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…And Then There Were Two!

Parting is such sweet sorrow…

Unfortunately our time together only lasted 2 months as Dane had to return home after a problem with his eyes developed, caused by overly long hours, lack of sleep, stress and poor diet (crew food is not the same as the guests!).

Our courtship had consisted of stolen moments between shifts, meeting for coffee before shifts, riding the elevator together when we were headed in the same direction, and the very rare hour or 2 on shore. If you added all these minutes together we might have consistently seen each other for about 7-10hrs in 2 months, and that’s being generous. Yet, it felt like we had always been together, I couldn’t imagine life without him and at the same time I couldn’t imagine life with him, they seemed one and the same.

The day he left there were tears and then I focused on cleaning and at least my sorrow resulted in a very clean cabin.

I have something for you…

We both came down with something, he ended up having a severe sinus infection and I assume I had strep throat so we did not chat for a few days after he left. However, once we were both healed he was there waiting for me online EVERY SINGLE EVENING!! He would tell his friends he had to leave drinking to come talk to me, he would decline bar trips so he could be there when I finished my shift. I had never had anyone do this. And in the 2.5mths we were apart there was only 1 night he decided to go to the bar, but he let me know and then was online at 3am just in case I was awake.

Usually we would chat on Skype video but would also exchange facebook chats throughout the day, on one particular chat the conversation went something like this:

Dane: I have something for you

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Kathy: ummmmm, if this is a proposal then YES!

Dane: Great! But it’s not gold, and it’s not a diamond, I hope that’s ok….

Kathy: It’s beautiful and I love it even more!

Dane: So when can you leave the ship….

And that started one of the most complicated process I have ever had to deal with on the ships… signing off!

In a Car???

It turned out our ship would dock in the port of Thessaloniki, Greece, twice during the month of October. This port was only an hour and a half from where Dane lived so we decided I would try and end my contract on one of those dates and if that was not possible do a sign off. A sign off is when you voluntarily end your contract, you must provide your own transport home and often risk never being given another contract. This seemed like a good enough reason…

At first I asked the head of my department if I could simply end my contract a month early (I would have worked 6mths, a usual minimum) and it turned out my replacement was already there (she was replacing the French host and would have taken on the English speaker duties once I left. For some incomprehensible reason they said NO! So I did the next best thing and went to see the Crew Purser to sign off, a bemusing conversation that went like this:

Me: I wish to sign off in the port of Thessaloniki

Crew Purser (CP): Ummmm do you have a flight home?

Me: No, my fiance will come and pick me up from Macedonia

CP: Macedonia…. is that a country or a city?

Me: It’s a country just North of Greece

CP: So does he have a flight ticket?

Me: no he is driving to pick me up

CP: In a car???

Me: ahhhh yes driving in a car….

It was very hard to keep the sarcasm in check… but eventually I was given the correct paperwork, ostracized by my superiors for deigning to leave the ship to be married and in general actually feeling pretty good (I think the truth of the matter hadn’t truly sunk in, it just felt right).

They Won’t Let the Ship Leave, and Might Call Interpol! 

All too soon the day came. The crew purser took me to see the Greek Immigration and then released me to finish sorting and packing. Later I went to pick up my passport and asked if there was anything else I had to do, he assured me everything was good and I was free to leave.

I headed down the gangway, for what would turn out to be the last time, and into my new life.

Dane arrived, wearing a suit, to pick me up… I think I was a little in shock as the truth of what was happening began slipping in… I was meeting a man I had known for 5mths and agreeing to marriage, but what the hell, I was 39 and he seemed nice enough (literally this went through my head).

A few hours later we were enjoying lunch when a collegue came up and said “OMG Kathy, they are looking for you everywhere, they won’t let the ship leave (which was only due to leave in 4hrs), you need to go back now!!!” I couldn’t believe it, I thought it was a joke. I hadn’t had my phone on and when I connected to the internet I saw messages from everyone, including my folks (they had called to see if I was home in the US…. seriously??). I ran back and the port agent look like he had aged 10yrs, he sighed with relief and said immigration was on the verge of calling interpol since I had jumped ship… WTF!

Turns out when the crew purser told me I was free to leave, there was nothing I had to do, no one I had to see, what he actually meant was “before you leave the ship you must report back to the Greek immigration upstairs for a stamp in your passport”, gee I wonder how I missed that one…

Luckily the very annoyed looking agents gave me a stamp after sufficiently making me feel like some kind of a criminal and I was free to leave the port, but would have to report to the chief at the border station for approval… I think I lost about 6 lives that day…

Why Are You Disturbing Me???

Well we got to the Greek/Macedonia border and I nervously was taken to see the big guy in charge. It turns out I never needed any stamp as I was

1 – immediately leaving the country

AND

2 – a US citizen who would very unlikely prefer to jump ship and live as an illegal in Greece….

If anything the big guy was more annoyed at having his afternoon coffee disturbed by his subordinate….

So, that is where my ship life ends and my new life starts, engaged and ultimately married to an amazing man and living part time in Macedonia (birthplace of Mother Theresa and Alexander the Great) and part time in the US. Adventure is out there… let life begin!

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Return to Cruise Ship Life

After working 2 contracts with barely 3 weeks break in between I decided to take 4 months off. After all, 13.5 months (6 months + 7.5 months) at 4 weekends a month, comes out to 108 days divided by 30 days = 3.6 months worth of weekends, give or take (and remembering I am not the best mathematician). So when a family member almost took a step back and looked aghast that I would have such a long vacation, after all most people only get a week or 2… my reply was, “I figured I would take my weekends first, then have a week or two of vacation”.

The Return

My first offer, for my next contract, was on Musica, going to the French Caribbean. My other option was Fantasia, going from the Greek Islands to Western Med and Morocco. My European friends all voted for the Musica, while my US and Canadian friends voted for Fantasia.

The deciding factor was Morocco and Casablanca. I have always wanted to go there, might have something to do with the movie, but it is a country I have always wanted to see. So I accepted Fantasia. I received my ticket 5 days before departure, a relative miracle considering we usually get our tickets the day before. However, I had issues opening them for details and after some days of exasperation called Alaska Airlines… who had no record of a passenger with my name… knew it was going too smoothly.

After calling the office in Italy, I discovered that the travel department had changed my ticket to leave a day early and give me an overnight in Venice. This was fantastic but also meant I had only 1 day to prepare everything instead of 2. Got to love planning!

Making it to Venice, along with my luggage, I was expecting another sketchy hotel like the one I had when I left my first ship. However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a clean, new hotel with a very comfortable bed and great showers. Of course all these things absolutely deflated my big plans of spending a few hours exploring Venice, as my shower followed by a short nap, became a long one as I discovered just how much international flights take out of me these days…

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Finally the morning arrived and we got to the ship! It was great, I immediately spotted people I knew from other ships and it was hugs and handshakes all around. This is the thing I honestly love about working on the ships, the sense of friendship and family you get working with people from all over the world in small enclosed place for an extended period of time. That and the travel of course.

The Fantasia is the same size as my last ship, Divina, same same but different, which actually makes things harder to remember. But I got settled into my cabin, then after some issues with the toilet and let’s just say etc…. I moved into a different cabin (there my roommate had a boyfriend so didn’t actually live there), and got down to the business of settling into ship life… Just 8mths to go… but whose counting!

Time Update

As of today Dec 1st, 2014, I have 6 months left, times goes quickly on the ships!!!

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2014 in Cruise, Cruise Ship, Travel

 

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Journey to Jerusalem

A little late in publishing but finally got it done. From my time on MSC Lirica during the summer of 2013, Haifa, Israel was one of our stops.

I have never been particularly religious in the typical sense. From my travels I have encountered faiths from all around the world from Catholic, to Buddhism to Muslim, to almost everything in between. Don’t get me wrong, I went through a period when I was a Sunday school teacher in High School and part of the local youth group. But after numerous adventures and cultures I prefer keeping my faith as something for myself. I love discussing religion and discovering the nuances of all the different beliefs, in fact at youth group I would always end up being that one in the middle of the table questioning. I grew up hearing the tales of the old and new testament, and well we were told they were true, for the most part they always felt like just that.. tales.

Entering Jerusalem

That is why it was no surprise that I chose to float in the Dead Sea, a long time dream of mine, before visiting one of the most sacred cities in the world for many cultures. Luckily working on a cruise ship allows you these sorts of choices and eventually I got round to getting the chance to exploring this ancient place. The early morning started at 5am for us with a 2 hour drive from the ship and I woke from my nap just as the bus entered the outskirts. Even before my driver began explaining things I just had this overwhelming, bordering on emotional, sense of awe wash over me. It seemed so obvious, when before it was kind of sketchy, that the stories I had grown up with were, in fact, based in truth and most likely completely true, in some form or another.

Dome of the Rock

Our first stop was a view of the Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock in the Old City of Jerusalem. It was truly breathtaking.
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The site’s significance stems from religious traditions regarding the rock, known as the Foundation Stone, at its heart, which bears great significance for Jews, Christians and Muslims. It is considered “the most contested piece of real estate on earth.” (Wikipedia)

Temple Mount with Dome of the Rock in background and cemetery in foreground.

Temple Mount with Dome of the Rock in background and cemetery in foreground.

Western Wall

Known to many as the Wailing Wall because of the thousands who come to pray and leave messages, the Western Wall is something to see and experience.

The sign before going through security at the entrance to the wall

The sign before going through security at the entrance to the wall

We arrived on the first day of Rosh Hashanah*, the Jewish New Year. This meant that there was no traffic anywhere and thousands of pilgrims at the wall. It also meant that no photos were allowed, which was a bummer as the people who came to pray that day were amazingly beautiful. Not in the typical “magazine cover” sense of the word, but in the cultural aspect, and the looks of absolute love and religious fervor that the wall seemed to instill in people. I had a very itchy finger wanting to take pics.

3 generations heading to pray

3 generations heading to pray

But I opted to obey the rules…and show respect. I wish I could paint you a picture of how amazing this was. I wish I could have sat and just watched the flow of humanity, often seeing it in it’s rawest and truest form.

The wall has a male and female side. On the male side it looked like a full party rave going on. Men were chanting and dancing and singing, the intensity increasing with every word uttered. They were lifting chairs above their heads and you could see the religious fire burning in their eyes.

On the women’s side it was the complete opposite. The women were silent except for some whispered prayers, there was a quiet dignity about them. All ages, all races and most likely many religions. Some were just sitting and reading the bible, sharing their beliefs with younger generations.

I walked down found a scrap of paper and wrote down my prayer, my hopes, my dreams…found a space between the rocks and, resting my head on the ancient stones, placed it well pouring all my positive energy into what I had written.

Via Dolorosa

Heading further into the Old City of Jerusalem, we left the Western Wall behind us and continued towards Via Dolorosa, or the “Way of Sorrows”.
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This is the route Jesus was made to walk while carrying the cross to his crucifixion. The winding cobbled street passes from the Antonio Fortress to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, around 600m/2000ft. Today it passes by bakeries, fruit sellers and souvenir shops. I wonder if the people living here today pause to think about the significance of this path or if it lost to them as so many other world marvels are lost to the people ho see them everyday.
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The route has changed over the years, but this one has been established since the 18th century, along the way tehre are nine Stations of the Cross. Places where it is believed Jesus stopped, or fell or met certain figures, such as Mary.
At the fifth station, known as the Chapel of Simon of Cyrene, it is believed Simon carried the cross for a ways. Jesus is said to have lent on the wall and left a bloody hand print, this spot is now much revered and has worn down over centuries of being touched by followers and tourists alike.
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Church of the Holy Sepulchre

As we meandered along this sacred route, I was struck by the people, the scents, the sounds. Life seemed so real, so alive, you never knew what you might find around the next corner.

such a table with a wide array of multi-colored candies

such a table with a wide array of multi-colored candies

Soon, we neared what is considered the most sacred site of pilgrimage for Christians, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It lies on what is believed to be the hallowed site of Golgotha (The Hill of Calvary), where Jesus was crucified and is also said to contain where he was buried and later resurrected. The church now plays host to the headquarters of most Christian sects, ironically enough, due to much…disagreement… between these sects, it is a Muslim family who holds the key to the ancient door. They have been responsible for it for over 1,300yrs.
(Article in the SFGate telling the tale).

Out in the courtyard you see pilgrims from all walks of life, all sects of Christian religions, all nationalities.

Greek Orthodox Ladies taking a break

Greek Orthodox Ladies taking a break


Young African man playing his drum

Young African man playing his drum


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I was in awe of this place, and you could feel the love and hope virtually emanating from the hundreds of people, most of whom had probably planned and dreamed of this day.
Just inside is the Stone of Anointing, a large slab (added in the 18th) century on the spot where Joseph of Aramathea was said to have prepared the body of Jesus for burial. Pilgrims take an item of clothing or jewelry and rub it on the stone as they pray, hoping to bring blessings to the item.
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Our group purchased candles from the Church store and lit them saying a prayer. Some get over enthusiastic and think the bigger the bundle the more likely their prayer will be heard, this is when a priest comes in and has to douse them so that a fire doesn’t break out.
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We spent some time exploring the church and I think photos are the best way for you to get a feel for it:

Light streams in the the arches creating an ethereal beauty

Light streams in the the arches creating an ethereal beauty


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The lamps that hang over the stone are contributed by Armenians, Copts, Greeks and Latins.

The lamps that hang over the stone are contributed by Armenians, Copts, Greeks and Latins.

The Immovable Ladder

Another interesting anecdote about the Church is what has been named the Immovable Ladder. This is a cedar ladder (the wood is believed to originally have been from Lebanon) that was placed below a window on the outside of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre during some construction. However, during a disagreement between the Christian sects, an understanding was made that no cleric of the six ecumenical Christian orders may move, rearrange, or alter any property without the consent of all six orders. Since getting consent of ALL the orders is near impossible, the ladder was not allowed to be removed and has therefore become Immovable and a symbol. It was first mentioned in 1757 and is replaced when the present ladder disintegrates over time.
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After a truly fascinating and emotional trip for the entire group our bugle toting guide, blew a few notes (not enough to bring the walls crashing down)
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and we headed out of the Old City with many other pilgrims in search of new inspiration and understanding of the world around us.
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Personal Note – it truly saddens me that a place that has more history in one stone than most places in the world and that should bring the world together due to it’s significance and meaning seems to be constantly at war. The people I met in Israel were inspiring and welcoming and I hope everyone visits and learns to put old prejudice aside.

*Rosh Hashanah (Hebrew: ראש השנה‎, literally “head [of] the year”), is the Jewish New Year although the real name for this Feast of the Lord is called Yom Teruah (Hebrew: יום תרועה‎, literally “day [of] shouting/raising a noise”) or the Feast of Trumpets according to the correct biblical calendar of the 1st and 2nd temple period, not Rosh Hashanah. It is the first of the High Holy Days or Yamim Nora’im (“Days of Awe”) which usually occur in the early autumn of the Northern Hemisphere. Rosh Hashanah is a two-day celebration, which begins on the first day of Tishrei. The day is believed to be the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, and their first actions toward the realization of mankind’s role in God’s world. Rosh Hashanah customs include sounding the shofar (a hollowed-out ram’s horn) and eating symbolic foods such as apples dipped in honey to evoke a “sweet new year”.
(From Wikipedia)

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2014 in Cruise, Italy, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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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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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.
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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.
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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!
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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.
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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….
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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:
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Posted by on May 3, 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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