That’s right folks, if you are still reading this then thank you for your patience but this wacky ride is nearly over. But not yet. We have one more full day to enjoy and one more night to endure. After all, this is immigration day. Finally a bit of closure for my wife as she desperately wanted a stamp in her passport. Sadly for me, this is to be my final journey with my current passport as it runs out this year and I will need to renew it in order to go on our next trip to the Maldives. I have quite the collection of stamps including America, Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia and more.
Exposition aside, we rose early to get breakfast in before immigration. We finally found out what it means in the horizon magazine when it says continental breakfast from 6.30 and full English from 7am. It means that if you get here at 6.45 you will be able to look at the sausages and bacon sitting in their serving trays but you aren’t allowed to touch them until 7am. The rules for immigration were simple, you get a sheet through your door telling you the time slot allocated for your particular departure group, unless you have an excursion, in which case you go with the first group. We were stressing with this thinking there would be a big queue. We got there for 7.10am knowing full well it didn’t open until 7.30am hoping to get nearer the front. We discovered that it’s all just more lies and deception. The immigration room was not only open but had been for some time, they were not checking your details to be sure you were in the right time slot and they barely looked at us, our passports or our immigration cards. We left about 3 mins after arriving, if that. Turns out, that the folks who waited for their proper time slot were the ones made to queue for quite some time. We made sure to tell my sister so she could get there early but she already had things planned.
We dropped our passports off, collected our snorkel gear and made our way to the excursions meeting point. Today we swim with turtles. If you can handle some more back story, out very first attempt at snorkelling was off the coast of Gili Trawangan near Bali. Utterly beautiful it was. It took me a long time to get my head together and actually breathe with my face under the water but I got there. So many fish, all the beautiful coral and two turtles that were happy to swim near me for a short time before doing their own things again. Sadly, I didn’t have a working GoPro then as we discovered ours was a dud. H, my wife, did not cope as well with snorkelling being we were literally thrown in the deep end with no guidance. This encounter was for her to see what I had seen. This time we had our full face masks that make it easy for any idiot to see under the surface.
I made friends with an elderly chap from Cornwall who had done this a few times. He loved the Caribbean, loved being on a new beach every day, loved the majestic beauty that was the Azura and thought we were mad for having been less than impressed with the ordeal at large. He did give us our second ‘mind blown’ cruise information of the day with the insight that whenever you leave a lift you are facing the front of the ship. Simple as it sounds, that information would have prevented a lot of back tracking had it been given to us upon arrival. Another helpful piece of information withheld when you embark upon your voyage. The chap also gave me some pointers for what we were about to do. Get in the water first and get to where the turtles are before the crowd. It was about this point that I looked around the boat to see we had about 20 other folks with us. I could foresee the clamour that would ensue. What I didn’t expect, but really really should have, was the other ten boats already there, also full of eager snorkelers.
The stairs descended into the water followed by the hoard of Darth Vader voice actors all eager to glimpse these turtles. There was one turtle. I did get there first and so i managed to get a decent shot of it but was then quickly surrounded and ended up just filming lots of legs and bums. The turtle was just as beautiful and graceful as the last one I saw but this encounter just felt forced, like the poor thing was in a zoo. He was getting baited with food and definitely didn’t appreciate the crowd as he quickly descended out of reach once he’d had his fill. I realised H was nowhere to be seen. Not being a strong snorkeler yet, the throng of limbs writhing and splashing around had put her off and she had returned to the boat. I made sure she was okay before heading back in for another look. A second turtle had arrived but it was completely surrounded by another boats occupants so I just floated around with my new friend. He loved the sea and we were both reluctant to get out until the last possible moment. He even gave me the sage advice to wee now as you wouldn’t get the chance again. I then wondered if he had been doing that whilst we were floating side by side. Best not to think about it. Back on the boat, H engaged the stranger in conversation as she loves Cornwall, they chatted about it for a short time before the topic of the gay cruise ship came up. The guy explained that he couldn’t believe there was that many of ‘that sort’ in the world let alone on one boat. One boat, might I add, that he suggested should be ‘sent out to sea and then sunk’. So that ended that conversation and my brief, newfound friendship.
We returned to the boat to find my sister and go for lunch. We discovered, again way too late, that they do a nice lunch in the Peninsular, the identical restaurant to the Meridian just one floor below. Seating was not as abundant as the evening meals so we shared a table with other diners for once and had some charming conversation with a retired couple, being careful not to mention ‘the gays’, just in case. Started to wish we had shared tables for dinner from the start. We were given the option but we just didn’t fancy it in case we got seated with The Hair people.
On our way back upstairs we realised the forged cruisers we had become when we helped some people who were clearly lost find their way to their cabin, the flower garlands they give you make sense now. Everyone knows who the newbs are. Perhaps that’s why P&O give you no useful information at all to orientate you when you arrive, they expect the travel hardened guests that haven’t disembarked yet to show them the ropes. Either way, it felt like good karma to pass on our sacred knowledge hoping that someone else would not have to suffer as we had done.
We spent some time on the balcony in our room, enjoying the rain that had been prevalent for most of the afternoon. We also finished packing our bags and discovered that some people arrive on a Friday for this cruise and thus leave on a Friday, whilst for others like us, the same is true for the Saturday. The brochure tells us that we should not book excursions on our departure date as it makes the day too rushed and you don’t want to miss your scheduled trip to the airport. We decided that we would go anyway. Submarines are cool.
We went for our final dinner. The previous night, the concierge gave us a ‘special window table’ which gave us a great view of the pitch black ocean against the pitch black sky that you couldn’t see either way due to the reflection from all the lights in the room. Tonight, he clearly remembered us and with a cheeky wink, showed us back to our special table. The view had since changed to the cattle shed we had been herded through on day one, now complete with large puddles rippling in the strong gusts of wind.
A longer version of the sea turtle video is available here.