Thursday, April 11, 2013

Caro's Big Adventure: The Cruise REALLY Begins

So, on Easter Monday, mid-afternoon, we finally reached the MS Scenic Emerald, berthed in Tarascon sur Rhone. 

(Unfortunately, because I'm operating from my iPad, for some reason Blogger won't find the photos on my iPad, so it won't allow me to post photos here)

It was all very exciting. We were welcomed n board by the captain, and a host of the impressively uniformed crew, who all went running to collect our bags from the coach and load them on board the ship.

We were invited to gather in the lounge, where the Hotel Manager, one of the senior officers, welcomed us all, and told us how he would handle the check in process. I was among on of the first groups to be checked in, and once I got my room key, one of the staff carried my hand luggage for me, a young officer helped me down the stairs from Reception to deck 2, where mu cabin was, when he saw me struggling, and all the ladies were given a white rose as we left reception to head for our cabins (and in the cabin was a small vase, with water already in it, on the desk, ready to receive the rose). So right from the start there was a sense of luxury and attention to fine detail. I was gone...

As I looked around my cabin, reading the various notes that were on my bed, and in the portfolio on the desk, I saw the cards from the butler. I had been rather excited about the fact that all cabins had a personal butler service, and was looking forward to this level of ridiculous luxury that I had never before experienced. There was one general card, introducing the butler service, and listing what services were available through my butler. The other card had the name and phone number of my butler, Vojtech. As I was pondering these details, there was a knock on the door. When I opened it, Isaw a rather handsome young man, who introduced himself as Vojtech, my butler, and he enquired whether I had found the details of the services he would offer during the cruise. I assured him I had indeed found the cards, and his parting words to me were,"Don't hesitate to call me if you need anything, and I hope to see a lot of you during the cruise".

My cabin was quite generous in size. The bed was king sized, and had two single duvets on top of it, which is apparently quite common in Europe. The couples I spoke to said that they thought it was great to have their own duvets, so they could regulate their own sleeping temperature, and not have the covers stolen by their partner. I found it a bit weird the first couple of nights, but eventually got used to having to adjust the covers whenever I did a roll from one side of the bed to the other, as I often do. Considering that space is usually at a premium on board ships, I was surprised at how spacious the bedroom and bathroom both were. So all in all the accommodations were very comfortable. The rooms were serviced twice daily; firstly in the morning the beds were made, the towels changed, and a couple of days there were also very clever origami-styled towel animals left on the bed by the cabin stewardess. During the late afternoon port talk and dinner period, the room was serviced again, this time the beds were turned down, a chocolate left on the pillow, the curtains closed, lights turned on, and the mini bar and towels again replenished if needed.

The bathroom was supplied with L'Occitaine toiletries, so I was in heaven :-)

This season, for the first time, Scenic Cruises had an 'all inclusive' policy. This meant that all items in the minibar were included, as we're all the drinks in the lounge throughout the day, and it wasn't just the wine and beer at meals that was included, as had been the case in the past. I took the opportunity to work my way through the cocktail menu, and at various times enjoyed the likes of maitais, Brandy Alexander, Long Island Iced Tea, Rusty Nail, and every day had a 'cocktail of the day', and I was especially partial to one called a BBC (which contained Baileys, banana, coconut cream, and I'm not sure what else, all blended up with ice, to form a creamy banana smoothie with a kick).

Most of the crew were eastern European, mainly Ukrainian, Slovakian, Hungarian, with a few others (Spanish, French, German). They were all amazing. Professionally skilful in executing their jobs, but also really nice and friendly; able to have some playful interactions with the guests, without being too familiar or inappropriate. I fund this to be consistent across all of the crew (and other guests also commented on it to me), and it really made the cruise more enjoyable.

There was one young waiter called Igor (I kid you not), who was rather sweet, the first couple of meals, when he presented the wines (usually one red and one white), I commented to him that he would eventually learn it was pointless to show me any white wines, as I only drink red. Ever since I made that comment, we would have the conversation where I would say, "you don't have to ask me, do you?" And he would say,"You'll have the red, Ma'am?"

Towards the end of the cruise I said to Igor, "maybe one day I'll ask for white, just to mess with your mind," and he laughed. I discovered later, when talking to the restaurant manager (another of the senior officers), that Igor was indeed quite young, and this was his first cruise with Scenic. I also told him about my threat to mess with Igor's mind, and he said, with a twinkle in his eye, "If you do, let me know. I'd like to see his face when you say that."

There were also some lovely people on the cruise.  The nationality demographic was mostly Canadians, Aussies and English, with a few Americans, Irish and others thrown in. I enjoyed meeting some lovely people, and exchanged cards with some, in the hope of keeping in touch afterwards, so I guess time will tell on that one.

There were some people who had done many similar cruises before, and some were a bit nit-picky about some stuff, but as for me, I loved EVERYTHING, and just had a wonderful time.

I especially enjoyed the butler morning coffee service (which was effectively breakfast for me). Just imagine, as a single woman of a certain age, travelling alone, to wake up every morning to a handsome young man knocking on my door, with a smile on his face and coffee in his hands. It felt like I'd died and gone to heaven :-) 
(I should also mention that the ship had five butlers, who between them served all the cabins. Two of them were female, and I thought I'd hit the jackpot to score a very cute young man as my butler)

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