All aboard!

Yesterday we boarded the cruise ship Silver Muse to begin our journey around the Mediterranean Sea.  The first stop will be Monte Carlo, where we boarded.  Yes, that’s right – we moved from our lovely hotel in the city to a lovely hotel floating at a dock in the city.  We spent last night on the ship, but remained at dock in Monte Carlo.  I’ll get to “why” in a bit.  

The check-in process seemed well organized, if a bit over-complicated.  We had to stop at three different desks to complete the process, and it’s not clear to me why the three stops were the plan.  It seems to me that whatever it was they did at each stop could have been accomplished in one stop.   As it was we waited on two short lines, and it moved along well.

After the third stop, when we were officially “checked in”, we made our own fourth stop to chat with the head of the restaurant, Mr. Gilbert Lanza, about food allergies and our reservation for this first night.   See, the first night was “special” on this cruise.   It was added to the schedule after we had booked the trip, and we understood that the ship planned a special celebration in honor of its maiden voyage – parties, music, dignitaries, etc.   But they also seemed to have no way to allow you to make dinner plans for that night(1).  

Chatting with Lanza, April 2017

So we stopped to chat with Mr. Lanza and found out a few things.

1. He was mystified by some of the decisions surrounding the festivities, like how they randomly assigned people to tables for this evening.

2. He and his assistant would move us to Zelda and Matteo’s table, and somehow notify the displaced people that they were sitting somewhere else (we if fact all did sit together, so this worked).

3. He would arrange for Sally to receive a menu each evening for the restaurants so she could select a meal which would be garlic-free and tasty (2).  

The cabin is nice, which is not a surprise since it’s pretty much the same as the one we had two years ago.  There are a few minor changes in the layout, none of which matter a bit. 

Cabin with a view, April 2017

After checking in and unpacking, we toured the ship, checking out all a bars, restaurants, the spa, the bars, another restaurant, the game room, a bar, the fitness center, etc.  Sally decided to do some more unpacking while I went to the gym.  While I was working out, they made an announcement about the evening’s events.  There was a talk about the cruise industry starting shortly, and a big-deal christening of the ship on the dock adjacent to the ship in an hour. 

The christening ceremony was setup with folding chairs for 400 people, a small classical orchestra and speeches by Silversea executives and Prince Albert II of Monaco.  Champagne, tv coverage, very posh.  Unfortunately, only 150 passengers actually went down as we watched from our balcony, then then the weather turned.  

Sparse, umbrellas and then inside, April 2017

First the blankets came out as the temperature dropped, then the umbrellas as it started to rain.   Finally, they gave up and moved the whole thing into the theater in the ship.  That’s Albert’s bald spot sitting in the chair in the middle of the aisle.   Finally, we watched the christening on the video screen in the theater as they broke a bottle of booze on the hall of the ship.

But dinner was nice, and we had a good time catching up with Zelda & Matteo.

(1) You’ll recall that, unlike our last cruise on a sister ship, is ship has no open seating restaurant – you need a reservation every evening.  

(2) We never got a menu last evening, but found Lanza at breakfast and got it all arranged for tonight.

Monte Carlo

We landed in Nice yesterday a bit late as a result of hanging out on the runway at JFK for unknown reasons.  We will spend two nights in Monte Carlo.  Last night was in a hotel, and tonight will be on our ship, the Silver Muse.  So when we got here yesterday morning and finally got into our room after lunch, we found the Silver Muse waiting for us across the street, so to speak.   Sally, as only she can do, extended her run of free upgrades and we found ourselves in a large room with a view. 

A view of our room from our room, April 2017


Monte Carlo and Monaco are a little funny. It’s a tiny country, only a couple of square miles.  Yet the city feels like a big city.   It’s very crowded and has lots of big buildings.  It’s loaded with expensive stores, expensive cars, and expensive yachts.  It’s also built into the side of the hills which surround it, so the streets are all inclined. There are stairways everywhere.

Vertical Monte Carlo, April 2017

Monte Carlo is famous for its casino, of course.  They charge €10 just to get in, which we didn’t have to pay because of our hotel.  We went over last night and Sally blew through €15 in an hour at the slot machines (fortunately, I’m good for it).   I really don’t get slots.   At least in the old days, you pulled a mechanical lever and could kid yourself that the way you pulled it had something to do with winning or not.  Today’s electronic machines don’t even make you do that – you feed currency in, select the amount of your bet, then repeatedly press a button to make the bet.  Occasionally it pays off.   Of course, there is nothing random whatsoever about the spin; the machine is a computer carefully programmed to provide intermittent reinforcement to the customer so as the maximize how long they will stay and feed it money.   

The main gaming rooms are nothing special.  Ten tables for roulette, blackjack and baccarat. Several dozen slot machines.  There are so-call “private rooms” in the back for high rollers and James Bond types that we didn’t enter.  I can’t show you a picture of the gaming room.  I can’t even show you a picture of the sign saying “no pictures”.   So here’s a snippet of the outside.  It’s a nicely ornate building.  

Casino detail, April 2017