March 2009 Archives

Heroes on the MSC

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By Michelle Perrett


Waddy, my favourite waiter of the week, served up sumptuous dinners to us every night while on the MSC Fantasia. The service staff, the majority of whom are from Bali, Indonesia, speak every language from Italian to English and have great smile for us every day.  




Waddy (Pictured) said one of his Indonesian friends had jumped into the water to help save one of the passengers who was injured in the gangway fall. He was one of the four branded a hero by MSC. The latest good news is the man injured in the accident is recovering.

Eye witness on the MSC Fantasia

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By Michelle Perrett on board the MSC Fantasia


Strong winds made for an eventful trip on my seven-night Mediterranean cruise on the MSC Fantasia earlier this month.  

On arrival at Palma de Mallorca after a night of high winds I decided a sleep in was in order.

As we headed down to get off the ship for a walk at the Spanish port the exit from the ship was closed with security preventing us getting off saying they had to manoeuvre the ship. We headed to the top of the ship and watched it as was moved across the port. When docked we saw an ambulance and police cars with flashing lights while cars from the local TV station arrived.(See picture below)




  MSC Fantasia in Palma.jpg 



The staff were hugely efficient. It took literally minutes for the ship to dock, staff were organised allowing passengers off onto waiting coaches to travel into the Spanish town. Coaches were already waiting at the port for passengers who had already disembarked.

However, on my return to the ship I found out that a passenger had fallen off the ship in a freak accident. The incident was inevitably the talk of the ship as Sky News, which was available on the ship, showed video footage of the accident.

Gossip among the British tourists about the accident was rife.  

Margaret and Angus Beck from Belfast were on the cruise for a birthday treat.  The retired couple disembarked the ship about an hour before the accident and were sitting in a cafĂ© about 100 yards away.

Margaret said: "We saw the ambulances go by but we couldn't go back down to the port."

Angus added: "We could see the ambulance staff working on the man."

Paul and Barbara Chriscoli were also on the ship as a birthday celebration and  were also on shore when the accident happened.  Paul said: "Divers came round in a boat. I think they were looking for the missing gangway."

Barbara said: "This accident shouldn't have happened but it won't stop us cruising."

Lastest good news is the man injured in the accident is recovering.  

Chewing Qat at a Yemeni Wedding

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 just got back from a fantastic week in Yemen where among other things I managed to wangle an invitation to a Yemeni wedding and had my first experience of chewing Qat, nicely crossing off two things from my To Do list in one foul swoop.

Qat or 'Khat' (pronounced cat), a mild stimulant, is everywhere in Yemen and on some afternoons you could be forgiven for thinking that the entire population is getting slowly cooked on piles of the leaves.

After a spot of frenzied haggling with their friendly local Qat seller, users gather their friends together and start the slow and laborious process of patiently picking the leaves off their piles of twigs or stems before chewing the leaves and deftly pushing them to the side of their mouth as they discuss the burning issues of the day.

The ultimate goal is to create a cricket ball-sized lump in your cheek (and get a bit of a buzz in the process). Taxi drivers, market sellers - even police and border guards, as the afternoon develops the bulging cheeks of the Qat chewer can be seen all around. But as the chewing session lengthens in hours the animated conversation ebbs and gives way to a more introspecitve time dubbed Solomon's Hour when the user becomes more wistful.

I couldn't love this slideshow of Washington DC's Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History - from the excellent Curious Expeditions blog - any more.

Lest any agents are in any doubt, there really are people who are inspired to travel by this kind of thing. I'm one.

Below are two far smaller London museums with a similar vibe: first Grant Zoology Museum,  a tiny teaching collection (open to the public) at UCL; and below that the Horniman Museum, where - disclosure! - my brother works.

If you're in or travelling to London and have done our marvellous Natural History Museum, try these two out...

Grant Museum of Zoology, UCL, London

Natural history gallery at the Horniman Museum, London

More from Juliet Dennis's cruise with Hurtigruten...

Our memorable Arctic cruise from Tromso to Trondheim on board Hurtigruten's Kong Harald was not without hiccup.

Hurtigruten Kong HaraldOn arrival in Tromso - feeling rather the worse for wear after two flights and an early 4.30am start - we discovered there was no transfer to take us on our dog sleigh excursion as planned.

Out itinerary clearly stated that those of us booked for the husky dog ride, just us as it turned out (the others didn't know what they were missing!), would be picked up on arrival at the airport.

A phone call or two revealed that our itinerary should have directed us to join our fellow holidaymakers aboard a transfer bus to a local hotel, where we would be picked up for our excursion.

Not all Hurtigruten cruises include being met by a company representative, so passengers arriving at the airport should not necessarily expect a clipboard-wielding rep to greet them, nor a sign pointing them to a transfer bus outside.
Agents would be well-advised to tell clients to be aware of this and give customers ideas on how to spend their time before waiting for the ship, if like us, it arrives around midnight and you don't want to spend hours sitting in the local hotel's reception.

Just after midnight we joined a queue of tired but excited Brits to get on board.

Again, don't expect quite the same scenario as boarding a large cruise ship. Two hardy Norwegians manned the desk as best they could while passengers crammed their way up the ramp and into the ship's reception.

The receptionist greeted us with a friendly smile, which soon disappeared when she discovered our names were in fact not on the passenger list at all.

For a moment I felt adrenalin replaced by panic. While I put on a brave face, the most my mum could do was to say loudly to anyone who cared to listen that a large gin and tonic was in order.

I shouldn't have worried. Brit, our receptionist, had everything in hand. Finding us an outside cabin, she had us sorted in no time.

Suffice to say it was the best G&T I've ever drunk, the best night's sleep I've ever had, and the best customer service.

Even better, unlike many of the US cruise ships, there is no expectation that you will give a tip at the end of your trip.