Slow Boat to Sicily

10 Jul

Stuart’s peripheral vision at speed is not yet 100 per cent so we cancelled the motorcycle purchase for our tour of Sicily and Sardinia but stuck with our route, the 793km ferry journey from Genova to Palermo. We booked the Grandi Navi Veloci ferry line and our impressive white and blue vessel, the Excelsior, is captained by Master P. Mendozza and a fully Italian crew. As foot passengers we needed only a one hour check-in before departure. The 9pm scheduled departure time came and went and it was 9:25pm before we pulled away from the quay. No explanation given for the delay. TII. (This Is Italy)

After several ferry crossings from the UK to the continent and from Corsica to Marseilles we consider ourselves old hands at sea, however an Italian ferry proved rather different. Every adult seems to have at least one small child and a pet dog. Dogs, that should have been in their cages in the special hold, roam the decks with their owners, barking at each other and at nothing. The noise ricochets and magnifies. Children run amok. At 22 knots with calm seas our crossing takes 20 hours. Plenty of time for parents, children and dogs to become fractious and they do. Thankfully the baby in the cabin next door stopped crying by 10pm. After the late English language movie in the auditorium we slept then spent a lazy day in our cabin eating, reading and dozing, only interrupted by repetitive, strident public announcements in Italian, English and French every fifteen minutes.

Many passengers booked a seat for the trip which means they either sleep upright or find a place to doss on the floor. Others don’t even have a seat and we see them sleeping on deck chairs or blow up lilos in any available space. A new announcement is made instructing passengers not to hold deck chairs by putting items on them. Pet owners are ordered to restrict the time they have their dogs out of their carry cases. Complaints have been made. The food and drinks seem reasonably priced but most families have brought half the contents of their fridge and the eating and drinking is non-stop.

Now however all passengers have been ordered to vacate their cabins and find a place to park themselves for the next two and a half hours until we dock. We retreat to the relative peace of the closed cafetaria but it’s not long before hordes of families join us and the decibel level goes through the roof. Time for ear plugs and relocation close to the exit deck. I can make out the undulating island coastline and the port of Palermo. We are excited and not a little nervous. This is Sicily!

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