The choice of pounds 1.25 St Valentine’s Day cocktails on board
Fred Olsen’s Black Watch was between Cupid’s Kiss, Wild Heart, True Love
and Lover’s Delight, which shook up Cointreau, brandy and tequila with
Outside, in the 95 degrees of noonday sun, Mombasa baked under a crust
of decay, rubble and rubbish.
It was, I fear, a similar story all the way from Cape Town, which is
itself pockmarked by shanty towns. La Reunion, Mauritius, Nosy Be
(Madagascar) and Zanzibar conjure up a cocktail of exotic sun-kissed
delights. Nature still works for them from the volcanic heights of
Reunion and Mauritius to the sugar and spice of Zanzibar. Only man is
vile. And his vile nature set me thinking about the PR problem
underlying world cruises as I sought the shade of Mombasa’s Fort
Cocooned in Western luxury on rolling, sun-drenched ocean has much to
commend it. The trouble starts once you think of going ashore with
ritual warnings to hide away rather than flaunt your jewellery. The joys
of tourism are blighted by the ripe slums en route, not to mention the
spectacularly unhygienic and assorted animal cruelties of, for example,
the town centre market in Nosy Be’s aptly-named capital, Hell-Ville.
This raises the PR question as to how much pleasure a tour operator
gives showing his passengers how the other half lives when they are
sinking in filth. Of course, you can console yourself with the thought
that your ship’s visit is pouring cash into the local economy, although
it would be nice to hear of some benefit for the people in education and
health provision. You can comfortingly reflect that nobody is going to
freeze to death and that you shouldn’t judge their living conditions by
the more demanding requirements of our temperate climate.
And, sadly, you know that it is simply hypocritical these days for
Britons to look down their noses at other countries’ rubbish. Parts of
Croydon can compete with Zanzibar’s blue-flecked (from plastic bags)
coating of litter - and Croydon has much less excuse. The difference on
the Richter scale between developed and developing is not fundamental
but a matter of degree and extent, especially in the way rubbish is
allowed to accumulate.
When our plantation guide in Zanzibar despaired of the damage being done
to the island’s image and, he feared, its tourist economy, I saw an
international global challenge before the PR industry: how to persuade
the world that Yorkshiremen have got it badly wrong when they say where
there’s muck there’s brass.
’What did you do in the litter war, granddad?’ could be an awkward
question if we are content to sip our First Love cocktails on board our
liners several leagues distant from the onshore reality, rather than try
to rescue these once-enchanting places from self-inflicted doom.