27.05.2010 - 27.05.2010
As I might have mentioned previously, it was 07:06 on the morning of May 27th . I had left at 6, gone to the closest metro and walked the 3km to the dock with all my stuff. The bus service did not run to a timetable, and I didn't want to spent 10euro on a taxi. Luckily it was reasonably cool at that time of day, and I like walking.
With no other passengers seemingly trying to board, I plonked myself down on kerb and just watched the existing passengers slowly disembark. Most seemed to be middle-old aged Americans, generally very loud, and some incredibly stupid sounding. The only other waiting people had been met by a staff member (Daddy! Daddy!) and taken to the ship through a crew entrance. A few other crew members turned up and went through, and all I could do was sit and wait. By this time I had been up for 4hours and a coffee and a shit would have been nice, ditto some proper food, but none was available. Eventually, a trickle of other passengers began to appear, firstly an elderly South African couple, so I just watched them to see what happened. Almost another hour later, and we they were allowed to go through security (but no immigration control anywhere – I wonder what non EU passport holders did?), and, happily there was an open cafe and toilets to use. Passengers numbered under 30, and most of us didn't speak any/fluent German, which confused the poor Spanish terminal staff who were handing out forms for us all to fill, in German only. Confusion reigneth.
Another half hour later (but with at least my toilet and caffeine requirements fulfilled) and check-in opened. The staff were obviously not used to it. It took 20minutes to process me, as the woman dealing with me seemed to have never used a keyboard before and inputting my name/address/contact details took 10minutes. And yes, these are the same details I had already submitted electronically, that they had posted/emailed stuff to and which I had been contained on the 2 of the forms I had just filled in. She had also obviously never swiped a passport before, or, it seems, even seen one. And judging by the conversations at parallel desks, I was not the only person struggling. But eventually, I was registered, and had my keycard and went to wait. An efficient American woman then told me boarding would start shortly, rooms were ready, and gave me a 35page closely typed document of the cruise lines terms and conditions and legal bits, for my information. You could tell that the cruise company was American...
A few minutes later, boarding began. With nothing else to do, I was first on-board and headed straight to my cabin, only to discover my keycard did not work. Finding my way down to the front desk, I was told they would only be ready in an hour, but I could I fill out some forms... After declining the generous offer to refill the same forms as i'd just filled onshore, I gave in and took my bags and went out onto deck to wait in the sun and watch Barcelona. For what was a German cruise charter on an American ship, the whole episode had been an absolute shambles. I have honestly seen greater speed, and significantly more organisation in the average African city minibus terminal, and for those that truly understand what that means, you comprehend just how pathetic the whole episode had been. The really could not organise a pissup in a brewery. It was so bad that it was funny (though had I not been of a laid-back and patient temperament, things could have been very different) and I would not have been surprised it the German equivalent of Jeremy Beadle had suddenly appeared.
It was about to get worse.
A few others started to appear and I fell into conversation with 2 older Germans living in South Africa, during which, I discovered, that they had been given different information regarding ports of call and timings (inc departure), that we would arrive in Cape Town on a different date, and most astonishingly, that apparently we would be changing ships en route. Where, when and why were unknown.
This seemed to be confirmed by the next person I spoke to, a Portuguese-South African, Jose, who was the only other passenger I had seen who was not old enough to be one of my grandparents. Jose is a travel agent, but even he had only discovered this voyage a few weeks beforehand. He had been told a week previously that we would be changing vessels in Palma, where instead of the 4hours timetabled that I had known about, apparently we would have over 30hours – a full 24hours, followed by cross ship transfer to the Westerdam (the ship I am due to return on), and 3am departure. But despite departing over 24hours later than I knew about and with no change to ports of call, we seem to be due in Cape Town a day earlier... Work that one out. He had been told boarding began at 10am (better), but had been sent to the wrong dock and had done the same walk as me, but only in much hotter temperatures.
At the appointed time, I went back to to front desk, had the ship transfer confirmed (and was told I should have already been told about it) and finally got access to my cabin, where I dropped my stuff, had a well needed shower and then went to find food.
A long announcement was made in German, a few minutes after I was then yanked out of the dining room and told I was supposed to be on Deck 3 for a lifeboat demonstration. I arrived in time to see the few passengers disperse, but got talking to a handful of passengers and Dutch crewman, who then passed the word that at least half of the few passengers on-board were not German and might appreciate English information in future, and told us that they were expecting only 150passengers - 50 of whom had yet to turn up and we were thus randomly waiting for. I had been told it was a 10am sailing and Jose that it was midday, but it was gone 13.30 before we slowly headed out to sea, and rapidly left Barcelona behind.