Cruising the West Coast of Africa
We went on a Silversea Silver Cloud cruise up the coast of West Africa recently. We went to 6 countries to be exact. There are basically 3 questions people ask you when they hear you have been to “Africa.” Question # 1- Did you go on a Safari (or did you see any “big game” animals- as both are basically asking the same thing.) Question #2- Why in the world did you choose to go there, of all places. Question # 3-Were you worried about Pirates.
No, we weren’t on a safari, nor did we see any big game animals. That takes place more in central or east Africa. What we saw most of were goats, pigs, chickens and cats, because all of those animals roamed freely- and abundantly – through every village and city we were in. We did see some good sized monkeys swinging through some trees one of the days while we were riding in the bus.
In Morocco we saw some camels at a Bedouin camp, and also just roaming around in the middle of the desert. In Marrakesh we saw few snakes, which were being “charmed” for the sake of tourist. The snake charmers were scarier than the snakes. You’ve got to watch out for those guys- they don’t want to let you go without getting the big bucks out of you!
Other than that little menagerie, no “big game” stuff. No lions, or tigers, elephants or giraffes. Wrong neighborhood for them.
Why we chose to go to West Africa is another story. My man had broken his foot last fall, right after we moved into our new house. (Great timing on his part, I have to say- thank you very much!) He was bored to death, and started looking into places he’d never traveled, and trips that would get him closer to his goal of 100 countries. A “luxury cruise” up the west coast of Africa came up in his search, and next thing I knew, we were going to West Africa. So, question number is now answered.
Was West Africa on the top of my bucket list of travel? Heaven’s no! However, if you know me, you also know I’m always up for any adventure, and always up to try the unusual. So- when Don asked if I’d go on the trip, I gave a resounding yes…….
Captain Phillips, Here we Come!
As soon as we mentioned a boat, and Africa the question of safety and pirates came up constantly. After all, who hadn’t seen Captain Phillips, right? So, of course, we asked our cruise line, Silverseas, if pirates were a possibility or concern. The question was poo-pooed- and we were told that pirate activity is on the east side of Africa and we had nothing to worry about. WHEW!
Silly Americans! We don’t even know where the pirates hang out in Africa. Tsk, tsk, tsk…….
So, onward and upward we went with our plans for our trip. We decided to tack on a trip to Amsterdam to see the tulips on our way to Akkra, Ghana. Thank God, because if we hadn’t I wouldn’t have found that great shop with the fantastic 1940’s style dance dresses…….. (Good thing I brought that extra duffel, because it was filled up on day 3 of the 23 day trip!)
My prior cruising experience has been on the uber-large cruise ships. Norwegian Cruise Line, Holland, Costa- and yes, I’ll even admit to Carnival- back in the day! Don has only done small “expedition” type of ships. This cruise, on the Silversea Silver Cloud was to have approximately 200 passengers.
The “luxury cruise” part of the trip had me from Hello. Unfortunately, the “luxury” provided didn’t add up to the cost of the cruise in ever-so-many ways………..
But I digress…….
As we pulled up to the port (after a rocky start and less than impressive trip to the ship), Don noticed that the back of the ship had large bars added across the back deck where the enormous water cannons were. Water cannons? Why would the ship need water cannons? We thought that perhaps the ship goes to other areas where pirates might be a concern……..
So, blithely we boarded the ship.
And, as with all cruises, muster is the first order of business on all ships. A lovely letter awaited us when we entered our suite, telling us when muster was to take place, and how focused Silversea was on making our voyage special, personalized, pampering, blah, blah, blah….
Off to muster we went. Then the ship left dock. After familiarizing ourselves with the ship, we went back to our suite, to find another letter………… informing us that we were in a “high risk area for piracy
If you are of my age group, you will remember Saturday Night Live, and church lady from years ago. Can’t you just hear Dana Carvey saying “How conveeeeenient!” ( Not to mention the following line- “Who made you do it, was it the Devil?”)
How conveeeeenient that the second letter was given to us JUST AFTER we left port! And worse- it stated that the “enhanced measures” were in effect from April 8-14. THREE DAYS BEFORE WE BOARDED THE SHIP!
These assholes knew for 3 days before we got on that Captain Kidd, Blackbeard and Henry Morgan were in the ‘hood, and didn’t bother to tell us? Holy shit. Are you kidding me?
Then the letter went on in explicit detail telling us how to handle the possible boarding and takeover by pirates. My favorite line was, “in the rare event that pirates succeed to board the vessel, do not panic, and do as they say.”
Roger that. I am going to stay as friggin’ as calm as a clam. Yessiree! Ahoy there mateys- nothing to worry about. I’ve seen Captain Phillips. These are reasonable people……….
Silversea- what in the name of all that is normal is wrong with you people?
Where is Johnny Depp When You Need Him?
Not only are we dealing with totally unreasonable people with pirates in the African waters, none of them remotely begin to look like Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow. There is just no upside to these pirates at all. Just sayin’.
For the next 4 evenings we were told we had to keep our curtains to our decks drawn and not to open the sliding doors. This was mighty convenient, as the AC was also not working on the ship, and we were in near 100 degree heat………..
If THIS doesn’t all spell out “luxury cruise”- I don’t know what does!
In the public areas of the ship, every curtain was buttoned up as tightly as a nun’s va-j-j. Where there weren’t draperies, the windows were covered with paper and duct tape. And the decks and outdoor restaurant were closed down. No “romantic strolls” around the deck were taking place here folks! I felt like I was in London during the second world war blitz attacks.
Again, I know I am repeating myself here, but if THIS doesn’t all spell out “luxury cruise”- I don’t know what does!
Another great tip pointed out in the letter was that if the pirates were to approach the ship, and/or board, we were to go to the common areas of the ship and get down with our hands over our heads. Fuck that shit- I’m hiding under my damned bed and hope they don’t check there for me. I figure that these pirates probably aren’t into doing a lot of work, or they’d have more upstanding jobs. Maybe they aren’t going to look under all 100+ beds, right? But go hide out in the open- with my hands over my head? Are you kidding me? I’m going to come out and line up for the machine gun rally? Come on, I’m smarter than I look! (I’d have to be, or they wouldn’t let me out alone….. But again, I digress.)
Every Day is an Adventure!
Now I realize that earlier I stated I am usually up for any adventure. I’ve jumped out of planes. I’ve zip-lined. I’ve snorkeled and dived. I’ve bungee jumped. I’ve married a variety of men. I’ve had children….. the list of adventures goes on and on.
However, in all those cases, these were experiences that I had preplanned for. The adrenaline spike is because of the thrill of a “controlled” thrill. One that most people live through. One that has safety parameters built into it.
Not friggin’ PIRATES! I never signed up for PIRATES!
So, for the first 4 evenings of our “luxury cruise”, while sweating like I was in an Indian Sweat lodge, with my drapes and balcony window buttoned up tightly, I wondered if I would live to see the good ol’ US of A!
There ain’t NOTHIN’ that spells luxury like that folks!
Captain Boczek’s last lines of his letter left me feeling calm, “special and highly personalized” (refer back to letter #1)… “Your safety is of paramount importance for us at Silversea…..”
Really? Really? My safety is of such utmost importance to Silversea that they didn’t tell me about my tryout for a role in Pirates of the Caribbean before the ship set sail? THAT’S how paramount my safety was to Silversea!
That all being said, I guess we can add a few jackasses to the list of animals previously noted. But they were all on board our ship, wearing nautical costumes!
As you can probably decipher from this post, we did make it out of Africa alive. No pirate boarding or takeovers.
You might have also figured out that I am not going to be the head cheerleader for Silversea! Oh hell no! I wish the pirate fiasco and the lack of AC was our only issues on this “luxury liner”, but no…… those were just the tip of the larger-than-hit-the-Titanic iceberg. I’m not even going to mention the numerous small items, like Don finding a shard of glass in his lunch one day. We’ll overlook those “little annoyances.”
Silversea asked for feedback on the cruise, which I provided. Over 6 weeks ago. Then followed up 2 weeks later- to make sure they had received it. Then again 2 weeks ago again. No response in any way. Not even a form “we received your letter and someone will get back to you” canned response! The last time around we even spoke to Ricardo who booked our cruise, made him aware of our letters, and resent the correspondence to him directly. He promised he would “pass it on to his supervisors.” That was 2 weeks ago, with no follow up from anyone.
I’m sure I’m not being ignored. I think I’ve figured out the problem. PIRATES! The pirates probably boarded a Silversea ship which had a company meeting going on with all of the customer service personnel, the head honchos and the marketing people, and they are being held hostage RIGHT NOW!
Someone contact the authorities, and send out a search and rescue team!
Meanwhile, I’ll stick to my “non luxury” cruise lines, and I can get 12 -15 cruises for the money one Silversea cruise cost! (Not to mention, I’ll have AC in my cabin!)
_______________________________________________I had to add on a little “follow up” addendum to this story. While writing it, I sent a second email to our Silversea representative, Ricardo, telling him how disgusted I was with their company’s total lack of customer service. I will admit, this particular email was not full of unicorns, flowers and glitter. No, I wasn’t really my most nice on this round. I did mention in it that I now submitted a review on my experience to cruise critic and that I was now in the process of writing an article for my lifestyle blog regarding Silversea and their Silver Cloud ship.
Miracles DO happen folks! Yessiree! Amazingly enough within a few days I actually received communication from Silversea’s Guest Relations department. They apologized for the lack of response, stating that my original emails were “caught in their spam system.” OK, hold on here Frank…….. may I call you Frank, Mr. Sansone? You are going to tell me that Silversea- a large corporation, has a customer service email system, which you ask passengers to send their feedback to (email@example.com) and when they do, it goes into your spam folder? Now THAT is a clever way to set things up! Very helpful to all involved……. Of course there was no explanation as to why my letter to Ricardo hadn’t been responded to for over 2 weeks at this point either…….. hmmmmmmm. Maybe their employees letters ALSO go to spam. Again, a clever and efficient way to run things.
So, that all being said, with his effusive apologies- well, kinda- sorta’- this following line of the letter threw me off a bit- “We appreciate your candor in evaluating your experience aboard Silver Cloud which we anticipate will stand out in a positive way in terms of service and product.” Perhaps something was lost in the translation of my letters when Frank read them, because I would think it apparent to all involved that Silversea, indeed did NOT stand out in a positive way in terms of service and product….. Oh my. Consistant. At least they are consistent…..
So, in the end, what Frank offered us was some credit on a future cruise, an amount which is basically equivalent to an upgrade from one class of cabin to the next level. SERIOUSLY Frank? Oh, and the other detail is that we must use that oh-so-generous credit for travel within the next two years. I’m pretty certain that we will be getting our calendars right out and check which of the Silversea cruises are going to fit in our travel schedule. Or………..maybe not.
And last, but certainly not least- the following video has nothing to do with the idiots at Silversea, or even me- but after my rant I thought you deserved a bit of fun- so watch this great video of a young man who has been to every country in the world (how does he do that at this young age?). He shares some cute little ditty about every one of the countries he’s been to- because…….. as I always say- Every Day is an Adventure!