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Old July 11th, 2009, 06:01 AM
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Paul Motter Paul Motter is offline
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Default Saturday ….

Alas, I have been served my eviction notice. I must pack up and leave my suite since Sophia Loren and Jose Carreras are moving into the ship. I have heard rumors that Sophia will be taking my suite. I contemplated leaving her a personal note with a kiss in my lipstick on it, but I am a married and hence don’t wear lipstick. (That’s a joke, folks, I realize my humor is sometimes not that funny).

Yesterday we arrived in Toulon. I realize I mistakenly called in Toulouse. We arrived at about 7:00 and to make up the missed port for the guests onboard the captain agreed to stay until midnight. We were originally scheduled to be in Marseilles from 3:00 to 8:30. I wondered how the captain could promise such a late departure and still make Barcelona in the morning. Especially in the winds we are encountering. Sure enough, it is now Saturday morning, the day of disembarkation, and as of 9:30 am we are still motoring out at sea. You all know that disembarkation days generally start at 4:00 am.

Isn’t that the beauty of cruising, though? In fact, we are on a sea vessel, which has to contend with the realities of nature. Yesterday was incredibly windy, so much that we could not even dock in Marseilles. People forget that cruises involve nature, including the unpredictable oceans of the world. It is exactly such adventure and surprise that I find to be one of the most appealing aspects of cruising.

I had my final meal in the Yacht Club last night. Each night they have hot and cold tapas-like dishes, but they also have a small menu of hot food. I ordered the same “three mini-hamburgers” I had the night before. Just as pleasing the second night.

Afterwards I went to the show. As noted, it is a challenge to put on a show for five nationalities. I found this show to be far more entertaining than the first. It started with acrobatic juggling, was followed by the full cast in elaborate Las Vegas style costumes doing a few songs, and ended with an Italian hand shadow puppet master. His routine was set to music and he performed something like a series of plays with various characters from dogs to birds, mice and people. Have the video and will try to post it when I am no longer on a ship.

And so now I must pack, and I will be moved to a regular stateroom. Goodbye Yacht Club service, goodbye butler, free minibar, two-room stateroom with bath and shower and a balcony view where I can actually see both sides of the ship and the entire bow. I hope you go to someone who appreciates you as much as I do.

I have to say this has really been quite an experience – seeing a regular one-week cruise as the typical European take. They are very much like we Americans in that they love the ship as much or more than the destinations. As noted, they certainly love the pool area. Fortunately, MSC was well prepared with more than enough deck chairs. I haven’t mentioned their deck chairs yet, but they all come with a sunshade built onto them. I have never seen this, and I think they are ingenious.

I mentioned the comfort with nudity one sees in Southern Europe. I happened to see two parents allowing their two girls to change out of their bathing suits in full view of hundreds of people. Now these girls were about five and seven years old, in God’s glory only, changing themselves, which means they weren’t exactly in a hurry or being very careful about the process. No one seemed to even notice, and I can’t help wondering what a scandal that would have been in the U.S.

It is now 10:00 and we are still not in Barcelona. I may be wrong about the schedule, but I did see people who were supposed to disembark in Marseilles trying to wave down taxis in Toulon. We are on “Spanish time” now. That is an expression they have in Europe, and I think we all understand what it means.

What a difference an hour makes. We are now alongside and have been for 45 minutes, it is 11:30. I am already in my new stateroom, now longer a member of the elite Yacht Club society. Do I feel demoted, no, I was privileged to have been a member even for a short time. But I do miss it already. The Concierge Club up on deck 15 is a friendly place where you can sit and watch movies, eat from a small buffet and order all of the wine, beer or spirits that you want.

I never truly felt at home there until last night when I decided to eat dinner in there. I ordered the hot food and for the first time dialed in a movie (Confessions of a Shopaholic). There was no charge in there like there is in the cabins. I admit, I like to watch TV while I dine (Andy Griffith and Dick van Dyke were my constant companions as a child. The food and drink kept coming until I was satisfied, then I left and took in the show.

Tonight I still have the same access to the diversified buffets and the very tempting food in the Sports Bar at reasonable prices. I will eat in the same dining room as I had before, but in a different section where the wine is not included. I will have to pay if I want to go to the exquisite L’Olivio. You can guess what my one regret is now – that I didn’t dine in L’Olivio more often. That was a sumptuous meal, to be sure.

My new stateroom is like any modern cruise ship, a balcony cabin with a king-sized bed. The colors are soothing, mostly a deep gold with mahogany colored wood accents. This stateroom is also wired for Internet, although wireless will also work. The Internet connection on board is excellent, very fast.

What haven’t I mentioned yet? There is a Wii game console onboard, but I didn’t see anyone ever using it. The casino features roulette, 21, poker and plenty of slots, including penny slots. No craps tables (that is an American game). It takes Euro tokens, although the tokens probably become dollars in the Caribbean. The tables all use chips, so they can easily change from one format to the other.

All staterooms come with hairdryers, and European and American outlets (plenty of both). The television in this stateroom is a small (20-inch) flat screen, and rather far from the bed. But we are not here to watch TV, right? In truth, this cabin has everything I need as a single person. The same sized bed, seating area, desk with Internet. The suite I was in could sleep four if needed, but so can this one, just a little more crowded.

Outside they are building the platform for the christening. I would be able to watch it from my stateroom as I did the flag ceremony (Day two), but I will go down to be close to the action this time. If you have not yet seem the video of the flag ceremony look for the YouTube video in a message above.

MOre pics: Dinner in L'Olivio




two MSC ship meet

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