Thursday, March 06, 2014


I’ve begun my epic three week cruise, leaving the charmingly precipitous Genoa behind as I head out into the Mediterranean Sea on the MSC Fantasia. The Fantasia is the biggest ship in the MSC cruise fleet, exactly 1/3 of a kilometre long, with more than 1600 cabins and berths for over 4000 passengers, 75% of whom are sour-faced old ladies who have nowhere near as much class as they imagine they do. Like a couple of thousand Hyacinth Buckets, only without the laugh track.

However, there is a greater mix of people on this cruise, compared with the last one I took in 2011. There are many more families with young children and teenagers. Perhaps because this cruise is going from the wet, freezing northern Mediterranean to the warmer southern Mediterranean, many of these people are taking their winter vacations to sunnier places. It’s a lot easier and possibly cheaper to get to several destinations in a relatively short time than if you jammed the family into the Fiat and drove, staying in cheap motels and using car ferries.

Unfortunately – or fortunately, if you’re prioritising comedy over ambience - with easy and cheap travel comes easy and cheap people. There are a lot of eurobogans on this ship, a term I’ve coined because they’re not sophisticated enough to be eurotrash.

For example, at the theatre last night, during an excellent performance of the Moonlight Sonata, I was tempted to turn around to the elderly French yokels stage whispering to each other behind me and say, “Seriously? You need lessons in theatre etiquette from an Australian?

But when it comes to making trashy into an art form, you can’t beat the Russians. There was a quartet of them at dinner last night. Poppa under the impression that “dressing for dinner” meant putting on pants. Mamma cramming her middle-aged bulk into skin tight jeans and a black T-shirt with Dolce & Gabbana picked out in mirrored sequins. Steroid abusing son in a soccer shirt with the collar so popped it must have been using viagra. And bleach blonde daughter in a baffling ensemble of leopard-skin print pants and a matching leopard-skin print top with a big photo of an adorable kitten on the front… the sort of outfit that would be cute on a 4 year old, weird on a 14 year old and positively disturbing on a 24 year old.

Another difference on this cruise is that despite the ship being bigger it’s less stable, owing the stronger winds and more powerful waves of the Mediterranean. Walking along the deck can give one a feeling of being slightly hammered, as the floor rises and dips almost imperceptibly. The gentle rocking is quite pleasant if you’re lying in bed drifting off to sleep. It’s less than ideal when you’re carrying a full cup of coffee through a crowded buffet area dodging the old German ladies who have just spied the Sacher tortes.


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