No one was hurt in the making of this episode of “As the tender turns”.
I previously gave you some details about the the tender fiascos as we bounced around trying to get into and out of the ship in some of the ports. Actually, in all of the ports where we tendered. After leaving the last one, Sorrento, pretty much everyone on the ship was relieved that at least we we now going to be tender-free for the last three stops: Rome, Florence and our disembarkation point, Villefranche.
Let me briefly talk about Villefranche. When we booked this cruise, it was advertised as Monte Carlo to Nice. Then a couple of weeks before the cruise, we got a note from Silversea that the cruise had been changed and would now end in Villefranche. This lead to some consternation, as we had booked flights home from Nice airport. So I looked at a map and was relieved to find that Villefranche is basically a suburb of Nice, a few miles away, along the coast. So this was an inconvenience, as we would have to somehow get from Villefranche to Nice to explore, but not that big a deal.
It turns out the opening bid is that it is an €80 deal, as the standard taxi fare between the two towns is €10/person each way.
Then is got more annoying when we all found out that we would have to tender at Villefranche, as there is no cruise ship-capable dock there. And so we would need to use the tenders to get in and out of town. And worse, we would need to use the tenders to disembark with all of our carry-on luggage. That reduces the number of people who can fit in each tender, and elongates the loading and unloading process. So we were even more annoyed that they changed to final port from Nice to Villefranche for unknown reasons.
But wait, there’s more!
We were never going to dock at Nice! Turns out that large cruise ships like ours never dock in Nice, but always Villefranche. The port area in Nice can’t accommodate large ships, and there’s no suitable anchorage offshore. Since it’s difficult to believe that Silversea just found this out, they not only lied about it to the world in the first place, but then lied and said it was a change in their notice to us shortly before the cruise. Simply unbelievable.
But wait, there’s more!
Late Tuesday morning we tendered into Villefranche on another bumpy ride. We spent a while sitting offshore on the tender as we waited for the tender from the Silversea Silver Whisper, which was also in port and sharing our dock, unload and load. All the while, bounce-bounce-bounce. We finally got in, and took a cab to Nice.
After visiting Nice, Sally decided to go back to the ship while Zelda, Matteo and I went to wander around Villefranche. It’s a very small town, similar in size to Amalfi, and built up the side of the hill. About 45 minutes later I went down to the dock to tender back and found Sally and Zelda waiting for the tender. Seems like the Silver Muse tenders were not capable of navigating the somewhat rough waters in the bay. Meanwhile, the Silver Whisper and the Royal Caribbean ship in the harbor were not having any problems, with their tenders coming and going while our folks waited.
Finally a Silver Muse tender motored in and we all watched while the driver lost control of the boat, with the tail drifting out from the dock and hitting a party boat docked along side, and then making a 10-point turn to turn the boat around with the bow facing out. We all watched with sick feeling in our stomach, because this was the dopey crew that was going to take us back in these rough seas to our ship. But we all borded – this boat was pretty full because it had been over an hour since the last one – and set out.
Sure enough, our ride out was very bouncy and our approach to the Silver Muse once again filled with drama. We bounced off the side of the Silver Muse several times, then pulled away and waited while they respositioned the larger ship to shield us from the wind and waves a bit. But we all finally got on board.
Unfortunately for some people who got on board, they were actually passengers on the Silver Whisper! The incompetent shore crew didn’t properly check their ID cards before they boarded the tender. So they all had to get back on the tender and be taken somewhere else – to the shore or directly to the other ship, I don’t know. We’re lucky it wasn’t some person with nefarious purpose who slipped past the non-security, but I feel bad for those passengers.
I later heard that the reason we had to wait so long was that the previous tender had lost one of its two engines and the driver lost control of it even more, smashing into the Silver Muse so hard that a windshield cracked and it had to be taken out of service.
But wait, there’s more!
This morning we had arranged for our airport transfer from Villefranche at 9:30. Since we had to tender in to shore, we went downstairs at a few minutes before 9 to account for the tender loading and transfer time. There we and about 50 others waited in line for 25 minutes before loading. From there, it was pretty smooth – the ride over was fine, we unloaded fine and found our car.
The car, btw, was arranged through Silversea at 4x the going rate for an airport taxi. That’s because the ship locks up all the taxis in town and makes you deal through them. So $365 for a 30 minute ride.
I really have the feeling that when they were staffing the new Silver Muse (remember, we are on the maiden voyage), all of the other ships got to protect their best players and only exposed the weaker performers to the expansion draft. It certainly seems that way for the tender operation. We do think that the front line staff in the restaurants are mostly pretty great. Not so much the top management in the restaurants. Our butler, who is an exceedingly nice person and eager to please, needed a bit of training from us to perform properly.