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Christmas at Sea 2014

Christmas 2013

Christmas last year was on the MSC Divina in the Caribbean. Our stop was in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and it was a stunning day, hot and humid… a reminder of Christmases back home in South Africa… and honestly I was miserable, missing my family terribly. Lots of friends, yes, but sometimes it just doesn’t feel the same.

Christmas 2014

This year, sailing in the Mediterranean on the MSC Fantasia, I was determined not to let myself get down and with the start of the Christmas cruise I donned my antlers and jingled, much to the amusement of guests and crew alike.
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The guests got so used to me wearing them that they would use them as a point of reference in a crowd or request me at reception as the “short one with antlers”. The more I made others smile the happier I felt. Of course there were the usual grinches, rolling their eyes, making silly mooing noises (idiots don’t they know it’s a reindeer), making snide comments about how that symbolizes cheating on your boyfriend in Italy. But I discovered the majority loved it so much that these comments made me wear them even more, and walk a little taller!
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I wore them in Rhodes, Greece
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In Katakolon, Greece
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And on Christmas day in Messina, Sicily

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve found us in Valletta, Malta, one of my all time favorite ports. I was able to go out for a good four hours and just wonder around to my hearts content, taking photos and exploring. The atmosphere was amazing, decorations everywhere and even the military band through the main street.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I went down a bunch of smaller streets, exploring by myself and picking up things like Christmas stockings and crackers!!!!
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All my Christmas gifts for friends along with the crackers and stocking

Then stopped for lunch and had a wonderful hot bowl of potato and zucchini soup with lots of parmesan cheese (this addition would later come back to haunt me….)

Back on board we had fun taking photos with friends and then prepared for the Christmas Choir.
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Christmas Choir

Our fabulous Cruise Director, Franco, had a great idea for a Christmas Choir. On Divina we only had a few of us from Entertainment singing around the piano in reception and guests singing along. Franco had grander ideas and he wanted the guests to be the choir. We had 2 practice sessions which went off reasonably well. Our biggest obstacle was the last line of Jingle BellsIn a one horse op-en sleighhhhhhh“, the timing was a bit tricky. Last night, Christmas Eve, we waited in reception hoping all 200 odd guests would show up… Not only did they show up, they COMPLETELY filled reception, the stairs and all 3 floors that overlook the reception area. We have guests from all walks of life, from Italy, Germany, France, England, South Africa, USA, Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and just about every country in between.
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Words can not explain the energy as we all sang and smiled and laughed. For those 15minutes it felt as if the world truly was at peace and happy. Amazing what the power of song can do!
(Hopefully I can add a video later, just have to find one)

Christmas in the Staff Mess

We were pleasantly surprised upon entering the staff mess to discover champagne and wine, TWO kinds of cakes AND icecream, and a couple of extra choices for dinner. It really added to the atmosphere and everyone was thrilled to have something special… that is until we realised that a bunch of officers decided to have their extra special dinner of large prawns and bakes fish (most likely supplied by one them) just one table away, as it was “easier” to use the large tables in the Staff mess versus sitting in the officers mess. So, even though we had some good choices, the aromas coming from their food kind of overshadowed everything, thank heavens we had icecream!!!!

Christmas Day

Christmas Day found us in Messina, Sicily. As much as I love Sicily and it’s little towns like Taormina and Erice, Messina is very dull in comparison. On good days, like a normal work day, there is hardly anything open, with most places only starting lunch or any sort of food after 12pm. Since we are only in Messina from 8am to 1pm, there is not much chance to have time for food or anything.
The one thing Messina does have is a spectacular Cathedral and on this day we were privileged enough to enjoy part of the Christmas mass.

Once back on the ship we had a chance to sing in the choir once more, this time for Santa himself, who had taken a break after delivering all the presents the night before to visit with us and hand out some gifts to the children on the ship.
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And Happy New Year

And so Christmas came to an end, and, despite missing my family terribly (ok in truth it was really the roast beef, yorkshire pudding, green beans and gravy that I missed, but they come with it), it turned out to be a rather good Christmas, with lots of friends and happy guests. Who knows where Santa will find me next year, but I hope it’s with more amazing people like this one!!
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Posted by on December 26, 2014 in Cruise, Cruise Ship, Travel

 

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Horse Ride and Swim…. Jamaican Style

Jamaica Bound

One of my favorite stops was Jamaica, and we were only there every 2 weeks. We had fabulous excursions there and I got to go on a number of them, from Bobsledding to Climbing Waterfalls. Finally, I got to go on the Horseback Ride AND Swim. The basic premise was you go for a ride and then the saddle is removed and you take a “swim” with the horse, in other words ride the horse out into the ocean.

Now, unfortunately, the location of the Chukka Ride and Swim corral is in Montego Bay, about an hours drive away from the Falmouth cruise port. On this particular trip I got the chance to sit in the co-pilot seat next to the driver…. I became rather religious during this trip as, let’s just say, they drive with enthusiasm in Jamaica.

the bay at Chukka

the bay at Chukka

The RIDE Section

When you first arrive you have to put all your bags and such in lockers (that cost $5 each – I just stored my stuff in the bus). Then you are sized for a helmet and sent to be sized for a horse. Once they call you to your horse you are sent to walk in circles while waiting for everyone else. Now if you had a group of 10 that would be about 15min, but we had a group of 50 and we walked in circles for about 30min… Not that pleasant in the scorching Jamaican sun. Finally we are all saddled and we could head out on the trail.
Jamaica horse and ride through Chukka (2)

The trail was beautiful, about an hour through the surrounding coastal trees. Unfortunately it was a very sedate pace and I did find myself nodding off.
Jamaica horse and ride through Chukka (8)

We were not allowed to pass and when my horse got a little too close to the one in front…it tried to kick me. Luckily it’s hoof hit the stirrup, otherwise I might have had a rather large bruise…
Jamaica horse and ride through Chukka (13)

But the ride was still enjoyable, especially for those who were new to riding.

Just Keep Swimming…..

At the end of our hour ride, all of us hot and sweaty and looking forward to the swim, we were separated into groups of 15. The rest of the group relaxed in the shade drinking red stripe beer and snacking on delicious jerk chicken ($10 for a plate). I was in the first group and excitedly stripped to my swimsuit, put on my floaty belt thing and waited for my horse allocation. Not all the horses swam, so you were not guaranteed to get the same horse as the ride part.

When I was called and climbed onto my horse…. oh my lordy! I think they gave me the thinnest horse. Usually I have an issue with my short legs barely able to reach the stirrups and go around the horse’s middle. With only a saddle pad (all you get between you and the horse) it felt like I was attempting to balance on a fence post… that walked!

balancing act

balancing act

The swim section was soooooo much fun!!!! we got to “gallop” in the water and just whoop it up. It was refreshing and cool and just a whole lot of fun. Once you are in the water balancing on the horse is also much easier.
horse ride and swim Jamaica (1)
horse ride and swim Jamaica (3)

Jamaica vs Puerto Rico Horse Rides

Of the two I would say horse riding in Puerto Rico was more fun. Through the jungle, along a river, stunning. Staying in one line is not as important and you also get to gallop on occasion if you want to. However, there isn’t an ocean swim… which made the Jamaican ride well worth it.
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Let’s go swimming again, that was awesome!!!!!

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2014 in Cruise, Cruise Ship, Travel

 

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The Dreaded: Accounting Duty

There is always at least one duty that all Social Hosts consider the bane of their existence. For me it is the 6-9amish (if you are lucky) shift at the accounting desk on disembarkation day.

Any duty that starts before 8am is never one we particularly enjoy, especially since we only finish around 11.30pm every night. But Accounting is a very particular kind of torture.

The gist of the duty is to helpfully collect all the signed CREDIT CARD INVOICES from guests who are disembarking. The truth of the matter is that you do this and become a target for numerous frustrations.

First you have to wake up around 5.40am… yup I sleep as long as possible.
Then the staff mess and crew bar only open at 6.30am so you have to face numerous guests without even one sip of coffee….
Now, of course, I completely understand the guests are tired as well, I mean they have relaxed all week and having to be out of bed and out the room by 7am (our cabin stewards have an entire 4hrs to clean almost 2000 cabins) would make me a little edgy too.
But seriously, yelling at someone who is trying to help because there is a mistake on your bill does not help you get anywhere.

A few examples of the sheer joy that is this special type of hell:

Crossing Fury
Now we have all heard of Road rage and phone rage etc… but on the day the Divina was due to set out on the trans-atlantic, I had the joy of discovering Crossing Fury. Guests were just on a whole other level of, dare I say, crazy.
One German guest who had an issue with his bill and not williing to take the time to try and understand the ENGLISH hostess trying to help him, began yelling in German. My reply was a calm “sorry don’t speak German”. To which he countered with scrumpling his bill and throwing it my face. As it bounced off my cheek I calmly said “I still don’t speak German”, then turned to the next person and said “now how may I help you?”.

No Italiano!!!!
Today I had the joy of attempting to send someone who stated he was paying in cash to the correct line. He promptly started yelling in Italian, with a couple of “then we not pay our bill”. I tried to explain I did not speak Italian well. To which he yelled that it was my job to know Italian. I pointed out that I was the English Hostess and spoke English, Afrikaans and Korean (ok a smidge of this) but not Italian. He continued to yell at me as I turned to help the next person. Then he walked up to the counter, yelled at my collegue then signed his credit card invoice, then walked off still yelling at me.

Changing Attitudes
There are so many examples like this that I could go one forever. Needless to say after close to 4hrs of this (as we are usually finished closer to 10am than 9am), you are utterly exhausted both physically and emotionally.
The one good thing is, that when some guests get completely unreasonable and yell, the guests who witness this become exceptionally kind and generous.
So at least there are some guests who make my job worthwhile!

TIP
For all future guests of a cruise ship, please may I give you a tip. If you READ your paperwork, or WATCH the informational video / talk… disembarkation would be so much easier. But it appears that the skill of reading and listening become very difficult once someone walks across the gangway….after all you are on vacaiton

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2014 in Cruise Ship, Travel

 

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