Friday, February 19, 2010

Costa Allegra, Indonesia, Thailand,Malaysia

Costa Allegra 28/11/2009 to 12/12/2009

We got onto good old KTM (train) at KL Sentral at 2130 on 27/11/2009 and got good seats to Singapore. Even managed some substantial sleep on the way. Once in Singapore we walked up the hill to China Town and had a great SG $2 breakfast at Chinatown food court..

We were not sure exactly where and how far the passenger terminal was but we back tracked to the station and walked along Keppel Rd to the terminal taking about 40 min for the walk. Once there we were told that embarkation was not till 1500hrs and as it was only 1100 then we settled down for a wait with KC wandering around the shops. However by 1200 we were given paperwork to fill in by Costa staff and told to complete registration and go on board for lunch. Unexpected and fun which set the tone for the whole trip.

At the terminal there was 2 Costa ships. The big “Classica” (which headed out for Kota Kinabalu soon after) and The little “Allegra”. The Allegra is a converted container ship having 390 cabins and looks like it. Pretty it is not and a bit tired around the edges. Our cabin on deck 4 at the rear over the engines and propeller shafts was not the place to be. After 2 nights, one at sea, we complained. In true Costa form our complaint was immediately looked into and a senior engineer came to inspect our cabin. It was not long before we were not only shown to a lovely quiet cabin in deck 5 amidships, but a double bed as we had ordered originally. Alessandro from customer service could not have been more helpful. The cabin was great and helped to make the rest of the trip comfortable.

The ship was about ½ full which meant about 400 passengers. This was great for it meant we had about one crew to every passenger. It also meant it was very friendly and we got to know and recognise most of the passengers and crew.

Initially we all made a great fuss about the totally ridiculous price for drinks. Even the water in the rooms was chargeable. Seriously stupid move as hardly anybody had drinks and would get water from the buffet. Luckily for Australians and New Zealanders, there was a Aussie (of Italian origin) hostess on board, who not only briefed us, but organised happy hour from 1700 till 1900 in one of the bars. Suddenly as drinks became 2 for 1 people started drinking. Very soon happy hour was extended from 1700 till 2300 with each main bar having a 2 hour stint and the crowd followed the price. This ended at the poolside bar at 2300 with everyone one in very happy mood. Then nett result was a very happy close community on board and while the profit per drink halved, Costa actual started to sell drinks. A lesson in marketing for the idiot accountant who must have set the drinks price policy.

At first the comments were “never again” but by ½ way through it was, “what is the next cruise on Costa” Friendly and always obliging. Most passengers were Australian, Italian, French, German and some Malaysian and Singaporean.(who seemed a little overwhelmed) Our table was an Aussie one with a couple from Central Coast NSW, 2 couples from West Oz and a single gentleman in his mid eighties from Tasmania. We became a close group and usually had to be kicked out of the restaurant at nights.

The ship stayed the first night in Singapore which was a pity as other stops like Malacca had to be hurried. 2 days sailing down the west coast of Borneo and across the bottom to Celebes-now Sulawesi to Makassar, now also referred to as Ujong Pandang, but locals still call it Makassar. Very much a working town and not a great deal to see. Fort Rotterdam is there and fun, but a trip out to the country side and waterfall I'm told was worth it.

Overnight sail to the Island of Komodo to see the giant lizards. This was serious fun and as a national park was pretty well organised and protected. We came upon one group of 5 “dragons” average length 3 meters, who were looking for passing deer. They got agro with us around and it took 8 park rangers with forked sticks to subdue them and prevent them having an alternate meal. The Island is stocked with deer, which is the main food for the dragons who tend to have one decent meal every 3 months. There was the usual troop of hawkers pestering the hell out of everyone to the degree that it was easier to ignore them and walk past even if there had been something you may have wanted. When will they ever learn that the softly softly approach wins more sales?

Next morning was Bali. Its been over 30 years since we had been and while we didn't go to Denpassar or Kuta, we took a hire car all over the east coast and central Island regions and really was great. Lovely villages, great markets, few tourists and we were able to relax and soak it all in. Bali has grown up a lot in 30 years and in the area we visited, had lost the ugly money grabbing touristy side and presented a feeling that makes us want to return. It was once as Phuket is now, ugly, costly, dirty smelly bloody awful, but now is almost serene on the east coast at least.

Next day at sea on route to Jakarta. Tanjong Priok is now almost as busy as Singapore and a really bustling place. We had no desire to pay to be in Jakarta traffic jams, so stayed on board and watched the harbour which was an ever changing kaleidescope of colors as ships from all over the world maneuvered with the help of bustling little tugs.

At sea again on route to Malacca. Not without drama however. As we approached the eastern end of the Singapore Straights, (adjacent to Johore) the ship stopped mid Chanel at about 2330hours when load speakers told us all to get off the aft deck as a Chopper was coming. A minute later a chopper hovered over the aft deck ( could not land) and medics repelled down to deck. It seems the resident singer/base player in the nightly music trio suffered a stroke as oxygen was staved to the brain. He was stabilised after ½ an hour and lifted in a cradle to the chopper and to hospital in Singapore. Later reported to be in a stable condition. It says much for the other members of the trio who continued as a duo then onwards without missing a beat.

Being Malacca lovers, we took a team ashore and showed them the old port, Istana, Nyonya areas etc and back on board for an early sailing to Phuket. God knows why as Phuket is still a money making dump, with smelly drains, overpriced everything and beach full of lounging bare breasted German and Russian elephants with tits somewhere amoung the massive rolls of fat. We took a quick trip ashore to satisfy ourselves that Phuket was as bad as ever and got back to the ship early. As we had arrived early afternoon, we overnight in Phuket and allowed people to be fleeced a second time next morning before making ready to sail soon after lunch.

Port Klang alongside at Star terminal. Heaps of taxi's and not one with a meter. Charges US$100 to KL and US$10 to local train station. No wonder nobody wants to pull into Port Klang with this type of blatant ripoff. That being said, a group followed us to KL by train and visited Central market, KLCC, Petaling Street etc before rushing back. The ship arrived late and left on time which left little time to explore KL. Back to Singapore and the end of the cruise.

In summary Costa Allegra was an old boat but the crew were great and food excellent. On the negative side the pool is so small it may be better to get rid of it. Drinks (even water) so highly priced, people in the main did without as much as possible. With exception of the Captain, officers were aloof. Very little attention given to Asian guests, however Australians and New Zealander had their own cruise director. Languages in Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, French, German and English(badly) and to hell with the rest. Having said that we all agreed that we would do it again and trust to having such a great bunch at table again.
Pics of cruise

Forgot I hadn't posted this and the poor old Allegra has long been scrapped having broken down mid Indian Ocean some time ago.

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