It’s All French From Here
Over the next four days we have the sublime priviledge of hosting 1400 Frenchies on a charter for the car company Citroen. The good news is, most of them got it for free and seem to be in a great mood about it, even to the point of forgiving my lack of French and inability at pronouncing it.
It all started on a day in Genoa, I was at my trusty table with my pile of safety flyers. Most embarkation days I am stationed here, usually I have 5 different languages for the safety flyer and a 6th flyer with all the languages explaining the safety drill. Each time a guest enters I greet them in English and hope they respond in their language so I know which flyer to give them. Every now and then someone pulls a dirty trick and greets me in Italian, only to end up being French or German….
On French charter embarkation we only had the multi-language flyer and the French one. So in an attempt at being efficient I just combined them together so that I could hand them to guests at the same time. Of course the first 1000 arrived at the same time and it was mad chaos trying to hand them the papers fast enough. Luckily they were patient and not rude and pushy like a group of Italians we had the cruise before who nearly ran me over in their attempt to get to check-in first. Once the snaking line filled up it was pretty slow going, just handing them out every minute or so and smiling and nodding. However, you will not believe how many people put the multi-language paper down or handed it back to me thinking it was in another language, only to have me point out the French paragraph at the very top….
Just for exercise, just for exercise, just for exercise….
2pm we had our usual safety drill, luckily it lasted about 10min instead of 30min as we only had 1 language instead of the usual 5.
The group was great and very amused with my demonstration, you got to make it fun otherwise people get bored and forget. My muster station is S, inside the casino, Lifeboat 8, in the far corner. A bit nerve racking I fear if a problem did actually arise as every other group is either outside or has an exit door near at hand.
Circles, lots and lots of circles
Our evening involved remaining in uniform and circling round and round deck 5 and 6 in case any one needed help. Luckily I understand words like “recepcion” and “toilette”. At one stage I was listening to one of the singers playing some phenomenal Elvis music and a guest grabbed me and started waltzing… again, I think this is going to be a fun crowd. I finished circling at 11pm and went to peel off my uniform that I had had the supreme joy of wearing for 15hrs straight 2 days in a row.
At our meeting this afternoon to explain where and when we were needed, our boss told us we were on excursion. At first we thought he meant that we were the runners to take the excursions to the bus… but then it was clear that we were actually ON the excursion. Since we only have a few hours this is great news, but at the same time, coffee with friends and a nap had sounded awfully good this afternoon.
The excursion of the day was to the tiny medieval town of Erice up on the top of the mountain in Trapani. The weather appeared decent, perhaps a little wind but I figured my sweatshirt and sunglasses would be enough, as usual. The movement of the bus lulled me to sleep for part of the drive, also the droning of our guide in French helped. When I opened my eyes all I saw was rain and grey and mist. When we arrived, after an exceptionally windy, twisty drive up roads barely wide enough to accept a mini coup, let alone a giant bus contorting itself around hair pin bends while trying to avoid oncoming traffic, it looked like it was winter in the highlands of Scotland. The mist was so thick you couldn’t see for than 10 feet ahead. But it certainly added a kind of ambience to the place and really lended to the feeling of an medieval town.
After a mad caper of trying to convince guests off the bus and then find them as they all made a mad dash for cover, the tour guide and I eventually corralled enough of them to be convinced of a full group. One of the tour guides looked at me forlorn and said “53 refused to get off the bus, I only have 8” Really people it’s just a little mist and rain and cold and fog other than that it’s a glorious day in Sicily.
As we meandered through the streets, heading uphill on particularly slippery cobblestones our guide gave us a brief run down of the history. To be honest I wasn’t really listening, instead I was in awe of the place and all the little shops. As we reached the top we came across a large number of French eating cannoli’s and drinking some sort of warm liquer. I wasn’t sure if someone had started a strange pastry craze, but the heavens smiled as it turned out the cannoli’s, these glorious crispy pastries that wrap themselves round a stuffing of ricotta cheese, were part of the tour!!!! We all got lined up to enter and as I put my foot in the entry the tour organizer gave me the lollipop (the sign we hold up to get our group to follow us) and told me to stand outside. I must have given her a very pathetic look as her next statement promised to bring me a cannoli when she went to get hers.
Standing on a foggy street corner in a medieval town eating a cannoli with one hand while holding the tour lollipop with the other and powdered sugar raining down all over you with every bite…. Heaven!
I really can’t tell you what the rest of the tour involved as I was in a cannoli induced fog, there was a church though and a promise to take me to a famous marzipan bakery for some speciality cookies. That is until the tour organizer decided I had to go with her to make sure all the guests went the right way, which they were (she had the tendency of treating them like 5yr olds). The problem was 2-fold, I spoke no French so couldn’t tell them where to go and I had never been here and so couldn’t tell them where to go. Luckily she figured it out and we headed back the way we had come and I found my marzipan guide.
In the end I got a giant box of marzipan cookies which were rapidly inhaled by the photo team upon my return, don’t worry I made sure I got a couple of them. The bakery gave me a free espresso so I could bounce my way back to the bus, where I found myself trying to sing Alouette in an attempt to keep the guests occupied as we waited for the last few to find their way out of Erice and back to the bus.
The final night was a white theme, and all guests were given white fedora hats, which created a fantastic atmosphere. Everyone had a good time with a concert on the pool deck and despite the cold, were in high spirits. A few days later I managed to find a contact in the housekeeping staff who acquired one of the left over hats for me and my roommate.
All French Things Come to An End
All to soon, this rather fabulous group of Frenchies, had to leave and our new route for the next 5mths began…. What the future holds we will have to see, but for now I am enjoying the ride… or the cruise.