All aboard!

Yesterday we boarded the cruise ship Silver Muse to begin our journey around the Mediterranean Sea.  The first stop will be Monte Carlo, where we boarded.  Yes, that’s right – we moved from our lovely hotel in the city to a lovely hotel floating at a dock in the city.  We spent last night on the ship, but remained at dock in Monte Carlo.  I’ll get to “why” in a bit.  

The check-in process seemed well organized, if a bit over-complicated.  We had to stop at three different desks to complete the process, and it’s not clear to me why the three stops were the plan.  It seems to me that whatever it was they did at each stop could have been accomplished in one stop.   As it was we waited on two short lines, and it moved along well.

After the third stop, when we were officially “checked in”, we made our own fourth stop to chat with the head of the restaurant, Mr. Gilbert Lanza, about food allergies and our reservation for this first night.   See, the first night was “special” on this cruise.   It was added to the schedule after we had booked the trip, and we understood that the ship planned a special celebration in honor of its maiden voyage – parties, music, dignitaries, etc.   But they also seemed to have no way to allow you to make dinner plans for that night(1).  

Chatting with Lanza, April 2017

So we stopped to chat with Mr. Lanza and found out a few things.

1. He was mystified by some of the decisions surrounding the festivities, like how they randomly assigned people to tables for this evening.

2. He and his assistant would move us to Zelda and Matteo’s table, and somehow notify the displaced people that they were sitting somewhere else (we if fact all did sit together, so this worked).

3. He would arrange for Sally to receive a menu each evening for the restaurants so she could select a meal which would be garlic-free and tasty (2).  

The cabin is nice, which is not a surprise since it’s pretty much the same as the one we had two years ago.  There are a few minor changes in the layout, none of which matter a bit. 

Cabin with a view, April 2017

After checking in and unpacking, we toured the ship, checking out all a bars, restaurants, the spa, the bars, another restaurant, the game room, a bar, the fitness center, etc.  Sally decided to do some more unpacking while I went to the gym.  While I was working out, they made an announcement about the evening’s events.  There was a talk about the cruise industry starting shortly, and a big-deal christening of the ship on the dock adjacent to the ship in an hour. 

The christening ceremony was setup with folding chairs for 400 people, a small classical orchestra and speeches by Silversea executives and Prince Albert II of Monaco.  Champagne, tv coverage, very posh.  Unfortunately, only 150 passengers actually went down as we watched from our balcony, then then the weather turned.  

Sparse, umbrellas and then inside, April 2017


First the blankets came out as the temperature dropped, then the umbrellas as it started to rain.   Finally, they gave up and moved the whole thing into the theater in the ship.  That’s Albert’s bald spot sitting in the chair in the middle of the aisle.   Finally, we watched the christening on the video screen in the theater as they broke a bottle of booze on the hall of the ship.

But dinner was nice, and we had a good time catching up with Zelda & Matteo.
——————-

(1) You’ll recall that, unlike our last cruise on a sister ship, is ship has no open seating restaurant – you need a reservation every evening.  

(2) We never got a menu last evening, but found Lanza at breakfast and got it all arranged for tonight.

Heated nuts


I’ve eaten in many restaurants around the world.  In some of the restaurants, the food served was unrecognizable to my uncultured eyes, but I usually understood the point of the dish after it was explained.  That doesn’t mean I tried it, or liked it if I did.  I am an admittedly picky eater; this is well known to my family and friends.  

One type of food that exists in many countries is nuts.   I generally like nuts, especially salted, and especially peanuts (I know, they’re cheap and not the most nutritious).  Different countries emphasize different nuts, of course.  But there is a way of preparing nuts that I’ve only encountered in the front of airplanes: heated nuts. 

Why heat nuts?  It’s not as if they are cooked, they remain in their raw and crunchy state.  It’s not as if there is some storage reason (do they keep them near the jet engines?).  Nuts don’t spoil, and they aren’t served hot enough to kill any bacteria.  The heat doesn’t seem to enhance the flavor in any way.

But here they are, heated. And I don’t like it.  

Ready to go, but … 

A few years ago we went away for a month.   As always, we made a reservation with a car service to take us to the airport.  I always worried about these guys showing up; I had occasionally experienced no-shows or late arrivals.  So I was grew nervous as the pickup time approached.  

I grew very tense when the pickup time passed with no driver. 

Tedd of Uber, April 2017


I grew extremely tense when my call to the dispatcher went to voice mail. 

At 10 minutes past the pickup time, and with no answer at dispatch, we loaded our luggage into the car and drove to JFK long term parking.  The parking fee for the month was $16/day, or $480.  

Last year I started using Uber (like so many of you).  Mostly, it’s been a good experience, with lower costs, clean cars and pleasant drivers.   On our last trip I had trouble getting a ride; apparently none of the drivers in the area wanted to make the 1:30 trip to JFK.  

So this time I decided to try Lyft.  I had been told that many drivers were abandoning Uber for Lyft, so we gave a try.   I even used the scheduling feature to set the pickup for 4:00pm.  Sure enough, a few minutes before 4:00, I got an alert that a driver had picked up the call and would be there in 14 minutes.  Cool!

Except that I watched as he drove in the wrong direction, the arrival time stretched to 23 minutes, and then the car icon stopped moving.  After a text and voice call yielded nothing, I cancelled the call and switched over to Uber.  Tedd (pictured above) immediately grabbed the call and was at our house in 7 minutes.  

So now we’re on our way to the airport, with an ETA of 5:40 for our 8:07 departure.  Plenty of time.