The A Deck below was predominantly for passenger accommodation – two long corridors running almost the whole length of the non-cargo part of the ship, with the lounge at the far end. On one side of the lounge a small well stocked bar, nearby some tables where coffee and tea were usually on tap all day round. And at the other end an area which could be curtained off to show movies. I was pleased there was no TV on board and my cabins had no entertainment save the archaic radio dials on the wall. It meant you did get around the ship more and had the chance to catch up with people. On the first day you tended to make polite introductions and getting to know what you did and why you were travelling. Second day it was gossip about the ship’s progress and what to do. Third day you were usually laughing and joking like you had known each other since school days.
The A Deck also contained a little launderette – which I suppose on the longer legs over to Africa could have been useful – and a hospital. I chatted to several of the doctors on my trips and most of the time they had little to do and joined in with entertainment duties. But other times they may never be seen. St Helena has only modest medical facilities on the island and there are occasions where the RMS has to medevac people to Cape Town or UK for treatment, and the hospital on board ship has to keep any patient stable enough for up to five days.
Another deck down are the plusher cabins – usually taken up with tourists on their holiday of a lifetime or some of the elite of St Helena. They take up only one side, the front is a series of rooms which serve as the reception and information stand, a small shop for souvenirs, and the purser and hotel offices. I had not really thought much of the services given to the passengers and had always thought the purser’s staff would do everything. But there were specific teams looking after the passengers’ activities including the kids club (which had a riotous play den on the promenade deck) and various games, while the two officers supervising the hotel staff ensured the cleaning and supplies of soap and towels was efficient and almost unseen.
The other side of B deck was for crew only and you got tempting glimpses into the life below decks when the connecting doors might suddenly open up.
A modern innovation at that time was the internet services. I tried it out a couple of times but it was like going back to the early 1990s for email. There was a ship to shore telephone which some people used to ring ahead, and then there was an old white desktop and a set of instructions to compose an email and send it up to the bridge for relaying onwards. Trouble was you had to use the one account for the whole ship. I did it just to impress my mother and a couple of friends – text only of course. You had to make sure that the other end understood that the email was open to be read by anyone and that if you wanted to contact me directly, you needed to put my full name. The ship’s bureau would print off the incoming email and the hotel staff would leave it on your desk in your cabin… if they could recognise who you were.
Then down one more set of stairs to C Deck. Another set of cabins not far above the foam, the large dining room and kitchens.