TROTTINGS = Trip Jottings

The Fox Trots: Travel Stories from The Fox.


Trottings; sailing Genoa-Palermo.

Herein is my story on my 20-hours crossing in January on the high Mediterranean seas. (Er, that’s me and the other 1000 passengers, 150 vehicles, 10 giant trucks, 20 dogs, and probably a guinea pig or two.)


Start reasonably well, although the boarding-location of the company, GNV (Grandi Navi Veloci), was not clearly marked in comparison with some others – such as the MSC cruise line. Cold windy wet night as vehicles waited two hours in line. Lots of stairs (six levels) to climb to reach our floor. There are lifts, but superbly inadequate for a ship this size – two, each with space for about six with no baggage – so that generally means maximum four people.


Cabin good and well equipped with four berths, but too warm and no temperature control in the room, and windows not openable of course.


We had booked three meals (dinner breakfast lunch) for the crossing, and the self-service cafeteria closed for dinner about 2330 (many of the timings for many things were different from those announced or written or given by crew members). Our limitations were (two breads, one starter, etc) were somewhat complicated to follow, but not a problem.


I did not visit the ship, but there was live music in the bar area. And one a-la-carte restaurant.


One floor up was what was called Fido Park, an external area for dogs to pee and pooh. I think in the summer this is an open deck area as there were also shower points here. Also kennels on this level for passengers who had not booked a cabin.


I am surprised. GNV has been considerate enough to provide a (large) space for dogs. But there were no plastic bags for owners to scoop their own dogs’ pooh. The ship’s crew did that. How often I don’t know. I never saw this taking place although the Park was not full of pooh so either dogs hold back, or it is cleaned every 2/3 hours. I doubt it, but maybe.


At night, lighting of this area is poor. Dogs are smart enough to avoid stepping in other dogs’ pooh, but owners are not so smart. And if I step into some, and then return to the ship, then I spread pooh on to the carpets. Also, the fact that it is a pee-pooh area is not clearly marked, and so there are some passengers just taking a walk, and not looking where they walk.


So, GNV needs to:


-Reduce park area for poohing, but leave the current size for walking.

-Provide square soil-filled area for poohing – 5x5m would be big enough.

-Provide plastic bags for pooh-collecting by owners.

-Improve lighting (in fact there is none; the light comes from other lights), and add/improve signage.


Ok, enough of the dogs.


As we neared Palermo, announcement said we would be arriving at 1900 (schedule was 2000, crew said 1830), and that we had to vacate our cabin with baggage by 1700!


But we were not allowed access to our vehicle, and so we and all passengers had to gather in the public area. There was seating for about 10 people, and so the rest were sitting on the floor, on the stairs; everywhere. Organised chaos.


In summer it must be big un-organised chaos – there are nearly 600 cabins and the ship handles just under 3000 passengers!


Worse, we did not arrive at 1900 as announced, but around 1950, and the ship had stopped moving for about 10 minutes before we were allowed to access our vehicles.


During this time – three hours – there was no public announcement until the one saying we could go.


I presume this procedure follows GNV’s operational rules, and not the whim of our crew. And so I presume the reason they wanted us out of the cabins so early was so that they could prepare them for the outward journey (which I believe was 2330 – 3h30m after we arrived. Some advice then:


-Use Palermo-based workers to prepare the cabins on arrival. A big-number team working hard for two hours.

-If that is not possible (it is possible, so the reason would be financial if GNV uses another system), then vacate the cabins in rotation, so that not everybody piles into the public areas. For instance, our cabin might not have been worked last, around 2000, so why leave at 1700?

-Allow people to wait in, say, the cafeteria (which was closed during this time!), and provide or offer some beverages, or even some other food. That would result in more satisfied customers, and more revenue for GNV.


When we were finally allowed access to our vehicles, the ship emptied in a remarkably quick time – about 15mins. Yet another reason to reduce or change that ridiculous 3-hour wait sitting on the floor with baggage – and thus not easy to move.


GNV sails from financial crisis to financial crisis. It has had almost constant changes in ownership or capital input – substantial ones in 2004, 2011, 2012, 2013. My experience indicates management is incompetent – although I would presume working with ships’ crews would make it difficult to introduce efficiencies.


One of its CEOs, who left in 2010, Silvano Cassano, has just had an unhappy period as Alitalia CEO, August 2014-September 2015.


After my experience with GNV, the company will go under in the next three years – hopefully not when I am on board!



The Fox

Trottings = Trip Jottings