Thursday, 9 July 2015

June 21, 2015- Valencia, Spain

Costa Food Poisoning, a Day Spent Partially in Bed for April, a Tour of the Ship's Kitchen for Bill, Exploring Valencia, Spain on Foot, A Bizarre Attempt at an Apology by Costa, Another Boring, Mediocre Room Service Dinner

April had a very bad sleep last night. Her intestinal issues were getting worse and worse, so we determined that it was indeed severe food poisoning (based on previous experience). This is not surprising given the pink chicken incident the day before and how off her fish at dinner had tasted a few days earlier. We determined that she had to have contracted the food borne bacterial infection on the Costa Magica because whenever we were off the boat, Bill and April ate the exact same meals, however, when they were onboard the Costa Magica, they often chose different meals with different sorts of proteins and ingredients and Bill was not experiencing any symptoms at all and clearly was in perfect health as April had been prior to boarding the Costa Magica. She began a course of Ciprofloxacin antibiotics which she fortunately had brought with her just in case. She had trouble regulating her temperature due to her fever. It was an absolutely miserable experience to have on a long awaited vacation.

We were to both go on a tour of the galleys today. This tour was for Costa Gold members, but our English hostess onboard, Nuria, thought we might be interested in learning more about the ship (we think this was like a consolation prize for all of the problems that we had on the cruise). Unfortunately, April was just too ill to go. She couldn’t even eat any breakfast that we ordered in, except for a small orange juice. Out of academic interest, Bill did go.

He thought the tour was interesting, but mildly disappointing. The tour was only of the kitchen for the main restaurants and it did not include a tour of the store rooms. Bill was really looking forward to seeing the storage room to see if he could find the can of Chef Boyardee ravioli that he was fed two nights ago on Sicilian night. However Nuria did indicate that she would check with the executive chef to find out if he could provide the name of the brand.

The kitchen itself was set up like a large industrial kitchen with many different stations. Things seemed to be in order, although it was said it would be impossible to have more fresh food onboard because everything had to be frozen. Strange, because we stopped at a port every day or two where fresh supplies could have been easily procured.

Also of interest, was that Costa is trying to bring back haute Italian cuisine. Each night of the cruise features a menu that highlights a different part of Italy. Although this is odd to us, given that we have been visiting some ports that could have highlighted amazing fare (think couscous for Morocco, or some sort of amazing fish dish for Portugal or Cadiz, or an orange dessert for Valencia), this seems to be the strategy that Costa is acting on. It must be that their market research and focus groups have indicated that when Italians travel abroad, they want to have meals that make them think of home. Given the large number of Italians onboard (it appears to be at least 80%, if not 90%) this would suggest that Costa is trying to sell to their base. This is in stark contrast to the way in which we travel, where we want to have a taste of food from our destinations (as suggested above). All of that said, Bill figures that the little old Italian ladies at the Columbo Hall in Kamloops would be shocked at what was being served here on this Costa cruise.

Bill had a good chat with Nuria after the tour and he felt that she really understands what good customer service is and the need for a ship, a crew, and a kitchen too keep fresh with new ideas.

Bill returned to the cabin where April was still sleeping soundly. We rested until lunch time.

We arrived in port at 2:00 PM and we disembarked the ship. At the cruise ship terminal there was a tourist information booth. There were two lines, 10 feet apart, indicating a “line up” area. This resulting in a large mass of people elbowing each other to get to the counter. We decided a map would be worth the hassle and waded into the chaos and bedlam.

You would have though there was a run on the banks and this was branch office as it resembled a scene from October of 1929. There was tapping of little fingers on our neck, arms, and hands. People’s heads were at arm level where they breathed heavily on our arms. Italians who budged in front of us yelled at us in Italian as we jockeyed for position now behind them. People were reaching over other people to grab maps before their turn, and shouting at agents in various languages even when they were several places behind the person being served at the counter. It was shocking to us and the Australian who was beside us in the throng. Bill employed good body position that he learned while taking Eskrima to stay planted and eventually made it to the front of the line, much to the chagrin of the Italians around us who were still trying to elbow and edge in and shouting over us at the agent.

After obtaining a map, and determining the best way to get downtown, we ventured forth into Valencia. We decided to walk into town to get a good sense for the city and its lay out since the city buses were too packed with the people we had just experienced at such close quarters in that "line up."

We took refuge from the heat and humidity in a cool bar where April switched back to Spanish and ordered a couple of Coca Colas and some ice cream. The bar served olives and salted peanuts, tapas style.

Valencia drained and diverted its main river some time ago and in place of its old river bed is a lovely park. We strolled through it, obtaining free WI-FI and sending a few emails outside the music hall. We then wandered into town and got lost exploring its streets. It is a modern and clean city and it felt abandoned as it was a Sunday and many stores were closed.

April fared extremely well given how awful she was feeling. The sleep-in and of course mostly the antibiotics helped  and she has stated to pick-up (so it was indeed severe food poisoning causing her intestinal agony as we had suspected). We took things easy, looked around some tourist shops, found a cool drink and more free WI-FI at McDonald’s, and then boarded a city bus back to the ship.

We found in our room an attempt by Guest Services to make us feel happier about the many failings of our Costa experience including the disappearance of our excursion to Monaco. We were provided with the line-up of Costa toiletries (very heavily perfumed and unusable to us),flimsy slippers, bathrobes (although when April called before our departure, we were told there were no bathrobes available onboard the ship), a fruit bowl, seafood canapés, and a bottle of champagne or sparkling wine. As we don’t drink, and the canapés were sitting out for 5 hours without ice or refrigeration (we glimpsed them when we picked up Bill's wallet from the room prior to disembarking in Valencia), it was off putting, especially since April has been suffering from food poisoning and tepid seafood isn’t exactly FoodSafe. Bill went up and returned the sketchy canapés and the booze to Guest Services. While the effort is appreciated, it is perplexing why they have only begun to try and make amends to us 8 days into an 11 night cruise. It’s too little, too late.

As April has been feeling ill, we opted not to go to the dining room this evening for another mediocre meal that takes two hours, ordered room service (as usual the chicken Cesar salad, tuna sandwich for April, beef sandwich for Bill, and fruit salad for dessert since the "cake of the day" was still dried out sponge cake with no icing or cream or anything as it had been every day since the beginning of the cruise), and chose to get to bed early.

11.02 km walked today.

There are oranges in the trees all over the place in Valencia.

Bill found PwC in Valencia.
Seriously, why can't we put dragons on buildings in Canada?

This is our room on the Costa Magica.

Bathroom in our room.

Seafood canapes that have been sitting out for 5 hours...that's FoodSafe. Thanks Costa Magica!

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