyd,” she hissed through clenched teeth.

“You can be sure I’ll be writing a letter of complaint to the shipping company about this cruise,” he countered.

The ship encountered another cyclone during the two days back to Auckland. Not as bad as the first, but bad enough for Amy to take to her bed for the rest of the cruise. Peter sat beside her most of this time trying to coax her to eat and suggesting things he could do to make it up to her. “Flowers, a meal at your favourite Italian restaurant, lingerie, Jewellery, a skiing holiday, or perhaps a shopping holiday in Sydney, just tell me what it will take and I will do it,” he begged.

“All of the above,” she groaned.

About a month after the cruise, Peter got a reply to the letter he had written to the Shipping Company.

“What does it say?” asked Amy, “Though I don’t really care. I ‘d rather forget that fiasco.”

“Oh, you’re going to love this,” grinned Peter, “they’re going to give us 50 per cent off our next cruise!”

He ducked as Amy began throwing things at him.

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