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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 6 March 2021

Teen life: From little mermaid to old salt in one stormy night

Reminiscences of a summer cruise (OK, an overnight ferry from Copenhagen to Oslo).

We had booked a cabin in a cruise ship to deliver us from our holiday destination of Copenhagen to our next stop, Oslo, instead of taking a flight. My parents were all for going about discovering new islands and being part of making history, as people older than 20 tend to be. I was secretly hoping we would run into, if not swashbuckling, iron-hooked, parrot-carrying pirates, at least someone who looked remotely like Captain Jack Sparrow.

With still some time to spare, we decided to make a quick detour to the famous Little Mermaid, which we hadn't managed to see yet. After a 45-minute walk, we stumbled upon a little board that said "The Little Mermaid has gone to China". The pint-sized stone sculpture had, in anticipation of our arrival, I'm sure, chosen that very moment to go off on an exchange tour. In its place, there was a video/artwork made by a Chinese artist, which, the board regretfully informed us, wasn't working. Poof went hopes of waving goodbye to Den Lille Havfrue, or even its substitute, fromthe stern of a ship. That's when we suddenly realised that it was four o'clock and after missing two buses and getting stuck in a traffic jam, we rushed to MS Pearl of Scandinavia. The whole experience is so much more fun when your liner has a pretty name.

I bet Mum 50 Danish kroner that somewhere along the journey, we would end up in a watery grave, but she dismissed me as absurdly pessimistic. I will never tire of the joys of embarrassing people in public, so I sang haunting Titanic songs to her until passengers started giving me strange glances. The ship was to start its voyage sometime in the evening and reach Oslo the next morning. We found our cabin on the ninth deck, and entered it to find four crisp, white bunks and a gigantic window behind whose glass lay miles of sparkling blue sea. When I shot-gunned a top bunk, Mum sadly told me not to wake her if I fell off it in the middle of the night, and she began to unpack. And I'm the pessimistic one.

After a late lunch of biscuits, we were feeling very much the sailors and set out in search of an open deck. We did find an open deck, along with an outdoor pool, but it turned out that we weren't the only ones who had had the idea. Every square inch of the open deck, as well as all the open decks on the other floors, was crammed full of happy sunbathers and children in swimsuits running about, leaving puddles behind.

Finally having perched ourselves precariously on tables for the lack of chairs, we got talking to a newlywed couple trying to fix their camera to take a photo of themselves. The determined-looking husband sat fiddling with the camera's innards for about half an hour, while his wife stood by the rail with a smile plastered on her face. It was all very entertaining to watch. Finally, he angled the camera on our table, rushed up to her, slipped, and slid with a resounding crash into the bar. I cheered. Mum glared. We let them recover and fiddle with their camera for another half an hour before someone came up, spoilt the fun and offered to take the picture of them. Some people.

I was certain I had spotted a shark's fin circling the ship, and was jumping about trying to tell everyone in the vicinity, but was being paid little attention. I fetched my binoculars - which, by the way, had cost me a pretty penny - and tried to get a closer look. Jinxed as I am, the binoculars tumbled down to the yawning expanse of ocean below. One can't say I didn't do my best to retrieve them; only an alarmed old lady waddled up and firmly pulled me down by my feet. Life's harsh.

When we curled up in our bunks that night, I made a feeble stab at making the trip memorable as I tried to convince Mum that I had seen a cockroach in her bunk, but either she has been living with me for too long or she's made of sterner stuff than I imagined. I was unceremoniously woken up at five the next morning, but happily enough we finally got the sense of adventure we'd been craving. As we tentatively ventured out to the empty decks, we were blown off our feet. Almost literally. Although it was already light, there was not a soul in sight. This would be because it was not only absolutely freezing, but the howling gale was so strong it made us stagger several feet backwards as soon as we emerged from the indoors. It was impossible to hear each other, and we had to keep a firm grip on the railing just to inch forward. At last, we were in the middle of the sort of storm you read about only in books, ready to dock at Oslo in a few hours. Perfect.

The writer is a 15-year-old student in Dubai.

Published: August 24, 2010 04:00 AM

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