Just back from a holiday - a big thank you to Jane and Edwin and Sue for their hospitality - and immediately my mind starts planning for the next one. And the next one - a 16 day cruise around the Eastern Mediterranean - is just nine weeks away today. Once it gets less than ten weeks away I feel as though I can launch a number of pre-holiday rituals. I can start, for example, tracking the ship on the P&O webcam, just to ensure that the captain is looking after it in anticipation for my annual residency. This year we will be sailing on the Arcadia and - if the webcam is anything to go by - it is currently drifting off the coast of Dubai. I shall watch its progress over the coming weeks just to make sure it gets back in time to pick me up.
Another ritual is the annual book-bag. No cruise is complete without a bag full of books to read and the choice of the annual selection is a treasured part of the pre-cruise experience. I bought my first choice over the weekends and therefore a copy of Donna Leon's "The Girl Of His Dreams" has gone into the bag. We will be visiting Venice and therefore the latest in the splendid series featuring Commissario Brunetti makes a wonderfully apt choice. If I remember, I will try and update people on the other choices which go into the bag over the coming weeks.
Another pre-cruise ritual is that people begin to send me press cuttings highlighting lurid stories about mass outbreaks of cabin fever, pirate attacks and mechanical meltdowns. I mention this to save all those who were about to e-mail me details of the latest breakdowns and cancellations on board P&O's Aurora. I have read the stories about being stranded in Aukland harbour and having to abandon several stops in order to get back on schedule. I have read all the comments about it being a cursed ship ever since the bottle of champagne failed to break on its launch day. Having spend a memorably fine holiday on board the Aurora, as far as I am concerned it is a load of nonsense. And as for those passengers who became upset on being becalmed in the Antipodes : they should have taken a Book Bag with them.