I just got onboard the massive cruise ship MSC Fantasia after having had a few hours of paradise, visiting Taormina on Sicily. My mobile rang immediately and it was a young guy from one of the many Swedish pension funds asking me if I knew how bad the situation was for me personally in the future as regards to what will happen to my pension? And most other Swedes my age as well, he added, when I was silent. He probably thought I was in a state of shock, so I filled him in on my situation and his response was a loud:
“Woow, I wish I could change places with you!”
“We don´t want to use anymore of our pension fund money do we?” I said and finished the call with him adding:
“I will call you when you will be back home!”
I will get off tomorrow at the port of Civitavecchia and fly back from Rome. So I will be back tomorrow. But I thought of his response and realized everyone I have told, which are not that many, they´ve all kind of been in awe at the thought of doing a cruise in the Mediterranean. So my question to myself after 5 days and 4 nights on a luxury cruise ship holding 3500 tourists and a third more people employed by the cruise company, is:
“Is it that great?”
Just the thought of me getting on a boat with 5000 other people, I am sure is akin to many people, I think. One of my friends who is also on this trip as an Explorer-In-Residence with Kensington Tours, Olly Steeds, sent us all others -that is, we are four, Jeff, the owner and the most generous man on earth and his bother William- an article about the abnormal amounts of fuel and rubbish left by these giants of the sea and asked if we really should do this. I gave him the same answer as I give people who question me about going to countries like North-Korea or Syria;
“You cannot judge until you have seen with your own eyes and life is short, so let us go.”
So we all flew to Barcelona and boarded the cruiser there with an itinerary taking us to Tunis, Malta, Sicily and the final, getting off in Rome. We had no time to visit Barcelona, we entered the ship immediately and it started moving within an hour of us boarding. Jeff had set us all up with luxury suites, one each, and we came into a room with a table full of delicacies like champagne and a bowl of fruits. And we had our own butler, Dani, a Christian Balinese from Kuta, who worked 9 months away and had three months off per year, so I couldn´t complain that missed my family almost instantly I boarded the ship. For me, meeting my great friends, was the most important part of this journey. And the first evening and night just flew by, since all was inclusive, whiskey and cigars dominated our joy whilst discussing most things important to us humans. Family, future, work, sorrows and joys. Subjects most of just don´t have the time to talk about otherwise.
First port of call was Tunis. I felt great being back in North-Africa. But time was short. The main reason for the stop seemed to be the wish to fill up on tax free goods, which seemed a really silly reason. But then I am not a shopper. We all four wanted to see the old ruins of Carthage, but even though we had a private guided tour, which is the Kensington idea, we kind of couldn´t avoid the masses of people who poured of the ship at the same time, so the visit was a bit of a disappointment. Especially Carthage, which was nothing, if you compare to other similar sites we have all seen. Just a seemingly organised heap of rocks and pillars. The short time was a problem, but we made it instead to a part of the town, painted basically in blue and white and offered a touristic souk with good smells, we heard the call of the muezzin and we heard spoken Arabic, which I enjoyed. But that is pretty much it.
As the day before we dressed up in the evening, had a four course meal in the Italian Restaurant and conversed about what we had seen. All of us was quite disappointed as regards to the Tunis visit. Luckily, it got much better the next port of call!
© Copyright 2014 Explorer Mikael Strandberg | Photos and texts Copyright Explorer Mikael Strandberg