Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Cruise from Hell.

I knew this cruise would be different.  It wasn’t my favoured shipping line which meant we were sailing from Tilbury – twice my normal mileage to Southampton and because of its proximity to the Blue Water Shopping Centre – just before Christmas - a night at a Premier Inn was required to ensure I didn’t ‘miss the boat.’

The Premier Inn was excellent value and the staff most helpful when problems arose the next day.  Other cruisers were staying there and through them we heard that the ship was going to be five hours late.  The helpful staff allowed us to stay in our rooms – and when the time came booked reliable taxis for us to share.  The previous day - Dylan told me - he twice waited for over an hour for taxis which didn’t appear.

At last we were on board, my cabin appeared satisfactory but no facility for making tea and coffee which I have grown used to.  On this ship you had to reach Deck 10 for hot drinks – two of the lifts were out of order and had been for some time we were told.  There were many wheel chair bound passengers so at meal times and show times there were queues everywhere.

The first disappointment was when we learned that – due to the weather - we would be diverted to Antwerp – so much for Christmas in the sunny Canaries.  Also that our trip to Lanzarote was cancelled again due to weather conditions we were told.

With the British spirit we weren’t down hearted.  It was the first night of our cruise and we had a delicious meal to look forward to.

Our spirits plummeted when we realised that the food was abysmal.  Nothing was ever on time and with the endless queuing and paltry diet it felt like war-time.  On the first formal night when we are invited to have drinks with the captain and had been queuing for 20 minutes with no apparent movement a few of us sneaked round the back way and eschewed the opportunity to have a photograph with the captain.

On Christmas Day we experienced the full horror of the cuisine.  The beef choice wasn’t too bad apparently.  I chose traditional turkey which was an unrecognisable knuckle shaped piece of ? meat, three bullet hard sprouts, a pink smear (cranberry?), and some white stuff which could have been bread sauce.  I asked for some potato and was given cubes of hard potato.  I was lucky with dessert and had a passible crème brulee albeit floppy.  For days afterwards people were talking about the Christmas pudding resembling a stale brownie and so called mince pies with jam inside.

When we reached Antwerp we were told two chefs had been flown in and the food improved somewhat.  We were also told that some passengers had jumped ship and flown home.  The cathedral in Antwerp was outstanding with some wonderful Rubens.  We had delicious coffee in a café – with chocolates thrown in –which stemmed our hunger pangs.

In Gibraltar we found a pub and had a full English breakfast.  As I had been surviving on porridge and honey I thought I had died and gone to Heaven.  More people jumped ship and flew home we were told.

As our trip to Lanzarote was cancelled I missed the excursion I had planned.  We visited Las Palmas and Santa Cruz and at last saw the sun.  I had booked an excursion to Mount Teide up through the Esperanza Forest to 12,000feet.  We were warned to wrap up well but the weather was lovely and warm even on high.  I enjoyed the dramatic volcanic rocks which were surprisingly colourful.  I had been there before many years ago with MTL so I enjoyed having a quiet wander.

My last excursion was at Funchal in Madeira.  As usual the different groups were told to muster in the theatre and when at long last our group was called to disembark we were very late and clearly not going to be back for lunch.  I spotted the cruise director near the gang way and mentioned how delayed we were and that I hoped lunch would be waiting for us on our return.

‘Oh I think you’ll find it will be’, he said with a cheery grin.

‘I’m afraid it won’t be.  Would you please ensure that it is,’ I said putting on a face that was less cheerful.

  It worked – we got a message on the coach that lunch would be waiting on our return and sure enough – around 4pm lunch was available in the Bistro.

All the workers – waiters, cabin staff, dancers, and beauty staff were charming and hard working but many were new on the ship and were finding their way around.  The administration was – to say the least – lacking.

Another worthwhile excursion was Scenic Madeira with steep climbs, stunning views and – a treat for we deprived ship mates - two types of Madeira cake and two types of Madeira wine.  One of our drives involved descending a mountain road through thick fog.  Happily the drivers were excellent.

In Lisbon both Dylan and I were familiar with it and got on a Hop on Hop off bus.  We hopped on and – so strange and vast did it seem we didn’t hop off until the bitter end when we were actually glad to see the ship again.

From now on we were at sea and the weather worsened – very rough seas, waves 9 metres high and lots of sea sick victims.  Dylan was ex navy and I sailed many years ago so we were lucky but people were queuing for sea sick tablets (which they had to pay for.)  Each forecast was worse and we had to take great care moving around the ship.  The lifts weren’t working but often the crew were there to help one up and down stairs.

Finally it got so bad we were confined to our cabins and went from bedtime to lunch time with no hot drink.  How I wished I had accepted Dylan’s kind offer to buy me chocolates in Antwerp.  We had a plate of stale rolls delivered to our cabins.

The last night we were allowed in the restaurant and we were all quite gay and light hearted at the thought of being back home soon – once through the Bay of Biscay.  But then the heavy chairs started to fall backwards – sometimes with people in them.

There were crashes as all the plates and glasses smashed to the floor and from the far end of the restaurant people were hastily leaving the mayhem.

One woman complained she had paid extra to have a large window and it had been boarded up fro the last few days.

   The last night we had a helicopter hovering over the ship as a passenger was air lifted to the shore.

Eventually we breathed a sigh of relief as we reached the Thames – not all that late.  We said a fond farewell to the hard working waiters and cabin staff and waited for our call to the gangway.  We managed to meet up with our favourite dining companions – two doughty ladies from Brighton and the time passed until our call about 3pm.

As we left the ship for the very last time (and I mean that most sincerely although Dylan had already booked the very same cruise to do in March) walking in front of us down the ever changing gangway I noticed a man I used to see often in the restaurant – always smartly dressed in a suit and helping his frail, delicate looking wife to her seat.  He was pushing her down the bumpy gangway in a wheelchair and suddenly the chair overturned and deposited his wife on the ground.  He completely lost it and shook his fist.

“I hate this bloody ship’ he cried! 
As we tried to help to put his wife back in the chair and some crew appeared I think a few of us had a quiet sob in sympathy.

Tilbury was chaos with cars and taxis trying to leave and enter the dock.  It was grid lock for some time.  We were both waiting for taxis so wanted to be visible and the rain came and we were surrounded by smokers.  I reached home about 8pm and Dylan apparently 10 pm.

As I constantly told first time cruisers on the ship:

‘Please don’t let this put you off cruising.’


kenju said...

What a horrible trip. I am so sorry that was your experience, and I am surprised that you didn't jump ship and fly home!! I might have; especially after the weather turned bad.

Pat said...

Judy: I would never give up - as a rule. The thought did occur once but it's all copy and more interesting than lonely days at home. The old wartime spirit was alive and well. Also it would have been far too complicated to come home early.

angryparsnip said...

Oh My Goodness !
What a lovely sounding trip that really went all wrong.
I can not believe that the company was not better prepared.
Hope by now you have recovered and have your land legs back.

cheers, parsnip and thehamish

Pat said...

Parsnip: in spite of it all I enjoyed the companionship and it really was reminiscent of wartime:)

PixieMum said...

So may we assume the cruise line was Cruise & Maritime Voyages rather than your usual line from Southampton? Apart from a cruise on the Nile, we have never attempted a sea cruise, if we were to do so we would wish to know which cruise lines to avoid!

Thanks for an interesting blog, Madeleine.

Pat said...

PixieMum: the cruise line I have previously used and have two further bookings with is Fred Olsen and I would happily recommend them.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

I think this is one of the reasons I never ever booked a cruise! It's like your worst nightmare--COME TRUE! You are a brave and very dear soul, my dear Pat.....I would have left in a hurry and asked for my money back. It sounds like Dylan is a person forever filled with hope. He actually booked this cruise again??? Well, God Bless him!
I'm so sorry this was The Cruise From Hell, my dear.

A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR, DEAR PAT. May 2016 be a Healthy and Happy year for you and yours!

sdc said...

A smooth trip is dependent on so many factors and personalities, I'm actually surprised things don't go wrong more often. Some companies run a very tight ship, others couldn't find their own butts with both hands and a flashlight. It happens. I'm happy for you that you aren't put off continuing to explore and travel. Of all places, Madeira is someplace I hope to see some day. Pics I hope? And happy new year!

maurcheen said...

Oh dear! But you arrived home safe and well and with lots of stories to tell.😀

Kim Ayres said...

What a nightmare! So glad you managed to find a spirit of camaraderie in adversity, and that you're back safe and sound.

Perhaps you should start a new vocation as a cruise reviewer :)

Exile on Pain Street said...

What a horrific way to ring in the New Year! My first ship experience went well. I was going to say better than this but that'd be setting the bar kind of low. We were on the Regal Princess. Know anything about it? The ship was comfortable, the food was better than I expected the ports of call were all satisfactory. Watching people stuff their faces 24/7 was kind of off-putting. I suppose I'd go again but would be just as likely to book a land trip.

Mike and Ann said...

Hi Pat. Glad you're home safe and sound; but I must say that trip sounds absolutely nightmarish!!!!!
Warm Regards, Mike and Ann.

P.s. I think perhaps we will, as you hint, stick to the Mothers' Union annual 'do' for our jollies.

Anonymous said...

I really hope you have sent an email outlining your trip to the company involved, whilst I know there is nothing that they could do about the weather, the food and facilities are their responsibility.

AndrewM said...

I'm all for the odd kayak, but terra firma is the place to be.

Glad you're back.

Pat said...

Naomi: I must tell you that Dylan had already booked the March trip. He likes to have a couple to look forward to. Thank goodness I turned it down.
In retrospect it was a bit of an adventure. You know what we Brits are like. We always think it is going to get better.

Pat said...

SDC: there will be pics and I'll look specially for the Madeira ones.

Maurcheen: always look on the bright side eh:)

Kim: I'm a Brit 'aint I?

Exile: so glad it was bearable. I don't know the ship. I ignore the face stuffers:)

Pat said...

Mike and Ann: yes you might have got quite cross:)

Helen: I think I will probably be shamed into doing something.

AndrewM: don't tell me your sailing days are over?

Jack Bush and Elaine Bell said...

Sounds dreadful, Pat. I suggest you name the company and ship so others can avoid them. Are you planning a Trip Advisor review?

James said...

What a disappointing time! I hope it didn't spoil your Christmas too much - or was it all worth it for the anecdotes you will be able to tell later? (I rather doubt this!!) Hope your next cruise will more than make up for it - I am sure it will not put you off cruising again. Some complaints might be in order though.

Pat said...

James: I would find Christmas at home just now very difficult so most distractions are preferable to feeling sorry for myself. I am working on the complaints and had a long chat with the agent today and she has asked me to put it in writing. I hope it doesn't put you off eventually having a cruise.

Pat said...

Jack and Elaine: I have spoken to my agents and they asked me to put it in writing which I have done. It was Magellan - Cruise Maritime.

Mage said...

I read something about this cruise on one of my lists. I admit that I read your posts out of order. Yes, this was a true horror story. We've done a bit of cruising, and nothing like this has ever happened to us. I am so sorry as obviously the crew made a great effort to be helpful. I'm glad the wartime attitude held forth as it helped overall. Hugs from out here.

LL Cool Joe said...

This is why I'd never go on a cruise I think I would have preferred the Premier Inn for 2 weeks. Stay there and pop into Blue Water shopping centre every so often. :D

The problem is it sounds like a lot of it was due to bad weather too, and sadly that's no ones fault.

Ms Scarlet said...

Oh my word! I'm so sorry you had this bad experience. I got hungry and thirsty half way through... I now need a cup of tea.

Anonymous said...

Like lom says, you should let the cruise company know. In fact just copy and paste your blog post and send it to them - it highlights the worst and best you experienced. Can't do much more than that!

Cruises sound lovely but no-one can do anything about the weather and it was rather weird over Christmas and New Year. But good food would have made up for so much!

Hope to hear about the cruise from heaven next time!

Pat said...

roseneath: I sent an edited version to my agents who have forwarded it to Cruise Maritime. They say they have so many days ?27? to answer each point I made and will inform me as soon as. will report later.

neena maiya (guyana gyal) said...

Pat, your posts about cruises always leave me with my mouth open.

Every time you go on a cruise, I wonder what will happen.

This one, so far, has been the most dramatic.