Day 1 – Stockholm to Venice

April 24, 2010 in ITALY,Mediterranean | Comments (0)

This is the first day of our eight day cruise. It began in the shadow of the Icelandic volcano that grounded Europe.  For a week ash clouds had blotted out hope of flights from Stockholm to Venice but just as I was giving up hope the ash got downgraded from red alert and/or the ash clouds thinned out.

So on 24th April at midday we landed at Venice Marco Polo airport. As we came out in the arrival hall MSC met us with a sign showing us we really would make our boat. The cruise really would happen.

About 20 minutes bus ride and we reached the port, where our ship MSC Magnifica loomed up white, sleek and gigantic – It takes 2500 passengers! So no surprise that the departure hall at the port was crowded with people.

Thirsty, tired, mmmmmmmmmm not such a good beginning. But finally we were up the gangplank, lead through the vast,  tinkly, magic music box of a ship to our nice cabin with balcony up on the 10th floor. Our home for 7 nights.

Time on board to eat lunch (all meals included) at a gigantic buffet before we sailed out of Venice.

Five stars for the departure…what else could you say about sitting on your private balcony on the 10th floor and gliding past the magical islands of Venice. The boat starts up a canal through an industrial area. Resigned that we had missed Venice, we let out cries of delight at the scene changed – painted houses fronting the water and a side canal arched over by typical Venetian bridge. Then domes, towers, more canals, piazzas…canals, painted houses….Venice Venice…islands of old, mellowed beauty and classical grace surrounded by the glitter of sea and canals.

We glide silently slowly through the magic ….. it’s not goodbyeas  on day 8 of ours cruise we will return.

Evening meal in the al la carte restaurant. Table fixed – all Swedes. Aleah is the youngest and most beautiful big-eyed raven-haired, slinky, skinny female around. Very long slow meal. Nice enough, or not, depending on your standards…but nice enough for me. And Aleah managed to get attention for her non-dairy needs. The ship suddenly produced a dietary expert after waiters struggled to find what she could eat.

A lot of the first day was spent finding our way, as the ship plan is a maze of spaces and surprises. You cannot walk straight from one end to another but make your way up and around obstacles.

The theme is waves and ripples, so the walls all wave and curl and sweep around, and every surface is decorated with wave and ripple-like mouldings and textures, in green or pink or lilac as new spaces open, with little lights studding the roofs. To the designer these were perhaps stars over the ocean. Here or there are other forms that might be seashells. All this the juxtaposition of patterns is perhaps art deco, but the chrome railings are more Skärholmen, suggests Aleah

All that designer action makes you feel a lot is going on, quite apart from the fact that a lot IS going on with 2500 passengers being treated to bands, ensembles, concerts, gala dinners, shops, bars…and the all important ”travel agency” where you crowd around some harassed girls trying to rapidly sell tours. A constant topic of conversation at meals is what tours you will do at the next port. Which tours or none? Is the burning question.  We share information as information is hard to come by.

How far are the attractions from the port at the next destination?  Hard enough to find that sort of information from the harassed girls employed to sell tours rather than information, and the harassed girls at the reception, most with a gift in a language other than English. However my question, which was NOT about the attractions, drove them crazy.

Where exactly will we dock in Istanbul? I ask. Vague sweep of hand from girl at reception on the tiny map’s shore of the Bosphorous. “Here,”  she points at Sultanahmet “are the attractions”. “But I must get first to Four Seasons Bosphorous, not to the attractions”. “I don’t know where  Four Seasons  is!” she says crossly, “ I only know – here are the attractions!” (Blue mosque, Topkapi etc).” I know that – please show me on the map where the boat will be – put a cross”. She was shaking her head vigorously to indicate my stupidity.  The boat is here she waved her hand again vaguely along what might be kilometers of the Istanbul coastline… and finally in exasperation I said again “draw a cross” and she in exasperation drew a circle like a bubble off the shore.

Finally we gave up and by asking in a perfume shop were directed to a jewellery shop where a pleasant Turkish man from Istanbul named Alkim told us that the boat was 10 minutes drive from our Seasons Bosphorous – where he used to work.

Then it would be half an hour he thought by taxi from FS Bosphorous to FS Sultanahmet.

Four Seasons Sultanahmet  is near all the most famous  attractions. The home journey would be fast by tram – but buying a ticket would be complicated. So we should just take a taxi – maybe 45 minutes back to the boat….it would be rush hour.

That meant we would have to leave the attractions by 3pm… Be careful. Don’t want the boat to go without you, he said

No wonder everyone else is taking a tour. But which one?

City tour 98 eur, Topkapi and shopping 42 eur, culture art and shopping 60 eur all way up to deluxe tour at 145 eur/person.

We are planning ahead to Istanbul as it and Venice are the big attractions of the cruise. Tomorrow will be Bari.

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