MSC Cruises Splendida – Mediterranean Voyage – Day 4

Mosque at CarthageLa Goulette is the main port of Tunis where we arrive soon after 7am being woken by the sound of the forward bow thrusters at work helping to dock the ship. We are on a tour today named Romantic Rendezvous with Tunisia. Waiting in the Strand Theatre I begin to wonder how this all works with so many different nationalities on board. Eventually they call coaches 35, 36 and 37. We are on coach 35 so off we go through security and leave the ship heading with the crowds towards the immigration booths. This is one of the few ports where you can walk freely on the quayside and when you do you realise just how big Splendida is, over 200ft high. You get neck ache looking up. The cruise terminal has been rebuilt over the last few years and contains shops that sell just about everything from souvenirs to duty free goods. Passports checked, entry cards stamped, out into the sunshine and onto the coach. Our courier is Mohammed and our driver Ali. The commentary is all in English and Mohammed’s English is excellent. Leaving La Goulette behind us we enter the old city of Carthage, not that much remains of it. First stop is the old naval harbour but there is nothing left of it other than an island where it used to be in the old days. Then the ancient water arches and viaducts of Carthage dating back centuries followed by a stop to photograph the St. Louis Cathedral and the new Mosque. Back on the coach we make our way to the village of Sidi Bou Said where all the buildings are white with blue woodwork. We visit the Ennejma Ezzahra Palace, the lifelong work of Baron Rudolph d’Erlanger. With its ornate interior, carved wood, marble and decorative ceilings in gold, silver, bronze and other shades of these magnificent colours the end result is a building of great beauty. St Louis Cathedral, CarthageFrom here we retrace our steps to the market place to be taken to the ‘Authentic’ souvenir shop where we are told that everything is genuine and to barter on price. Seeing a green bowl that would look at home on our dining room table I barter the shop keeper for it but he will not come below 130 Euros. At a little over £100 sterling this is too much I think for a decorative bowl. We wander around the market and eventually make our way back to the coach having had enough of being stopped at every stall plus being pestered by street sellers. The temperature has now climbed into the high 30’s so we look forward to the ships air conditioning as well as some lunch.

The buffet is crowded but we have discovered that if you walk through to the far end there are always tables available. It seems that people go to the first section and would rather queue and play hunt the spare seat than do what we do now and eat in fairly relaxed surroundings. Today I espy a Thai green curry, oh yes please, with some Thai spicy vegetables and fluffy rice so I am well happy. Washed down with, yes, you all know by now, a glass of chilled rose. Thinking about my waistline I have fresh fruit for dessert. Reminder, must speak to her who shall be obeyed about the washing powder she is using as I am sure it is shrinking some of my clothes, the trouser waistband is a good example.

Wood and gold - Barons House, Sidi Bou SaidOn arriving back at the cabin Theresa has kindly supplied me with the breakdown I have asked for of nationalities on board and number of children that is aged 1 month – 18 years. It would appear that during week 15th – 21st June the number of children varied between just under 550 to over 900. It has to be remembered that MSC embark and disembark passengers at every port of call so numbers fluctuate but it would be fair to say that up to 25% of the passengers are children. As for the different nationalities it is a huge at 61. The largest group being Italian followed by French, Spanish, Turkish, German, Russian and Norwegian. However if you add Ireland and the UK together we come in 4th. Add together all those with English as a first language and we have 375. Should have been a statistician.

OK now time for my snooze but not for long as the usual 3 long blasts from the ships whistle tells that we are leaving La Goulette for our next port of call, Barcelona. Why do they still call it a whistle when it is in fact a large horn operated by compressed air that is so loud it can be heard many miles away? Our route will take us north east for our arrival on the 27th at 10am.

Sidi Bou Said marketTonight we dine in the speciality restaurant, Tex Mex based on a ranch styled steak house. The menu looks really good so I decide on a T-Bone whilst HWSBO (her who shall be obeyed) orders a prime sirloin. When they arrive we are not disappointed. Done as ordered with side dishes of onion rings, mushrooms and jacket potato with sour cream and a pepper corn sauce topping. Yes it was washed down by a bottle of chilled rose, what else would you expect? Dinner finished we make our way to the Strand Theatre at the front of the ship. This theatre spans several decks and is beautifully appointed. It is always difficult to produce shows for the many nationalities on board so singing and talking are often avoided as is the case tonight. Having said that the show entitled T’EZCA, The Pyramid of Mystery, is one of the best shows I have ever seen at sea. The costumes, choreography, attention to detail were of the highest standard. Show over time for a G&T before bed so we visit the La Prua piano bar. So many bars and so little time to visit them all. Tomorrow is a day at sea so read my report to see what ‘Top 18’ has to offer.

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Alan Fairfax

Travel writer & cruise journalist

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