Ryan Air, Easy Jet and Sky Blue are deep in the luxury section of travel...


Do we accept outdated travel standards?  I am writing today's blog with the door handle to the bathroom in my cabin on an overnight ferry in one hand and the recently dropped out spindle lying on the orange nylon carpet on the other side of the locked door. The 'boom-boom-boom' of the nightclub nearby is partly blocked out by the insistent knocking on the cabin door by my wife. She is banging on it asking me to let her in. Her problem is that instead of plastic keys to insert into the electronic reader in the lock, to save money this shipping line uses cardboard ones.  It's creased so the door won't open......   A children's nursery rhyme pops into my head. "Oh dear what can the matter be, Mark Grenside is stuck in the lavatory, He was alone from Monday to Saturday, Nobody knew he was there....."   Welcome to the European ferry service that is taking my wife and our car from Spain to Malta via Italy. It's a 70's time warp where everything including the make-up and uniforms of the crew and even the carpets are super tacky....with most things on board simply not working (just like some of the crew). The TV (personally signed by John Logie Baird it's so old) is frozen on an Italian shiny floor game show. The concept of service in the restaurant is even funnier than Chris Rock on an impromptu stand-up comedy schtick and the wifi service is as intermittent as my windshield wipers in a drizzle. In fact the code to log on to the wifi is FIFTEEN digits long yet it's feeble capacity means I can only download written content, (so no Skype or image downloads)......and I can only buy for one hour at a time. No more. "You want more than an hour? Why?" asked the reception desk. "For work, " I tried to explain. But that was perhaps an alien concept. "After an hour on the Internet you have to come back for another code. Or call me." She smiles showing me the numbers written longhand on a piece of paper torn from an exercise book and hands it to me like a laundry ticket. One hour one minute later I discover I cannot call the Reception desk from the phone in the bedroom to ask for the new codes, as the phone spits out numbers completely unrelated to the digits I type in....very much like an Enigma machine from World War II. Reception is 72000 but so far the phone twice dialled 63799 and once the engine room! In a way I'm happy to be locked in the bathroom, away from vomiting  Russians out on a stag week-end and young kids who are allowed to  scream and run riot in the playroom at 1.30 AM....which is conveniently situated next to the dining room whose doors cannot close to block out the din. Other quaint customs include pre-paying for anything you want from the cafe at the till situated at the opposite end of the room. It therefore kills impulse purchases. After paying for my coffee and walking to the bar I discover they have some fancy cakes I'd like to buy. But that would mean returning to the queue at the payment desk so I don't bother. The crew all shake their heads when you suggest that possibly things might be better and point to the complaint box. It's stuffed with more letters than Santa's in tray on Christmas Eve...... Perhaps Brexit was not such a calamity! The exception to the C.E.F rule (Crappy European Ferry), is the Ferry from Sicily to Malta. It's so sleek it makes the Queen Mary look like the wreck of the Mary Deare.

...and another thing

I have travelled by train in Russia and India. Both require taking illegal drugs as well as needing industrial strength stamina.

In the days of communist rule, the Trans-Siberian express was a real test of stamina. Of course the Politburo and elite needed to be able to travel in style whilst the hoi poloi could freeze for all they cared; but how do you square first, second and third class in a system that banned class distinction. Easy. Third became hard class, whilst first became soft class. (It actually referred to the seats but it hung in the air saying ‘Are you a true communist man, hard ….or some softie from the West’)? I accepted the challenge and spent 14 days on a bench made out of chipped steel in a compartment cold enough to make my pubic hair crackle.

As for India, trains with third class tickets are unlikely to provide a customer with a seat……or even a carriage. Most likely you will need to don a pair of flying googles and cling to some part of the train outside of the compartment. A train I took in Jaipur resembled one of those motorcycle stunt teams with people all hanging off at precarious angles. Just remember if on the roof to duck before entering a tunnel…..

...and another thing

The late Omar Shariff looked good on a camel. I do not. I get sea-sick.The experience reminded me of the set of the Captain’s cabin on the miniseries Treasure Island that I was Executive Producer on. The whole set was on a gimble to make it yaw and heave as if in a storm. It was so effective that one of the actors turned a pleasant shade of pea green. I threw up in the sand after an hour on the Good ship Camelpop….. and the damn animal spat at me in disgust.

So next time your charter jet from Luton to Alicante is late or your luggage is lost for a day en route from Kansas City to Cabo San Lucas, be grateful. You could be stuck at sea on a boat that only serves up botulism or have your duffel bag eaten by a dromedary.

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  1. Tony Ryan says:

    Let’s talk in blog advertising Mark give me a call.

    That’s Tony Ryan – just dial 0035 for Ireland and that will get you through to our Advertising hub in Bletchley

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