Firstly, this is a record of my own experiences whilst at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Singapore for 3 days and aboard Costa Allegra during her 34 day repositioning cruise. As always, everyone's experiences and thoughts are different, this is what makes us all individuals and unique.
Secondly, I can honestly say that I was extremely disgusted and ashamed of the behaviour of a few British guests aboard Allegra. Lets just call them Virgin Cruises Bullies, should they read this, they will know exactly who I am describing later on in this report. I can also say that I hope I NEVER encounter these people ever again on any cruise ship (or tender) as their attitude, ignorance, arrogance and lack of consideration was probably the ugliest I have ever experienced in 18 cruises and 15 years working in the tourist trade. This behaviour came to a head after a port of call change on the second half of the cruise, but more on that later.
Anyway, down to business.......oh and I make no excuses for the length, afterall, what would you expect after almost 6 weeks away, eh?
I left home on March 30...seems a very long time ago now. My flights were with KLM and arranged via Costa UK from Manchester to Singapore via Amsterdam. Both flights were on time and very comfortable with a good selection of food and drink available on both segments. They were not without some excitement however. The initial flight from Manchester to Amsterdam was struck by lightning about 10 minutes after takeoff. Very bright flash & loud bang alongside my row of seats that made a few jump. The pilot did come onto the PA and reassure us all that everything was fine and that we would continue to Schiphol as planned. Once off the shorthaul it was a matter of finding the gate for the longhaul to Singapore, not too difficult since I know the airport very well. We boarded about 45 minutes prior to departure and settled into our flight of around 13 hours. Two hot meals, one cold meal and several ice creams & drinks later we arrived in a very soggy Singapore on March 31. Absolute downpour greeted me along with a representative of Costa's port agent. Since I was the only arrival that day he was standing there with my name on a board, smiling from ear to ear. The rain was torrential but we managed to get to the hotel in his car without any difficulties.
The Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Singapore.
Now this hotel I had issues with, not overly major but really quite annoying all the same. I have notified Costa UK and they are investigating.
Arrived at the hotel quite understandably tired and a bit damp and went to the check-in desk as usual. Girl behind desk asked for my paperwork which I handed over, she then asked for a credit card. I do not have them, so told her that I didn't and she looked at me a bit oddly...while having this conversation she was dealing with my keycard for my room. She then called over her superior who again asked for a credit card and when I told her I did not have one, was asked 'why not?'. Explained that I only use cash and that since my room had been paid for months in advance, I saw no reason to have one anyway. At this point she demanded (not asked) for 250 Singapore Dollars as a deposit. When I asked why she curtly told me that since I had no credit card I had to pay this amount to cover for drinks at the bar and any other services I used during my 3 night stay. I told her very politely that if anything was bought it would be paid for there and then or at check-out...as per every other hotel I had ever stayed in. She then snatched the keycard off the other girl, wiped it and reprogrammed it, handed it to me and called the bellboy over to take my bags to my room.
The Costa UK website states that its guests are given ocean view rooms...something I was really looking forward to.
Sadly this was not to be the case.
The hotel itself is pretty spectacular, known as an atrium hotel...inside 6 glass lifts in the middle of a 21 storey hotel. Not too good though if you suffer from vertigo as the glass lifts are the only way up and down unless you ask the reception desk and they can arrange for a staff member to go with you in the service lift instead. The pool terrace was closed for rebuilding work, which was a shame as that had some spectacular views across Marina Bay. Guests could go to the Pan-Pacific pool by arrangement but that didn't have the views or layout that the Mandarin Oriental boasted.
The views from the front of the hotel include Marina Bay and the new mega hotel & casino under construction...The Marina Bay Sands...and the F1 spectator stand, a small harbour area, much of the financial district and the Marina Bay shopping center with the 3 hotels built into it...Mandarin Oriental, Pan-Pacific & Meritus Mandarin.
By the second day the weather had improved alot, bright sunshine, hot & humid. I went off for a walk round to the Mer-Lion and through local gardens close to the Esplanade Opera House, over to the F1 stand and to the Singapore Flyer nearby. Most of the time I spent in Singapore was walking in and around the local area, unfortunately the roads & footpaths were disrupted in the hotel section due to extensive building works going on....especially across the bay at the brand new Marina Bay Sands. The hotel & casino is owned by the Las Vegas Sands and will be very spectacular once completed....although even now it is quite an extraordinary building with palm trees right up on the very top where an open air restaurant & spa is being constructed.
Boarding Costa Allegra....
On April 3 it was finally time to board Allegra once more and bring her home to Europe. This would turn into the journey of a lifetime, where we would all experience a variety of cultures and see countries that most could only imagine about visiting.
Heavy rain had closed in once again, an old timer had also arrived for a short visit to Singapore Cruise Terminal, Long Jie. She left around lunchtime and was replaced by AIDAcara & MegaStar Aries. AIDAcara sailed at 6pm as we settled down into shipboard life for a night in Singapore. The next morning SuperStar Virgo arrived for the day. The weather was still very wet but warm, so not too bad really.
We set sail on April 4, Easter Sunday. A large Easter egg had been left in the cabins....VERY nice it was too.
Initially I was in cabin 4038, an inside single.
Easter Sunday was also a formal Gala night, the first of 8 on the entire cruise (4 on each segment).
Our captain was Salvador Donato once again - he was the captain on Allegra in 2008, and our hotesses were Deborah & Erika (Deborah was also aboard in 2008).
Passenger nationalities were very mixed...Russian, Italian, French, German, British, Australian, New Zealander, Czech, Canadian, American & Spanish.
We had approximately 800 passengers on the first leg from Singapore to Mumbai.
April 5.....95 degrees/sunshine/calm sea.
After a very calm night, we arrived in Port Klang for Kuala Lumpur. The cruise port is very remote, so not a lot to see in the vicinity. It was well maintained though and there was a fair amount of through traffic in respect to shipping to watch.
As we left Port Klang a very sad and faded New Flamenco could be seen laid up, waiting for new orders or to be sold as scrap. Quite a sorry state really for what was a grand old ship. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me, so didn't photograph her.
April 6.....95 degrees/sunshine/calm seas.
Belawan...another calm overnight sailing brought us to Medan. Very run down port but quite busy. The buildings had all seen better days, many were still showing signs of damage from the earthquake & tsunami of 2004.
A large multipurpose ferry, Kelud, was berthed infront of us all day. She was very smart and looked quite recently built...not the usual sort of ferry for Indonesia. The weather had by now settled into bright hot sunshine and high humidity with amazing sunrises & sunsets.
April 7.....97 degrees/sunshine/calm sea.
Langkawi....we had word in the early morning that we were on tsunami watch following a big earthquake off Sumatra that had been felt in Medan. It was quite sobering to know that the city we had just left some 12 hours before had been damaged again...there wasn't a lot left of the port area as it was, we could only hope that no-one had been hurt or worse.
We arrived in Langkawi after a beautiful sunrise. The pier is purpose built and owned by Star Cruises (just as Port Klang used to be). The scenery around the port was very exotic and the sea was a lovely jade colour with shades of cobalt blue. A small Navy ship shared the bay with us, although we were docked across the bay from it.
April 8/9.....96 degrees/sunshine/calm sea.
Phuket....arrived at dawn for a 2 day stay in Patong Bay. The bay was quite nice although a little too touristy for my liking. A couple of local passenger boats did the tendering to/from the ship over the 2 days we were there. Patong Bay is very heavily geared to tourists with little of the original town still visible. There are tsunami evacuation signs all over the seafront area...a legacy of the 2004 earthquake & subsequent tsunami, and after hearing of the major quake just hours after we left Belawan, it was another sobering reminder of what mother nature can do.
I did venture off Allegra but only for a very short time as Patong was very hot and the hawkers were quite oppressive. But from what I saw of the resort, it looked OK but just too much like Benidorm for my personal taste.
April 10...98 degrees/sunshine/slight swell.
Sea day....The sea had quite a swell on it during the morning but nothing too serious, although a few did look a tad squiffy at lunch. Tonight was our second Gala formal night and there were cocktail parties with the captain for repeat cruisers along with one as a welcome aboard too.
April 11...90 degrees/sunshine/breezy/calm sea.
Another sea day, plenty of activities available to those wishing to partake in them, otherwise it was more relaxation on the outside decks, in the lounges or if you wanted some quiet time, in the cabin. We had our 2nd emergency boat drill today (the first being on April 4 in Singapore).
April 12....96 degrees/sunshine/calm sea.
Colombo......Dawn arrival in Colombo under the watchful eyes of the gunboat escort and pilot boat. Stunning sunrise and a fascinating port with a mix of cultural architecture rubbing shoulders with heavy industry.
We were welcomed by local dancers who were very acrobatic & colourful to watch.
The port is mainly commercial, which was reflected in the ships that were unloading by the time we docked at the passenger quay. The containerships that were visible were Maersk Denpassar, Tiger Cape, ZIM Kingston, APL Oregon and Posen.
One thing that did occur in Colombo...and something quite surprising really...around 20-25 passengers were disembarked due to not having appropriate Indian visa's. I found this very strange since Costa make it no secret that you definitely required a visa for India and most agents had notified their clients that one was required.
Today the crew held an abandon ship drill, one of several during the cruise.
The evening meal was romantic night, where every lady received a red rose from their waitstaff, very special evening for many of us.
April 13....90 degrees/sunshine/calm sea.
Sea day again today. Lots of things to do around the ship if you wished to partake.
There were several fishing skiffs out today, some chased us after we cut through their nets...but then we were in the shipping lane and avoiding the nets was completely impossible.
Today the security staff started to prepare the ship, steel cages were welded to the lower decks to prevent anyone roping or climbing aboard.
We had Italian night in the diningroom for evening meal with dancing waitstaff and a lot of fun with passengers doing the conga around the room.
April 14...90 degrees/sunshine/calm sea.
Cochin.....We berthed infront of a very tired ferry, Tipu Sultan. The port of Cochin is beautiful despite it being a very commercial & busy one. Several commuter ferries ply back and forth across the large bay along with a couple of Naval ships that greeted each other with loud blasts on their horns. We had a pilot boat alongside during our stay, a sort of guardian angel to ward off the small commuter ferries who might have come too close for comfort. The architecture is a mix of colonial and modern, with many green spaces that detract from the busy city scene. Cochin itself is built around the sea and the Kerala backwaters, tall palm trees & eucaliptus share space for sunshine.
We sailed at midnight.
April 15...93 degrees/sunshine/calm sea.
Another sea day...huge numbers of fishing boats out and about today. We also had several groups of dolphins & sea snakes along with the usual flying fish close to the ship.
We were advised of an arrival time change for Mumbai, we would be a couple hours later than planned due to sea conditions & pilotage.
April 16....97 degrees/sunshine/calm sea.
Goa....another fascinating port, very busy and quite extraordinary, we were welcomed by a 5 piece band that almost sounded Mexican, lovely to have them playing on the quayside though as we arrived. There were a lot of large iron ore ships discharging onto barges, which in turn were jostling for space at the unloading bays...some came extremely close to our bow. There was also storage for coal alongside us and trucks that looked like museum pieces running about the port area.
Ships visible were Tiger Power & Cape America. There were several other ships around but they were too far away to be identified, including a cruise ship anchored out in the bay. The Indian Air Force were about too, flying in an elderly looking Wasp helicopter and an older Russian model helicopter.
There is a small fishing fleet in Goa which attracted several Brahman fish eagles and gulls. The homes around the port were both colourful and some very poor looking slum dwellings on the beaches behind our berth.
Further preparations were made for anti-piracy measures, including adding 4 extra security guards...2 from Costa Magica and 2 from Costa Romantica. This brought our compliment to 11 plus 4 decoys - 2 up front and two in the stern ladders.
Today we also had first news of the Iceland volcanic eruption, at this point we didn't know whether or not our cruise would be affected...or if it was affected just how badly...we soon would find out.
Tonight was the crew show and as always it was absolutely superb, highly enjoyable and a lot of fun...especially the animators doing the body orchestra which was hilarious!
During the show we had a severe electrical storm outside, but apart from masses of thunder & lightning, the sea remained mirror calm into the night.
April 17...96 degrees/sunshine/calm sea.
We sailed through large numbers of ships at anchor and arrived in Mumbai late morning. Passed by Indian Navy and other commercial ships, we took around 90 minutes to reach our berth in this amazing city. Azamara Quest was already in port and we slipped in between her and a containership, Isadora.
Other ships in port with us that were identifiable were....Azamara Quest, Jaya, Isadora, Mulberry, Sea Luck II, Blue Lady, Iron Butterfly, Shun Tai and tugs Ajay & Rajul.
April 18....95 degrees/sunshine/calm sea.
We had anticipated just over 200 passengers leaving us today as their cruise had come to an end, we were then expecting 300 to board...along with crew and entertainment acts to board ready for the second half of the cruise.
As it turned out, just 20 passengers arrived, mainly from the US & Australia, the majority of those who had been due to join us were stuck at home or in European airports unable to fly out after the volcanic eruption in Iceland.
Those who had been due to fly home to Europe were then given the chance to stay on board til Civitavecchia or Savona at the cost of the €6 daily service charge if their flights were packaged through Costa, or they could stay on board for €35 per day each if they arranged independent flights. Those who didn't wish to stay on the ship were catered for in hotels in Mumbai until flights resumed - again those with packaged flights were expenses paid and those with independent flights had to pay for hotels but would probably be able to negotiate refunds via insurance.
This meant we had around 100 from the first sector that stayed with us. By doing this, Costa deserved great praise, they could easily have told passengers that since their cruise was officially over, they would have to get off in Mumbai and wait there til flights improved.
At 11pm this evening we swapped places with Azamara Quest, so by the morning we were over the quay from the Indian Naval Dockyard with many ex Royal Navy ships docked and one quite elderly aircraft carrier, which I believe was Hermes, parallel to us. She was in the process of being turned into a floating museum & recruitment office. She had an equally elderly Sea King helicopter, a Gloster Meteor and an assortment of weapons on display on her flight deck.
Situated behind us was a floating taxi station, several brightly coloured boats all vying for trade and only scattering to allow freighters out from the quayside & lock gates behind us.
April 19...98 degrees/sunshine/slight swell.
We sailed from Mumbai at 1pm with around 70% less than planned new passengers and many of those who were meant to disembark still aboard.
The anti-piracy instructions were sent to all cabins this evening, if the 'Papa Alpha' call went out at any time, everyone must get off outside deck areas and into the main hall area on decks 4 & 5 where there are no windows and no outside access.
We had been sailing at an average speed of 7 knots throughout the cruise til this point, but as we approached the more dangerous areas of the Indian Ocean we kept at a steady 21 knots.
April 20....98 degrees/sunshine/calm sea.
At sea once again and on the way to the Middle East & Oman. Our security guards have started to wear bulletproof vests when on duty and they patrol the outside deck areas 24 hours a day.
A group of sharks were jumping out of the sea to catch their food this morning, quite an unusual sight to see. Flying fish & dolphins have also increased in number too, which is lovely to watch.
April 21...110 degrees/sunshine/calm sea.
Muscat....what an amazing port, extremely clean and some beautiful architecture, though nothing over around 10 storeys high, so quite underdeveloped compared to other Middle Eastern cities like Dubai or Abu Dhabi.
The many mosques around the city were calling to prayer as we arrived and we had a magnificent escort into port too...some 160+ dolphins which was quite incredible to see.
The port is quite small but very busy...other ships with us were MSC Sierra, Al Maryam, Fulk Al Salamah, MSC Lana. There are also many small fishing boats although they should have come over to where we were berthed as there were thousands of sardines swimming in our shadow, with the seabirds trying very hard to catch them.
The scenery around Muscat is beautiful, very rugged mountains that change colour with the sunshine.
We sailed at 7.30pm the city was brightly lit up...especially a large frankenscence burner memorial at the entrance to the port....stunning port in daylight and at night.
April 22....95 degrees/sunny/slight swell.
Back at sea for the day once again. Masses of dolphins at sunrise and later in the day we had pods of whales pass us by too. Despite attempts, no Mumbai passengers boarded late at Muscat, maybe they will be able to meet us tomorrow in Salalah instead.
Due to so many cabins now being unused many of us placed our names down for outsides incase any were available after Salalah.
April 23....95 degrees/sunny/calm sea.
Salalah....a very commercial port compared to Muscat but attractive all the same...apart from a slight whiff of 'eau de camel' that wafts across the harbour from time to time, it was a tad strong.
Other ships in port with us were... Maersk Avon, Maersk Dunedin, CMA-CGM Jade, an unidentified Maersk containership, a Greek Naval ship F451, pilot boat Najm and tugs Rahkyut, Salalah, Raysut & Hasik.
I received a phone call this morning offering me an outside cabin, 3002, so I moved into it with the help of room steward Roberto. The new cabin was a 3 berth right in the bow.
April 24....97 degrees/sunny/slight swell.
Gulf of Aden...visibility is endless again today and there are very few ships around. We had heard about a French ship being attacked the day before so some were a little nervous but on the whole everyone was continuing with their sunbathing or other activities around the ship as normal. We have a large tanker following us a few miles behind but other than that, nothing else in sight.
For the last couple of nights all outside deck area lights have been left off, so walking outside is almost a surreal experience, the moon lights up the sea and you can see for miles...and the stars look very impressive too. The security guards are always happy to chat with passengers, it breaks their monotony but without them taking their eyes off the sea, constantly watching for trouble.
April 25....105 degrees/sunny/calm sea.
Aden...another extraordinary port, volcanic mountains, small houses nestled into the hillsides and lots of activity everywhere. Mosques calling to prayer and the hustle & bustle found in any major city. The scenery is very dramatic with small volcanic islands dotted around the harbour and several shipwrecks, many of which are still quite visible and some not that old either.
Other ships in port with us were Paloma C, Morning Carrier & Stadt Dresden. There was also a ferry at anchor but her name was not visible from Allegra's decks.
This morning a special service was held on the pool deck to commemorate ANZAC day, it was well received and took place as the sun rose and as we entered Aden port's outer reaches.
Amongst the islands there were several regional styled boats, mainly cargo but some used for fishing.
We received word of a port change today, since the quayside at Sharm el Sheikh was damaged in the accident involving Costa Europa and repairs had not been completed, we would visit Hurghada instead...a decision that would be regretted by Capt Donato and his officers, but more on that later on.
April 26....100 degrees/sunny/calm sea.
Back at sea again today...still under anti-piracy measures. The sunrise was over Yemen and sunset over Eritrea. A small number of other ships passed us by but otherwise a very quiet and relaxing day for everyone.
April 27...90 degrees/sunny/calm sea.
Still at sea and now in the southern Red Sea...its like a mirror, hardly a ripple..really beautiful day with a sunrise over Saudi Arabia and sunset over Sudan/Egypt. A few more ships around today as we head north further into the Red Sea and towards the major port areas and ultimately the Suez Canal.
April 28...90 degrees/sunny/heavy swell.
Safaga...gateway to Luxor. This port is largely commercial but a useful one for cruise ship passengers to make the 12 hour round trip to Luxor. Safaga is also a very busy ferry port too, ships going to Jeddah and Aqaba. Another cruise ship was in port with us, Island Sky. Ferries included Amman, Jamaa II & Mahabbah.
Due to the length of travel time needed to Luxor, we sail at 10pm for Aqaba. The port itself is nothing to look at really, the town is some distance away and by all reports wasn't overly interesting. Once again the many mosques were calling to prayer throughout the day which was interesting to listen to.
April 29...90 degrees/sunny/heavy swell.
Aqaba....we sailed into the city early morning, already there was The World of ResidenSea's 'The World' looking stunning in the sunshine. There were also several other ships at anchor in the bay.
Across the bay from Aqaba sits Eilat, Israel.
Aqaba is a clean city, very busy with an active waterfront. Both Aqaba & Eilat are quite beautiful cities with dramatic mountain backdrops. Aqaba is the gateway to the Rose Red City, Petra and many of our passengers spent the day there.
April 30...85 degrees/sunny/moderate swell.
Today we sailed into the resort & town of Hurghada, this port replaced Sharm el Sheik and proved to be one of the worst for passenger behaviour, quite frankly some on board were shameful in their attitude and basic decency towards the crew.
As many who have cruised the Red Sea before will testify, it can be fraught with strong currents and winds that change direction without notice, the northern Red Sea ports are often the most difficult to handle a ship and today Hurghada was not going to be easy by any means. It also should be noted that the actions of some Egyptian boat captains also caused increased difficulties during the day.
We arrived fairly early in the morning and dropped anchor about 3 miles out. The swell was reasonably high but nothing untoward compared to other ports I have visited. Tendering started almost immediately with those going on shore excursions leaving first. Passengers wanting free time to explore the town left the ship from around 10am. The currents were strong but the tenders were dealing with them well.
Two Egyptian boats were also chartered to assist but they were not really suited to ship tendering as they had high side rails, they were dive boats thus usually accessed via the stern, not from the side. They managed a couple of runs but then backed off to allow the ships tenders to continue.
During the loading of one of the Egyptian boats another larger dive boat did something that we all thought to be extremely dangerous, the captain steered his boat down the side of Allegra about 10ft off the side and only pulled away & clear about 5ft from the bow of the tender, thus causing significant bow waves and wake which in turn created problems for those getting onto the boat alongside.
By lunchtime the current had increased in strength but still not to a level that could be deemed as dangerous, but obvious levels of care would be needed. The wind wasn't overly strong but combined with the currents there was some difficulty keeping the ship on station...we had, by now, moved to around half a mile from shore.
By late afternoon many of those on shorex were returning and a couple of the tenders had trouble docking, often requiring 3 or 4 attempts before securing a safe disembarkation position.
One tender received moderate fiberglass damage after hitting the tender dock a little harder than normal, a flare went off inside the tender which was quickly thrown into the sea by a crewman. A few of the passengers were alarmed but no injuries were gained by anyone on board. The tender returned to the quayside as a precaution, offloaded and those on it were transferred to the Egyptian boats instead.
All three tenders were withdrawn and winched up onto Allegra, one sustained a couple of broken plastic windows on the way up due to assymetric winching, but again no injuries occurred.
We were due to leave at 3.30pm but due to tendering processes being delayed and the Egyptian boats experiencing problems getting certain passengers off, we left an hour late but with all passengers and crew safely aboard....albeit some of the more elderly ones a little shaken up by their experiences.
Repairs were started on the tenders immediately...none of them sustained enough damage to render them unsafe and none lost any measure of buoyancy...NO-ONE was ever at any risk during the tendering, the safety officer and captain were on hand at the tender dock at all times during the day as were around a dozen other crew to assist in getting everyone back onto Allegra.
Most who were on the late afternoon tenders took the experience in their stride and some found it quite exciting too.
A vocal few decided that they would essentially gang up on the crew over the tendering. This included at least 4 people who stayed on the ship all day and who did not even go onto the tenders, they seemed to be the ringleaders.
This bunch of ingrates tried to enrol others from the tenders to join them in calls for a meeting with the captain etc over the poor handling of the tenders, the fact (and I use that term very loosely) that people COULD have been killed and that in many accounts the tenders sank at least 5 times each - all of which was total hogwash as none of the tenders were in ANY danger of sinking. Yes they were damaged but their integrity remained completely intact.
The fuss went on well into the evening as we sailed away from the port. I can only assume that Capt Donato wished he had chosen to stay at sea instead of replacing one port with another as the behaviour of the bunch of ingrates worsened over the rest of the cruise.
May 1.....85 degrees/sunny/calm sea.
Suez Canal....what an amazing sight the canal and the cities along it are...
We were leading a convoy of 5 ships, the others being a car carrier & 3 containerships, through the canal. We reached the entrance at dawn after anchoring from around 2am thru 5am. Spectacular scenery on both sides of the canal, quite beautiful in many ways too.
The experience was tarnished by the ongoing behaviour from the ingrates who continued to go on like broken records about the tendering in Hurghada...they refused to be quiet despite being given more than one meeting with the safety officer and other senior officers.
May 2....80 degrees/sunny/calm sea.
Alexandria....this port was one of the busiest that we had visited. Full of activity, hustle & bustle with the backdrop of some beautiful architecture and the mosques calling people to prayer - the calls echoing across the water.
Royal Caribbean's Navigator o/t Seas was alongside all day, spewing out it's thousands of passengers all over the quayside.
Other ships in port that were identifiable...Sea Runner, Abu Agila, National Star, Alminufyia, Shendandoah Highway, Alkan Kalkavan & Corelli.
There was an old green & white ferry in port too, she looked very neglected and sat leaning to one side. She definitely appeared to be abandoned to the elements & left to rot away in the sunshine.
Since Allegra had been away from home since 2005, she had a full inspection by authorities. Special attention given to the tenders that had been damaged in Hurghada but were now fully repaired. They were given a clean bill of health along with the rest of the ship.
Navigator o/t Seas sailed first, she left at sunset...looked quite nice as she slipped away into the Mediterranean with the sunset infront of her.
We sailed at 9pm once those on shorex to Cairo & the Nile had reboarded.
May 3...70 degrees/sunny/calm sea.
The Mediterranean was like a duckpond, perfect calm as we made our way steadily northwards towards home.
Although the temperatures had dropped significantly, it was a very pleasant day outside, a cool breeze off the sea was a welcome change from the stifling temperatures that we had been experiencing.
The ingrates were still on form, this time they cornered and bullied Erika who was one of the English speaking hostesses on board ship. This ended with Deborah's intervention and Erika was left visibly shaken & upset by the experience. This sort of bullying is absolutely out of order but the ingrates continued with it and even boycotted the Farewell Gala Dinner...which was extremely childish really.
May 4.....65 degrees/cloudy/heavy swell.
So as we still headed northwards the Mediterranean acted in its usual fashion, kicking up a bit of swell, a bit drizzly and very cold & grey.
We approached the Straits of Messina at around lunchtime, a snowcapped Etna to our left looking spectacular. As we entered the strait a Royal Caribbean ship (possibly Navigator o/t Seas) was entering Messina port to the left of us.
The weather deteriorated as we went along sending many into cabins to fetch jumpers and coats to wear.
An hour or so after leaving the strait, we passed very close by Stromboli to our right. The volcano was active and gave us a puff of ash as we passed about half a mile away.
I invited Erika to our table for evening meal and she accepted. We had a lovely time and she was able to relax a bit and have a laugh...something she had not done much of thanks to the ingrates and their thuggish behaviour.
May 5...55 degrees/sunny/showers/rough sea.
Civitavecchia....a busy day for us today, several of the crew leaving and being replaced by French crew ready for the charter to Paquet in a few days time, so many emotional scenes around the ship. We also had around 300 passengers leave too, mainly Australian off to extended holidays in Europe or to fly home. Most of those who elected to stay with the ship in Mumbai also disembarked too.
There was a lot of activity on Allegra, she had a lot of new things delivered...doors, windows, carpets, seating etc for a minor refit on the go so that she could be made ready for the charter. This did not go down too well with the ingrates and was added to their ever growing list of complaints.
The town was quite busy with 9 cruise ships in port and the usual ferries too. Other ships in port that could be identified were.....Iberocruceros Grand Mistral, La Superba, MSC Lirica, Norwegian Jade, Voyager o/t Seas & Costa Mediterranea.
After saying our goodbye's to those who left the ship, we sailed at around 8pm for Savona.
May 6....50 degrees/rain/rough sea.
So our odyssey came to an end this morning in Savona. We docked at around 7am and commenced disembarkation at 8am.
The passengers were bussed to either Nice, Genoa or Milan airports for their flights home. I was on the Genoa bus and we left shortly after 10am for the short drive to the airport.
Unfortunately the ringleaders of the thugs were on my bus and it was like listening to a broken record for the entire journey...I almost let rip at them but thought better of it as I didn't want to stoop to their level of behaviour.
We checked in for our flight to Gatwick and took off on time into overcast skies. Fincantieri shipyard was next to the airport, Oceania Marina was in her final stages of building.
The flight to Gatwick was uneventful, we overflew the Dolomites and Paris Charles de Gaulle airport at 24000ft.
We landed at Gatwick on time, had a 3 hour layover and again the flight to Manchester took off & landed on time and was also uneventful.
I checked into Bewleys Hotel at Manchester Airport. The hotel is onsite and a free shuttle bus comes to fetch you, which is very useful when lugging large & heavy suitcases. I will describe the hotel in more detail in our hotel review area onsite.
May 7...50 degrees/sunny.
Caught the train back to York at 9.35am, arriving home at just before midday. The dreaded laundry was started...something I always hate, but even moreso after being away for so long.
Summary & Conclusion.
Overall the cruise was incredible. Indeed there are not enough positive adjectives to describe the many varied experiences to be had on a cruise of this length or one that visits so many countries and cultures.
Special crew mentions go to Erika, Deborah, Roberto, Cinzia, Leah, Valeria, Marrisa, Alfredo, Selwyn, Regie...infact Captain Donato and all of his crew made this cruise an absolute joy to complete.
Special passenger mentions go to Shirley, Ken, Patrick, Christine, Vera, Terry, Alan, Madge, Nadia & John (& their lovely friends), Michelle (and her wonderful family), Joan, Beryl, Doreen & hubby, Gary & his lovely wife...infact there are several passengers who I came into contact with who also made the cruise a superb experience.
This was an itinerary of a lifetime, a trip that could not be done in a larger ship without having to drop certain ports through accessibility difficulties by using larger ships. The crew were amazing, they were friendly, happy and just a real joy to be around, Allegra herself was a little tired in places but after 5 years in the Far East where she launched the Costa itineraries with such success, well she deserves praise as she was as steady as a rock and she suffered no ill effects or problems on her long journey home to Italy.
Yes there were a few minor niggles...one caused a repair that was totally beyond the call of duty by the crew. There were problems in some cabins with orange tinged hot water, this was added to the list of whinges by the ingrates. As a result all of the hot water pipework was stripped out and replaced whilst we were on the way from Mumbai right through to Safaga...a feat in anyone's book and a job usually done in drydock. The crew worked non-stop to get things right and they got precious little thanks for it from the ingrates...especially when the water was turned off for a few hours on a port day.
The crew had more than their fair share of problems this cruise...orange hot water, volcanic ash disrupting flights...but we also narrowly missed a major earthquake, made it through the Gulf of Aden without any trouble to name but a few. Through it all they retained their dignity and their smiles...something most of us would probably have trouble doing had we been in their shoes.
So overall my experience was excellent all round, the ship, crew and itinerary lived up to beyond my expectations. The food & service aboard was exceptional, the cabins were beautifully appointed and looked after and the atmosphere was wonderful....marred only by the behaviour of the Virgin Cruises Bullies, who made the lives of the crew an absolute hell (and many passengers lives hell too, those who had to listen to it night after night at evening meal or during the day on deck whenever the bullies thought they had an audience to play to).
Capt Donato was gracious, as were his officers & crew. I truly hope that I meet them again on my future cruises aboard Costa ships, you could not ask for better people to cruise with.
A very big thank you to everyone who made my cruise so very, very special.
I have brought home the 'Today' sheets and 9 standard evening meal & 4 Gala evening menu's should anyone be interested in what was on offer in the MDR during the cruise.