Take me to the river
I AMa recent convert to river cruising (of which more in weeks to come), not least because there are no waves, just lovely ripples, and very little need to be equipped with a pharmacopeia of seasick remedies.
I am a relatively good sailor but have a slightly queasy stomach when it comes to tormented seas and rock-androll nights and have been known to turn a fascinating shade of green during a thunderstorm — or chunderstorm, as they are known in my family.
My best friend and frequent travelling companion Christine suffers horribly from mal de mer — we once agreed, over crisp green apples and calming ginger tea as we pitched around the Bay of Biscay, that seasickness sounds much more manageable in French, sort of like something you would order in a Parisian brasserie.
Christine boards ocean liners equipped with all manner of motion sickness remedies; occasionally she has resorted to powerful injections from the onboard medical centre and has been conked out for a day, rising with renewed cheer to demand smoked salmon and champagne. Apparently such cruise clinics do a roaring trade on stormy Atlantic crossings. When I sailed aboard Queen Mary 2 on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York in 2004 there was a force 10 gale and towering seas for about 24 hours. Airborne deck furniture went pirouetting off towards Newfoundland; maintenance crew were roped together for safety as they secured the remaining steamer chairs. In my cabin on sky-high Deck 11, it was a diet of salted water crackers and flat lemonade with just a little bit of whimpering.
But last month on the Danube, there was none of that. As river cruiser River Cloud II made its stately progress from Budapest to Vienna, the small complement of passengers tucked with gusto into cream-laden cakes and chocolate tortes and as we sailed through Hungary, Serbia and Slovakia into Austria, holidaymakers skimmed past us in speedboats, runabouts and tiny fishing craft, rocking slightly in our wash.
Just past Bratislava, a straw hat went whooshing by my cabin window like a frisbee. Soon appeared a motor cruiser of tanned and partially clad Beautiful People; it was a scene like something out of one of those shiny old World of Peter Stuyvesant cinema commercials. They were in hot pursuit of the errant chapeau, waving madly, their beers held aloft in salute, flecks of foam spinning in the summer breeze.