Life on the ocean wave tra-la

  
From the gym on the upper deck you can spin along on the exercise bike and feel as though you are riding over the sea. A petrel skims on the wake and someone claims to have sighted a whale spout, while below the shouts from those playing desk cricket.

Coming over from Capetown, the five day cruise was preliminary training for St Helenian life. The return journey serves as a debrief. Time seems to alternatively drag and fly. There are more Napoleonic lectures in French:

  
These concerned Cuba which Napoleon’s doctor, Antonmarchi visited after the Emperor’s death, a talk comparing the Zulu leader Shaka, Louise of Prussia and the life of Napoleon’s stepdaughter, Hortense, Queen of Holland. Prof Hicks gave a talk on Napoleon in English, which was appreciated by many passengers.

A countdown clock recorded the days until the RMS St Helena will be decommissioned.

  
On the last evening, in the lounge, the officer who had shared our table showed us his guitar which was made in Melbourne.

  
Finally we gathered on deck to watch Table Cape and our own shadows lined up on the wharf. We gathered our backpacks and waited with mixed feelings for our number group to be called so we could escape to the wider world. We will remember fondly one of the last voyages of the Royal Mail Ship St Helena.

  

Life on the way to St Helena

It takes five nights and days to get to St Helena Island, in the South Atlantic Ocean. It is a retro reminder of what ship travel was like in the 1950s, with deck shuffle:

  
Swimming in the salt water pool:

  
And of course there are romantic tropical sunsets:

  
Five course meals are served in two sittings. This particular trip is special, with nearly thirty French pilgrims, travelling to St Helena for the bicentenary of Napoleon’s exile to the island:

  
Here they stand to attention to sing the Marseillaise. We also had to dress formally for drinks with the captain, and had the opportunity to dress up for a creative hat competition. Marijke is an ostrich!

  
With 130 passengers, you could usually find a spot to relax, or socialise, according to preference.

  
The highlight of the cruise is day five, when we wake to the sight of the volcanic cliffs of St Helena rising foreboding from the Atlantic ocean. We can begin to understand how Napoleon must have felt.