MY second “gorgeous” photo, like my first one, was taken on a trip with my wife. In 2004, in honour of our 20th wedding anniversary, we entered the exciting world of cruise holidays and sailed round the Med from Barcelona. We weren’t sure we’d enjoy cruising; after all, you’re just stuck on a boring boat and everyone’s really old, right? Well, no, as it turns out. At least, we didn’t find it boring, and, yes, there are some old folks but so what? Suffice to say we were hooked and have since repeated the exercise, sometimes at prices no higher than staying in a decent hotel.

But enough of the marketing. Bring on the photo!

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Once again I think you’ll agree this is top-class photography. The colour, contrast and composition are simply compelling. I’m particularly proud of how the eye is drawn to the floodlight at top right. OK, maybe not. But it does prove we were on a ship, in a port.

The port in question is Naples, Italy. The large, old building at centre left is called Castel Nuovo, a.k.a. The New Castle (not to be confused with Newcastle, which, delightful though I’m sure it is, isn’t renowned as a cruise destination as far as I know). We actually didn’t see much of the town, having chosen an excursion to see the ruins of Pompeii. The ruins were fascinating – and hot. Very hot. Not because nearby Mt Vesuvius was erupting (which would have been extremely inconvenient and possibly made us late getting back to the ship) but simply ‘cos this was August in Italy. Those baking hot Mediterranean excursions always made us glad to get back to an air-conditioned ship.

Naples was the final port of call on the 7-day holiday. Earlier we’d had stops in Marseille and Villefranche (Nice) in France, as well as Pisa and Rome in Italy. These are places we’d never have ventured to otherwise, and we were blown away by the whole experience. Drifting gently out of port as the waiter brought us dinner was magical.

While we were busy being amazed by our floating hotel, we were surprised to discover that more seasoned cruisers were easily displeased. As we ate lunch just outside Rome, we overheard other passengers berating various aspects of the holiday that would just never have occurred to us. We concluded that experiencing luxury can lead to taking things for granted and make you intolerant of imperfection. On returning home, we decided we’d have to go on further cruises to see if we too would succumb to this cynicism.

I’m pleased to report that so far we’ve largely resisted, although things can go wrong and wind you up a bit. Becoming ill on your holiday, for example, kinda spoils things, and ships can be a nightmare for spreading bugs. Then again, I once got sick in a hotel which was distinctly land-locked and never moved once. And as my wife has been frustrated to discover more than once, ships are prone to closing the swimming pool for no obvious reason. I know; it’s intolerable.

Back in 2004, while we baked in the Med, our kids attended a youth church conference. It was a camping event, always a risky proposition in the UK even in high summer. That particular year the heavens opened both spiritually and meteorologically, the campsite being seriously flooded. It was all a bit traumatic, but it was their trauma – without those pesky parents – and they didn’t seem too phased by it all. There were tales of heroic tent rescues, puddles deeper than your wellies and angels being seen in the trees. All in all, much as I love to hear of God at work, I was glad to have had our week rather than theirs. They did, however, demand that we take them on a cruise. After saving up for a few years we did just that – and they, too, were hooked.

So that first sea adventure has a lot to answer for in our family. I did take some decent pictures but this one of a ship’s floodlight with a bit of Naples in the background serves just as well to bring it all back.

 

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