Uneventful drive to Alicante then a long wait until my early morning flight to Nice. (No idea why they don’t do a direct flight to Genoa, but must be cheaper). Hour wait until coach took us on a scenic coastal route to Genoa, where boarding MSC Lirica was fairly quick and easy. Headed sraight to the buffet for lunch, then explored the ship whilst awaiting for my luggage to arrive get unpacked. The cabin and bathroon were smaller than others I’ve had – would have been a bit chaotic if two people wanted to get ready at the same time.
The fixed dining times were slightly different from most other lines, being 6.30 and 9pm, one a little early the other far too late, so opted for first sitting. Was on a table with a couple from Warwickshire, Alison and John, Claudia from Uruguay travelling with her daughter Janine from South Africa, a young couple Donna and Rich who didn’t turn up very often, and two single guys, Tom from France and then Sid from Liverpool (who always arrived late and left before dessert and spent a lot of time drinking in bars without ever getting off the ship!). There wasn’t a show that night so I went to bed at 9.30pm as I’d been in transit for 38 hours by then, and feeling cream-crackered!
Was awoken at 11.30pm by what seemed to be a heavy metal band right above me.
Tried to go back to sleep by after 45 mins rang down to reception and asked what the
hell was going on. They said they’d send someone straight away, but after waiting 40 mins. I rang again, and eventually a man in a suit came and listened and said yes it was loud and he thought it was coming through the air con duct.and suggested I go to Reception in the morning, make a formal complaint and asked to be moved. Now the strange thing was, I was right at the front of the ship, there were three decks of cabins above me, and the Disco was 5 floors up at the back of the ship. I never did find out what it was, but suspected they’d had problems with this cabin before. Anyway I did as suggested and they said they would check it out and get back to me.
Next morning we arrived somewhere near Marseille, so took the ship’s expensive
shuttle (€22.95) to the actual ‘Old Port’. I found this to be a delightful place and spent some time wandering along the beautiful marina area, and then took Le Petit Train. This travelled along the Corniche, passing the small island incorporating Le Chateau d’If, a 16thC Castle and prison, which was the setting for Alexander Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. We passed two old Forts – Saint-Jean and Saint-Nicolas – and Abbaye Saint-Victor before arriving at the beauiful Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde. This was set high on a hill, overlooking the bay, and was absolutely wonderful. Unfortunately I found that my camera wasn’t working and had a dent in it as though it had been knocked or dropped (not guilty). The evening show was a Shadow Act which was cleverly done.
Then a sea day. The previous night I had a message to go to Reception and check out a new cabin – which was identical except for two stowed-away bunk beds – so I accepted it and waited for help to move. It was suggested I pack everything up, but I refused, apart from all shoes and odds’n’sods and toiletries and the like, and insisted they at least move the drawers and contents, plus hanging rail, and this eventually happened. I spent the rest of the day sunbathing and reading (I’d already scoped out the library on board and found a few books to my liking. Later there was a Cocktail Party, with free ‘champagne’ and then a good Production Show.
Cartagena came next, where the first objective was to buy a new camera, and after some wandering many side streets to find a camera shop, the deed was done. Thereafter I went to visit the Roman Theatre Museum, seeing all the artefacts before the actual remains of the theatre itself, which was built in the 1st century BC and was very interesting. A mediocre singer/pianist comprised the entertainment that evening. Apart from the main theatre, there were 4 bar/lounges – each with different colour seating arrangements – and which provided entertainment. A trio doing popuplar songs, a guy playing the sax. and singing accompanied by a guitar. Aother singer guitarist, and a duo. There was also a late night disco, but I never made it to that.
Now Malaga, and I was surprised how much there was to see there in easy walking]
distance of the shuttle drop off. Bovedos Cathedral, and the Churches of Santa
Maria de la Encarnacion, del Cister and San Agustin were all very beautiful. Museum Revello de Toro, which I thought would be about bulls/bullfighting, but was of an artist who specialised in painting women. There was a long queue for the Picasso museum but as I don’t like his work anyway, I gave it a miss. But the best thing was the Alcazaba, an 11thC palace fortress, very interesting and with wonderful views from each level. The evening show was a magic act with 11 costume changes, and very enjoyable.
In Casablanca I took a taxi with a Belgian couple to see the Hassan II Mosque – the
largest in the Islamic world after Mecca – a beautiful building which holds 25,000 indoors and 80,000 in the huge square outside. It juts out into the sea, and was finished in 1973 and took 6 years, with 140,000 workers toiling day and night. We visited the souks and passed Rick’s Cafe. And also saw the large Natural Pharmacy, founded in 1515 and came back along the Corniche, besides which they are construction a huge new Marina. The entertainment that evening was opera with a tenor, soprano and mezzo soprano, all very good.
A sea day found me sunbathing and reading and enjoying a Flamenco show that evening.
Our final port of call in this area was Tenerife. I’ve been here quite a few times so I just visited the Church of St. Peter, local museum and the always busy Mercado.
That night the opera singers were back with Latin American songs.
The next four days were quietly passed sunbathing and reading (we were very lucky with calms seas and lots of sunshine) The shows were a very good female singer, a different magic show, The opera trio (again! although they were good, you didn’t want them all the time and a lot of people voted with their feet) and a return visit from the female singer.
Again, a few days in between appearances would have been better.
The next day we crossed the equator and there was the usual King Neptune ceremony, although this time there wasn’t a dead fish to kiss (sigh!) but instead an octopus whereby you stroked it’s tentacles (TENTACLES, I said!), before being covered in gunge and tipped into the pool (volunteers only, so you won’t be surprised to hear I wasn’t one of them!). There was an excellent and varied Production Show that evening with singers,dancers, and including acrobats, balancing acts and an Argentinian guy with a fast moving act of twirling ropes with a weight on end and cracking it on the floor – doesn’t sound like much when put like that but it was quite impressive. By now, a group of us from our table, (which was ably served by Abdul and Eko), went to the theatre together and had a drink afterwards.
Our first port of call in Brazil was Fortaleza, to which I have been before. Alison, John and I took a taxi into town and visited the Municipal Cathedral – which is quite plain compared with all the cathedrals and churches we had visited previously,
Mausoleum and Martyrs Square and the Central Market which is housed in an old
prison – each of the cells being a separate ‘shop’. The Production Show Team performed songs from famous musicals that evening.
A sea day again had me reading and sunbathing and later enjoying another excellent
show entitled ‘Sounds of Italy’.
We didn’t reach Salvador until 1.00pm, so had an early lunch then 7 of us took a HOHO-type bus (5 hours for €10 – excellent value) and had a panoramic tour around, visiting the beautiful Bonfim Church (the oldest and most sacred in Brazil) and the
lighthouse and museum. It was now getting dark so we asked to be dropped off at the Elevador which took us up to the Old Town (cost 0.15c) and there we visited the Cathedral, church, and wandered around the old cobbled streets lined with
shops, bars and restaurants. All in all an excellent day. We were
too late for dinner, so after a quick ‘lick and a promise’ we met up in the buffet for dinner. There was to be a Pool Party later that evening but we were all shattered, so had an early night.
Next came Ilheus and 5 of us took a taxi and visited St. Sebastian Church, the Municipal Theatre, and the house/museum of Jorje Amado – a famous writer (‘Gabriela’ being his best known work) before spending a couple of hours
at Milionarios Beach (I was not best pleased at being charged 5 real for the privilege of sitting at a beach bar – there were hardly any other customers there so they should have been pleased to have our custom!). The evening rounded off with a ‘Pirates’ Production Show.
Another sea day sunbathing until 4 pm it started to rain – but that wasn’t a problem as
needed to get ready early for the Previous Passengers Cocktail Party – plenty of
‘champagne’ again. The show this evening was a Michael Jackson tribute.
Then came Isla Grande. We had to tender in, and the others went off snorkelling so I had a general mooch around and a sit on the beach with a cool drink before heading
back. The evening show was called The Best Bits and was a compilation of parts of all the previous shows. Worth seeing again, even if only for all the fabulous costumes.
Our final destination was Rio. Again five us took a taxi along the Ipanema and
Copacabana beaches before heading for the cable car(s) up Sugar Loaf Mountain. It
was rather cloudy so the views were not as good as they should have been, and when we went to a Mirador to view the Corcovado the mist completely obscured it.
We then went for a typical Brazilian meal – feijoada – which is a hearty stew of black beans, sausages and cuts of pork – and very tasty it was, too. We then went to see one of the ‘sights’, which was a very steep flight of steps lined with tiles from all around the world, and a pet project of somebody or other (there was a plaque about it, but I can’t recall the details. Next we drove past the Maracana Stadium (yawn) and visited a new Cathedral which I thought was awful – the only thing that was even remotely traditional was some stained glass windows, but the whole thing looked more like a brick beehive than anything else. Because it was even more cloudy and misty, a vote was taken not to go to the Corcovado as 3 of us had been before, and the other 2 were spending 3 days in Rio after the cruise, so anticipated a better opportunity. There wasn’t a show that evening, unfortunately, no doubt due to the fact that everyone was disembarking the next day.
I was to leave at 10am, so, for the first time, had a cooked breakfast (not that I like to
eat much breakfast, but thought it would ‘see me through’ to an early dinner, which was the case). I got together with 9 other people for a minibus to our various hotels, all along the Copacabana beach. I checked in and then went for a long walk along the beach. The wide pavement is made up of black and white tessera in a wave-like effect. There were small beach bars all along the front, and lots of mini-gym
exercise bar-type things, which were made good use of, so I admired the ‘scenery’ there! There were lots of street traders selling sunglasses, belts, jewellery – the usual stuff, who kept a wary eye out for the patrolling police cars, who cruised along with red lights flashing, which gave them plenty of time to ‘up sticks’ and hide behind one of the bars until they had passed by, and out they all came. One guy had a huge beach umbrella with lots of bikinis dangling from it, which he had to lower, uproot from the sand, and then ‘plant’ it again once it was safe. As I’d been up before 7am I had a snack and an early night.
The next day (which happened to be my birthday) was rather cloudy so I went for
another walk along the beach and then found a lovely little park where I spent quite
some time reading and doing crosswords and sudokus. I was picked up at 5.45pm
for my transfer to the airport and had a long, boring wait until my flight at 00.05am
I spent the next afternoon and evening happily catching up with my friend in Reigate
(who spoilt me with a birthday gift and card, a lovely meal, breakfast, lunch and a
picnic to eat at the airport!). Fred was waiting to meet me in Alicante, and we
arrived back here at 12.45pm. The friends I made on board have all been in touch a
couple of times and I’ve invitations to stay in Uruguay and South Africa, so a lovely
end to another good cruise!