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Published: June 26th 2017
Our tale begins not, as you would expect, from now but it begins in a small room deep in the bowls of the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) 3 months ago, in November 2011 at about 3:52 in the afternoon.
A letter was received from Meester and Meesus Oggson, as we were known on our last MSC cruise to the Arabian Gulf. We felt the service had slipped since our first experience with this Italian Cruise Company. In retrospect, I suppose it depends on what Italian cruise company you want to use as the benchmark!! On the plus side, at least MSC got us to where we were going without getting our feet wet!!!
I'm not a complainer!! In fact I'm one of the few people who would suffer in silence when a meal lands on the table in a restaurant and it is slightly warm. I'm always happy to offer feedback if it will help to change a behaviour. In this case the rather shabby customer service.
The problem started when the discretionary 'tips' became a compulsory ‘service charge'. The 40 or so Brits on board were less than happy. The poor crew had their hands already full
with fending off pirates without having ‘the Brits abroad' having a go as well!!!
As most people were not willing to pay this change AND give the cabin steward/dining staff etc… a cash tip; standards had, in our opinion, dropped. If you know you're not going to get a cash handout, why bother??!
Our letter, although balanced was probably a step up from ‘feedback'. I like to call it ‘healthy criticism'!!!
MSC staff obviously took our ‘observations' seriously because only a few weeks ago we received an apologetic response together with a cheque for £165 and 2 vouchers for £50 on board spending. On top of this, we have both been upgraded to gold standard. This means further on board discounts such as 20%!i(MISSING)nternet usage, 20%!d(MISSING)iscount on mini bar and an hour spa treatment among other benefits. MSC have also advised the hotel manager onboard of our arrival and we should expect a welcome pack of champagne and petit fours. I wasn't too sure what petit fours were (although if they're going free – I'm in!!) so I Googled it. Definition: ‘a small fancy French biscuit or cake'.
The picture I saw of them reminded
me of the mini cup cakes me mam gets from Home and Bargain!! Do they have Home and Bargain in Genoa!!??
So if this is the benefit of feedback, I may offer more at the end of this trip.
Speaking of which, we are once again starting our voyage in Genoa before embarking the MSC Splendida. Our ports of call are: Barcelona, Casablanca, Gibraltar, Valencia and Marseille before returning to Genoa for the flight home.
Our journey, however began in Manchester airport, taking the short trip to Gatwick before boarding the ‘world's favourite airline'
for the 1 hour 40 minute flight to Christoforo Colombo airport. I thought it was jolly decent of the Genoese to name their airport as a tribute to Peter Falk's industrious career!!!
I had a new experience going through the security at Manchester airport. After the customary red warning light went off as I passed through the scanner, I was shunted in to what can only be described as a glass ‘pod', told to face the match stick man and put my hands on my head!!! I felt like a naughty school kid!! I hadn't been told to put my hands on
my head since 1965!! What next?? Be shushed then told to put finger on lips??!
Am I shrinking or is hand luggage getting bigger??! There seems to be more and more people these days who are bringing suitcases into the cabin classing it as hand luggage. Anything that has to be dragged behind on 2 wheels is NOT, in my view, hand luggage. It is simply…luggage!!!
We received a nice cup of coffee and an egg and sausage panini aboard the shuttle flight. This is more than can be said for the main flight to Genoa. We weren't expecting an ‘all you can eat'
buffet' but a packet of crisps and a glass of water was taking the piss!!
On landing in Genoa, we successfully navigated the airport bus that took us within 100metres of our hotel for the night; the basic but comfortable Hotel Vittoria. We immediately recognised the approach to Stazzione Principe. Nothing had changed. It was if everything was the way we left it!!
Genoa is steeped in maritime tradition and history. Not only does the city revere a bedraggled rain coated fictional US detective of the 70s and 80s but, by coincidence
is also the birthplace of one of the most intrepid and influential explorers in history –his name: Christopher Columbus!!!
The lift to the reception and beyond were still on the snug size. ‘Max 3 persons', the sign said. ‘There are about 35 rooms in this hotel, that's 70 people on a good day. You would need to get up at 5:30 to make breakfast for 9!!',
I said to Roisin.
she replied. ‘Or', s
he continued, ‘You could just take the stairs..!!
We freshened up before venturing out for a little ‘daylight' exploring'.
In October, last time we were here, it was dark by 4pm so not much was seen. It was now only 2:30, plenty of time before darkness fell, at about 6pm.
We decided to head for Piazza de Ferrari. Genoa is a city full of Piazzas or ‘town squares'. In fact, around every bend there seems to be a square. When you think about it that's one hell of a geometric nightmare!!
I thought only a few minutes in to our stroll. She has that ‘Can we? can we? can we?'
look. What had caught Roisin's eye was an
advert for the Opera Romeo e Juilietti by Gounod featuring none other than Andrea Boccelli.
Andrea Boccellli is a world-renowned operatic tenor. He is up there with the best. Perverotti, (Sorry, I meant to type Paverotti! Perverotti is his lesser-known brother…!!!) the Spanish bloke and the other Spanish bloke. The only things that, in our view, makes Boccelli stand out from the rest is that he is visually impaired. We have already seen him at the Liverpool Echo Arena. Performing in front of a microphone is spectacular but to see an operatic performance of such an enigma is once in a lifetime. The season of this particular opera runs from 10th
Feb – 4th
Mar. What makes this show extra special is that Andrea Boccelli is only performing on 4 occasions; tonight being one of them. As luck would have it, the Teatro Carlos Felice is in Piazza de Ferrari. Oh Joy!!! That's were we are heading!!!
We strolled down via Balbi then cut through to via Garibaldi.
The brochure states that via Garibaldi, the narrow thoroughfare lined with palaces either side is illuminated during the hours of darkness and is a must for any traveller. From
our experience last time, by ‘illuminated',
they meant ‘lit up',
and by ‘lit up'
they meant in the same way our street is ‘lit up'!! This was a very pleasant stroll on the edge of the old town. 15 minutes later, we entered Piazza de Ferrari.
There is a large fountain that dominates this square. From there, 6 or 7 routes entice you to explore this fascinating city further. No time for that. We have an opera to book.
One arm and a leg later, we hopped out of the booking office, tickets in hand and headed down one of these enticing routes toward the bay.
Passing the Catedrerale de San Lorenzo we emerged onto the sun-laden corniche adjacent to the Aquarium and Biosphere. This apparently is the biggest aquarium in Europe. Not too sure about the Biosphere though. It looks more like a ship in a bottle!!
Fast-forward a few hours…
…Wow! The Opera House. The show started at 8:30pm. We arrived at 7:45. Plenty of time to take it all in. Magnifique! The auditorium had a Baroche, Rococo, Renaissance sort of a feel to it. The décor gave the impression that you were
sitting in a courtyard of a palace, complete with balustrades.
The show was out of this world. Despite the singing being all in French and the surtitles (like subtitles but above the stage) were in Italian, we both knew enough about the story to follow the plot.
To say Andrea Boccelli was outstanding is an understatement. I wondered how he was going to act out the part of Romeo as I'm sure they didn't have guide dogs in 16th
century Verona!! On stage, he was accompanied and directed by a guide girl (not a girl guide!)
During the interval everyone piled out and queued up for their pasta and champagne. This was not free, by the way but as the programmes were 10 euro and we didn't have many more arms or legs to give, we decided to abstain and just enjoy the experience.
The curtain finally came down shortly after 12 midnight. There was then a curtain call for all cast members to take their bow. This seemed to last for ages as the 50+ cast insisted on taking their bow individually!! The whole shebang lasted for a tad under 4 hours. I half expected
to see Ken Dodd make an appearance as 4 hours is on par (just!!) with one of his shows!!
Poor Andrea Boccelli looked knackered during his final bow. Speaking of which, we had been up since 4am this morning. Through our spontaneity, we had ended up watching a live performance of one of the world's greats. Who would have thought as we climbed out of our beds 18 hours earlier!!
As Roisin commented on our way back to the hotel: ‘This has been a perfect day. The best of this trip so far…'
….and it's only day 1!!!
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