Part 2, Memories of Voyage 221 | Darrin Henry
Back to our five day voyage on the RMS St Helena, travelling from St Helena Island to Cape Town, South Africa.
As I mentioned in Part 1, anyone who’s travelled on the ship will be able to identify with some of those highlights, as well as have their own. Mine is by no means a unique claim, but just my personal highlights of this one voyage.
Ok, here is Part 2:
6. For Exercise, For Exercise…
The RMS St Helena has a perfect safety record but it’s still reassuring to see the ship’s company carry out very regular emergency drills.
It’s day 5 of the voyage and today there’s a drill. We have been warned a few times it’s happening and to ignore the commotion; passengers aren’t required to participate, “and should ignore the ringing of the alarm bells” at this time.
On cue, the ship’s alarm starts ringing loudly throughout the ship, then a voice on the PA: “For exercise, for exercise…” followed by an explanation of the simulated emergency underway.
After a few minutes another order is given, for the ship’s company to “withdraw to boats.” On the sun deck it’s certainly an interesting moment seeing a stream of officers and crew all heading for the lifeboats and wearing their orange life jackets.
Thankfully this was no more than a drill.
7. Table 10 for 6
The best part of this whole voyage has been dinner each evening in the dining saloon. In great part this was down to the food, but most especially it has been the company of our four dining companions. Alan Floate (returning from a one week visit to St Helena), Mike and Sabrina Harper (catering and hospitality trainers working on the island), and Sharon and I. Our sixth member alternated each night between Second Engineer, Merrill Lawrence and Chief Officer, Adam Williams. From 8pm until well after 9.30 each evening was a great laugh.
We would always start by asking each other what we’d been doing that day! You would think we had all been on different ships during. There was never a quiet moment and the conversation flowed. There were sometimes groans of mock disappointment when our menu selections were served and we thought someone else’s choice looked better.
Perhaps the most amazing story from our table revealed itself during the first evening. Alan had spent a year working on Ascension Island in 1983/4 when Fairclough International had built the RAF camp. While there on a few occasions he had visited a St Helenian family with two boys. As the conversation wound on, we realised the family was mine; I was one of the two boys. My mum had also worked for Fairclough, hence the connection. Of all the coincidences, more than 30 years later we just happened to be seated together at the same table on the RMS St Helena.
8. Gin for Jesus
A long standing tradition on the RMS (or is it all ships?) is a church service on Sunday mornings when at sea. On this voyage Captain Rodney Young conducted the service in the Main Lounge with both officers and passengers in the congregation. Backing tracks for the hymns are played from CDs which helps keep everyone in good voice. Helpful also in masking my tone deaf efforts!
Afterwards I’m invited up to the captain’s cabin for a drink; gin and tonic. This is another sea faring tradition for the captain and few off-duty officers, and on the RMS a few of the passengers are sometimes invited. Over the years the tradition has fondly been dubbed, ‘Gin for Jesus.’
9. Frog Racing
Nothing typifies an evening on the RMS St Helena quite like frog racing. Over the years my opinion has gone full cycle: enjoying frog racing nights, bored with it, hoping it would be replaced and now, on the last night of the voyage, loving the fact that frog racing is wonderfully familiar and just as much fun as ever.
It’s become a tradition that’s older than the ship itself (yes, it is possible) and now it wouldn’t seem right without it. A 20p tote adds a little extra spice to the fun and Sharon and I finish the night nearly £7 to the good. Five passengers are selected for each race; we both get a turn. Sharon loses out in the ladies event but I storm home in my race which puts me in the grand final. But there’s a twist at the start of the final! Downing a gin and tonic. Fellow passenger Keith Yon and I finish neck and neck which means a sudden death play-off. I get a good start and finish first.
Yep, I definitely like frog racing.
10. Food glorious food.
Our days at sea have revolved around food; delicious, well presented meals, three times a day. Plus there’s four o’clock tea and cakes. And even coffee (or tea) served in the cabins first thing in the morning if we choose.
There are two venue options for breakfast and lunch: sun lounge or dining saloon. The sun lounge is normally a lighter, buffet style meal; continental breakfast and salads, while the dining room is a little more formal, served by attentive stewards and stewardesses.
Dinner is served in the dining saloon only with two sittings to accommodate the numbers onboard. Seating is fixed, with tables allocated by the hotel services team before we board. Breakfast and lunch on the other hand has an open seating plan, which is a great way to socialise with different passengers onboard.
My Top 10 Highlights from voyage 221 on the RMS St Helena. Do you agree with any and what have been yours?