Sailing around the Dalmatian coast for more than ten years, we have seen the effects of the Cruise Ship industry on small towns and communities. Last year, one of Linda’s tours from our language week in Cavtat visited Kotor in Montenegro, a city we had sailed into several times before it appeared on the cruising itinerary. Last year, when our tour of ten people arrived, there were two enormous behemoths of cruise ships in port and their thousands of passengers completely swamped the small but lovely walled city. I resolved then never to be one of those passengers.
Fast forward a few months. Leafing through the holiday brochures we came across the possibility of boarding a smaller cruise ship sailing down the east coast of South America in January, ending in Buenos Aires and allowing us to fulfil a promise to visit some dear friends who had sold up in UK, bought a yacht and got as far as Uruguay where they settled, just across the River Plate from Buenos Aires. We would fly to Miami to embark on the ship, and fly home from Uruguay at the end of the trip. What happened to my Kotor Resolution I never knew!
This is not a rant about incompetent crowd-handling or official mayhem, so I will not dwell on immigration at Miami Airport and move swiftly on to embarkation on board “Ocean Princess”, which was a model of efficiency and friendly welcome. Shown to our ‘stateroom’, (cabin in English!), we were soon enmeshed in the routine and procedures of an ocean liner, before we sailed from Miami Cruise Port bound for the Caribbean.
Ocean Princess is one of the smallest ships in the Princess fleet. Built in France in 1998, she is 600 feet long and carries a mere 650 passengers. This was to be her last cruise with Princess as she is being sold to a Norwegian line in March. Looking around at our fellow passengers as we found our way round the ship, I would guess the average age to be around 75, you don’t cruise for young company! Facilities for the halt and lame were good, and we found that as first-timers we were in the minority, while many have sailed before in this ship. The crew were obviously briefed to be friendly and it was noticeable that both the ship’s operating staff and the hotel team are drawn from many nations. The Captain is British, his Chief Engineer Croatian, while several of the officers are Italian. On the hotel side, the Philippines and Ukraine are well represented as are Malaysia, India Serbia and the Baltic States. The food is excellent and, thankfully, portion sizes are of European rather than American proportions. However there is ample opportunity to eat to excess. Alcoholic drink is expensive and many senior Americans expend a lot of ingenuity getting round the quite strict company rules about embarking liquor.
Mike Forbes is a retired Royal Naval commander who lives in London with his wife. His first visit to Croatia was in the year 2000.