Day 1,390: The Costa Living

Tue 23.10.12:

The two days at sea passed like some velvet morning (when I’m straight). For the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to be less of a fat bastard using a novel invention I like to call ‘the beer diet’. It’s nice and simple: you just drink beer and don’t eat anything. Honestly, it works! Magic!!

However, on a cruise upon which I can’t afford to drink and the food is UNLIMITED and FREE, my great diet plan has been turned on its head. Now all I have to stop me stuffing my face with cheese and prosciutto is my own willpower.


On the Tuesday we crossed 0° latitude, that magic invisible line of red that seamlessly circumnavigates the planet. Why is it 0°? Because that’s the angle of Polaris, the North Star, in the sky relative to the horizon at this exact point of this marvellously oblate spheroid we all call home.

The last time we crossed the equator, I had to make up for the insult I had hurled at King Neptune by switching hemispheres without his permission. Once in Ecuador, once in Gabon, once in Kenya, thrice in Indonesia, twice on the way to Kiribati and twice on the way back again.

That’s ten times I’ve kicked sand in Uncie Nep-Nep’s face. Happily, on this crossing Monsieur Neppy was in a much better mood with me and there were (thankfully) no head-shaving shenanigans to be had. Just a baptism of equatorial water and the chance to dress up as Ol’ Neppo himself.

I was then forced to dance to Italian pop music, which was something of an ordeal. What is it with Italian pop? Why does it always sound like the backing music of a porno? But hey, it beat scrubbing deck paint off my arm for two days straight.

Being somewhat of a storytelling balladeer it made sense that I should do a talk about my travels, not just for personal glory (and the scouse compulsion to be entertaining), but also as a good way to meet new people who may (if I’m a good boy) buy me a beer. An American called John who I had met while chatting to Josie, the English speaking hostess, set up for me to do a presentation in one of the meeting rooms, which of course I did. There’s actually very few native English speakers on board, which should be unsurprising since it’s an Italian ship: I’ve met people from France, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Poland, Belgium, The Netherlands, Austria, Croatia… the only English speakers are from the US, Canada or Australia. I don’t think I’m met a fellow Englisher yet!

The ship is a fine old lady, and as a water taxi service to two of my three final destinations, I seriously cannot complain. Costa have well and truly saved my bacon. AND I LOVE BACON!!

THANK YOU COSTA!! You may use the following picture for all your future publicity:

This time Nep-Nep, I’M THE ONE WHO KNOCKS!!!

Days 1,411-8: The Maersk Sebarok

Sun 11.11.12 – Sun 18.11.12

I was up an’ at ’em! by 8am, and by 8.30am I was on the bus back to Port Louis. I didn’t get to say a proper goodbye to Arno, but not to worry, I’ve a feeling I’ll see him again some day. I was met at the old Post Office by my driver who would be taking me through immigration and then to the port gates. The immigration officer was incredibly friendly (Mauritius is a very friendly place) and he happily stamped me out the country. And then it was through the port gates (the officials nodded me through) and onto the minibus that took me across the port to THE SHIP: The Maersk Sebarok.

Wow. When I say this ship is BIG. Understand: this ship is BIIIIIIIIG.

Check out these stats:

 Length:           336 metres
 Width:            40 metres
 Height:           25 metres
 Capacity:         6,478 standard (20’) containers
                   (put on a single train, it would be 25 MILES long)
 Engine:           85,500 Horse Power
 Fuel Consumption: 280,000 litres (280 tonnes) per day 
                   (that’s an Olympic swimming pool’s worth of diesel)
 Fuel Cost:        $182,000 per day

Not only that, its fuel tanks are so vast that the ship can go 200 days without refuelling. Maersk, a Danish company, are the biggest shipping company in the world so I guess it’s natural that they operate on a slightly BIGGER scale.

I bounded up the gangway, met with the captain and officers, was shown to my cabin and… relax. We wouldn’t be getting to South Africa until Saturday at the earliest, but that’s okay, the main thing is that I’m on the ship and ready to go. Once I get to the mainland it’s going to be a long but relatively straight-forward series of coach journeys up to South Sudan.

 Durban        > Johannesburg
 Johannesburg  > Lusaka
 Lusaka        > Dar es Salaam
 Dar es Salaam > Kampala
 Kampala       > Juba

Some awesome things about this ship: there’s internet (capped at 30MB a day, but I’m not complaining – in Australia, you’d be paying Telstra $100 a day for that kind of usage(!)) there’s a lift, so getting up the 9 floors to the bridge is a little easier (if somewhat less healthy), there’s a swimming pool (not that you often see me in a swimming pool, but still… a swimming pool!) and there’s even a woman on board working as assistant chef. The captain and chief officer are both from Burma, the second is from China and the third is from India. The chief engineer is from Poland and the two second engineers are from Russia and the Philippines respectively.

One thing that you should definitely know before you sign up for a job with Maersk: alcohol is not just frowned upon, its consumption is completely banned for the length of your contract. Sign a 6 month contract and you can forget about beer, wine, whiskey, vodka, whatever floats your boat, for 6 months solid, even when on shore leave. This commendable company policy, which I think is pretty unique, ensures that – at the very least – all the officers and crew get to enjoy an ‘Ice Cold in Alex’ moment when their contract is finished.

Not that you’d find me complaining: the food onboard is MAGNIFICENT. It’s all I can do to restrain myself from devouring everything before the other crewmembers get to the mess. Plus there’s a seemingly unlimited supply of tea and biscuits (yay) and, even better, plenty of Fifa 13 to play against the engineers.

My week onboard the Maersk Sebarok passed effortlessly. We were graced with fine weather (Uncle Neppy knows when he’s met his match) and the internet connection was nothing short of a godsend, allowing me to tee up some media interest in the impending finale of The Odyssey Expedition.

On the Friday we came into the Durban anchorage. I was hoping we’d be alongside the next morning, but Captain Khaung simply smiled and shook his head. Sunday at 1200. Maybe. I did get to do a little whale-watching though, and clocked at least three of the great beasts gliding effortlessly around the 50+ boats surrounding us, also at anchor. Durban Port has a lousy reputation for making ships wait.

By Saturday evening it was obvious that we wouldn’t be getting in until at least 1800 the next day, which blew my cunning plans for a weekend in Jo’burg out of the water. I was planning to meet with Janine, the sassy South African CSer I met in Kuwait, and also with Anthea Pokroy of fame. I was quite looking forward to being collected.

Eventually we came alongside at midnight on Sunday night. It was too late to disembark, immigration wouldn’t be open and in any case, all the buses to Jo’burg would have already gone hours ago. One last night aboard the Sebarok then!