What Went Wrong: Cruising Edition

Plus size blogger The Owlet watching cruise ships in Torquay

Hey Owlets,

In my last instalment of “What Went Wrong While Travelling” I said I had a huge list of cruise related things to chat about, so I thought we’d make part three into a “What Went Wrong While Cruising”. As with the previous two instalments I’m not saying that what I did was necessarily the best option in that situation, and yes I was an idiot at times. If you’re a more experienced traveller than me then you’re probably thinking I’m an idiot for some of the experiences I’ve shared, but we all have to start somewhere and the only way to learn is by trying your best and making mistakes. Having said that, feel free to have a laugh at my expense!

MV Marco Polo Cruise Ship in Avonmouth, Bristol

The Cheapest Cruise Ever

If you’ve followed my blog or Instagram for a while you’ll be familiar with Marco Polo - she’s one of the oldest ships still in service today, and while she’s beautiful she shows her age in places! I happened to find a Christmas cruise to Cobh on board Marco Polo for £23 per night, and really are you going to turn that down? We booked out of total curiosity for what we might get and got ready for a “unique experience”. Even as I write this I’m laughing to myself, as the experience that followed was more “faulty towers” than “epic cruise line luxury” but it was so bad you just had to go with it and laugh. 

On embarkation day I found I’d been allocated a single cabin on the engine deck. I couldn’t breathe for diesel fumes so asked if I could upgrade. I was told I would have to wait and see, which is fine. I went back to my cabin and figured I’d just try to deal with it. However, as I shut the door to go into the loo the metal cone from the exhaust fell out of the ceiling and skimmed my head. I took this to reception and when I said “sorry, this fell off in my cabin” the receptionist stopped in her tracks for a few seconds before saying they’d found a new cabin for me, at which point they moved me without charging me an upgrade fee (really well handled, I can’t complain at all). 

What I did find funny, however, was the implications of some of the language barriers on board. The receptionist had gotten the numbers confused when she switched my cabin, and wrote down my parents’ cabin. For the next three days we had mechanics (who didn’t speak English that well, which is fine as they’re not usually guest facing so it’s not necessary) knocking on my parents’ cabin door to try to repair their bathroom exhaust. We tried to explain to them that it wasn’t that cabin, but unfortunately the language barrier got in the way and they would just send someone else to my parents’ cabin the next day. In reality I know that the receptionist probably wrote down the wrong cabin number because she was stressed and busy, and I know that the mechanics were trying their best. I totally respect the people who were trying to help us on board, but it was just one of those things where you had to laugh and go with the flow.

This was just one of many funny things that happened on board Marco Polo, which might make you question why I love the ship so much. Quite simply, she’s full of character and history, and even though things went wrong we’ve never laughed so much.

Cruise Ship Promenade Deck on a Sea Day

Cruising During Storm Season

Have you heard the phrase “you pay peanuts, you get monkeys”? There’s always a reason why some cruises seem impossibly cheap - maybe they’ve struggled to sell the cabins, maybe it’s the low season, maybe the cruise line runs on a very tight budget and skimps on the details to allow them to advertise cheap cruises, or (in the case of my cruise) maybe it’s the middle of the stormy season and that’s why the cabins aren’t being sold. If you take a fly cruise then maybe things won’t be too bad but whatever you do heed my warning when I say “DO NOT CRUISE ACROSS THE BAY OF BISCAY IN WINTER”. The bay is notorious for rough seas and bad weather, even in summer, so cruising through the bay in storm season is a terrible idea - don’t do it.

Over the years I have various stories of seasickness and sleepless nights, but nothing quite compares to ringing my boyfriend to tell him I might be stuck in Vigo and not make it back to the UK on time, followed by the worst night I have ever spent on board a cruise ship. 

On my cruise last November we were given a few hours extra in Vigo because of a storm in the Atlantic Ocean. With how bad the weather was in Vigo I shudder to think what the sea would’ve been like if we had left on time. In the early evening we were cleared to leave and despite being a bit wobbly it was fine. However, later that evening was when the fun really started. My cabin was one of the furthest forward (towards the front of the ship if you’re not a cruise-goer) & by 10pm I couldn’t stand up in the cabin. 

My window was repeatedly going underwater or being hit by big waves and, even though I know that the captain would never endanger the ship, it was scary. By midnight it was even worse - I was using the WiFi to call home as the ship was struck by a huge wave. I heard a stomach-turning crash and the lights went out for a few seconds. When they came back on the WiFi was no longer working. Having just told the boyfriend that we were in the middle of a bad storm, the call cut off and I wasn’t able to speak to him until we got within UK waters and I could reach the shoreside phone network. 

That night the sea was so rough that I sat in the atrium until 4am watching TV on my laptop because it was the place in the ship with the least movement. Okay it was a little scary at the time but it was also quite funny. I knew we were safe - if there had been any doubt at all we wouldn’t have left port - but it’s still unnerving to feel so exposed as you watch your cabin go under water for the 5th time in under a minute. 

MV Columbus cruise ship in port in Tenerife

Not doing Enough Research about Ports

I am so annoyed at myself for this one that I feel the need to tell you so you don’t make the same mistake. There are so many times over the years where I’ve turned up to a port, wondered what there is to do, spent all day wandering aimlessly, then arriving home to find some incredible hidden gem that I could’ve visited if I’d done a bit of research. 

I know that some people prefer to just turn up and see what they find - believe me, I was one of these people - but I genuinely feel that holidays are better when you do a little research. Even if you choose not to do everything (or anything!) on your list, it’s good to be able to arrive in port and know what there is available. 

One of my most famous examples here is Bruges. All I knew is it had a lot of chocolate shops and I came away feeling very underwhelmed. I’d found multiple streets lined with gift shops and tourist traps and it felt like that was all there was to do. I even went as far as to put it in my “underwhelming places” blog post and I got SLAUGHTERED! However, in between the angry comments I actually got some useful suggestions of places I could visit next time. It turns out that I had been dropped on the wrong side of town and if I’d just kept walking I would’ve found the more cultural and historical attractions that I find interesting.

If I had done my research I would’ve found out where to go before hand. Granted, I was limited as I didn’t know where the bus was going to drop us off and it was my first time going away from the cruise ship alone so I was a bit nervous to wander too far in case I didn’t get back to the bus in time (you can practically hear my travel anxiety screaming there, can’t you?) but I at least would have known the kind of things to expect to find. Sometimes just winging it does work, but it’s good to have done a little preparation so you have an idea of what to expect.

MV Azura Cruise Ship in Rotterdam Port

Being Honest about my Experiences

This instalment of travel mishaps has been a little serious so I thought we’d end on something more lighthearted. I genuinely can’t tell you the amount of times that I have managed to upset people by sharing my opinion (I know, the gall of me when that’s what my blog is all about!). First of all I angered a group of nearly 5000 loyal Royal Caribbean passengers when I mentioned that I hadn’t particularly enjoyed my last cruise on Independence of the Seas in my “Goodbye Indy” article, which resulted in me being ejected from the group. 

Next, I upset Fred Olsen guests by being honest about my trip (which was lovely for the most part). Moving on, I upset Cruise and Maritime Voyages passengers by admitting that my trip on board Marco Polo wasn’t completely rosy (despite saying I thoroughly enjoyed myself anyway!) and finally, let’s move onto the one that you’ve probably been waiting for - Virgin Voyages. How I managed to anger a group of people about a ship that hasn’t actually seen any paying guests yet, I don’t know, but I managed it.

It’s possible that you’re reading my blog now as a result of my review of Scarlet Lady, as that post absolutely blew up. While the majority of the comments were in support of my total transparency, I also got branded an “entitled influencer who expects the world and moans if she doesn’t get it”. I had weeks of nasty tweets, threatening messages and downright rude comments. It was also suggested that I might like to edit my article, and when I didn’t I was swiftly removed from the PR list but hey, they do say honesty is the best policy! At the end of the day reviewing cruises and other experiences is what I do, and whether you’re a blogger or not, you’re probably going to offend someone who doesn’t agree with you so take everyone’s advice with a pinch of salt and if it sounds like something you might enjoy then take a chance, book the cruise and make your own mind up!

MV Azura Cruise Ship in Rotterdam Port

I hope you enjoyed this instalment of Travel Mishaps. I can’t believe we’re on part 3 already! If you’re new to this series, read part one and part two here, and let me know if you would be interested in a part 4. I’m thinking of something along the lines of press trip mishaps - I know that’s something you might not personally be able to experience, but if you’re just here to enjoy reading stories about me being an idiot rather than to get practical advice, then it’s sure to be an entertaining one! In the meantime - what’s gone wrong for you on a cruise before? The funnier the better- I’d love to hear it!

Love and Feathers, 
 The Owlet 💜 
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