As I sit down to write this column I don’t know where I am nor where I am going! I know that I am somewhere on the ocean and when I looked at the sun this morning I worked out quite easily that we are heading South but beyond that I haven’t a clue. No one will tell me because virtually everyone who is with me on this ship, on which I am lecturing, is literally in the same boat as myself. Totally in the dark! We set sail from Southampton yesterday evening and sailed all night and throughout today. We shall almost certainly travel though the night again and may, (I emphasise may because I don’t know) dock somewhere in the morning. On the other hand it’s quite possible for us to continue throughout the day tomorrow. There is no telling for this is a mystery cruise and none but the Captain, and a few senior officers know our destinations. The Captain takes a delight in keeping his passengers, all 600 of them, guessing. One year, when he conducted such a voyage he set off in a Southernly direction and when everyone had gone to bed thinking that were off to warmer climes he turned the ship round and headed for Norway! As I look out of my cabin the sky is grey and the sea choppy so as this article is being written in November I can only hope he does not try the same trick again!
I am not sure how the idea of arranging such a cruise originated but have been told that once, just after passengers had left the UK for a planned cruise, many of the ports at which they were due to call went on strike. The Captain was faced with a decision to return home or to continue and dock where he could. This proved to be so popular with the passengers that the company decided to make it an annual event and so here we all are heading for the edge of the world!
I can’t help but reflect on the mariners of old who, believing that the earth was flat never the less cast off into the unknown and made all sorts of exciting discoveries. They showed as much courage, if not more, that the space travellers of today who venture into the heavens. The modern explorer is supported by a formidable backup team and quantities of advance information. Yesterday’s sailors had no such help. Once they had left the shores of their home country they had no idea what they were going to find or when, if ever, they would return. I have crossed the Pacific several times by ship and never fail to be amazed by the vast extent of this mighty ocean. The thought of a handful of intrepid sailors launching out in a boat, or even a raft and finding new territories, never fails to impress me.
Well, I am going to stop this article now and invite you to join with me on the mystery cruise from the comfort of your own home. This article has to be submitted in five days time so once we arrive at our first port of call I’ll let you know. We continue in all for 23 days and could travel a long way in that time. However I will certainly let you know where we are before I post this column but I am afraid I shall have to leave you to guess our final port of call on this journey.
This morning when I woke we were in a port but where, I hadn’t a clue. However all was revealed when it was announced that we had docked in Morocco and would be moored there all day. I decided to explore the town, the most interesting part of which was the market where goods of every description were on sale. Back on the ship the guessing game started again. Some said that we were bound to sail around the Mediterranean. Others were equally convinced that we would be heading further into the Atlantic. We shall see.
The last event I can write about before submitting these notes it to say that virtually all the ship’s company and passengers stopped what they were doing to attend The Service of Remembrance led by the Captain and the Chaplain. On this day, when we remembered those who lost their lives in warfare, we especially remembered those who were lost at sea. How tragic it is that there continues to be thousands of men women and children who have been displaced as a result of warfare and many more thousands who have died in conflict. From the comfort of a mystery cruise life is not at all bad but one can never forget that this world is a seriously troubled place. On this ship most of us have little idea of where we are heading. One wonders also if world leaders have the vaguest notion of where the world is bound for.