A Marseille foggy day (I think it was Marseille!)
It's our final port of call, Marseille. We were not due in to port until 1pm. Roisin and I hadn’t decided what to do once the gangplank went down. Roisin, I hasten to add, referred to it as 'the gangplank’. I pointed out that this is a 133,500 ton state of the art cruise liner. It doesn’t have gangplanks!! The Mayflower, the Cutty Sark and those ships in the Onedin Line had ‘gangplanks’!!!
The main reason why we hadn’t decided what to do once we arrive in France’s 2nd largest city is that MSC were charging 15 euros each for the shuttle in to town. Where were we docking?? Belgium??!!
After a stress free breakfast at La Reggia restaurant we retired to our cabin to relax on our balcony and enjoy our last full day aboard what has been another eventful trip.
As we drew nearer to the French coast we were unexpectedly greeted by, not as you would expect, the port pilot (known affectionately by the French as’ le Frog’) but by a weather front, known affectionately by the French as le Fog!!!
The fog had just sneaked up on us like Christmas does when you realise it’s Christmas eve and you have to nip down to the local petrol station to do the bulk of your Christmas shopping!! Only this time, as we had entered French Territorial waters, all the shops on board this ‘petrol station’ (figuratively speaking) were shut!!
It was a thick pea souper. We had been completely engulfed in this swirling mist. Visibility was down to about 30 feet. I knew this by looking over the side of the ship and just scarcely seeing the water below that had, all of a sudden, become very still. All was very calm and eerily quiet. You could hear the water lapping up against the side of the ship. A foghorn sounded several times at regular intervals. The whole scenario had a spooky feel to it. I felt I had just walked in to a Scooby Doo movie!! What made it feel even spookier was that the Captain had cut the engines. I looked over the side once more to make sure one of the lifeboats wasn’t being lowered and strained my ears for any unusual sound. The lifeboats were all where they should be. The slight breeze must be playing tricks with my ears as I could have sworn I heard the words ‘so long suckers!!’ in a heavy Italian accent as a motorised engine faded in to the distance.
But wait. That is the sound of a motorised engine only it’s getting nearer not further away. Suddenly through the mist came a small launch with the words ‘Pilote de Marseille’ stencilled on the hull. I think this glorified motor boat was as surprised to see us as we were it because the craft seemed to do a wheelie and turn hard to starboard before slowing right down to come along side. However, fog or no fog it’s not exactly Piccadilly Circus at rush hour so how he failed to see a ¼ mile long floating city is beyond me!!! In my opinion the pilot must have known he had an audience so I think it was the worse case of showboating I’d ever seen!! (pun definitely intended!!)
One final glance out to sea at the carpet of dense murk convinced us that we weren’t going anywhere. It was unlikely that we would be allowed in to port in these conditions. We resigned ourselves to spending the final day of our trip onboard the Splendida. This didn’t come as much of a disappointment for either of us. On a cruise, especially a short 7-day event it is likely that there is a different port of call to explore every day. It is human nature to want to visit everything possible to get your money’s worth. On our first cruise around the Baltic 3 years ago, we were both surprised, on talking to some fellow passengers, that they didn’t bother getting off the ship in certain ports. We now understand why. It is about the overall experience. It is the same difference as savouring something or ‘stuffing your face’. In other words, we were both happy to savour our holiday so far, sit back, have a relaxing day enjoying the facilities the MSC Splendida has to offer and sod Marseille!!!
20 minutes later we were tied up in Vieux Port, the old port of Marseille at the far west of the city!! So much for my assessment of the situation!! In all fairness, the fog had started to lift but it still looked pretty grim out there.
After lunch in the Bora Bora we ventured out on deck to see how things were. It was 2:30pm. This ship was docked until 9pm. Plenty of time to change our mind.
I looked out at sea and saw a ghostly outline of what I assumed was the Island that houses the Chateau d’If. This is the castle featured in Alexandre Dumas’s epic tale of treachery and revenge and was certainly on our to ‘do list’. When I showed this to Roisin, she exclaimed: ‘
We have a ‘to do’ list??!!’
‘Yes, but it’s a very short list’, I replied.
The only other attractions we had pencilled in for today was a ride on the mini train around the old town up to the Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde with fantastic views overlooking the whole bay. Now you see why we couldn’t be arsed!!!
Marseille is spread out over 37km of coast line and is said to have at least 300 days of sunshine per year. The fog was still receding and for one microsecond a sun ray broke through. I suppose that counts as sunshine??! To be fair, the fog cleared up by about 3:30pm and we were back to shirt sleeve weather!
We took a stroll off the ship and mooched around the harbour for a while. Watching newbies struggling with their luggage as they all thankfully left it in the capable hands of the French porters.
After we came back on board, Roisin spent the rest of the afternoon in one of those ‘pod’ things on the solarium deck. I had a final wander around the ship taking a few more desperate photos of the ship while it was quiet in order to ‘pad out’ the photos for this blog!!
It can be a bit of a slow news day when you spend the whole day on board ship especially when most people are ashore. I even felt safe to wear a T-shirt that I bought the last time we were in San Francisco. The strap line on the T-Shirt relates to the 2010 World Series win in baseball by the SF Giants. They tend to do things the hard way. They were streets ahead of everyone in the Western Division then lost a pile of games, They finally won their Division but it was a close fought thing. The T-Shirt says ‘Torture has never felt so good’. Now, I originally took this T-shirt with me on our Middle Eastern trip. However, I bottled out of wearing it as they might have thought I was taking the piss!! That’s why I’d never go to a football match over there as ‘sudden death’ takes on a whole new meaning!!!
Our final evening meal was taken with Alan and Liz but no Pam. Alan said she was poorly and has a heavy cold. S’funny, she wasn’t poorly enough that she couldn’t make the tour to Aix-en-Provence earlier today. I think she was still recovering from the ‘weigh it again’ episode in Casablanca!!!
Alan (and Pam) were staying on board for another week. They had signed up for back to back cruises. Next week, the ship would head down towards Malta and Tunisia. We wished him all the best, safe journey and all that whilst Liz was on the same flight as us so we would more than likely bump in to her tomorrow at the airport.
Disembarkation was well organised. However, we couldn’t leave without a last incident at breakfast. Roisin asked for an apricot yoghurt.
‘’Certainly Madam. How long for? 5 minutes 8 minutes??!!’ I dread to think what the waiter thought Roisin had said. Did he think she only wanted to rent the yoghurt?! Perhaps he thought Roisin wanted the yogurt poaching before being served??! One will never know and will remain a mystery for eternity.
When it was finally our turn to disembark, we made our way in to the baggage hall where all the bags and luggage were sorted according to colour. I don’t mean all the red bags were to the right and all the green bags to the left. No, what I mean is that depending on your onward travel, you received a coloured label for your luggage. So for example, those who had a transfer to Milan airport had ‘red 1’ on their label. We were classed as independent travellers – deck 9 so had ‘Grey 2’. We found our luggage in next to no time and made our way out of the terminal for the short walk to the bus stop where we intended to pick up the bus back to Genoa airport.
Apart from the MSC Splendida, we watched as the Fantasia also docked at roughly the same time so we expected double the pandemonium in the mad scramble to leave the cruise terminal against those who were waiting to embark.
For one brief moment I was almost shunted on to the MSC Fantasia. As I headed for the door that would take us to the lift to the ground level, a port official came running across waving his hand. ‘No! No! Bag it isa too big. Musta leave a here. Thees one’, (pointing to Roisin’s case) ‘ees a Okay!!’
‘We’re leaving. Not arriving’ we said in unison.
‘OK! Said the official as he shrugged and walked away.
So, that’s about it. We met Liz at the airport. She was seething because she had just had the bottle of Lemoncello taken away from her at security for carrying it through in her hand luggage! The very bottle of Lemoncello she was raving about all week. She has recently retired from the teaching profession. The strange thing is that she actually had a see through poly bag containing the usual array of liquid toiletries. How does a 70cl bottle of fortified spirits not count as liquid? It’s not as if she wasn’t aware of this rule. Pity they don’t teach common sense in the British education system!!
So what have we learned during this short time. I for one have learned to wear trousers that don’t need a belt when walking though airport security. I’m sick and tired of walking around like Bo Bo the clown with the crotch of my trousers around my knees everytime I’m asked to take my belt off and put it in ‘the tray’!! Roisin has learned to like either Pineapple or Banana yoghurt!! It just makes breakfast times run that much more smoothly.
Highlights have to be Andrea Bocelli and the little monkey things on Gibraltar! Romeo and Juliet was a great example of ‘doing stuff on ‘impulse’. Whether you’re impulsive or a little bit more cautious, never regret decisions you take. We like to think we’re a bit of both and have a good balance. We take opportunities when they arise. BUT remember, they are only opportunities we want to seize. Some opportunities arise that we don’t take. For example, Roisin had the opportunity to ride the cable car to the top of the Rock. Did she ‘carpe diem’?? Nah, just stuck two fingers up and said ‘Salute’ àla Lurcio in Up Pompeii!!
We’re siezing another opportunity…in 7 weeks time!! Join us when we’ll be exploring the ‘other’ side of the Med on the MSC Magnifica. See you in Venice on 5th May. We'll be looking out for you!! I’ll be the one in the San Francisco baseball cap!!!