Friday, 10 July 2015

June 23, 2015- Savona, Italy, Not Monaco

Another Distinctly Strange "International" Breakfast on the Ship, We Explore Savona, Italy Instead of Monaco Due to the Cancellation of Our Tour by Costa, A Tour Not of Savona, Sandwiches Not Served on Stale Bread for a Change, Swimming in the Mediterranean, Our Last Dinner Aboard the Costa Magica, Pre-Disembarkation Problems

Today we were supposed to be on a tour with Costa Excursions to Monaco. This was one of the reasons we had selected this cruise, because we both really wanted to visit Monaco. However, this tour was cancelled a couple of days ago. We were given a list of a couple of other tours of Italian towns we could take for 20% off the full price, but declined since our Monaco dreams were shattered and going to some other Italian town seemed pointless. No one from guest services ever told us how much a private tour of Monaco would cost as they had said they would. No matter, we wouldn't want to risk not being back to port in time for departure, them not holding the ship as they would with an excursion, and then missing our ride back to the safety of solid land in Marseille where we will try to salvage what's left of our vacation. If Costa wanted to deliberately ruin our vacation, they couldn’t have done a better job if they had tried.

We started the day by having breakfast at the "International Breakfast" restaurant at 9:00 A.M., which was the latest we could go, because breakfast had been set back in time due to the Savona disembarkment of the majority of the guests on the ship. We would have preferred to sleep longer given that we are on vacation, are run down, April is still recovering from severe food poisoning, our dinners are obnoxiously late on this ship, and the sound proofing in the cabins is poor resulting in being awoken every night at various hours by revelers returning to their cabins from imbibing somewhere else on the ship. Annoying how everything seems to be centred around the main occupants of the ship and no one cares about the others (even though Costa is making some sort of a push to attract North Americans with their free tap water, juice, tea, and coffee offer). We, as usual, had to fight for a table for two, instead of being seated with a table full of strangers. Why does Costa insist each time in trying to force people to hobnob with strangers at breakfast and lunch? It would be fine if it was an option for people who wanted to, but to try to make it mandatory is ridiculous.

Eating is still uncomfortable for April though the antibiotics have sent the vast majority of the symptoms of the severe food poisoning away. She gets severe stomach cramps after each meal. Not exactly how we had planned to spend our long awaited European vacation.

Breakfast was abysmal again with mix ups in the orders, strange service, and a general lack of knowledge of what international breakfasts actually consist of, look like, or taste like. They tried to refuse April her free tap water because she did not have her Costa card on her, even though Bill had his. April asked why they couldn't just bring two glasses of tap water for Bill. They said they couldn't. So she said she'd just drink from his glass. They eventually caved and brought her a glass of tap water. Thanks a lot, we love feeling like stowaway thieves first thing in the morning (absurdly they were willing to serve April food without a Costa card, but not tap water. She was speaking English with the same accent as Bill- wasn't it obvious they were both from the same place and under the same tap water plan?)!

The water for tea arrived in such a lukewarm state that sticking one's finger in it resulted in no feeling at all.  Eventually they brought by another pot of water which was actually warm, but did not offer any tea bags and when they did, they had not replenished the ones wasted on the tepid pot, so there was not enough of the original tea selected to make a proper pot of tea. They did not seem to care.

They brought the wrong breakfast to both of us and then left it there for us to eat the eggs off of that plate and then put the other plate with the correct breakfast alongside on the already packed tiny table, never taking away the wrong plate. April's eggs were half raw, the bacon was undercooked, and the pancakes were cold, flat, and dense, with no butter or syrup. They would not bring a vessel with milk for April's tea and insisted on putting milk into her cup directly, but never came back to give her milk for her second cup. We were seated in the middle of the restaurant, largely alone and on the way out had to again run the gauntlet of idle waiters standing along the sides, saying thank you or goodbye to us. This practice was so strange. Who wants to walk by 20 to 30 waiters first thing in the morning when you can barely function for lack of a good cup of tea?

We went ashore to Savona, Italy to explore and try to salvage what remained of our cruise. This was where most of the ships occupants had embarked and were disembarking. We picked up a map and found a "petit train" vehicle with a purported tour of Savona almost right away. We were told to sit across from each other in the little seats of the train. We were easily the tallest people on the tour and could not actually fit our legs across from each other and had to interlock our legs between each other to wedge ourselves into the child sized seats while the other shorter occupants of the train sat comfortably with no one across from them. Strange.

We were taken to a neighbouring town called Albisola. We were not expecting to be getting a tour of another town on this "Tour of Savona" but it turned out to be interesting nonetheless. The president of the local chamber of commerce took us around and pointed out the town's very old buildings (mostly unchanged since medieval times) and its amazing ceramics studios. We were given an amaretto biscuit to try. We looked in the town's church (which had the name plates from the two previous churches of the town that had caused rivalry and dissonance until the Archbishop of the area ordered a new church be built that everyone had to go to, thus ending the us vs. them) and then were taken back to the petit train and shipped off back to Savona where the tour ended.

The older Swedish man on the tour had a complete meltdown at not being given a tour of Savona as the tour had advertized. To see a calm Swede reduced to a shouting match with the tour operator was quite the sight. It was also interesting that the woman selling the tickets for the tour had a Costa fanny pack on that she wore facing everyone she sold the tickets to, knowing that most of us were fresh off the Costa cruise ship. Is this tour associated with Costa? We were left feeling confused. The Swedish man asked us if we thought that we were going to have a tour of the town of Savona and we agreed that we thought we were going to. We all agreed that between the Costa fanny pack on the ticket seller and the crooked, misleading tour that maybe it was related to the cruise that seemed to be mired in problems. The Swede came to a conclusion that the tour was "just another Costa thing." Indeed.

We headed off into the old town and had trouble finding a restaurant to eat lunch in. We finally did find a cafe and April busted out her very slender Italian language skills to order (in her fourth and final language of the cruise, besides English). The toasted sandwiches were mind blowing after our captivity on the Costa cruise where all the bread is stale and tastes awful in any event. We bought two Magnum ice cream bars to eat. Bill went to the bathroom and after a while a loud ringing alarm noise could be heard in the cafe. It happened a few more times. Eventually the cafe women were laughing so hard that they could barely communicate to April that Bill was pulling the safety alarm for elderly people by the toilet instead of pressing the button to flush the toilet. So, April went and found Bill and they flushed the toilet. Bill limped out of the bathroom into the cafe like an elderly person and hilarity ensued.

We did not find a good souvenir of Savona and returned to the ship having been told that there was a beach in Savona that we could swim at. We changed into our suits and headed out. We walked by the old fort and went to the very end of the beach, after all of the swish European beach clubs, to where it was free to swim. It was cloudy and windy and the waves were truly big. It was a fitting welcome for Bill who had never swam in the Mediterranean before. We swam a couple of times and then warmed up in the inconsistent sun, being harassed too often by Africans trying to sell cheap sunglasses, hats, and knick knacks.

We returned to the ship where we showered the salty Mediterranean off of us. We were disappointed, but not surprised to find that our magic fruit bowl from a couple of days ago had stopped refilling itself as it had been every day since its appearance. The only thing that Costa did to make amends to us for all of the deficiencies with this cruise and the disastrous excursions . . . clearly our comfort was only worth 1 mango, two mandarin oranges, two pears, 1 kiwi, and 4 apples.

We dressed for dinner. Since it was our last godforsaken "dinner" aboard the ship, we dressed up fancy even though it was not a formal night. We had dinner at 9:15 P.M. after packing. The food was indifferent and previously frozen as usual.  We skipped the majority of the courses, not even ordering a main course much to the puzzlement of our waiter. We posed for a photo with one of our two wonderful servers, Amit. Midhun was off sick, so we did not get to say goodbye to him. Our two dinner servers were truly the only pleasant thing about this cruise other than the ports that it called at.

We returned to our room around 11:30 PM to find the newsletter for the next day as usual. It was only from this that we gleaned that we were not allowed to order room service the next morning (we had already filled out the card and put it outside our door as usual). Instead we would have to go up to the dreadful restaurant again or have doughnuts at the buffet with the masses. Mmmm! The newsletter said that we should review our bills the night before and contest them if there was a problem with guest services the night before to avoid lineups the next morning. Well, even after visiting the guest services "totem" computer that night, we were not able to obtain a printout of our receipt and when we called guest services for one, they said that they would bring one to us that night. It never arrived. The mini bar was again locked without explanation. Guess we missed our narrow window of opportunity to dull the pain of this cruise.

We also found out we had to put our suitcases our by 1:00 A.M., so we would have to carry off any toiletries, pajamas, etc.. No one had told us this before (not even in the disembarkation instruction session that Bill attended). We noticed we did not have luggage tags unlike everyone else on our floor (we saw them in the mail cubby outside of each and every door on our floor. We called for them and then had to call a second time before we received them. This kept us up even later than we would have been up. We also noticed that our cabin steward had again failed to leave us back up toilet paper. He had also managed to reattach the towel rack pole back to the wall temporarily, but this fell to pieces within minutes of use, as did the shower the pole the next morning which crashed into the wall after detaching itself again. We always complain about the state of our rental apartment, but it's like a palace compared to this ship.

With the arrival of the missing luggage tags, we finally were able to put the bags out and go to sleep. This cruise has not turned out to be the relaxing time that we thought it would be and has firmly convinced us to never go on a cruise again.

10.68 km walked today.
mmm,...uncooked eggs again.
interlocking legs on the petit train tour

Albisola makes ceramics including these tiles on the side of the building.

Enjoying a Coke on our tour of Albisola.

The main church in Albisola.

The beach in Savona.

The apres-beach look at the fort in Savona

The apres-beach look
Thank you to Amit for being such a wonderful server every night to us on the Costa Magica. He was one of the only bright spots of the cruise.

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