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Tag Archives: Italy

Trekker’s Hostel Highlights: Generator, Venice, Italy

Located on the waterfront of the island of Giudecca, the Generator Hostel in Venice is perfectly set. Most rooms overlook the main canal of Venice with San Marco’s square just a short vaporreto stop away. In addition it is much cheaper on the island vs across the canal, a coffee in San Marco can go for around 5 euros, just for a simple coffee…

The dorm rooms are large and the beds are comfortable with your own light. There are lockers under the bed and the bathrooms are clean and spacious with fantastic showers.

The staff are friendly and knowledgable on all things Venetian. There is a buffet breakfast available every morning for a small fee or you can purchase a cooked breakfast for a little more. They also offer meals at a VERY reasonable price in the evenings and then of course there is the Generator Bar (they don’t water down the liquor here!).

An important suggestion: when you purchase your first vaporreto ticket to get to the hostel ask for the multi day passes, from 1 to 5 days. It will be much better value as each vaporreto costs 7 euros with only about an hour to reuse and they do check the tickets randomly and give a hefty fine if they discover someone with out a valid ticket.

Grand Canal: also with your vaporreto ticket you can take a tour of the grand canal, I recommend it at sunset.

Be sure to keep an eye out in the early mornings and evenings when the cruise ships come in and out! They are very impressive with the great backdrop of San Marco square.

MSC Poesia

MSC Lirica

All in a great hostel when staying in Venice, cheaper than most places and with a fantastic location!!!

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2015 in Italy, Travel

 

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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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Beach Life in Haifa, Israel

There is so much history and culture to explore in Israel that I was a little cynical when my friends said we should go to the beach in Haifa. I mean, I have grown up in South Africa, seen beaches in Australia, NZ and Thailand… I know what a good beach is like! Don’t I????

Following Friends

Sometimes you just got to go with the flow when the friends want to chill out at the beach. And sure, after working non-stop for months at a time, the beach is a perfect place to relax. So after doing my duty of assisting with guest disembarkation at 5.30am till 7am, then catching a quick 2 hr nap, I rolled out of bed to meet the crew. It was planned to be out of the ship by 10am…. 11.30am had us finally on the bus (and it was the girls waiting for the boys may I add).

The bus ride to the Carmel Beach in Haifa, Israel, seemed to take ages and for a time I thought we had over shot the stop. Which my friends delighted in teasing me about and had me completely believing we really had. But, eventually we got to the bus depo the final stop and the stop for the beach. You have to go through security everywhere in Israel, the beach included. Rather safe than sorry and it all became second nature eventually. After a quick bag scan we wondered through the mall picking up some amazing baked goods and some cola (possibly to go with the rum we might have had stashed somewhere).

The Beach!

Upon exiting the mall we trotted across the parking lot and onto the boardwalk lined with cafes, and restaurants, public toilets, beach showers and umbrellas. I couldn’t believe my eyes, I was wrong and this beach was incredible!!

Glorious Beach as far as the eye can see

Glorious Beach as far as the eye can see

The beach just continued as far as the eye could see on both side. The sand was a fabulous fine grain (which even after 4 or 5 washes I still discover in my swimsuit), the water a stunning blue and relaxing comfortable temperature… just perfect.

Good Friends

What followed were hours of fun in the sun with amazing friends…

My first friend on the ship, Biljana.

My first friend on the ship, Biljana.

Fun and Games

Fun and Games

Building Sand Castles

Building Sand Castles

Friends "admiring" said sand castle

Friends “admiring” said sand castle

mmmm wondered what happened

mmmm wondered what happened

making sand mermaids

making sand mermaids

The Price

After close to 5 hours of living up life and enjoying one of the most amazing beaches ever… it was time for us to wander on home to the ship, I had to work that evening. I could feel that I was a little sunburnt, but I had no idea just how much until after the shower….

As our T&D Manager (training and development) remarked: “You look like boiled lobster”
this was rather amusing until he followed up with
“which means you are ready to eat!!”
Trapped in a small elevator after that statement, it turned to disturbingly funny, well he was Italian…

Lessons Learnt

– Trust your mates when they say there is a great beach

– The Israeli sun is hot, hotter than other places, always wear sunscreen and if you do, be sure to reapply generously!!

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2013 in Cruise, Italy, Travel

 

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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.
DSCN0998

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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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….

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

 

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Welcome to Ship Life

All Right Folks I finally completed the first ship board entry…sorry about the wait!

The Start of It….

Almost exactly 1 year ago I stepped on a plane to visit someone… ultimately it would lead me to this moment, sitting in my little cabin onboard the MSC Lirica cruise ship. Since then I have experienced every emotion from heart ache, to anger, to finding an inner strength that surprised me. Now, I start my new adventure as the English Social Hostess on a ship that carries 2199 guests and 701 crew when at capacity… who knew life would lead me here!

Making it All Worthwhile

Presently I am sitting in my little cabin, listening to music and waiting to go check on my laundry (it is a highlight of my week when I find time to do it). Spent the morning with a friend walking around Civitevecchia, the port city of Rome, having a fabulous cappucino and an enormous panini with roasted zucchini, ham and mozzarella. I can’t believe that I am living the ship life… after all the craziness and effort to get here… I find moments like these making it all worth it!

Flights

With less than a week before departure I finally received my flight details. Leaving Eugene, Oregon around 1pm I would fly to San fran, then on to Munich and finally arriving in Genoa, Italy at 11.20pm. A total travel time of 23hrs…. After collecting luggage and finding a taxi I made it to the MSC Lirica around midnight for check in.
MSC - Lirica in Dry Dock (2)

She seemed enormous, looming in the moonlight and I was faced with a rather daunting set of metal stairs offered as a gangway. Not a problem under normal circumstances but with a bag that is exactly the Lufthansa weight limit, this proved a difficult task, especially in my lack of sleep state.
MSC - the crew gangway day 1

Making it up the ramp I was faced with security. All security onboard MSC ships are Israeli, and it’s hard to get them to smile. Luckily there was another girl waiting behind me and we soon got to talking. Biljana, Macedonia, has had a few contracts and works in the Casino. She helped me settle in. Security is very thorough when checking your bags, you are not allowed to bring liquids or such and they discovered my tiny bottle of Marmite (all English and South Africans will understand this). I made big sad eyes and begged him not to part me from it… He acted like he would remove it and then at the last moment, slid it across to me conspiratorially. Maybe I will make friends with security after all. We were both introduced to Francesco the T&D (training and development) manager. I swear he is the Italian double of Mr. Bean, especially when he smiles. It will be very hard not to call him that by mistake.

Biljana and I helped each other with our bags down to deck 4 and went in to the Chief Purser and sign a few things (apparently it was my contract, but I was so exhausted I didn’t realise until a few days later). Mr. Bean…. I mean Francesco had a special surprise for us, we were allowed onto the bridge to collect our keys and cards. It was quite impressive but in that state at 1am I don’t recall much I am afraid. Biljana and I went to her cabin first, which was clean…ish, definately needed a vacuum. Apparently when people leave they are meant to clean their rooms… meant to being the key phrase. Then it was onto my room. On first inspection it seemed there were still people living there. We found clothes and suitcases and piles of trash everywhere. Biljana called the Night Steward and he took one look and called 2 cleaners. It took them over an hour to make the cabin livable… 2 boys, entertainers, from the Dominican Republic had been the previous tenants. I flipped the mattress just in case!!!

First Mornings

I woke up about 7 hrs later in a bit of a dwaal, as we would say in Afrikaans, a little lost and confused. Apparently breakfast had ended already, I had no idea where to go, who to ask, what to do until I saw … Mr. Bean! He managed to rustle up some croissants and a form of coffee and gave me a short run down of some things. Then he took me to meet my boss, the Cruise Director. He left me in the office and after about 2 hrs I asked if I should return later as no one had had time to even ask me how my flight was. I spent the rest of the day unpacking, trying to find my way around and meeting the whole Casino staff, thanks to Biljana. I didn’t meet any of my team until much later that afternoon.

The one good thing about arriving at that time was being able to choose the bottom bunk. Unfortunately, a roommate did appear in the form of Monique, the French Hostess from Canada. She is around 60 and had given up a good job to follow her dream of travel. I take my hat off to her! But I think it may be interesting living with someone almost twice my age. I did make the tentative suggestion, ok more like a query, if she wanted the bottom bunk. She assured me she was fine and I decided, perhaps selfishly, not to insist. I did have to survive 7mths at sea and being able to flop into the bottom bunk is much easier than climbing the ladder, especially in rolling seas.

The Team

The Social Host/ess team is 5 strong. Martina from Italy, Paula from Spain, Peter from Austria, all have numerous contracts under their belt, and Monique and I. Peter only arrived the day of the first cruise, giving everyone quite a scare that he wouldn’t make it in time due to strikes by Lufthansa (apparently I missed them by a day).

First Cruise

We are already almost finished with cruise 3 and will start number four tomorrow. But a run down of the first cruise goes a little like this:
Started with embarkation and 5 hrs of standing, I was very excited to wear the new uniform and my new “clarks” 2inch heels…. I lost feeling in my big toe for 2 weeks, I am not kidding!
About 300 English speakers from all over the world including 5 South Africans…woohoo…scored biltong, bigger Woohoo!!!
This meant my first travel talk was in the theater, which is always intimidating. Arrived early to prepare and wait for the masses, 20 arrived!
Worked constantly with only a few hours each day to pass out. gave up the rare shore time for sleep. No excursions allowed due to training and translations.
Had great fun minglinig with guests and getting to know everyone. Was sad to see a number of them go.
Truly it was all a blur and then the second cruise started.

Second Cruise

Started with another round of embarkation lasting 5 hrs with no break and all standing. But this time I chose my “clarks” flat shoes that my mom insisted on buying me, thank God Mom’s are always right!!!!!
Only about 250 English speakers from around the world, didn’t make as many contacts as the first one. But met a great family from Scotland, when Agnes (a middle aged lady with a slight mental handicap) was in my group for the safety drill, as we walked back she said “that was fun can we do it again”. I met her whole family and enjoyed their company. Paul and his wife, Marion, were with Paul’s brother James (also with a mental handicap) and Agnes was James’ friend. Paul blew us all away with a spectacular rendition of a classical number originating in Naples at the MSC talent show. It was so good that a man from Naples came up to him, with tears in his eyes, and thanked him profusely. He got a standing ovation. Marion will return in July with her sons, I can’t wait to see her again.

Also a couple from England guests who had their 70th birthday on the same day. Super sweet couple and I was able to do a number of small things to make their day special. Excursions and I made a sign giving them priority seating on the tour bus, then I had invited them to a quiz and actually had the Animation team call them up and all of sing happy birthday and give them a bag of goodies. They invited me to have birthday cake with them at dinner, which was delicious but which I had to wolf down at great speed in order to get to the Captain’s cocktail party. I suffered a little trying to look demure and professional with a stomach ache…

The at sea day before Piraeus (Port of Athens) we had a crew party in the guest disco. Much fun was had and much stress released… I believe it was the exhaustion and nothing to do with the alcohol that made me tired the next day 🙂

We had a guest needing helicopter transfer to land due to illness which was quite a thing apparently. It all went very smoothly, but is never something a cruise ship wants to deal with.

Cruise 3

Couldn’t believe it when cruise 3 started… another 5 hrs, this time I spoke to the boss after and he was horrified to realise we weren’t being given a break. So here’s hoping for cruise 4 embarkation to be easier. Our first day is Genoa, Italy and the next we are in the port of Rome, Civitevecchia. On this cruise we were barely and hour and a half out of the port when we had to return for a medical emergency. Apparently a guest had attempted to go out on the top deck but the wind had pushed the door and knocked her over, breaking a hip. This time we were close enough to return to port and no need to call a helicopter. Luckily the Captain employed both the horse and the hamster and we soon caught up time before Istanbul.

Istanbul was the first port I got to go on an excursion and it was fabulous, truly amazing. I went to the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar and finally the Haggia Sophia which is simply mind blowing. You look at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican city and my first thought is “wow”, simultaneously I think “all this wealth could really help some folks”. In the Haggia Sophia, everything is ancient and it is all mosaics and paintings and so ancient it boggles the mind. There is truly a presence felt there. I hope to go back and just sit and take it all in. But next Istanbul it’s going to be all free time exploring the depths of the Grand Bazaar!!!!

Odessa, Ukraine, I got another excursion opportunity and enjoyed a relaxing day exploring the city. It was clear and sunny and met some fantastic guests. There were also amazing dogs all over and well taken care of. Photos will follow.

We had a crew show last night, with the poor dances (after having 2 shows for guests) doing another show for crew late in the evening. But it is great to be able to all come together and enjoy what the ship has to offer.

And now I am in Sorrento in the South of Italy and hometown of MSC. I just had a meeting with our big boss who said she had only heard great reports and that she could tell I was smart and a quick learner. I asked her to send a message in that regard to my dad… just in case he had doubts!!

So here I am sitting on the dock of the bay, watching the tender boats bring guests in and out. The Lirica moors in the bay and then uses it’s lifeboats to bring guests back and forth. I have had my espresso machiatto, and a piece of focaccia and enjoyed a relaxing hour. But soon it is back to the grindstone and preparing for another round of guests and activities and exploration.

I promise to try write more often, but life on board is certainly a new way of living.

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2013 in Cruise, Italy, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Roman Reunion

Train Back To Rome

Got the train back to Rome and nearly died of heat. There was no airflow in the car what so ever and it felt like it was over 100F. I had this little old Italian Lady next to me, and when she first sat down I greeted her in Italian, which then launched her into a discussion of life, all in Italian. I nodded and smiled and strangely enough we understood each other in a lot of parts. Just all very bemusing.

Finally making it back to my stop, I took the subway home to Kate’s and napped. Then had dinner with Kate and her friends who had come from the Ukraine (I think). Her crazy roommate, who liked to wear an afro wig to pick up girls, tried to join the party. I was all rather amusing for us to watch.

We went to a little place that was famous for it’s seafood. It looked amazing but I was so exhausted that even the pasta I ordered I just couldn’t finish.

It was a great evening but I fell asleep fairly quickly when we got back to the apartment.

Roman Reunion

I had made contact with Kristin, who I had met in Naples, and turned out she was in Rome, so we planned to meet up. It was a great day and we just walked around and explored a section of Rome I hadn’t seen.

View from up on the hill


Hieroglyphs on Egyptian Obelisk in Roman Square


Kristin and I


Back Streets With Art Markets


Even the Dogs Love the Fountains

We went to go meet Kate and her friends near a huge piazzo with 2 fountains (this got us confused) and flea markets everywhere.


Another Pup taking advantage of the fountain

We finally figured out which fountain we were at and explored the area a bit. The markets were fantastic and I was very tempted to buy a few things, but with no space i opted for just a tshirt.

Guy making insane figures out of carrots!


Music was everywhere


Me taking advantage of the water fountains that are everywhere

Unfortunately Kristin had to head back to the hostel to pack as she was leaving early in the morning as well. I hung out with Kate and her friends a little longer and explored the Panthenon with them. Roman architecture back then was truly spectacular.



Finally it was time to go home and “sleep”. I had to get up at 3am, but with a full house, all staying in the same room, I couldn’t ask them to keep it down. So maybe got a few hours sleep, if I was lucky. But all too soon it was over. I was flying home to the states to see where the future would take me.


I Sure Will Miss The Fountains Of Italy

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2012 in Italy, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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