Old men and the sea

Buenos aires – Argentina, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador de Bahia – Brasil, Tenerife – Spain, Madeira – Portugal, Savona – Italy.

We had known about it for a long time, we had looked forward to it, but at the same we had been a bit hesitant about it as well. In a few more days we would be boarding the Costa Favolosa cruise-ship, which would bring us from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Savona, Italy in 21 days. After almost 20 months and 55.000km through Eastern Europe, Asia and the Americas this ship would slowly sail us back to our home continent again. In this way it would hopefully become a gradual transition, and we would have time to contemplate about our life after this trip, while staring out at open sea, enjoying a red sun setting in a cloudless sky, silence all around us. Of course we knew a cruise might have some disadvantages too, what about tip-requiring cabin stewards, pushy bar personnel, loud Russians and/or Italians, slow, elderly people, the glitter and glamour design of the ship etc.

Shopping spree First things first, after traveling for 20 months with two t-shirts, one pants, one sweater and one jacket, some clothing had become a bit worn out. Apart from that we would be seeing the same people for 21 days, so we probably needed some more attire to fit in with the cruise crowd. Luckily Buenos Aires, our boarding city, is the perfect place for a shopping spree. Every different neighbourhood had it’s own type of stores, for us especially Palermo provided what we needed. It was fun to see each other in (more) fancy clothes again after such a long time: jeans, a blouse and even a dress! When cash started to run out, we indulged ourselves in the cultural and historical parts of Buenos Aires: MALBA (Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de BA), museo de Xul Solar, La Recoleta cemetery, including the grave of Evita Perron, Plaza de Mayo, the Obelisk and many more places. In MALBA, we realized we had already visited many museums on this continent and we started to recognize art from the different Latinamerican artists: Torres Garcia, Botero, Kahlo, Siqueiros, Rivera and Xul Solar. After five days of city tripping the day had finally come, we were going to experience cruising first hand!

There she is The Costa Favolosa only started sailing in 2011, so the ship is top of the bill in cruising. It is a huge, shiny Italian ship, more than 290m long, it can take 3780 passengers and 1,110 personnel. It has 13 decks (numbered 1-12 and 14), including 13 bars, 5 restaurants, 5 whirlpools, 4 swimming pools, a spa, a gym, a jogging course, a basketbal/tennis court, a 4D cinema, a casino, a theatre, a discotheque, a library, an Arcade, a Grand Prix simulator, a card room, an open-air waterside, and a gallery with stores. So you can imagine that it took up almost the whole of the first day to get a clue where all the different places were, where we could eat, drink, party, do sports, sunbathe, sleep etc. It was fun jumping in and out of one of the many elevators to see what surprise was there, and to see other people hesitantly looking around a corner not sure if they were suppose to be there. It was a true Italian ship with lots of fancy lights, shiny chrome, a myriad of colours on the walls, the floors and even the ceilings. In every corner there was a statue or painting, of which most were not really appealing, but, ah well, we would get used to that over the weeks.

Crazier entertainment Every day we would receive a „Newspaper” including the activities of the day. The main activity appeared to be eating as it turned out there was only one hour per day when there was no food available. From 7.30-11.00 there was breakfast buffet, from 12.00-14.30 lunch buffet, from 12.00-16.00 grill including french fries and burgers, between 16.00-17.00 afternoon tea with cookies and cakies, and at the same time there was a pizza and salad bar at everybody’s disposal from 12.00-1.00am. If you didn’t fancy a bad piece of pizza (on an Italian ship!) for dinner, you could go to the restaurant for a seven course menu at your fixed „Sitting time”. All food, water, tea and coffee was  included, yet we still managed to stick to our weight! Maybe the sports activities helped us out a bit. Everyday there were several hours of pilatus/zumba/body work-out/yoga/ping-pong/volleybal/…, there were dance classes, and there was crazy entertainment like „Crazy race for the bag”, or „Game: Target the door”. Next to that there was a gym available for 15 hours per day, and we signed up for acces to the spa, including a sauna, tepidarium, steam bath, whirlpool, and Japanese tea garden. In the evenings entertainment consisted of a theatre show, a party or two, and some shockingly inappropriate Italian entertainment.

What?! So far, so good you might think… Well, we didn’t talk about the passengers yet. Imagine a village full of old, grumpy elderly, who only speak German, then imagine you put them all on a small boat wit lots and lots of food and alcohol. Indeed, it became some kind of struggle for life at the buffets and bars. We were embarrassed to see our fellow passengers agressively ordering „OMELETTE MIT ZWIEBELN”, without a please, from the Philippine waiters who ‘only’ understood English, Spanish and Portuguese. At the buffet, while there was more than enough, people pushed you from behind, jumped in front of the line, or grabbed one more gamba reaching for it underneath your arm pit. Piles and piles of food were gathered on the plates and eaten as well, combined with beers, cocktails etc. Some people looked like they could explode any moment, especially since most of them also had a completely sunburned face. Other cruise guerrilla included keeping deck chairs reserved all day, without using it, by putting your towel on top, or using a non-smoking sign to keep your seat reserved in the pianobar while you were dancing.

Party people! On gala nights, I would wear my ‚fancy’ new, non-wrinkle stretch-dress, while the other ladies tried to overdo each other with lots of shiny jewelry and expensive designer  dresses. So, it didn’t take long for other guests to start wondering about our lack of different outfits. Later we heard that our table guests at dinner, Ans and Rene, had been interrogated by other Dutch passengers about it. The answer that we had traveled the world and therefore did not have much clothes did not impress these people. Luckily there were nice people onboard as well, like Ans and Rene, first-time cruisers just like us, the two cute French sisters of 85 and 90 years old who we met at lunch, some youngsters from Brasil, Uruguay and Argentina that were great to party with, our crazy, talkative Chinese friend Ping, and a swiss couple, who had been traveling by bicycle in South America. Moreover, the personnel was super friendly as well and did not ask for a tip once.

Our view for 21 days Apparently, there was also some rivalry going on about who was the most experienced cruiser; couples would show up in their „Costa club to Spitsbergen”, or their „Mallorca”, or „Puketh” t-shirts. We almost felt we should have had a t-shirts from our motorbike trip as well, even though this would probably not count. The weird thing is that we experienced that the excursions to the city centres of the ports we stopped in were so short and rushed that you didn’t get a feeling for a place at all. There was no time to talk to locals, or stroll around leisurely outside the touristy areas. One English couple clearly demonstrated this effect by talking about a beautiful Boeddha statue they had seen on a previous cruise in “Malaysia, or was it in Thailand?” „Ah well somewhere in Asia”. We did enjoy the full seven days at sea, having a regime of breakfast-sunbathing-fitness-lunch-some kind of organized activity-dinner&coffee with Ans and Rene-theatre show-party-sleep. Especially as the sun did not stop shining, and the sea has been relatively calm during the entire trip.

First steps on European soil All in all, the cruise has been an interesting experiment, and although we would never book a cruise for our holidays, it was a nice way to return from South-America to Europe.  We didn’t have a jetlag, the temperature had slowly dropped from over 30 to below 20, and we had already had a taste of European culture and food again. Luckily, Savona, Italy was sunny, so our first steps on European soil were not too cold. However, we were a bit overwhelmed by the sense of purpose of the people walking around in the city centre, the cleanliness of it all, and the exorbitant prices displayed in the shops and restaurants. This also meant we could no longer use taxis, but had to take a bus instead, which resulted in us getting lost in the outskirts of the city, looking for our B&B for one night. Fortunately, friendliness can still be found in Europe as well, so some locals helped us out, and soon we were sipping coffee with our hospitable host. Just a few more days without our motorbikes: The next day we would take a Eurolines bus to Barcelona, where our bikes were hopefully waiting for us in the harbour. The last chapter of our trip!

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9 Responses to Old men and the sea

  1. jeremy guard says:

    I just caught up on your blog. Great reading.

    It was fun meeting you two in Peru. A very impressive ride you were having. Has Paul put back on the 20kg’s he lost? My bet is that you’re dreaming of your next long adventure: the RTW. And you’ll do it brilliantly.

    Maybe I’ll see you when I get that far, sometime in 2016, after Africa.

    Best,
    Jeremy

  2. Rene Van den Houten says:

    Weer een beetje Nederlanders geworden?
    Leuk en herkenbaar stukje over de overtocht met de Costa Favoloso.
    Was ook onze laatste cruise:)
    Hoe is het met jullie en met de plannen?
    Groetjes van jullie scheepsmaten Ans&Rene.

  3. Rinus en Ria van Rijen says:

    Welkom van Wilhelmien en Hans, ” hopelijk hebben jullie alles weer gauw op poten! ” schrijven ze.

  4. Rinus en Ria van Rijen says:

    Welkom aan Marlieke en Paul, 10 mei 2014.
    Hééééj wereldreizigers, na ruim 20 maanden (in hoop en soms ook in vrees) ons vizier te hebben gericht op Skype en emailcontacten, de edities op http://www.worldwander.nl te hebben uitgespeld, uit-en-te-na, de foto’s de revue te hebben laten passeren, keer op keer, jullie en ons geruggesteund gevoeld door Christoffel, vele medevolgers, familie en vrienden, en dan: Vandaag, 10 mei, is het dan zover: de cirkel is rond, met beide families gaan we jullie naar Hollandse bodem loodsen, speuren we vandaag onze horizon af en bereiden we jullie een warm onthaal, hebben we zín in! We gaan straks eerst “life” luisteren naar jullie “stories”, alhoewel we op http://www.worldwander nog wel afleveringen tegoed hebben, maar we denken en hopen dat jullie blog in de lucht blijft, want de wereld heeft voor jullie vast nog steeds vele onbekende “horizonten”!
    Voor nu, namens de hele famfanclan hartelijkegroetenoverentweerenditkeertotstraks,
    Rinus en Ria.

  5. Hoevenaars Ine en Jan says:

    Hallo wereldreizigers,
    Hebben genoten van jullie mooie verhalen en foto s, we hopen natuurlijk
    dat jullie nog kunnen wennen aan dat kleine kikkerlandje, maar met een koffer
    vol reisverslagen zal dat wel lukken.
    Een hele fijne thuiskomst!!!!!!

  6. Anja Trommelen says:

    Jeetje wat een ervaringen allemaal! Wat gaan jullie straks eerst doen? Vertellen, Feesten en je hereniging met familie vieren, of slapen, slapen, slapen en alles proberen te verwerken?
    Geniet van de laatste dagen en behouden thuiskomst! SPANNEND en het lijkt me ook weer heerlijk op bekende “bodem” te belanden!

  7. Cecile says:

    Hmmm… Lijkt me anders best relaxed zo’n cruise… (Maar misschien meer voor ‘n weekje:-)
    Veilig de laatste kilometers tuffen en dan …. Kun je weer lekker kleren kiezen uit eigen collectie!
    Tot snel x

  8. ria siemons says:

    ja Marlieke en Paul het staat je goed in nieuwe kleren, wat is er toch veel in je hoofd opgeslagen – ongelofelijk zeg !!!!
    Fijn om straks thuis te mogen zijn en iedereen weer te knuffelen !!!!
    RiaS

  9. Lonneke says:

    Dag wereldreizigers!
    Zo langzamerhand een van de laatste reisberichten.
    Geweldig om te lezen over jullie ervaringen op de cruise.
    Klinkt toch wel als iets dat je een keer gedaan moet hebben!
    En wat een verademing om jullie strakke, afgetrainde lijven weer eens in andere, hippe
    kleding te zien

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