Absence makes the heart grow fonder, according to the relationship experts. Taking time apart from your significant other gives you a chance to decompress, rediscover the real you. “Be apart to stay together,” says Laurie Puhn of the Huffington Post. But I don't think she means, “go on a luxury cruise and come back insufferable.”
"Are all my TV dinners in the freezer? Who's going to look after me? When do you get back? What time exactly, so I can clean up?" Two days beforehand, it was finally sinking in. I was going away, leaving the economist to his own devices for a whole week. I could practically see him devolving in front of my eyes. In just a week, all the good work I'd performed would be undone – he'd be back to cold baked beans eaten straight out of the tin, weird hours and an Internet search history you couldn't take home to mother.
"It's just an old tramp steamer," he said. You'll be up the river like Kurtz. White slaved. Pink slaved, at the very least." I knew my Aesop. Fox and the grapes, anyone?
Although the economist was completely right to be jealous. I was off to explore the remote Yasawa islands on the boutique Fiji Princess (finally, a perk to being a writer that wasn't mad people gurning and giving you their manuscripts). No wonder the economist thought it was a con, I could barely believe it myself. Invited to Denarau to join Blue Lagoon Cruises, they had me at 'Fiji,' but I played it cool: “Let me check my diary (cue shrieks at dog-hearing pitch) ... yes, those dates will be acceptable.”
"You'll be just fine without me," said the economist, a la Eeyore contemplating his burst balloon. "You've always been to the manor born. I can see people holding umbrellas for you and opening doors and stuff.” Naturally the economist prefers the budget end of the travel spectrum. Going anywhere with him usually involves amoebic dysentery and leaping from moving trains. Luxury is conspicuous by its absence. A man once pleasured himself against my leg on a bus in India.
The first sign things were going to be remarkably different was my luggage: 9kgs of it, the most I've taken anywhere in 14 years. Resort wear, Darling. Then (and did you know this?) at the pointy end of the plane, the drinks service is first and you don't have to walk all the way to the back to ask for another. In the light of all this fancy I felt bouncy, like Tigger. Instead of the cheapest, dirtiest, least reliable looking taxi (one we hailed in Egypt lost a wheel while crossing eight lanes of traffic) hired out of thrift and pity, a shuttle picked up we lucky few. Pre-cruise accommodation was the Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa. It's very posh, look it up. Not a decrepit hovel run by a stinky misanthrope, rooms festering with malarial mosquitoes, in other words.
When your economist boyfriend's not with you, you tend to approach the buffet with more visible greed, forget/disdain to suck in and wantonly take things from the minibar. I sent him pictures. It was an effort to lift my finger and hit 'enter'. “You are being spoiled, dammit,” he replied. I was. 'These people don't know I'm not rich,' I thought, as, boarding the Fiji Princess, they plied me with champagne. My cabin was gorgeous. The sea I swam in was crystal clear and teeming with fish. The food was plentiful, delicious and served every two hours. Everyone on board was older so I felt young and vivacious; the handsome staff bought out my inner cougar. All the drinks in my minibar were complimentary. 'You look fabulous,' they said.
Returning home was a terrible struggle. And not just for the economist, who picked me up from the airport looking hollow-eyed and demented (he'd spent five hours cleaning the house and missed me so much he turned up with flowers). The whole first week back I constantly craned my neck for the handsome Fijian man supposed to be bringing me a cocktail. I refused to cook and dropped stuff all over the place in anticipation of staff who didn't exist. Worse, the minibar didn't seem to be getting replenished and nobody was making my bed. It was horrible. “You haven't been the same since,” said the economist. Oh well. The cruise ship giveth and the cruise ship taketh away.