Hotlantic crossing 2009, part 2

Written by Helena Clarkson

October 26, 2009 was a day at sea and per usual a fine opportunity for formal dress up occasion. Sis and I like to pack a light suitcase; so, we certainly did not go overboard bringing formal glad rags one make do outfit should suffice for all of them. After all we had planned this cruise to enjoy ourselves and certainly not to impress any one. This particular evening, we made the mistake of trying to see the captain give his speech and got stuck in a long line for champagne instead; which evolved in a truly “mean-spirited” free for all. After this fiasco, we vowed we would not bother with the Master and Commander of the Poesia ever again, even if he decided to give the speech standing on his head! If we wanted some champagne, we would just order the bubbly and the hell with the Captain and his fancy MSC pep-talk speeches!
October the 27th, Elly and I were pretty excited, as not only would we set foot on the African continent, we would actually visit Hannibal’s birthplace. We planned to visit the North African coast where once mighty Carthage stood as well as the perhaps even mightier General Patton. So somewhat nervous but mostly intrigued we set foot ashore in Tunisia. Our guide spoke decent English but was a bit of a shyster as he managed to get two more euros on top of our voyage from most of the passengers. Our slick tourist guide had counted on the fact that this busload full of seniors would have very little energy to walk in the oppressive heat or have the nerve for that matter to walk too far on foreign soil any way. One of the passengers on our bus who truly got on our nerves, was a tiny aggressive loud-mouthed New Yorker, we called “black lips”. We had to endure her obnoxious self with her truly gross black painted lips for many trips to come during our voyage. She managed to seat herself always near the bus-driver and the guide of our trips and everyone would have to listen to her loud obnoxious grating voice spouting out continuous total garbage and forever dominating the conversation in her unique and annoying way. Yep she was quite a character!
As to be expected, all what was left from the great city of Carthage were some ancient ruins and it was not easy to distinguish the difference between a Roman or Phoenician ruin. Elly was truly impressed with the baths of Antonius. These baths were indeed quite impressive, and we were also told by the guide that the people from Carthage had a so-called necropolis just for babies. Some historians were sure the Carthaginians sacrificed their first male born, but these babies it was later proven died in infancy, well that is what our guide told us anyway. Guides of course get paid telling stories and fact finding these stories, is not that easy when you are walking around North Africa, while the hot sun is melting your brain. In the meantime, our fearless as well as slick leader tried to take us to a nearby palace for a local tea service and afterwards they would show us some expensive carpets. Since we apparently had to pay for the privilege to be fleeced by these local merchants; we decided to choose our “would be robbers” ourselves. We wanted to shop at the local souk and skipped the carpet store and palace visit. TC and I had purchased a nice Turkish rug in Ephysus a long time ago and he always complained that it should have been a flying carpet for the price we paid. Eventually his wishes came true, for it became a fast-food joint for some giant moths which dined heartily on my priced possession and so it really did take to friendly skies in bits and pieces in the full and greedy tummies of these wool eating insects! Needless to say no more high-priced handwoven rugs for me!
Elly and I made quite a splendid team in toying with these Berber merchants (they claim they are not Arabian. Well I take their word for that, but they certainly were a bunch of deceptive scallywags! Very clever merchants they are too, for if you switch to another language to get them off track a bit, they just can speak enough of a simple sentence in any language just to get your attention. “Lookie, lookie” was their English version then they switched to “kijkie, kijkie” in Dutch for the word look. Anyway, we did spend a few euros and enjoyed ourselves buying overpriced trinkets. When we returned to the ship, we walked around some well-groomed camels. They were yawning somewhat bored at the thought of taking short rides and starring in photo opportunities with the hordes of hot sweaty tourists. Maybe I should have encouraged Elly to ride one of these haughty looking giants? At night we were too tired to dress for dinner and ordered room service instead. Room service is a truly beautiful thing!
October, the 28th was another day at sea. I walked another half hour on the deck in the sweltering heat, after we had an early breakfast. We had a fairly relaxing day and enjoyed some wine and chocolate in our cabin in the afternoon.
29 October 2009 we had purchased a shore excursion for the town of Mijas in the south of Spain. It is a nice little town and has marvellous views over the Mediterranean Sea. We were welcomed loudly by the famous Mijas’ taxis, fancy little burros that make a gawd awful loud heehaw noise. My question is, did they name the town after the noisy donkey noise or did the donkeys try to tell us which town we were in; either explanations sounds quite plausible to me. We walked around the uneven surface of the cobble streets in town and purchased a few keepsake-presents. I especially liked the dainty silver necklaces with the dried flower pendants we bought for our granddaughters. When we got a bit tired, we enjoyed some tea at a little café and watched the horse and buggies pass by. We were told they had clean restrooms at this restaurant, but we did get conflicting stories about this later from different patrons. So we decided to suppress “the urge to splurge” so to speak. We enjoyed the gorgeous sights over the Med very much and took some snapshots from ear-popping dizzying heights and on our way back to the bus we exchanged some friendly heehaws with Mijas’ noisy four-footed taxi-cabs. This would be our last port of call in the Mediterranean. We called our hubbies as well and while chatting with Tom he informed me he was now battling some kind of beetle, but Florida Pest Control would soon come to the rescue I was told.
At dinner that evening we celebrated Fraulein’s birthday with a lovely birthday cake. The cake was delicious!
We knew we would be passing the Rock of Gibraltar sometime after midnight but MSC’s timing was way off and we passed by around 11pm instead. You would think they would have announced it, luckily I did recognize “The Rock” from prior crossings. We were disappointed that it was not lit up more for our viewing enjoyment.
On October the 30th, we somehow got mixed up with the multiple time-changes during our voyage; so, because of this we missed lunch at the lido deck. Not a real problem, we promptly dialled room service instead to come to our rescue! We had a very good meal and sipped some of our wine of our special wine-stash. I also decided it was time to some light washing of undies etc for some reason a South East Asian expression came to my mind that Jerry brought back from Vietnam; which summed up the delicate fragrance I was so diligently combating with soap and water. For some reason this word which sounds very much like the space drink “Tang”, instilled fits of laughter into my dear sis. I “googled” this word for its political correctness as well as word- origin; it failed the correctness-test and its origin is most likely French, also the only thing it has in common with the famous space-drink is the last syllable. This “French-Connection” made now double sense to me now, after all Vietnam was once called: French Indo-China. As I recall from my ancient geography school days. Google gave me the word’s possible origin as from the French “putain,” which gives it a nice coquettish Moulin-Rouge district flavor as well?
Tonight is another gala night I think Elly is getting tired of them already. She found some nice glittering t-shirts witch catchy wine slogans. I especially admired the “how merlot can you go?”-phrase. That one sent our competitive table companion “Fraulein” in an immediately counter-T buying spree. Our dinner table had now become a serious front for the battling T-shirt slogans for the ladies! Besides all this, I finished reading my first book at sea. Unfortunately, I cannot remember which book this might be. I presume it was from the somewhat trashy but fun to read Stephanie Plum series?
On October 31st, Halloween we wore our Dutch hats to dinner. I decided to recycle them from a former Holland America cruise. Elly especially looked magnificent as she had bought some bright orange clogs in Tunisia, early in the voyage. Our table companions were extremely impressed with our Halloween costumes that evening.


For more free stories and columns, sign up on my FB-page: