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Goodbye, Farewell MSC Fantasia

Another Chapter Closed

After 7 months working as an English Social Hostess on MSC Fantasia I am finally heading home and on to the next adventure, after some well deserved RnR, especially after another bought of bronchitis and what turned out to be a fractured ankle that I continued to work on for the last 2 months.

Misconceptions…

When people ask what I do and I reply “I work on a cruise ship”, they always assume this means that I sit around the pool with a cocktail, especially when I was working in the Caribbean. However, it is nothing like that, sure my job as a Social Hostess or Language Ambassador as I prefer to be called, is a lot less strenuous compared to the bar staff or the housekeepers or the laundry, but it is still on duty 7 days a week for 7 months or more. It always surprises guests when they ask me, “what are your off days?” and I say, “the day after I get home.”

It’s Been a Great 7 months

Once again I loved working in the Mediterranean, so many different cultures, so much history and the most amazing food! I had the option to work in the French Caribbean, which I would have loved if there was a guarantee to get some scuba diving in… since that was highly unlikely, I opted for history and food instead.
Our ports of Call included:

ITALY
Venice – I have now been there over 15 times and only ever seen the cruise port, I hear it is quite beautiful!

Bari – Not much to see in Bari itself except a cool fort and shopping.

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Fort of Bari


However, just outside there is a beautiful cave system that is definitely worth a visit.
Caves of Castellana

Caves of Castellana

Civitevecchia (Port of Rome) – my favorite part of this port was my pizza place, Baffoni’s!! Cafe Latte, wifi, followed by a pizza and cola.

My favorite Vesuvio pizza, spice salami and zucchini

My favorite Vesuvio pizza, spice salami and zucchini


My second favorite Buffalo mozzarella and small tomatoes

My second favorite Buffalo mozzarella and small tomatoes

Genoa – Turn around port always crazy busy, but just sometimes I got to slip away to a tiny local place down a narrow alley with the best ravioli bolognese ever!

CROATIA
Dubrovnik – One of my all time favorite cities, absolutely beautiful. I hope to return and explore all of the Dalmation coast someday.

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View from the city Walls

GREECE
Piraeus (Port of Athens) – the port is really far from town, but on most visits, at least before I injured my foot, we would walk 20 minutes to a little street cafe for the best gyro in town.

Katakolon – A teeny tiny community that is the gateway to the ancient ruins of Olympia. I loved this tiny 2 street town, with amazing food and fantastically friendly people from my guy at the restaurant where I ordered chicken souvlaki, to the coffee guy with the amazing desserts to the shop guy who insisted on always throwing a bag of chips or a drink into all the crew members shopping bags.

mmm Greek Food!

mmm Greek Food!


Dessert and coffee

Dessert and coffee

Heraklion (Island of Crete) – Home of the myth of the Minotaur and another favorite stop, unfortunately the town was a fair distance from the port. My favorite memory was eating an amazing strawberry spinach salad with a good friend!

Mmmm Spinach Strawberry salad!!!

Mmmm Spinach Strawberry salad!!!


Great Friends!!!

Great Friends!!!

Rhodes – In my top 3! History, friendly folks and great food, also lots and lots of cats!!!

my favorite Tomcat

my favorite Tomcat


Street of Knights

Street of Knights

Corfu – Another stop where the town was a fair distance from port, but beautiful all the same.
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Santorini – Built on the edges of a volcanic caldera in the middle of the med, this is the picture postcard stop of Greece!

Santorini is famous for it's white buildings and blue domes

Santorini is famous for it’s white buildings and blue domes

MALTA
Valletta – Top 3!! Original home of the Knights Hospitaller and Templar and a port I could wander around in endlessly, just be sure to take the 1€ elevator vs walking up crucifix hill.

THE ELEVATOR!!!

THE ELEVATOR!!!


Inside St. John's Church

Inside St. John’s Church


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TURKEY
Marmaris – Part of my top 5! Loved this port from my first contract and only got one stop this time! However, my favorite food place was still there along with my favorite jewelry store.

Mixed plate

Mixed plate

Izmir – The area near the port was mainly shopping, although I did find amazing coconut macaroons at a hole in the wall bakery. An hour away you will find the house of the Virgin Mary in a stunningly peaceful valley and the Ruins of Ephesus, some of the most incredible ruins I have ever seen… did I mention there are lots of cats!

Mary's House

Mary’s House


Leave a prayer for the Virgin Mary

Leave a prayer for the Virgin Mary


Kitty of Ephesus

Kitty of Ephesus


Library of Ephesus

Library of Ephesus

SPAIN
Malaga – Churro and Chocolate is all I have to say…

No Words!!!!

No Words!!!!

Barcelona – Gaudi and the inside of the Sagrada Familia!! Absolutely incredible.

Beauty!

Beauty!

Tenerife – Loro Parque, the worlds largest parrot park with numerous other animals and even an Orca show! (I am not a fan of keeping these creatures in captivity, the only, slightly, saving grace is that the park focuses on research and education and some of the orcas were not wild born).

Rainbow Lorikeet

Rainbow Lorikeet


Orca Show

Orca Show

MOROCCO
Casablanca – The whole reason I opted for this route vs the French Caribbean and, even though I had no idea what to expect, it was unfortunately the biggest disappointment. The port was at least a 20 minute walk from the city through a disgusting agricultural and industrial port, with only… fairly intense taxi drivers as a transport option. Luckily, the city itself, although dirty, had friendly people, great coffee and amazing food. However, other than the mosque and the old market there wasn’t much to see and safety was a concern.

Coffee opposite the old market

Coffee opposite the old market


Carpets and Paintings in the Old Market

Carpets and Paintings in the Old Market


The Mosque from the Cornish Road

The Mosque from the Cornish Road


Tajines cooking

Tajines cooking


Delicious!

Delicious!

If you go to Morocco and the port of Casablanca I recommend the tour to Marrakesh, this is the Morocco we all imagine.

PORTUGAL
Funchal – Top 3!!! Absolutely loved this port, despite the long walk from the port, and would love to visit it again, from the vegetation to the climate to the food everything was great… except maybe that they speak Portuguese (a language that confuses me endlessly as it sounds similar to Spanish and yet I understand nothing).

Eira Do Serrado  reminded me of the Drakensburg Mountains of South Africa

Eira Do Serrado reminded me of the Drakensburg Mountains of South Africa


Always had coffee and a pastel de nata at my fav coffee shop... love the lady in the background - she is obviously on diet!

Always had coffee and a pastel de nata at my fav coffee shop… love the lady in the background – she is obviously on diet!


Great artwork on the Sea wall as you walk to town

Great artwork on the Sea wall as you walk to town

Not bad for 7 months if you ask me!

Friendships!!

Of course the true reward from these last 7 months were the friends I made from all over the globe!!

Olessia from the Ukraine - my favorite bartender and confident

Olessia from the Ukraine – my favorite bartender


Chiara from Italy, Tour escort and awesome gelato buddy

Chiara from Italy, Tour escort and awesome gelato buddy


Saneliswe and Sandile, my "paisano" bar staff from South Africa

Saneliswe and Sandile, my “paisano” bar staff from South Africa


Angela from Germany, German Hostess and international cuisine tasting buddy

Angela from Germany, German Hostess and international cuisine tasting buddy


Tamsin and Hayley from UK, Dancer and singer, my video and pizza buds!

Tamsin and Hayley from UK, Dancer and singer, my video and pizza buds!


Ivana from Macedonia, Photographer and my crazy happy friend

Ivana from Macedonia, Photographer and my crazy happy friend


Dayan from Spain and Jessica from Italy, GRM and Concierge, we made a great  team

Dayan from Spain and Jessica from Italy, GRM and Concierge, we made a great team


Gleison from Brazil and Martina from Italy, Portuguese Host and Events coordinator, we were the Funchal Ship Visit trio

Gleison from Brazil and Martina from Italy, Portuguese Host and Events coordinator, we were the Funchal Ship Visit trio


Carmen from South Africa, Tour Escort and another amazing Paisano

Carmen from South Africa, Tour Escort and another amazing Paisano


Celine and Loes from the Netherlands, tour escorts and my favorite Dutchies

Celine and Loes from the Netherlands, tour escorts and my favorite Dutchies


And so many more I would be here forever uploading pics. Thanks to all my amazing friends and I hope to see you again soon on new adventures!!!

New Adventures

Now I am off to do something completely different and, logically thinking, completely off the wall. I am moving to Koh Phangan, Thailand to pursue my passion of scuba diving!!! Yup at 37.75 years of age, I am doing something most people would think is completely insane… but I am sure going to have fun doing it!!!

 

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It’s all Greek to me…. And I love it!!!!

Bad Days and Excursions

There are often days on the ship where you just can’t seem to get away and I guess having your world revolve around a floating tin can, it IS very hard to get away. So when you end up getting on an excursion you didn’t really want to go on, escorting excursions is part of the job description, it makes you a little grumpier.

I had hoped, if I had to go on an excursion in Zakynthos, that I would be put on the blue caves of Skinari tour. This would mean a relaxing bus ride up the centre of the island, followed with a ride on a small boat, one of my favorite past times, to explore caves where light reflection causes a huge range of blue hues. Instead I got the tour that included a short walk of the city centre of Zakynthos, a stop in the small village of Volimos and the Anafonitria Monastery. The last thing I felt like doing, in my present grumpy mood, was walking around with a bunch of guests. But that was the tour and there was no option to switch. So, since it’s part of the job, you put your head down, smile and get on with it.

But at least it was a stunning sunrise.
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And we got to take the tender boats, aka lifeboats, which always make my day.
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Zante aka Zakynthos

For the first couple of cruises I was very confused by the tour name “Zante, Volimos and the Anafonitria Monastery”. We docked in the town of Zakynthos, so where was this mystery Zante… Well it turns out that they are one and the same. Zante is the island’s name according to the Italians. Zalynthos is the Greek name. Well that just made everything clear as mud!

Our guide was Penny, originally from the UK and living in Zakynthos for over 20yrs. We hit it off immediately and while the guests explored the city centre for the allotted 20min we sat down to experience a true Greek coffee. It comes in the form of an espresso shot. But there is a very specific way to drink it. Unlike the Italians, who knock it back like a shot of vodka, and then walk around permanently buzzed. Greek style is way more laid back.

1- Let coffee settle, relax and enjoy the company
2- Do not add milk or sugar, the coffee has an amazing flavor all on it’s own
3- Once settled, sip slowly and talk about life and the weather
4- Near the end when only grounds are left, swirl and turn cup upside down
5- Find an old Greek Lady to read your fortune

I followed 1 through 3, unfortunately there were no old Greek Ladies in the vicinity to have my fortune read. Maybe next time, when there aren’t guests to attend to.
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Volimos

Next stop was the teeny tiny, miss it if you blink town of Volimos. It quite literally runs the length of a short hill. Very quaint with lots of great arts and crafts shops. Now, one of my main aims when ashore is to find something to eat, mainly because after 3.5mths of ship food, variety makes my life very happy. It was still quite early, around 10.30am and we only had 20min in the village, but knowing the next stop was a monastery and then back to the ship, so if I was to hunt down fresh amazing Greek food, this was the stop.

The lady in the restaurant though, was sorry to tell me that there was no way we had enough time for her to prepare me anything as she makes it all fresh and went into great detail of how. So feeling a bit down and watering at the mouth after the delicious description she gave I started looking at the goodies they had for sale. Luckily, Penny had a fantastic idea, why not just get some tzatziki dip and pita bread… sure why not. Well… if heaven was a place in Greece it was on my plate. I have never seen such fresh chunky garlic-ee tzatziki in my life, and the pita bread was so fresh and hot that I could barely pick it up. I was also given a cup of FRESH freshly squeezed OJ and soon became oblivious to my surroundings as I dived right in. Thinking that life couldn’t get much better, I was proved wrong, it can get better, when the owners refused to take payment from me. I was starting to get a real affection for Greek people. I decided to pick up some Greek peanut brittle cookies and then was surprised to receive my bag with a free bar of Olive Oil and Cinnamon soap, “for you a little gift”. I think I want to move here!!! Of course I know, besides the fact that Greeks are known for their hospitality, that all these little things were because I work on the cruise ship and can send people their way… but it was still awfully sweet of them and really made my day.

Anafonitria Monastery

Our second to last stop was the Anafonitria Monastery in the town of Anafonitria. It is hundreds of years old and has some art in the tiny church that is even older. No photography is allowed inside to protect these beautiful religious paintings, you can however, for a couple of coins, get a candle to light and say a pray or wish. No harm in trying I figured. Walking around the grounds with only my bus load of tourists, the birds and the wind, you could almost feel the stress and anxiety of ship life drain from you. I could have stayed there for hours sipping on Greek coffee and contemplating the meaning of life. Now I understand why so many philosophers were Greek.
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On the way out we stopped at a tiny cluster of shops, all interconnected, offering a variety of products from Greece and from the island itself. I decided to pick up a sample of beautiful Greek linen with Olives hand embroidered on it. As is the custom I bargained for the price and got her down to €4, as we chatted I mentioned I would be back in 11 days. She realized I worked on the ship and took my hand, put the money back into it and handed me the linen. She refused to take payment. I was once again taken aback but thanked her profusely. In the next section I was debating between some halva for a friend or some nougat for me, this time a different lady picked up the halva put it in my hands and told me to stay. I wasn’t quite sure why but waited for her. She went into the back and returned a minute later saying it was a gift for me, then she glanced over at the guests heading back to the bus and pulled me over to the table. She got a bag and said “red or white”, placing a bottle of homemade white wine into my bag, then some Greek delights (like Turkish Delights) and then glanced over and grabbed some cherry nougat and threw that in the bag too. I think if she had had more time she would have given me one of every at the stand. I was completely gobbsmacked and sort of wandered off in a daze and into the bus, mumbling to myself how I loved Greek people. Then I had to devise a way to get my wine onboard, otherwise it would confiscated till the end of my contract, as no outside alcohol is permitted on the ship.

Greek Donkey

Greek Donkey

Viewpoint and Icecream

Still overwhelmed that the legendary hospitality of the Greeks was indeed true, we arrived at our last stop. A stunning over view of the bay and Zakynthos town, with the MSC Lirica anchored in the bay. Beautiful!!
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It had become very hot and so I headed to a restaurant in search of something cold or an icecream or the like. I entered and saw the lady on the phone, she told me to wait, that she was just ordering a taxi. I was too tired and hot to argue and looked into the icecream display trying to decide what to get. After a couple of minutes she came over and asked what she could get me, I pointed at a tub of little icecreams on a stick . Within 5seconds I was standing holding 3 of them and having a bottle of cold water pushed into my hands and shown to a chair. She also tried to make me a toasted sandwich, but I had to say no to that, I just felt too guilty. Somewhere in the back of my mind I kept expecting them to hand me over a bill for everything… it just seemed to amazing to be true. When I refused the toasted sandwich she insisted I freshen up in the bathroom. I must have looked really tired.

Returning a Much Happier Person

It has been 2weeks since this tour and I am still in awe at the generosity and kindness I was shown. Again, I realize it is good for their business and indeed I did pass out some cards to folks going on that tour and told others which stores were good to shop at. But they went above and beyond and truly made my week.

After being faced by many complaints and stresses of living and working on a cruise ship, discovering the kindness of folks has a way of making you a much happier person. And who knows, after chatting more with tour guide Penny, maybe I will return next year to volunteer with the turtle protection program, even if it is just to have some more Tzatziki sauce and pita bread!!

Side Note

And before anyone asks… I claim the 5th when it comes to any information about how to smuggle wine onboard…. 😉

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2013 in Cruise, Italy, Travel

 

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