|Subject: SS UGANDA CRUISE 1980 (?)|
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Date Posted: 13:17:26 06/08/09 Mon
Hi, I remember cruising the med sometime in 1980 along with my sister Justine.
We were part of the Thurstable Comprehensive lot from Essex.
I was about 14 and she was 13 or so. We stopped in Venice, Haifa, Malta and maybe Limassol? and Cyprus? I'm certain we either flew in to meet the ship at Nicosia or left her there and flew home.
We visited Taormina near Vesuvius ( I think) and to this day remember Stromboli erupting in the dark every fifteen minutes as we sailed away from Malta towards Israel.
I recall my sister being allowed up on the bridge and 'steering' the ship on a Wednesday I think.
That same afternoon we grounded on a sandbar and had to deduct Dubrovnik from the itinerary whilst we either sat aground or had repairs done, can’t recall exactly but we certainly missed Yugoslavia off the cruise and spent an extra day on board.
I blamed my sisters’ steering as you can imagine only a brother can.
I remember docking in Haifa and there were two submarines berthed either side of us, which was pretty weird at that time as I hadn’t seen one up close. It was also unnerving when we went to Jerusalem as the teachers were talking about the safety aspect a heck of a lot as I recall.
I recall filing silently into this hole in the ground where we were shown an oil filled star in a marble floor which was supposed to be the spot where Jesus was born and I thought it was such a major let down…..kids eh..Never satisfied.
I recall Venice very well, cruising down the Grand Canal in a little tender/tilly?..and being told all about the ‘Bridge of Sighs’, felt very sad about how the name came about.
Life on board the ship was an absolute blast and I can’t remember seeing the teachers much at all!( we later found out there was a lot of ‘shennanigans’ going on and to be honest, a free cruise , lots of free time, who the hell wouldn’t seek out some RnR?)
I remember taking photos of a funeral procession complete with scary black horses and carriages on Sicily and a teacher whipping my camera away as it was a ‘mafia wedding?....
Highly unlikely Tony Soprano would step outa his limo and introduce me to the fishes for takin a wiseguy snap of his dead uncle but hey, my teacher was proper worried!
I don’t think we really had a care in the world in those two weeks, they were hilarious, I remember one of our lot being taken of the day trip back to the infirmary as he had sunk an entire bottle of Ouzo and they were considering flying him home, for bad behaviour or sickness I couldn’t tell you!..haha…was he sick or what…
Talking of which, there was a very VERY bad storm , mega waves and serious pitching/ yawing etc, I was as sick as a dog!..we were confined to bunks and I hung on to mine listening to the other lads barf chunks in the little bags they gave us…It was a pretty awful time and a lot of kids were seriously ill but eventually the squall abated and we were allowed up on deck after the final nights curfew.
I met a girl called Yvonne who I immediately fell in love with, like you do in such nautical romantic situations. Come on, 14 years of age, alone on a boat with raging seas and raging hormones, who aint gonna go overboard for a cutie with a different accent?
I remember she came from a school with a uniform that had pale blue jumpers and therefore she was easily spottable as we trudged across stinking sulphur pits on Taoramina or at the amphitheatre on Cyprus.
I think it was Athena’s amphitheatre or something to do with love as I remember my sister making fun of me at the time as she knew about my ‘crush’…ahh…happy days.
I first threw a bloody fit when I knew my kid sister was going with me on the same cruise but in fact, years of sibling scraps gave way to multiple sea faring hi-jinks including serious disco dancing showdowns and excuses for both of us to be in the girls/ boys dorms…she was a right laugh and even though she grounded a flippin cruise liner, she had most of us in stitches with some of the stuff she used to get up to especially coming up with major food supplies out of nowhere.
I think the chefs had a soft spot for her and gave her loads of free grub which came my way.
I remember the food being reasonable, except for Black Pudding, which I have never seen before and never eaten since…
The canteen had a very distinct smell which I can still smell to this day when I try..not a bad smell, just very specific to that time and place, we used to queue on the stairs down two decks and we used to play a game called ‘break your legs’..
You’d jump from the top of the stairs just as the ship was troughing out in a wave and catch her as she came back up and you spent ages in the air but timed I to be a soft landing, it was like jumping in weightlessness..
We got severely B*****ked as the crew told us you can misjudge the timing and break your legs as the ship rose up..
Yeah….maybe…but we carried on for days doing this trick….
I recall the disco’s being held in a room we were not usually allowed in which had two enormous elephant tusks near a door, and remember standing by a muster station listening to Message In A Bottle by the Police and looking out to a jet black sea thinking even at that young age, how lucky am I to be doing this.
So with that in mind, a huge thank you to the crew and engineers, above and below decks both seen and unseen for providing the basis for an unforgettable two weeks of my childhood on a vessel that to this day still sails regularly across my memory.
SS Uganda was a ship of wonder for so many kids and I for one feel very lucky to have sailed with her and to have such vivid, fun, haunting and above all cherished memories of the great lady.
Rust In Piece ‘SS Uganda’
( I have three or four snaps, if anyone would like a copy, please feel free to email me and I’ll happily share them)
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