Adonis Diaries

Experience on the Orient Queen cruise to Turkey (Alanya): Not a Queen wa la ballout

Posted on: October 4, 2019

Experience on the Orient Queen cruise to Turkey (Alanya): Not a Queen wa la ballout

I read an ad for 2 cruises to Cyprus on the last week of September. Since I have never been to any sea cruise, I decided to try one, and experience a “5 star hotel on the sea” and check if I get seasick.

It turned out you need paperwork to submit to a visa that cost $60 for a 7-hour landing. It was Not my cup of tea, since I have already visited Cyprus before and I didn’t like it that much.

Fortunately, the Orient Queen was also going to Turkey (Alanya city) for a 3-day cruise and No visa required, and that clenched the deal.

Sure, as I am single on that cruise I had to caught up $100 more for a room (a total of $450). And I was allocated a room on deck 6, instead of the underground deck 4, where many felt seasick. And with a western-side window that looks on just the vast sea.

The climbing on the cruise was facilitated by the security services and it was quick (should I be suspicious of any wrong-doing?)

Well, the cruise aligned half a dozen girls in Brazilian attire. I can’t remember that I saw them again or if they danced in an event that I failed to attend. In any case, here they were lined up with the Captain for the farewell.

The food service was done by Egyptian males (sofraji). The front desk was catered by Egyptian males. The casino was handled by a Russian girl and 2 Ukrainian girls. The bars were attended by Indonesians. My section for room service was allocated to a Ukrainian girl and an Indonesian male.

Our passports were hoarded, and when I read in my room that the passport will Not be returned until our room service was paid at the end of the cruise, I got furious. I recalled all these facts and stories of foreign workers in the Gulf and Saudi Kingdom, and house maid in Lebanon for keeping passport.

And then someone offered me a convincing reason: it is all about Schengen procedure so that no customer will jump ship once landing in Turkey and getting lost. Though this reason is very convincing, my gut feeling is that the higher echelons in management have a mean spirited streak of humiliating their clients, by anyway they possess. Apparently, a routine they “nailed down” since 2005.

And this gut feeling was supported by the many successive indignities we suffered throughout the experience, this feeling of trying to “milk the ant” for any profit margin that the management was ordered to cash in.

My first decision was to tour the facilities of the ship.

I located a miniature, a hole of (5 by 3 meter) swimming pool. I discarded this fact, wishing to find another larger swimming pool. That’s was it, and had to deal with, and all my expectations went downhill since then, and nothing elevated my spirit, no matter how I tried for positive attitudes.

There were 2 sizable Jacuzzi at the other end (tribor, babor, babour…), each welcoming 4 persons and pretty good.

At lunch, I was allocated a table for 5 persons, older people and none with wives on board, and for the entire duration. These persons spent their time in the casino, nothing else for them to waste time on. One of them who patronized this cruise 5 years ago claimed the food was much better. These guys can sense the onset of seasickness and take the appropriate pill.

I told them that I was allocated a cabin with a window on deck 6 because I was found funny. One of them tersely replied: “all cabins on deck 6 have windows”.

I cannot recollect having looked out the window more than twice for a few seconds, but the cabin was flooded with natural light in the afternoon, a great setting for leisurely reading in a cool place, though I was denied that luxury the last day, since we were ordered to vacate the cabin at 3 pm.

Once, as I made friends and they invited me to join them at their table, the server said: “Please, please“. Kind of not willing to serve an additional client.

Nevertheless, the Egyptians are fine waiters and quick funny. One of the elder on the table was dozing off, waiting for his desert, and the waiter said: “bjeblak battaniyeh?”

I realized that the liquor servers (serving anything liquid), allocated to particular set of tables, were meek and worried that any clients might get totally frustrated and brutal with them for “selling water“. Worst, tiny slices of breads were “counted” for each table: no way to demand more bread.

I distributed tips for these liquor servers without ordering anything, just to send them the message: “I feel with your predicament“. Actually, I learned to give tips before receiving the service: it works and performance follows.

In the afternoon, the nasty sound of the emergency alarm lasted for a long time. I told myself: “hopefully, they are Not going to make it a habit to test our readiness.” And then I heard persistent banging on my door. I was to get out and bring my life-jacket with me and join everybody in the restaurant of deck 6.

On the couch, a saw a scared beautiful young girl, her head all wrapped tight with several layers of veils, and looking at me as if I were a cruise pro. She asked me: “What is going on?”. I replied: “Probably, they are going to throw us overboard to test which safety jackets are still functional”. Her face turned grey and I resumed: “Maybe not now. They’ll go through the routine of describing the safety measures to take when the alarm sounds next time”. She was Not convinced.

Her roommate girl was pale and in a phased out attitude. She did bring her safety jacket but didn’t wear it. I said to her: “As for you, you failed the test. You didn’t wear the jacket. Probably, they’ll select you to throw overboard for punishment”. It turned out she was already feeling seasick.

Then followed a description of the various tours when we land on Alanya as taken from the photo on my mobile:

  1. Shopping tour, 4.5 hrs, at $15
  2.  Jeep Safari 4 hrs, at $35
  3. Shuttle to Cleopatra Beach, at $20
  4. paragliding experience 3 hrs at $90
  5. Diving experience 3 hrs at $70
  6. Turkish bath 3 hrs at $50
  7. Dolphin show 3 hrs at $40

Most of these activities I had in Sherm al Sheikh and the dolphin show I watched in Disney Land in Orlando. And I set my mind to subscribe to Cleopatra beach.

I asked the front desk for Internet connection on the ship. We had to pay $25 for our mere two days, another harsh let down from how this ship is run. It then that I met the seasick girl at front desk and she told me: “moush merta7a“.

The clerk brought her a piece of bread on a platter and said: “Since you vomited, you stomach is empty. eating this bread will improve your state”. I was doubtful because I surmised that eating is the nastiest activity for seasick people. I said: “On checking deck 8, I discovered a door marked “Hospital” and I may show her the way”. The clerk didn’t appreciate my joke.

I put to practice the navy gait, legs spread wide. I wondered “why they promote alcoholic drinks if people are unable to walk straight?”

In the evening I decided to do the best of what’s available and got dizzy swimming dozen of times, back and forth, the “lengths” of this miniature pool. People looked at me saying: “That’s a wonderful kid, enjoying himself by any means”

Once, I was smoking with a heavy smoker acquaintance on the deck of the pool and he said: “this is a nasty smell”. I said “you mean the smell of cigarette?” He replied: “No the burned smell of oil from the turbine exhaust of the ship”. It is then that I smelt it and from then on I spent my time on the other side of the ship, where everybody gathered when we were arriving to the port of Beirut.

Actually, it is on this side of the ship on the last hour that attempted small chats with the gathered people and how they felt about this experience.

People pass-time was to set up arghili (hookah) around this swimming pool for $14.

The Orient Queen arranged for 5 buses to take the customers to various sites in Alanya, one of them to the “famous” Cleopatra beach where it is claimed that Cleopatra did swim long time ago. I have been told this beech stretches for a mile and the sand were imported from South Africa.

I thought of signing up for this trip, but the weather condition changed to rainy day, and I was happy I didn’t sign up (I would have lost my money, since there would be no refund).

I was also lucky Not to sign up on time for a meeting with the Captain on deck 7. One of my table companion told me that they take a group photo for $20 for the cruise promotion.

I was the last person to step out of the ship and had the lunch room all for myself. An experienced woman attendant in front desk filled me with details: most of these sites can be reached cheaply by public transport, and most of them are actually at walking distance.

At 2 pm, I descended the ship and boarded a City Tour “train”, kind of a car remorking two children trains at 10 TL or less than $2. This tour lasted 45 minutes and we passed the Cleopatra beech, the bazaar, the teliferic , and many adjacent main roads. Nothing to it. New acquaintances told me they borrowed bicycles and electric motto to tour the city.

Apparently, none of the groups were happy with their guides or the tours: they ended up taking taxis to return to the ship. And it poured cats and dogs for hours until 10 pm, and they arrived totally drenched.

Not only the “tourists” were drenched but the ship was “drenched and leaking” from everywhere. The employees were exhausted collecting the leaks and disposing dozens of buckets. A few cabins were leaking too.

I had arrived at 4:30 and it was drizzling: I was tired of walking to the bazaar and buying unnecessary clothes to the female members of my clan: we have so many unworn cloths that are taking so much spaces in our closets and cannot get rid of them. Suffice to say that I bought an “Alanya sherwal“, just because the lady was dynamic and wouldn’t desist from showing me what her shop hold. And I laughing my heart out for her activities, she even shortened one of the 3abaya for mother.

That rainy day and night might have hurt the profit margin of the cruise, since no one could venture outside on the upper deck to “enjoy” an arghili or have a drink… Maybe this is one reason management forced on the customers an additional $10 for room service?

There were no outside exits to have a smoke, but I discovered an exit under a tiny shelter facing the pool. A good looking woman wearing one of the headgear, promoted by “Princess” Moza of Qatar, wanted to displace the huge sound buffer from under the heavy rain, and the employees were afraid of being electrocuted if they touch the cable, but the cable was long enough to move the buffer under the shelter..

In hindsight, I observed 3 ladies wearing this kind of headgear, in white or black, and I conjectured that maybe a minority “Muslim” sect is using it overseas. Actually, one lady was very “classy” in her behavior, her attire and the soft way she eats and talk on her table. I conjectured that she might be a foreigner. And she turned out to be from Damascus and refused to talk but in “Arabic”, though she understood English and appreciated my compliment.

The day of our arrival to Beirut, we were ordered to vacate our cabins at 3 pm in order to prepare the room for the next trip on the same night. Thus, we were left outside for 5 hours and we were denied swimming towels.

I met people at one of the Jacuzzi and they said it is “fresh water” (thus no need for me to take a shower afterward) and they told me to ask the front desk for towels. Not only the front desk does Not deliver anything, they don’t even carry small changes for tips.

But I hoarded a Jacuzzi all for myself for an hour and watched people sweating and totally bored.

I waited for the lines in front desk to dwindle, paying for their room service before getting their passport back. The main sticky point was why charging $30 instead of $20 as stipulated in writing? One of the lady claimed that she has already paid upfront $30 for room service and she had to wait until this problem is resolved (the clerk said they had no direct commutation with headquarter in Beirut, and I assume the Captain is in charge of all decisions on board?)

I did my best in these long line to dissipate the accumulating anger and was trying to be calm and funny with Ibrahim. I even suggested to him whether I can bring him a sandwich for the long haul (as if this cruise has bread for sandwiches).

I met with my table companions around a table around 5 pm: the casino was closed and they had no idea what to do next. I ordered a large water bottle and a non-alcoholic beer. The barman said that I ordered the last beer and (may be the single such beer he received for his reserves). Actually, not a single bar on the ship ever admitted having beer sh3eer.

I will always be grateful for this barman for showing me the closest of WC, otherwise I would have been in big trouble, for the countless times I used it within 2 hours.

Before leaving ship, I passed by the Free Market room to buy a few bottles. And it was closed: al jomrok came and closed it. Why we were Not warned of these khouza3balaat?

It was a mere 2 nights on the cruise and most of the “tourists” I talked to said they cannot count on them for a repeat.

I wonder how the “tourists” handled 7 days on this cruise, touring the Greek islands. I conjecture that a few committed suicide at landing, out of total disgust: they quit Lebanon for an “honorable” vacation and they received the same kind of crap of indignities and humiliation as the Lebanese State extended to them in the last 3 decades.

Note 1: My note to Pamela in my first reaction to how I felt in this cruise:

Hola Pamela. I miss your smile. I wish you stayed in the cruise to observe and feel the indignities, frustration and humiliation of the clients and the service personnel.

I waited till the end of your last cruise to Cyprus to avoid you further exacerbation and headache from overseeing the last cruise.

I write reports of my experiences and impressions and post them on my blog adonis49@wordpress.com. If you care, I might send you a link, in due time.

Ya 3ammi, add upfront what it takes for standard room service charge (supposedly to repay the employees?), all you can drink water and eat bread, and swimming towels.

Ya 3ammi, add extra for non-alcoholic beverages, including non-alcoholic beer sha3eer and save the clients and the service personnel the hassle, the rebuke and humiliation in long waiting lines. And attach the appropriate bracelet around the wrist of clients.

What is the purpose of kicking us out of our cabin at 3 pm when the arrival time is estimated at 8 pm? And denying us swimming towels too? We pay for vacation and Not to submit to more frustration.

I will consider your explanations for my article, specifically what kinds of procedures you intend of “reforming” since 2005.

Note 2: My reply to the note of Hana Abu Mer3i, operating manager

Hi Hana: just quick few replies since I’ll be writing an exhaustive article on my experience on this cruise.

In the print it was said $20 service charge per person and not $30. A family of 4 had to caught up $40 additional charges.
I was practically kicked out of my cabin and was Not allowed to retake my swimming towel in order to spend a few hours waiting for arrival
The liquor service people meekly approach our tables at lunch and dinner, sort of worried that someone will pick up a tantrum for selling them water
I doubt that you ever reconsidered your procedures and  rules since 2005.
I was under the impression that there was an underlining mean spirited pleasure to humiliate these “ratesh” paying clients who do Not deserve an honorable and comfortable vacation
It was plainly a succession of various indignities and frustration that added up to a feeling of brutal behavior by the organizers.
In any case, the customer speaks louder: the dozen of clients I talked to were adamant that they will Not be repeat client to Abumer3i cruise.
At least the cabin was decent and plenty of hot water for showers

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adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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