A Very Slow Boat to Sicily (Part 2 – Boat Life)
Once we got on the boat we picked up our cabin key, panicked that the key didn’t work, then got it to work, then tripped in because we forgot about the lip at the bottom of the door. You know, the usual thing that you do when you first arrive in a hotel or on a boat. We had a cabin with a window (or porthole, but it wasn’t round. Does it need to be? Not really up on ship lingo) but it was so filthy we could hardly see anything out of it. Karen asked whether they ever wash ships. I had to confess I had no idea, but bearing in mind that they spend most their life surrounded by water, I would imagine they probably wouldn’t have the need to really.
The cabin was basic but comfortable; a set of bunks, a little desk and a stool; a power socket (we were down to less that 20% battery life on our phones. If we were teenagers we would be having a meltdown at this point). The ensuite (what do you call an ensuite on a boat? I know the kitchen is galley, the front is the bow, the back the stern (or vice versa), the cockpit is the bridge, the First Aid room (which we were opposite) was the infirmary and the cells are the brig, but what do you call an “ensuite on the sea”?) was compact. The toilet was in the shower. That sounds gross. I mean that it was more of a wet room…with a shower curtain. The toilet was inside the shower area, the toilet roll outside (for obvious reasons).
Even though it was the middle of the night, we had to do the obligatory walk around of the ship. Bar; closed: restaurant; closed: Shop; closed. Yep pretty much what you would expect from a ship at 1:45 in the morning. We decided to retire to our cabin to eat our free ham sandwiches. We eventually got into bed (or bunks) at 3:00. Then at 3:06 we felt the boat move. Karen was out of her bunk like a merecat and threw open the ill fitting curtain to have a look. So much for getting some sleep. The phone was out and numerous pictures were taken through a very dirty window of a tug. I have no idea why this tug was so fascinating, but it really was. About 20 mins later, we were at sea and Karen eventually realised that she was just taking photos of a Black Sea, under a black sky, through a dirty window, so she retired to bed.
I have to say, not the best night’s sleep I have ever had (better than on the overnight train a few years ago) but not one for the sleep log. Not that I have a sleep log. I kept hearing a lot of creaking and I was worried that Karen was tossing and turning and not getting any sleep, then I realised that the sounds were coming from the other side of the wall and it was whoever was in the top bunk of the cabin next to me that was making all the noise. I didn’t care about them, so I dropped off.
We were both awake before 9:00 am (so a disjointed 3-4 hours sleep) and if we weren’t awake we would be after the tannoy announcement. A very shouty Italian lady announced that breakfast was being served. In our extensive research on this journey (most of which had come to nought after the shenanigans of the night before), we had investigated breakfast but decided that €9 for a tiny coffee, a juice and a croissant wasn’t for us (well especially not Karen). However we had made a a discovery in Naples of the amazing doughnuts (Graffe…but nothing to do with Stefi). We had a couple fo them in our bag and just planned on getting a drink. But before that, I decided to tackle the shower.
As mentioned above, the ensuite was compact; but after my workout dragging the case the night before, I really needed a shower. I moved the toilet roll, put the toilet seat down and pulled the curtain around. I’m sorry, but it is just plain weird sharing a shower with a toilet, although it did mean that you could have a wee in the shower without people thinking you were gross. (For the record, I do not wee in the shower.) The shower was hot and powerful (which is going to be the name of my Indian restaurant when I eventually get around to setting it up. It’s on the “To Do” list). I got out, and discovered that I had only half flooded the bathroom floor. I then realised why they had those massive lips below the doors. I got out the shower and dried myself on the GNV branded kitchen roll (or towels as they like to call them), dressed and got ready to head out. At 9:50 am the shouty Italian lady told us that the self service restaurant was closing at 10:00 am.
We headed to the bar for our hot drinks. Karen found a table and smuggled our doughnuts in. Ordering drinks is always an interesting experience abroad. Now that we both drink black drinks it’s easier. A simple “Caffe” or “Americano” usually produces a coffee of some description and of varying size, so I’m sorted. “Tea” still causes some interesting options (Nothing quite like the time in Granada when we asked for “Un Te con leche” and got a teapot of hot milk with a bag in it). The main question you get asked is “hot?”. We have a bottle of iced tea in the fridge, but it always slightly takes me aback a bit. On the counter of this bar they actually had a little tower of teas. Brilliant, something that I can point at. It was actually designed for that exact purpose as it was totally bereft of tea. You pointed at the empty box of Earl Grey in the “Tower of Tea”, they disappeared to a drawer, had a hunt around and came back and said “Non”. English breakfast it was then.
In the corner of the bar there was a disco area. Probably a great idea on an overnight crossing, but we were 3 hours late and so it was now 11:30 on a Sunday morning. Undeterred, a man with a keyboard came on and sang/murdered some unrecognisable tunes (for all I know it could have been xxx from Wednesday night). As my dad would say “very good, now get off”. I’m glad to say he did. Then the music choice varied from YMCA and Barry White to lounge versions of Oasis songs. This was my kinda place!
The bar staff were, shall we say, less than friendly. I am currently reading “Italian Ways” by Tim Parks which is a history-louge as it explains the history of Italy through its train network. (So geeky, but a really good holiday read as well.) He explains about the attitude of the rail staff here in Italy, as it is very much a “job for life” and I think the ferries may be the same. The staff serving me very much had the attitude “What are you going to do about it? There are only two ferry operators on this route and we know you chose us because we were the cheapest. I will probably never see you again so why should I worry?”.
We took our drinks and tried to surreptitiously eat our doughnuts . However these doughnuts had so much sugar on them that I reckon the baker had shares in Tate and Lyle. I just pretended that I had split a sachet of sugar from my coffee. Actually, we had nothing to worry about, smuggling food aboard. One family had an entire picnic on the table next to us. After breakfast we had a look around the shop (sorry dad, no magnet), visited the animals on the animal deck, and then returned to the bar for our second drink.
Our new ETA was 1:15 pm, and admittedly we did see land then, but we docked at nearer 2:00 pm. One thing that mystified me was that we boarded on the car deck (level 3) and then went up to level 6. Would we have to wait for all the vehicles to clear before they let the foot passengers off? Yep. We eventually got off around 2:30 pm. There was a party of cyclists who got off at the same time. I noticed that they all had the 3 sets of panniers. Two to go on the back and one one the front. They really were travelling light. I, on the other hand, had the mahoosive case, and the worst was still to come…