Thursday 19 January 2012

Costa packet, probably

My goodness, that scurrilous Schettino, captain of the liner Costa Concordia, is such a cliché Italian coward that he's single-handedly revived all those old wartime jokes like the Italian flag being a white cross on a white background, and Italian tanks having four reverse gears and one forward in case of attack from behind. So thank goodness for the doughty coastguard captain Gregorio De Falco, ripping into him in such a robust fashion: the man's a hero, and more than cancels Schettino out.

From the details that are emerging of the organisation of the ship, and even its design, Italian cruisers are going to struggle to recover from such bad publicity - but the one I've travelled on, the Silversea ship Silver Whisper, was excellent. Small but perfectly-formed, it carried only 382 passengers, so it was nothing like the vast white bricks - like the Concordia and worse - that seem to be the trend these days, where you could spend a week without sighting the sea. We got on in Hong Kong, a splendid port to sail from, and were cosseted and pampered for the following week until we left the ship, reluctantly, in Shanghai - also an impressive port to sail into, which we could, being so svelte, right into the centre past all those extraordinary buildings.

The captain was Italian, not that we saw much of him, but the cruise director, whom we did, was too, and had such a comically thick accent that the Trivial Pursuit afternoons were especially challenging as we struggled not just to think of the answers, but to decipher the questions in the first place.To hear him mangle Don Quixote into 'donkey shoty' was to be totally flummoxed. But it was all good fun, and the ship was so friendly and luxurious, and the food so good, and the complimentary wine bottomless, and the bed so superbly comfortable, I would happily cruise nel modo italiano again - as long as it was with Silversea. So how pleasing that in a couple of weeks I'll be having lunch on board a sister ship, Silver Shadow, when it visits Auckland. And what a bummer, that directly afterwards I'll have to disembark again.

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