Heraklion - It's Heaven versus Hell!

Trip Start Oct 12, 2011
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Trip End Nov 02, 2011


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Where I stayed
On board the MSC Lirica

Flag of Greece  , Crete,
Monday, October 17, 2011

Today is a full day at sea as we sail ever closer to our next port of call, Heraklion. The clocks went forward 1 hour last night so we are now +2 UK time (BST).

The weather hasn't gotten any better. The ship was tossed around quite a bit during the night and the forecast doesn’t look that good. I knew I should have packed that sou’wester!!

We learned yesterday that there has been a policy change regarding the tips on board. Tips have always been discretionary. Although Cruise companies recommend a daily amount that is automatically added to your bill, this has always been able to be adjusted. Not any more!!! The 'tips’ are now referred to as a service charge and is a compulsory addition aboard MSC cruise ships. The rate is €6 per person per day and not negotiable. We learned from Mike and Myra that this has riled a lot of people (meaning the Brits!!!) and there is going to be a protest by the main reception at 09:30 this morning. It isn’t the fee that is the problem. Roisin and I usually reduce the standing charge then pay the cabin steward and table waiter cash. This roughly amounts to the same. We think the company have adopted this policy to avoid an unfair advantage to front line staff. The issue that has most people annoyed is the fact that every time drinks are bought, a 15% service charge is automatically added to your bill as well.

Roisin and I were sat in the near vicinity to the main reception at 09:15. We wanted a good seat!! We both felt like 2 crones with our knitting on the front row waiting for the revolutionaries to bring forth the victims for Madame guillotine. However if this DID still go on in the modern age, I’m sure the knitting would now be replaced with the Nintendo DS and iPod!!!

09:30 came and went. There would be no uprising today. Perhaps they are waiting for more clement weather. Things always seem much more pleasant when the sun shines!!

The sun?? We have forgotten what this looks like.  We are crossing the Aegean Sea and there is no let up in the weather. The decks are empty. Come to think of it, the whole ship seems pretty sparse today.

At 10am an announcement was made over the tannoy. First in Italian then English: ’The sea condition today is choppy and the weather is partly cloudy.’ Choppy?? The River Mersey gets choppy!!! Next was the German announcement. I think even the weather lost something in translation. The announcer started: ‘Das Wetter’  (the weather) then paused as if to say ‘What’s the German word for choppy?’ After an uncomfortable 10 seconds came the continuation ‘Die Sonne scheint’ (the sun shines) A German couple sat down next to us, looked up from their books then looked out of the window as the waves crashed against the side of the ship, gave a wry smirk, shook their head then carried on reading!!

The weather seems to be getting worse. Now I know how Jason and the Argonauts felt when they met Rocky II to go in search of Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. (Apologies to any film buffs. I may have gotten my genres a little mixed up!!)

The Sirens were maidens of the deep that lured many ships to their doom. Jason asked his crew to tie him to the mast when the Sirens tempted him. Once under their spell, the ships would then be guided and smashed against impending rocks. Jason instructed his most trusted crew that under no circumstances should they untie him. No matter how hard he pleaded or in how much pain he appeared.

‘Are these knots tight enough?’ asked Stavros the Argonaut.

‘No, tie them as tight as humanly possible’, shouted Jason at the top of his voice as the Siren’s enchanting melodies grew ever nearer and the waves started crashing against the side of the ship and the thunder grew louder.

Will sire be wanting the gimp mask tonight?’ asked Stelios the Argonaut!!

The cruise is advertised in the daily programme as a hobby cruise. Not sure what a hobby cruise was until today. Today (and every sea day), Joe Magic and his wife Federica Magic make an appearance and invite other likeminded passengers to their master class in making stuff! Roisin, the creative one of Chris-Roisin set to, in finding out what this was all about. 

The morning session was dedicated to making a copper necklace/pendant. I was intrigued to see how this would work as when I passed by this workshop, I noticed a distinct lack of oxy-acetylene equipment or panel beating tools!!

After an hour or so, Roisin appeared showing off her copper pendants that were made armed with only a pair of safety scissors, pliers and copper wire!!

Roisin told me that Mr and Mrs Magic, who hale from Bergamo, just outside Milan asked her where she comes from. When answering, ‘Liverpool’ Joe responded by saying, ‘Aah, the Beatles!’. This is not the first time we have had that response during this cruise. Francesco, one of the entertainment crew and Mr Salzburg also reacted in the same way. Why does this always happen when the name Liverpool is mentioned? If we’d have said ‘Gary, Indiana’, would we then have gotten the response, ‘Aah, the Jackson 5’ or if we’d have said, ‘Sheffield’ I think it is highly unlikely anyone would have retorted by saying, ‘Aah, the Human League’!!

In the afternoon session, Roisin went back to make the matching bracelet.

I have heard the phrase, ‘Navigation day’ referred to a few times by the crew. This seems to be the correct term when referring to a day at sea. Surely every day should be referred to as a navigation day otherwise we would never get to where we are going!!!

It was the 1st gala evening tonight. The captain greeted everyone at the entrance to the Broadway Theatre. It was an opportunity to have your photo taken with him although with his white jacket and lack of insignia, he could have easily been mistaken for a waiter!! The senior officers were introduced to the audience before the evenings show started.

This was 1000% improvement on last night. It was a variety show of singers, dancers, jugglers and more dancers. The show was full of energy and vibrance. I’m even finding if difficult to make a sarcastic remark about this performance.

Monday 17th October. At 8am, the alarm went off. It was still a pretty rough night with the ship rocking for most of it. It didn’t disturb either of us much but both had our fingers crossed that we have now left the bad weather well and truly behind us.

I put the TV on to channel 28. This provided us with a live web-cam feed from atop the main mast. It still looked grey outside.  However, The web cam is black and white so that would account for the colour tone. The ship was already tied up. I quickly donned my shorts and sandal (note the footwear in the singular form as in my excitement, I couldn’t find the other one!!!) and limped outside on to the aft deck to assess the lie of the land

The web cam must have been in colour after all. What greeted me was sheet rain. The sky was completely overcast giving everything a black and white appearance. I limped back to the cabin to give Roisin the latest weather report.

Heraklion is the largest city in Crete and the 4th largest city in Greece with a population of about 131,000. Due to the inclement weather, Roisin and I decided to take our time in having breakfast. Perhaps the weather will clear up and we could have a wander later on. The ship is due to leave at 3pm so this would give us a good few hours ashore.

One of the highlights would be a trip to the Palace of Knossos believed to be a staggering 3,700 years old and built by the Minoans. Legend has it that the mythological Minotaur, half man, half bovine roamed the labyrinth of tunnels below the palace. But if you ask me, it’s all a load of bull!!!!

At lunchtime, we met a couple from Wallesey who now live near Guildford in Surrey. They explained that they were daft enough to venture in to Heraklion. I had noticed a shuttle bus taking passengers to and from the ship. This happens in many ports because of the safety restrictions quayside. We learned that although the bus was free, it only went as far as the dock gate. It dropped passengers at a taxi rank. The drivers would then take you  (reluctantly) in to the town centre. I say reluctantly because we were advised the taxis were more interested in taking you on a €50 tour of the island!! Those few taxi drivers who were happy to earn €5 dropped you off at a market stall selling raincoats and umbrellas!! Apparently this weather is very unusual for this time of year and is more like December weather.

There are 2 sittings for dinner. We have chosen the late sitting that starts at 8:30pm. We are now getting in to the habit of wandering through to the Lirica Lounge after our evening meal where the entertainment team always have something up their sleeve. Tonight it was Heaven versus Hell. It sounded interesting. All the team were dressed in either white angelic gowns with halos or red and black capes with horns. Not sure what to expect, Roisin and I sat at a reasonably ‘safe’ distance.

This was (surprise, surprise) audience participation. The room was split evenly down the middle; half heaven and half hell. We were caught in the half that represented hell!! (there is a joke in there, somewhere!!!) For the first round each half of the room took turns in shouting and cheering as loud as they could. A spooky voice over then declared the ‘heaven’ side of the lounge as the winner. It was that simple…!!!

Round 2. This was a bit more complicated. From what we could gather, a man and 3 ladies represented each side of the house. A screen was erected and after 2 minutes, the screen was lowered to reveal the men dressed as buxom wenches. They introduced themselves as Brigit Bardot and Sofia Loren. After prancing around, the voice over declared ‘hell’ as the winner. Not sure why. The other one had bigger tits!!!

For the final round, each half of the house had to form a conga line. Both lines ended up on the small dance area where balloons were let loose. The object was to bat the balloons to the opposite side of the stage. After the music stopped, the side with the least balloons was declared the winner. It was hell!!! (The ultimate winner, that is and not an assessment of the evening!!) The show finished with a rendition of YMCA. Roisin and I left shortly after wondering what the ‘heaven and hell’ that was all about!!!

The next leg of our journey takes us through the Suez Canal. The forecast for tomorrow is a low of 22 and a high of 26. I hope that refers to the temperature and not the height of the waves!!!
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Comments

Jane P-H on

If it's any consolation, it was hail, sleet and horizontal rain this morning.

Now, a question for YMG. "Gotten"?! Since when did you subscribe to that particular bit of USA-speak nonsense. Be ashamed, and if you don't correct your ways I will ask Mrs YMG to confiscate your baseball cap. Or gimp mask :)

Elaine on

Are they charging for the sunbeds as well ??

Dieter on

Shrechlich war die wasser. In Cyrpus it was 29 last weekend so why the difference? Is it miles away?

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