Spot the smiling face in the Cattle Battle. I can't!

Spot the smiling face in the Cattle Battle. I can’t!

The Costa Diadema was launched in November 2014.

Every week it sails round the Mediterranean, docking at Savona, Marseilles, Barcelona, Palma Majorca, Naples, La Spezia, and back to Savona, with one day at sea.

Passengers can get on and off at any port.

It sounded like a wonderful week and we were really looking forward to it.

The shi*

The shi*

SATURDAY

We got up at 3am and travelled to Gatwick, where we flew to Milan and travelled for 2 1/2 hours to Savona.

The ship looked lovely as we went aboard and we were told to go and get something to eat while our luggage was delivered to our cabin.

Up we went to the 10th deck. We were hungry by then and looking forward to our first buffet meal aboard.

It was closed. Yes, that’s right, the buffet was closed as the new passengers were arriving.

You can get a burger round the corner, we were told.

Kids were everywhere, grabbing all the boxes of chips. So we had to wait for a burger in a bun and some frozen matchstick chips with a basic salad.

There are only a few hundred tables for nearly 5,000 passengers so it was a nightmare trying to get a free table.

The chips were horrible, the bun was like chewing-gum and I don’t like burgers.

We left it and went to find our cabin. It was good, with a balcony, chairs and a small table outside.

Our cabin lad appeared and introduced himself. We couldn’t pronounce his name so we called him Fireman.   He told us that the water was undrinkable.

There was nothing provided; no bottles of water, no shampoo, no fruit, chocolates, etc. Nothing.

‘Shall I unlock the mini-bar?’ Fireman asked.

No thanks, we told him.

We stood on the balcony as the ship sailed. Kids galloped up and down the corridor, banging doors. It was a bit worrying. I’d been promised a child-free cruise by Travelbag as they’d all be back at school.

We went to explore the ship, battered by crowds of people everywhere we went.

I kept getting a whiff of sewage.

In the evening we went to find Customer Services. It was right next to the ‘entertainment,’ a female in stilletos wobbling about, singing The Girl From Ipanema, followed by Sade’s Your Love is King. She was accompanied by a tinny guitarist and a tinny backing track.

We had to take a ticket and wait as there were so many people complaining.

Finally I told them (over the noise) that I’m a journalist and I wanted to interview the Captain and the Head Chef.

‘You should have booked it before you came on board,’ I was told.

I tried, but I was told to book it as soon as I got on board,’ I replied.

They promised to pass it on.

In the restaurant we were told we could sit anywhere, then the waitress said we should be over the other side. Then the waiter said we should be over the OTHER side. We refused to move again.

There are two sittings a night, from 7-9, then from 9-11.

At 9 the lights go brighter and you have to get out.

First course was large filled pasta shells. The pasta was cold and glued to the plate and the stuffing was hard.

I sent it back and got another plate the same. I sent it back.

Next course was lamb fricassee. It was beef stew with cold mashed potato which was stuck to the plate. I was getting angry. Sent it back, got another plate the same, and John and I stormed out.

I found the maitre d’ and asked where else we could eat. Nowhere, he said, everywhere’s closed.

I’m hungry! I said. He insisted that we sat down again and he’d get us some hot food.

So we had basic spaghetti Bolognese. Big deal!

The only open restaurant

The only open restaurant

SUNDAY

Docked in Marseilles. We went to get breakfast. Oh what a nightmare! Who were these dreadful Italians? I love Italy and the Italians, but this lot was an ignorant mob!

They’d sprawl over the tables, refusing to let anyone else sit down. And they seemed to be playing ‘See how many cakes you can pile on one plate’ And their uncontrolled kids barge around, knocking into everyone.

A German family called us to sit with them.

John went to get two cups of coffee from the one urn. I still feel sad when I picture his face, battling through the pushing mob, holding the cups in front of him, with hot liquid splashing over his arms and shirt.

This was meant to be a holiday, giving him a peaceful rest!

I went first to get some breakfast. I tried to peer through the pushing queues.

There was no hot food, no eggs, nothing. Just cold hams, some fruit, bread and cakes.

I grabbed some toast, ham and tomato slices, a croissant and jam, queuing again and again.

Of course my coffee was cold. I told John to go and get something to eat. ‘I’m not really bothered,’ he replied.

People were carrying plates of food away as there was nowhere to sit, so I got a plate of food to eat later.

We had a lovely morning in Marseilles (our trips ashore will be separate articles) and went back to the boat for a late lunch.

Our bags were X-rayed and John was waved aside. ‘You have to give us your bottles of wine,’ he was told.

‘Why?’ I asked.

‘Because you have to buy your bottles on board the ship to drink in the cabin.’

I told him to get lost and said we’d do what we wanted in our cabin. Then we walked away.

Their wine was from 18-27 euros a bottle. No comment.

Guess what? The buffet was just closing, at 3. ‘You can have tea from 4-5,’ a chef told me.

‘But I want some hot buffet food,’ I said. He shook his head. ‘The chef won’t do it,’ he replied.

Back at teatime; another nightmare of pushing, yelling gangs.

We found two seats and John went to get the tea. He came back with two half-cups. The rest had been spilt.

I grabbed sandwiches and some cakes for us both. It was every man for himself.

There was also water from the dispensers. The orange juice was switched off.

I filled a water bottle. A waitress shouted, ‘Madame, you can’t do that!’

‘I’m ill,’ I said, ignoring her.

‘Well put it in a glass and tip it in the bottle,’ she said.

We thought we’d get a quick nap before dinner. No chance. The noise of kids racing up and down and banging doors and scraping chairs on balconies was deafening.

I had a letter from a lady called Lucia who said she could see me tomorrow about interviews.

Another disastrous meal. We sat with a Norwegian couple who said they’d never go on another cruise again. The food was a disgrace. They’d brought several bottles of their favourite red wine with them to drink in their cabin. He was stopped and his bottles were confiscated, but she managed to run away with a couple of bottles! And to make it worse, he’d had his wallet stolen out of his pocket in Marseilles.

I ordered a minestrone soup which was cold. I sent it back and got another cold soup.

And the main course was the same; something with cold mashed potato.

We went back to our cabin and opened a bottle of wine, and nibbled on some sandwiches and fruit. Oh how terrible!

Tough meat & mash

Tough meat & mash

MONDAY

Barcelona. We forced ourselves to face the breakfast battle.

The Norwegian couple had told us that you could get a cooked breakfast downstairs.

It was full with a huge crowd waiting outside the door and in the foyer.

We gave up and went back to the cattle herds. Oh this is absolutely horrendous!

I went to see Lucia before dinner. She said I should have arranged the interviews before I came on board. I told her that the Travelbag manager had tried and he’d been told that I should arrange it with Customer Service when we got on board.

At dinner, we had a new table companion. I’ll call him M. ‘This ship stinks!’ he said.

He was furious as they’d confiscated his vodka when he came on, and tried to take his aftershave. They said he could buy some more on board!

I’d ordered a salad. It was just leaves with a dressing. I asked for some tomatoes and back it went.

15 minutes later it returned with more dressing on it. Again I asked for tomatoes. 15 more minutes it returned on a different plate. Sent it back and the waitress told me that no, I couldn’t have tomatoes!

I complained to the maitre d’ who said he’d make sure that I got it tomorrow!

The main course was, guess what? John had dry, lukewarm chicken with mashed potatoes. He doesn’t like mashed potatoes and his chicken was inedible.

I had lukewarm beef with lukewarm mashed potato. So back it went.

It’s only Monday and I’m afraid of getting food poisoning as everything’s obviously been sitting around for ages.

Empty pizza restaurant. You have to pay for pizza!

Empty pizza restaurant. You have to pay for pizza!

TUESDAY

Breakfast battle, more hot tea spilt down our arms and on our clothes, then we went to

Palma.

Back on the ship, I went to get a cup of tea and John said he was going to lie down. He just couldn’t face all the pushing and shoving.

I found a seat with an Austrian family who said they’d been warned about the terrible food when they’d booked. But they’d liked the route.

Fighting my way to the urns, I got a cup of hot water and a shrieking Italian woman spun round and knocked boiling water down the front of me.

‘You stupid cow!’ I yelled. But she just barged her way through the crowds.

I went to get another cup but the urns were empty and the water dispensers were switched off.

I grabbed a plateful of leftovers and went back to the cabin.

‘Did you sleep?’ I asked John.

‘You’re bloody joking!’ he muttered. There were kids racing up and down, totally unchecked.

Let’s go to the ice-cream parlour,’ I suggested.

We found it. It was empty. ‘Do we have to pay?’ I asked. Yes we did.

It was around 5 euros for a cornet plus a 15% service charge! Oh what a bunch of con-merchants Costa are!

Back in the cabin the phone rang. It was Lucia. She said I couldn’t have any interviews and I should have booked them before I came on board.

I really didn’t want an interview by then and no-one had seen or heard the captain. We all agreed that he’d probably got off somewhere to see his girlfriend and would get back on the next week.

‘That’s OK, I’ll just write that I was refused an interview,’ I said.

‘You can’t write anything without our permission!’ she yelled – yes, she yelled at me!

‘I write what I like,’ I replied. And she slammed the phone down!

Dinner. I’m sure you’re dying to know, Dear Readers!

The maitre d’ brought a large plate of fresh salad with gorgeous tomato slices on it and everyone dived into it.

The best food we’ve had on the boat, our two Dutch ladies said. They had their own water bottle hidden in their bags.

From there it was all downhill. I had spaghetti with squid ink. It was cold. Back it went and I got another plate the same. Back it went.

Then I had some tough, inedible slices of boar with – guess what? Yes, you guessed it. Cold mashed potatoes. They were coloured yellow this time.

That night, I was so hungry that I nibbled on some dry bread that I’d brought on board from our meal in Palma, washed down with our smuggled water.

Bread and water, on a cruise. Our prisoners eat better than that!

Empty Japanase restaurant. Book & pay.

Empty Japanase restaurant. Book & pay.

WEDNESDAY

At sea all day.

We faced the breakfast cattle trail, then we walked round the boat.

One waiter smiled and said Good morning and we nearly fell over backwards as most of the staff are surly and miserable, watching us like jailers to make sure we didn’t try to fill water bottles, etc.

I had my bikini on as I wanted to swim and sunbathe. Yeah, big deal! Every pool was full to bursting with yelling, splashing kids.

Quiet honestly, the pools were dangerous for the kids, let alone the rest of us!

I was getting angrier and angrier.

We found a quiet area and a waitress materialised. I asked if we had to pay for a coffee. Yes we did. So we couldn’t even get a cup of coffee.

Cruises are supposed to be all-inclusive, except for alcoholic drinks.

A storm blew up. At the stern, the sunbeds were all covered with towels. I picked them all up and threw them in a pile in the corner.

We sat in another empty bar and started to read our books. An awful smell wafted up from behind the sofa, so we left.

The buffet lunch was good. So why couldn’t they have it all day and night like normal cruises, I asked a chef who was wiping down the surfaces?

It would also stagger the crowds.

Answer; because the chef didn’t want to do it!

How about a visit to the 4D theatre? It was empty. You have to book and pay.

In the evening, we sat and waited to go in the restaurant. The ‘entertainment’ sang The Girl From Ipanema, followed by Your Love is King. It was painful to listen to.

We had special menus as it was supposed to the the Captain’s Gala.

‘What Captain?’ we all said.

I had bisque soup which was lukewarm, so back it went & so did the 2nd one.

Then I had beef tenderloin with ratatouille and MASH!

It was beef toughloin, lukewarm with cold ratatouille and yucky mash. So back it went.

The waiters filled our glasses with Spumante, a present from the Captain..

Two waiters came round, smiling, with a tray of Baileys or grappa.

‘Is it a present from the Captain?’ we all asked.

‘No, it’s a present from me,’ replied the waiter with the tray.

We all ordered a Baileys, then the other waiter said, ‘Your cards please.’

We all shouted, What for? You said it was free!

No I didn’t,’ he said.

So we all gave the drinks back and told him what we thought of him.

I complained to the maitre d’ who chased after them to tell them off.

Suddenly the lights went brighter and we were all encouraged to swing our napkins in the air. We said it was because the aircon had broken down.

There was the beat of disco music and, surprise surprise, the Captain appeared, accompanied by his entourage, like a black boxer. I was surprised he wasn’t wearing gold chains and a dressing-gown!

He raised his glass and then vanished to the beat. And that was the end of the Captain!

We pushed our way round the boat, but it was a nightmare. The disco was so full that people were stood all up the stairs, and looking over the top of the upper floor.

We went back to our cabin and had some wine and some fruit from lunchtime, and read.

Another sleepless, noisy night.

Empty ice-cream parlour. Look at the prices, plus a 15% service charge- for filling a cone!

Empty ice-cream parlour. Look at the prices, plus a 15% service charge- for filling a cone!

THURSDAY

Naples. I could hardly move. I was exhausted, hungry, overdosed on gluten, disillusioned, and feeling tearful. I’d wasted all our money on this disgusting floating dump!

John felt the same. He could hardly drag himself out of bed.

We’d found out the night before from the daily bulletin that the ship was leaving at 3. So we couldn’t go to Capri as planned. We’d have to leave there at around 12.30 to get back by 2.

We dragged ourselves into town.

There was a new maitre d’ called Justine. It’s a man’s Oriental name.

He’d been to meetings for the past few days, and he was very professional. We got on famously!

We had butter waiting on the table and our salad arrived.

He said he was going to make sure that all my food was satisfactory. And he picked my brains about what was wrong with everything.

Cold greasy aubergine stack.

Cold greasy aubergine stack.

 

I had an aubergine stack to start. It was cold and greasy.

Off Justine marched to the kitchen with it, returning with a fresh one.

Suddenly the light went brighter, the napkin waving started, and the waiters started to dance with the passengers!

The whole atmosphere lifted, as we all agreed.

My duck arrived, with a sticky sort of rice. But it was HOT!

M said, the whole atmosphere had changed, and even the food tasted better.

But oh dear, that was the only day!

Perhaps the chef had the night off.

Jam-packed bars.

Jam-packed bars.

FRIDAY

La Spezia.

I told John that we were going to go on a trip to somewhere!

We hadn’t booked anything on the ship as we didn’t trust them with our credit card.

A trip to Pisa was 69 euros on the ship. But just off the ship in the port, it cost us 30 euros. We had a great day!

The food was a disaster again.

More tough meat & mash.

More tough meat & mash.

We all had veal. It was tough stewing steak, curled up and inedible.

Justine had delivered mine to make sure it was hot. He looked in horror at all our plates. Then he picked up mine and marched off to the kitchen.

He came back and told me that the chef had argued, and Justine had said, ‘YOU eat it!’

Then the chef had condemned the whole lot before the 2nd sitting.

I never found out what the next lot were given instead!

We had to put our cases in the corridor by 1am and be out by 8am the next day.

As we needed to try and get some sleep, we put them outside at 11pm. But we were really worried as kids were haring up and down.

But we could have put them out at 1am as everywhere was so noisy.

We were woken at 6.15 with yelling kids, banging doors and scraping chairs on balconies.

The following morning, there was a bill for 119 euros for hotel services!

It had to be paid before we left.

We were meeting in a bar at 10 and leaving at 11.

The waitress was cleaning the ladies’ loos, then she went back to serve drinks.

The couple who we travelled down with were supposed to be on our flight home. But there was no sign of them. And we hadn’t seen them at all since we arrived.

We’ve got a feeling that they might have left in disgust. We were tempted!

As we left the boat, a lorry was delivering to the ship. On the side it said in English, When you ask for veal you get a concept.

I’ve just looked up Concept in my dictionary. It’s

A general notion; an abstract idea. An idea or invention to help sell or publicise a commodity.

Make of that what you will!

We all read about the terrible Costa Concordia disaster. Well, if the Costa Diadema got into trouble, many people would be crushed to death in the stampede. There are too many passengers and too little space or control.

Quite honestly, it was dangerous just getting some food or a hot drink!

We’ve applied for a complete refund, plus compensation.

I also told Justine that I’m perfectly willing to offer my services as a consultant to sort out their mess.

The first thing they’ve got to do is to stop being so greedy and grabbing.

As Samuel Taylor Coleridge said in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink!

You even have to pay for a Pepsi!

You even have to pay for a Pepsi!

 

 

 

 

About Lyn

LYN FUNNELL CV (well, sort of!) Lyn had very successful careers as an Air Hostess, Sales Rep, (she was one of only a couple of women. She beat all the men regularly, becoming the Top Rep in the UK, and 2nd in the world.) And then Catering took over. She did everything from the washing-up, to Silver Service Waitress, and Chef. A few times, she had to cook the meal, dash round the other side and Silver Serve it! In between all this, she wrote as often as she could, building up a reputation as a published short story writer, (Horror and a twist in the tale,) and a Poet. She has appeared as a Performing Poet, and a Demo Chef. Then she discovered the world of the Food & Travel Writer. And that’s what she has continued doing to this day. Her main hobbies are Cookery and entering Competitions. She has won many prizes, including holidays and a moped. She enjoys entering Competitions, submitting her original recipes. She was first in many Competitions, including the Good Housekeeping Millenium Menu, Fruits of France, Bernard Matthews Turkey Recipe, and appeared on BBC’s The One Show Spag Bol contest. She was one of three Finalists, coming 2nd, which makes her Britain’s Spag Bol Queen! Now she runs B-C-ing-U! and loves it! After several years of being messed around by Editors, and having loads of contacts, Lyn formed her own online Magazine, vowing to treat her writers fairly, and to do everything possible to further their careers, publicise their books, etc. She now has a band of excellent regular writers, and the Magazine’s going from strength to strength! Lyn’s online published books; Adverse Camber A collection of my published poems. The First Book of Short Stories The Second Book of Short Stories The Third Book of Short Stories. Many of these stories have been previously published. St Anthony of Padua. The Patron St of the Old. A story of one woman’s terrible ordeal in a Home, and her family’s rescue of her. The Girl Who Watched. A Cuban girl is attacked by an English journalist & what follows! Willy the Whizz & the Wormhole. Suitable for Young Adults, aged 15-95! Get Out Of Debt And Stay Out – Forever! Unsympathetic, hard-hitting, realistic solutions to your problems. All these books are published by Andrews UK Ltd www.andrewsuk.com No, I didn’t pay them to Vanity Publish! They’re all available from Amazon, and many other online publishers. LYN FUNNELL.