RSS

Tag Archives: excursion

Horse Riding in Puerto Rico

Excursions

I was supposed to have a ship visit and so was exempt from the crew drill planned for that day in San Juan, Puerto Rico. At the last moment the ship visit was cancelled, but I was still exempt. So after a quick scurry to chat to the tour manager I was lucky enough to be given the horseriding excursion. I was super excited as it has been years since I have been riding and it isn’t often we get to go on the excursions we hope for. A quick presto packo, to stick my jeans in my bag (technically we are not allowed to wear jeans when we are working, but horseriding in my excursion shorts was not going to happen) and I was off.

To get to Carabali Rainforest Park there is about an hour drive, so I sat back relaxed and snacked on the croissants I had grabbed in the mess (sshhh don’t tell anyone I took them).

Horse Dispersion

Once we got there I quickly changed and then headed over to the briefing. The guys from Carabali were fantastic, super professional and great fun. They sorted us into beginner and experienced (further separated into “been on horse at least 3 times” and “have a good idea of what we are doing”).
DSCN0011

I have done some lessons, back in the dark ages in University, and have some idea of what I am doing, so I was given “Tyson”. As I mounted him my guide told me “he is great but has an attitude, he doesn’t like to be in the back”. That was an understatement, it was me first all the way. But he was a super sweet horse and once I got used to his bouncy canter we were right as rain.
DSCN0014

Rainforest Trail

We rode through the edges of only true tropical rainforest in the territories of the USA.It was spectacular and reminded me a lot of where I grew up in South Africa. The main difference being, while we had vervet monkeys swinging through the trees, here giant iguanas sun themselves on the palms.
DSCN0015

DSCN0017

Jungle Bananas

During the beginning of the trail our guide had us stop and he dismounted, then he started telling us all about jungle bananas. they are much smaller but taste like 5 bananas combined into one little mini banana. I had tasted them before in Ecuador when I worked in the Amazon (feel free to browse previous blogs from 2011 for those fantastic adventures), and remembered how good they were.
DSCN0020

Photo Stops and Face Painting

It was truly relaxing and beautful making our way through the jungle, chatting with the guests (usually as Tyson pushed past to get near the front) and the guides. We stopped in an open glade for a photo stop and then headed to the river.
DSCN0024

At the river we all dismounted and the guides corralled the horses. There were drinks available for purchase and we all relaxed next to the river for 30min.
DSCN0028

DSCN0031

The guides told us more about the history of Puerto Rico and how the native people used different color rocks to make face paint. Of course we had to experiment with this.
DSCN0033

We also learnt what kind of leaves they used to transport water, they are completely waterproof.
DSCN0032

All in all a fantastic day and I loved every minute of it. I highly recommend anyone who is the general area of Puerto Rico to visit the Carabali Rainforest Park and go for a horse ride.
DSCN0019

 
1 Comment

Posted by on January 28, 2014 in Cruise, Travel, Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Swimming with Dolphins

Dreams and Bucket Lists

For as long as I can remember the ocean, and it’s creatures have fascinated me, and I have had a love of Dolphins and Whales. A year ago I got to scuba dive with whale sharks, marking a tick on my bucket list. Just a few days ago, through a crazy coincidence, I was able to go swimming with dolphins, marking yet another tick off.

How it All Began…

Part of my duties as an English Social Hostess on board Divina, is to take visitors, usually dignitaries and officials, around the ship on a ship tour. I met all range of interesting people, but I must say, the group from Falmouth, Jamaica were by far the most animated, fun-loving group of officials I have yet met. In fact I got 2 marriage proposals (including one of them getting down to one knee). They insisted I join them for lunch in the ship restaurant after the tour, (after I got permission), and we had a great chat. One of the officials, William Tatham of the Port Authorities (if I remember correctly) gave me his card and said next time we were in port he would organize something for me.

Well, my mom always said I have no shame when it comes to taking people up on their offers, and so two weeks later when we were due to arrive I dropped him a message. Next minute, I get an email from Dolphin Cove inviting me to experience a VIP tour and dolphin swim at no charge!!!! I couldn’t believe it, wow!

Unfortunately, that port we had a crew drill and we got out too late to go, same for the next visit, I also had an excursion that time (the Jamaican Bobsled… where I feared for my life, but that’s another story).

It really looked as if we would never get a chance to take them up on their offer, until….

3rd Time Lucky

On our 3rd time back in Falmouth it was Jam Cruise. Not only did most of us have it free, there were also excursions. This was the perfect time. Dolphin Cove suggested I bring friends, the more the merrier, and so our merry group of 20 were all busting at the seams for the day to arrive.

….then, Murphy’s Law… I was scheduled to work, which meant, unless there was a miracle, I would miss the trip. But I decided not to complain, not to argue, after all it is my job. Instead, I think everyone else went to my defense, and with 30min before the bus was due to leave I was told I could go!!! Woohoo!!!

17 of us made it on the bus, and with our amazing driver, Derek, we set off on the hour long drive to Dolphin Cove. Derek, gave us historical and musical information the whole way down, and everything was, well, “Eiri Mon, just Eiri!”
bus

Swimming with Shakira

Our dolphin was named, Shakira, the other half of our group had Apollo. Shakira, was beautiful and I do not have words to express, how amazing it was to touch her and swim with her and even kiss her. In fact, I almost started crying the first time we got to stroke her as she swam past (oddly, she feels very much like the rubber toys they sell in stores…)
IMG_2347

After we got to meet and touch her it was time to swim with her. Here we had to tap the water and then she would pop up in front of us, lie on her back, we would grab her flippers and then she would swim us back to the pier. Very important was to let go when the trainer told us to, otherwise there was the threat of smashing into the pier as she swam under it….
IMG_2458

Finally it was the pièce de résistance, the kiss!!!
IMG_2463

It was a truly spectacular afternoon, and the staff at Dolphin Cove were phenomenal. All the Dolphins seemed happy and looked healthy. In fact, they have one rescue dolphin who was hit by a boat, during her recovery (to keep her entertained) they taught her the tricks and skills. Upon her return to health she was returned to the sea, less than a week later she found her way back to Dolphin Cove and “asked” to stay!

I will never forget this day, thanks so much to everyone who made it happen!

DOLPHIN SWIM VIDEO

 
3 Comments

Posted by on January 12, 2014 in Cruise, Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

The Cities We Dock In..: Odessa

Today I have the morning off and am currently sitting in Odessa, Ukraine, at a coffee shop near the top of the famous Potemkin Steps. There are around 150 but I am afraid I lost count around 91, so I will just have to take them at their word or maybe count again on the way down.
DSCN0418

It is a glorious sunny day and the temperature is very mild. Birds are singing and tours are touring! I love days like these, especially the ones I have mornings off.

Some history, Odessa was built by Catherine the Great, who was a German noblewoman who married a Russian emperor. They say he didn’t have his wits about him and it was really she who ran the kingdom. She built Odessa to encourage more Germans to the area along with more trade and work. The city is beautifully set up and the architecture is beyond words.
DSCN0335

From where I sit, I can see my little ship, MSC Lirica, looming in the distance. It is quite intimidating… that is until you park her next to one that is 3 times her size and then she looks like a rowboat. But on her own, she is fabulous!
DSCN0338

5 Total Stops

This is the 4th time we have docked in Odessa and we have one last cruise to go in this area. The first cruise I was so exhausted I slept and only managed to drag myself out of bed for a short time. I made it as far as the base of the stairs, my eyes slowly taking in the bottom and then all 150… at that I said “Fudge this, back to bed”, perhaps in more descriptive words but my mummy reads this 😉 .

The 2nd saw me forgetting my passport. Ukraine is the only country that requires guests to carry their passports with them, this includes crew. We are given specific hours over 2 days to go to the purser’s office and pick it up… if you forget you enjoy the pleasure of boat life during stops in Yalta and Odessa. So the result was laundry done and room nice and shiny.
room
The 3rd time I enjoyed the pleasure of the “City Tour and Shopping”. I got to meet some fabulous English speaking guests and with it being another glorious day, enjoyed a leisurely stroll through downtown Odessa. It is fascinating to go on these tours as you learn so much.

Finally we get to today, where I have the pleasure of my own company, a large ice coffee and the best apple strudel in town. It is days like this that tempt me to make cruise shipping my life’s purpose… tempting….
DSCN0423
Very soon it will be time to meet Kaja and Beata from the Photo department and maybe Alex (if he rolls out of bed) for some traditional Ukrainian food!!!!

Oh and not to forget the punk squirrels in the parks here:
DSCN0330

 
3 Comments

Posted by on May 3, 2013 in Cruise, Italy, Travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Day in the Life of a Social Hostess on Embarkation Day…

Genoa, Italy…Embarkation

Genoa is a day we love and dread at the same time, actually mostly dread. We say farewell to most of the old passengers and welcome a whole new group on board. The best thing about embarkation Genoa, is that it only starts at 9.15am.

Genoa is located in the North of Italy and is the main starting point for the 11 day cruises that MSC Lirica offers. We also have guests embark in Civitevecchia (pronounced Chivi tevekkia), Istanbul (usually all Turkish) and Odessa (usually all Ukranian and Russian). But Genoa is the biggest day with around 1300 to 1500 checking in.

Positions Please

Rolling out of bed, donning the uniform of blue pants, white long sleeve button up shirt, blue jacket and blue and white neck scarf while putting on my comfortable shoes (and thanking my mum profusely every time I avoid wearing my heels at her insistance I take the comfy ones as well), we head to the office on deck 5.

From there we proceed to deck 4, through security and into the terminal. We have had really bad luck in the past 3 cruises finding an unlocked door, but it appears as if we have finally located the correct one for all future cruises! Small victories make our days easier.

One of us is stationed at the check in desk. This is usually the Spanish Hostess who knows the system and also speaks 5 languages. The German host is stationed at the exit of the line where he can direct folks to open checking inners. The French hostess is stationed at the front of the line where she can check the little tickets indicating normal check in vs express (actually both the same but different lines) vs priority (for handicapped and families).

Finally there is me, English Hostess, along with someone from the animation team (as in entertaining team not drawing cartoons team). We are stationed at a desk near the entrance where we have important safety information in 5 different languages and the little tickets differentiating a guests status of check in.

Let the Fun Begin

The doors always seem to open at a different time. In the past we have stood there from 9.30am till 11.30am before we even start. But this last embarkation we started at 10am. Guests file in and we greet them while trying to guess what language they speak. It usually goes a little like this:

Me: Good Morning
Guest: huh?
Me: Bonjour/Bonjourno/Gooten Morgent (sp??)/Buen Dia
Guest: huh?
Me: Francais/Italiani/Deutsch??
Guest: ahhh Italiani
Me: MSC Cruise Card member?
Guest: huh?

And so on for all 5 languages. If an English speaker comes along I introduce myself and invite them to the travel talk in the afternoon.

For the first 3 cruises we stood like this for 5hrs, no break. But thank the heavens, the message got through and we were all relieved for 30minutes yesterday. Unfortunately I had not realised this and had not brought any money to buy a coffee or drink, it was pissing with rain outside and after 20min I got bored of sitting so went back.

2pm!!!

Finally, just as it feels as if our legs may never recover, our replacements arrive and I have to suppress the urge to kiss him and offer to give him children!

With barely an hour before our next task, we bound into the ship and head up to the buffet where we inhale food. Then down to the room to put feet up for about 15min.

Travel Talk

3.15pm Monique, French, and me gather in the office to make the announcement for the upcoming travel talk. This round mine was in the Lirica Lounge on deck 7. I had a rather good turnout of around 25 folks, considering I only have about 100 English Speakers onboard. Now English speakers do not necessarily mean NATIVE, but rather everyone who can’t speak one of the other 4 languages, often that means they don’t speak English either. But all good! This round I have a group from Norway, some dutch, a couple from Singapore, Japan, England, USA, even a couple from Namibia. The most surprising thing was to meet a lady from Eugene, Oregon who lives just a few minutes from the folks. Mmmmm potential courier for stuff dare I wonder.

The travel talk is around 20minutes and covers everything from life on board to excursions. Finally being able to go on excursions means I don’t have to BS as much as I have been. At the end we do a drawing for 50% off an excursion of their choice.

Safety Drill

After answering numerous questions and meeting folks I manage a quick 1 hr feet up before grabbing my life jacket to man my station for the safety drill. I am crew number 0626, muster station S, lifeboat 8. This is inside the casino, which has been pointed out as potentially not being the best spot of the ship is going down, but hey at least we can gamble on it!!

Standing at the entrance I collect the red cards. These are small ID cards given to guests at check in. After the Costa Concordia incident, this method was implemented to ensure all guests attend the drill, if their card is not collected a message is sent to their cabin to join the one the next day in Civitevecchia.

Moving to my spot for all those in lifeboat 8, I stand holding a lollipop sign until the general emergency signal (7 short, one long blast) is sounded. I then don my lifejacket and wait until we start the instructions for lifejacket presentation.

Grinning like a cheshire cat, I take the lifejacket off and go step by step showing how to put it back on while announcements are made in all 5 languages. I am finally reaching the point where I understand what each one is saying.

Disembarkation Talk

Drill complete I potter off to the Theatre where I have a disembarkation talk explaining procedures for guests leaving us in Civitevecchia. This takes about 20minutes again with questions after.

Sleep or Dinner

My biggest decision is then to whether or not to eat or nap first. Yesterday eating seemed like the best choice to ensure a longish nap. And oh how blissful that nap was, unfortunately it felt like my legs were going to cramp when I finally moved them.

Hospitality Desk

Since it is the first day we remain in our uniform all day and I must note that 14hrs in polyester long pants is not overly comfortable.

Our hospitality desk runs for an hour and we get to meet and greet and answer any questions new and old guests may have.

The Remainder of the Night

Now the evening begins to wind down. 7.30-8.30pm is Hospitality Desk. From 8.30pm to 9pm we wander around deck 6 socializing, or lapping as I prefer to call it. From 9pm to 9.15pm we stand and welcome folks into the theatre. 9.15pm is our evening meeting with details of the following day.

At this point we have a short time to pop upstairs to the buffet and see if we need something to sustain us for the rest of the night.

Our last duty before sleep is to man the Lirica Lounge and welcome guests to the evening activity from 10.15pm to 11pm.

BED!!!

Finally the day is over and we can collapse into glorious slumber, only to roll out of bed the next morning at 5.45am….

However….

I must note that presently I am sitting at a cafe in Rome, overlooking the Colosseum. I was placed on the Rome on Your Own tour, which involved me counting folks on the onset and then recounting at the end. Inbetween is free time!! It’s a glorious day and after my cappucino I am beginning to feel human. I think I may hunt down pizza for lunch….

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 28, 2013 in Cruise, Italy, Travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: