What happens when a shore excursion does not go as planned

Monday, November 9, 2009…My Equinox diary

(I was unable to post this yesterday because the internet connection was down so I am catching up today.)

So what happens when a shore excursion goes awry?

Today we were in Cartegena, Spain. I didn’t know much about this port on the Costa del Sol and only three shore excursions were offered (not enough for 2,800 passengers). So we chose the trip to Elche and the Palm Tree Park ($57 each) as I enjoy botanical gardens.

We left Cartegena at 9:45 a.m. as planned and rode in a bus about an hour and 15 minutes. The trip was supposed to begin with a “panoramic drive” through Cartegena but that didn’t happen…there weren’t any special views on this route … and I don’t think many of us realized how long the drive was.

But that was not the problem. There were extremely high winds today and once we arrived at the park around 11 a.m. we discovered it was closed for the day due to safety concerns…they didn’t want anyone injured by falling palms or fronds. So what to do? We were already there.

You have to give credit to our guide, Emilio. He discovered fairly early that we might have an admission issue so he declared early that “The Spanish are good at improvising.” So first he set us up in a couple of adjoining cafes – “Have a cup of coffee while I work this out.” — so we could use the toilets. Then he returned us to the bus and offered a couple of options. We voted on his offerings and this is what we actually did:

Elche’s main industry is making shoes. So first we went to the Salvador Artesano shoe factory near the city center. This turned out to be not much more than a big shoe outlet…but I can tell you that a whole lot of yellow bags were carried onto our bus, so the half-hour stop had merit for some. (I now have a spiffy pair of black leather shoe boots that are going to look great with jeans.)

Then Emilio took us to the old city of Elche and gave us a personal tour of the Basilica of Santa Maria, which was quite lovely inside. Then he set us loose to have lunch and shop on our own. We headed for a nearby eatery, called, interestingly enough, Café Paris, and enjoyed a leisurely European lunch with several glasses of wine…all for 13€ (about $19). It was nice to finally slow down…

Then we intended to do a bit of shopping (it seems we always need something from the local farmacia) but forgot that everything but restaurants close down at 2 p.m.. So we strolled around for a half hour before catching the bus back to the pier at 2:45 p.m.

I give credit to Emilio for being resourceful in coming up with an alternate plan for us and managing to actually conduct a democratic vote that stood up! I give credit to Celebrity for letting us all know, via Emilio, that we would all receive a 50 percent credit on the shore excursion because it did not go as planned.

By the way, last night we were invited to have dinner at the captain’s table (one of the perks of this job) and had a lovely evening with Capt. Apostolos Bouzakis and four other couples, all veteran cruisers on Celebrity. (Matthew and Melanie had been on over 50 Celebrity cruises and have four more scheduled in upcoming months.)

Tomorrow we have a day at sea and we are so ready for this. We have been in ports for the past four days and we all need a break! There are still parts of the ship that we have not even seen. So tomorrow we will crank it down a bit and see what all Celebrity has to offer on board the Equinox.

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