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Old February 21st, 2009, 10:58 PM
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Day 4 – Silver Shadow – Cartegna, Columbia
I bet those of you previously unfamiliar with Silversea are going to think I’m just making this stuff up, but…

Here’s something I’ve never seen before, whether on a ship, in a hotel, or in a private home. On “The Shadow” we’ve got a closet with a window!

There’s also the “toiletries menu”; you’re presented with a tray of choices offering four types of shampoos and conditioners, and soaps. The choices are between two types of Bvlgari, Acqua di Parma, and Neutrogena. Mrs. Kuki chose one of the Bvlagari brands. I chose to use whatever she picked.

Aside from the bathrobe and slippers in the closet, each night at turn down a foot mat, is placed on the floor next to the bed. It’s so your precious little feet don’t have to touch the carpeting, after taking off, or putting on, your slippers. When I first saw them I was a bit upset. I thought they wanted me to wipe my feet before getting into bed.

At precisely 8 A.M., as ordered, our door bell rang, and it was the butler, Vierny, delivering our breakfast. I had sunny side up eggs, with Blueberry Pancakes, and Mrs. Kuki had Rye bread French Toast on a mango and strawberry mosaic with Acacia honey.

After breakfast we set out for our ship’s excursion; Cartegna and its Fortifications (read that carefully). I think Cartegna is best done with a ship’s excursion, rather than setting off on your own in a taxi, as we’re want to do. On our last visit here we’d done the Palace of the Inquisition tour, and toured “old town”, so wanted to see something different on this trip.

There were 27 on the tour, which is a small enough sized group to be a manageable.It began with a short bus ride to board a “fast boat” touring the harbor area, and various fortifications by sea. The guide filled our heads with the history of Cartegna, and being the incompetent journalist I’ve claimed to be, of course I forgot my note bad in the cabin, so can’t identify all the fortifications we toured. I do remember that all date back to the early 1500s.

Our first stop was by boat, to the island of La Bomba, which the guide explained, translates to The Stink. There are natives living on the island, and some have to travel each day, by boat to Cartegna, to find work. All the homes are built on the water. But this is a poor island, and the homes certainly are not resort style beach side cottages.

As our boat approached the dock by the fort, local vendors ran towards it to try and hawk their goods. I think I said no thank you 487 times in the half hour we spent there, and that was with at least three tour company employees, and a policeman escorting the tour group.

Before getting off the boat the guide had warned us there would be vendors, and beggars, and asked us to please not give them even $1, as it would only serve to encourage them to be more aggressive with future tour groups. Apparently those living on La Bomba can’t even support themselves with fishing. Because of pollution from a nearby oil refinery, there are no fish; though some of the residents have begun very small fish farms, to grow their own.

From there we returned to the city of Cartegna, and met up with our bus, to tour the fortifications near Old Town, with an obligatory stop at “the dungeons”, which is now filled with souvenir shops. Of course, the bus stops directly in front of the store of the “guide’s choice” and he tells everyone they have 15 minutes, and proceeds to lead the group into “his choice” of shops, warning people not to buy from hawkers on the street out front.
During our last visit, there were many, many hawkers on the street, and entire area was busy. Today the area was very quiet, a likely result of the economic downturn. As we drove through the city we also noted many high-rise development projects where work quite apparently had ceased.

Eduardo, the guide, explained that the value of the currency had dropped so dramatically, developers could no longer afford the cement. It was a pretty dramatic visual clarification that not just the North American economy is floundering.

We made our way to the largest and highest fortification in the city, and climbed to the top, from where the view was quite spectacular. Then, we made our way back down, using the intricate set of tunnels the defenders used to move around within the structure, and even used to trap attacking intruders who managed to gain entry.

It was explained to us that Cartegna has always been a Military City, and still is. That was obvious as we passed ships belonging to the Columbian Navy, and a Military Base, during the course of the day. All and all it was a very interesting tour, and it required some physical exertion, which was a good thing for us. We assumed we chose a good tour because the Master of the Vessel, Captain Corsaro, chose this tour, and was with us as well.
I do recommend this tour for other cruisers visiting Cartegna.
More Cartegna pictures available here

Tonight I get to talk about a couple of hiccups on the road to perfection on the cruise. Certainly, no major issues, but I do have to share the “bad” as well as the good, if you’re going to spend your time “cruising” along with us.

Beginning yesterday, we noticed our toilet, in the bath off of the bedroom, was occasionally being lazy about flushing. We certainly haven’t put anything that you shouldn’t to flush, but somewhere on the line perhaps someone did, because today the problem seems to be worse. Also, this evening, after showering, and getting ready prior to dinner, I found the water coming out of the faucet to be quite yellow, rather than clear as it had been. It is possible there’s some sort of plumbing issue, at least in our area of the ship. If we find that it still seems to be the case in the morning, I’ll report it, or as I’ve experienced before on other ships, the issue could correct itself.

We returned to The Restaurant for dinner tonight. Seating in The Restaurant is available from 7:30 P.M to 9:30 P.M. This evening we arrived shortly after opening, and we were one of the first to enter the dining room. I told the Maitre D any sized table would be fine, so he sat us at as the first guests at a table for six. Very shortly after being seated one couple joined us, and then another.

I’m actually surprised at how much I’m enjoying what in a “traditional- assigned seating dining room” would be the “first night conversation”, every night. Our dinner companions tonight were very nice people, but probably not people I’d want to dine with every night of the cruise. It was a comfortable feeling knowing that we could simply enjoy their company for tonight, knowing we won’t have to be dining together for the rest of the cruise.

The meal was once again superb, as was the service, with one tiny “hiccup”… which also occurred during our previous two dinners here. For some strange reason service is terrific, until we order coffee and dessert. On all three nights we’ve dined in The Restaurant ( I actually hate calling it that. I think Silver Sea should let me rename it!) our dessert has been delivered and we’ve eaten it before the coffee arrives.

Frankly, if that’s the worst thing I can possibly say about the service throughout this ship after 4 days, they are doing VERY well. Yet, after I’ve raved about their attention to detail through 3 previous days reports, they’ve already seemingly trained me to expect it. Truly they’ve really made a mess of things if they have a guy like me expecting perfection at every turn. After-all I boarded pretty much as a take it as it comes kind of guy, and now look at me!

A combination of a lot of time in the sun today, and the physical activity of the tour, seems to have Mrs. Kuki feeling not quite right. After dinner I brought her back to the suite, and she went directly to bed, and rather than heading out again to see tonight’s show, or spend a few dollars in the casino, I stayed in to write today’s report.

Tomorrow the ship calls at the San Blas Islands, Panama from 1 P.M. – 6 P.M. This is a call very few ships make. There are no tours available. The islands are where the Kuna Indians live, and our stop is apparently a somewhat rare opportunity to visit them. Their society has some very strict rules about visitors, so it should be an interesting stop.
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