Friday, 10 July 2015

June 22, 2015- Another At Sea Day

At Sea Day, a Not So International Breakfast in the Restaurant, Thwarted in Finding Good Deckchairs Again, A Day in the Sun Accompanied by Loudspeaker Italian, Another Appointment with the Guest Services Manager and the Completion of the Formal Complaint Form, Time Alone in Our Room That's Falling Apart, More on the Condition of Our Room and the Costa Magica, Dinner at the Restaurant at 9:15 PM

Today we continued our passage from Valencia, Spain to Savona, Italy (a small port town in the north, near Genoa). We awoke early and went to the "International Breakfast" restaurant which is also our normal restaurant for eating dinner at every night (excepting the nights when we choose to have room service in our room). It was actually open this time, unlike the last time we tried to eat there.

Bill had the "British Breakfast" which consisted of eggs, sausage, truly abysmal hash browns, and beans. April had the "Belgian Breakfast" which was supposed to be waffles, but they were cold, dense, and quite flat and served without syrup or butter. Since she also wanted some protein, she ordered a smoked salmon omelette (bluck! Part of it was completely raw!).

We went straight to the pool at 8:30 AM and still had trouble finding deckchairs even though the place was largely deserted. The main occupants of the cruise seemed to have put out all of their stuff over all of the chairs and then left to eat breakfast or go back to bed for several hours. It seems that though the ship has policies that are written all over the place, they do not bother to enforce them, leading to the general chaos and lack of order that we have come to expect on this ship.

We chose two chairs, several decks up from the pool (the closest we could get), and away from the other chairs. As the hours slipped by there was no sun on these chairs. It was freezing cold in the wind on the deck.

We went for a gross lunch at the buffet (the culinary highlight was a macaroni and cheese that we could have matched or bettered at home cooking ourselves with no formal culinary training). At this point, we'd like to offer a note for all the men reading this blog. If you're inclined to wear a tight little Speedo around in public at the pool, putting on a big T-shirt and wandering into the restaurant in just a T-shirt and flip flops is not good enough (seriously, you're not five years old anymore). No one wants to see your bare legs and every once in a while a flash of your Speedo while they are eating food that already makes them feel nauseated or at the very least, disgusted. Although it was posted every single day in the newsletter and they announced it at various points that people should cover up swimsuits when attending restaurants on the ship, the main occupants of the ship did not seem to care and it was not enforced for the rest of the people who did abide by these reasonable rules.

When we returned to our isolated chairs, there was still no sun there and it was still very cold. Eventually two people left and we took their chairs on that level and sat in the sun for a couple of hours. We watched the blue Mediterranean bob by from our chairs.

It was impossible to relax with the almost constant din around the pool area projected on the loudspeakers. They had people putting stuffed fish and crabs on their heads and doing a conga line and then participating in what looked like musical chairs, although it was impossible to tell as it was all done in rapid Italian. Even with her earphones in and her phone turned up as high as it would go, playing music, April could still hear the loudspeaker antics of the Costa team. There was also dance instructions and some weird version of aerobics that seemed to be more like the making of a truly awful music video for a song that no one wants to listen to. The main occupants of the ship though seemed to be right into it or indifferent as if they were used to constant noise and no quiet contemplation by the sea. We were disappointed that there was nowhere on the ship to just relax and chill in peace and quiet as this was after all a vacation and a chance for us to get away from the city. What a shame.

We returned to our cabin, happy to be away from the clap along, sing along, shouting for no reason activities of the pool deck. We changed and dressed for dinner a little burnt from our time in the sun.

We had to go to the office of the customer service manager to fill out a formal complaint for our problems with the cruise thus far. We were only given a one page form. It was not carbon paper as we had been told, but just a plain paper form. This single sided page was not enough space for all that had happened, so we ended up writing an additional five pages that we appended to this document. She scanned the document on her scanner and gave us the original to take with us. She said that she would send it to the head office. She asked if she could read what we had said about her customer service team. We were surprised. Why wouldn't the customer service manager be reading our whole complaint? Isn't that the job of a customer service manager? The workplace dynamics on the ship seem very odd and smack of a workforce that has had a serious and perhaps fatal breakdown in communication.

She offered us one possible "solution" to the problems we had been having with our cruise while we sat there. She said since we were on the North American package we could elect to not pay the gratuities that we would normally pay at the end of the cruise to the people who had served us (they calculate how many times you go to the restaurant, order room service, etc and then use a percentage to figure out how much of a tip to give to everyone who served you on the cruise, you can dispute it if you want). Why would we want to cancel our tips to some of the only people who we enjoyed seeing on this cruise? Why punish people earning probably minimum wage because Costa had failed so badly? We naturally did not choose this strange proposed "solution." You don't punish vulnerable employees for the failings of management or ownership of huge multi-national company.

No one from customer service or the Costa excursions office gave us any information about how much a private tour of Monaco would cost as they had said they would, so resigned ourselves to not seeing Monaco as we had previously planned.

We also used our time with the polyglot Guest Services Manager (she's French, but also speaks Italian, studied Spanish at University, and married a Portuguese speaker, and she speaks English perfectly) to find out what or who the "animation team" on board our ship was. Every day in the newsletter delivered to our room there were mysterious references like "Let's Dance with the Animation Team," "Hit the Animator," "Tutti Frutti Game with the Animation Team and Trio Tringali, "The Big Snake Game with the Animation Team and the Trio Tringali," and particularly enjoyable, "Sexy Night Let's Dance with the Animation Team and DJ Alessandro Serra and the Participation of the Costa Magica Dancers." On a side note, we never found out what "Game: The Human Slot Machine" entailed.

One of our waiters when asked defined the Animation Team as "animators . . . you know they animate people." This was not an illuminating or particularly satisfying definition and we were left wondering if there were corpses on board who needed to be animated or if the Animation Team did CPR on people who died during the cruise. The Guest Services Manager explained that there were several different animators on board the ship and that there were animators who worked with only children and then ones who worked with adults and that different animators did different things, but not drawing as we had first assumed (very complicated). Eventually we determined that some of them led dancing, some led singing, some led games, and they were what might be called an activities coordinator at a camp or a camp counselor.

While this was edifying, it did nothing to solve our problems with the cruise and we returned to the room to watch the BBC channel and write in the journal. We also organized pictures for our blog. Being in our room made us think of some of the other deficiencies we had found in it such as one of the lamps no longer having an on/off switch, having no do not disturb sign until almost the end of the cruise when one mysteriously appeared, the fluorescent light in the room being about 2/3 burnt out, the towel rack centre rung falling off and not being fixed despite us telling customer service and leaving it out for our cabin steward to find, the shower pole falling off the wall on one end and not being repaired, the seal around the window being partially detached and hanging, greasy marks on the wall that had not been cleaned before embarked on our trip, nail polish on the walls, chips out of the bathroom counter, numerous scratches on the toilet seat, and many others.

We went to dinner at 9:15 P.M. at the restaurant. April's food poisoning seems to be abating with the aid of antibiotics (proving that it was indeed food poisoning causing her severe intestinal issues), but she is still not feeling great and every time she eats she has agonizing stomach cramps. In fear of receiving further food poisoning on this nightmarish Costa cruise, April has stopped ordering anything with meat and is eating strictly vegetarian, not that this is easy given the frozen meat heavy menu.

As we looked above table 133, where we were seated every night in the Smerelda Restaurant, we noticed a huge splatter pattern all over the ceiling (yes, the services are so long that even couples who normally have interesting conversations will eventually run out of things to say). The ceiling looked like it was made of a wipeable vinyl. Why was this strange explosion not dealt with at the time and left for posterity? We wondered if someone sitting at our table previously had not been able to hold the awful food in and had exploded in a Monty Python "The Meaning of Life" shower of frozen shrimp, fish, and beef.

When we returned to our room to fall into blissful oblivion for several hours, Bill's Costa card would not open the door, so we had to use April's. It's interesting that his card could not even withstand part of a cruise (he had it replaced on day two after he lost it). Seems like everything on this ship is falling apart.

The turndown service had revealed a surprise, the illusive mini bar fridge, which had been locked every other night was unlocked. We were far too depressed to drink safely, so we just went to bed.
We cannot wait to be off this ship.

2.23 km walked today.

I really don't know what's going on here.
Something about putting stuffed animals on your heads, forming a conga line, and then returning to a
collection of chairs on the deck . . . Weird.

The only beautiful thing in the buffet that day was a decorative owl.

Yes, it was so loud from our perch above the pool deck that the sound was breaking on my phone.

Sunset from the Smerelda Restaurant.

Bill is not happy with just the cake.

Ice Cream makes things better.

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