What to do when your ship doesn’t come in: the day I didn’t go on a cruise with MSC cruises

Hi Frugalistas!  I was thrilled to be invited to join a pre-TBEX day sponsored by MSC Cruises on one of their ships in Athens.  The plan was that we would spend the day on the ship while it was docked in Athens as part of a cruise from Venice to Istanbul.  I had great plans about what I wanted to get out of the day, and the posts I wanted to write.  So this was supposed to be the post about how to do a Mediterranean cruise as a solo female traveller.  It could have also been the post about whether a Mediterranean cruise could be a good option for cruise sceptics.  Instead, it’s a post about what to do when your travel day doesn’t go as planned……

MSC Divina at sea

The closest we got to a ship was a thumb drive of marketing material

Our day with MSC Cruises didn’t go as planned at all.  In fact we didn’t get to board the ship.  The ship did not even come into the port of Piraeus – a storm and heavy seas put paid to any plans of that.  So there we were on a bus – 14 travel bloggers and 2 representatives from MSC Cruises, with a Greek bus driver who didn’t speak English, and our day in tatters as the port was closed.  Our ship went to Corfu instead, meaning all those shipboard guests who’d dreamed of visiting the Acropolis missed their planned shore excursion.  We bloggers – who had all applied to be on the trip, and who had had to pitch blog post ideas to get on the excursion had no material.  David and Salvatore from MSC Cruises had no ship to show 14 bloggers they’d spent three days’ work deciding who to invite.  What a mess!  But not a single person complained…….

endless swimming pool with fence on a cruise ship

There was lots of water – just none of it was in the pool. The Garden Pool of the MSC Divina

As seasoned travellers we all knew things can and do go wrong.  Flights get cancelled, trains are late, museums are unexpectedly closed.  The weather turns bad.  Every traveller needs a Plan B.  Our Plan B involved two bloggers choosing to catch the train back to Athens to attend one of the pre-TBEX workshops.  The rest of us found a great café at a Marina on the road back to Athens, where we ate, drank and chatted.  I made friends that morning in that café that I then spent time with during the rest of the conference.  I learned a lot about cruises from a couple of genuine cruise experts.  The food was great, the company excellent and a good time was had by all. David and Salvatore were charming and generous hosts. The rain pelted down, and the wind blew, but we didn’t mind.  Before we left, the waiter brought out two plates of loukamedes (Greek donuts covered in honey) as a gift for us.  Locals came in and said hello to us.

White plate of Greek donuts covered in honey

Who can complain with a plate of delicious loukamedes and a Greek coffee?

We arrived back in Athens early, and the weather had improved.  I wandered along the street from the conference venue with one of my new friends and went to the Benaki Museum.  It was a place I was very keen to visit, but wasn’t sure how I was going to have time.

waves crashing against a breakwater with two benches

No one needed convincing the Port was closed for good reason……

It wasn’t the day I had in mind.  But was it a waste of my valuable time on what was a very short trip that I needed to pack as much as I could into?  Absolutely not.  I adored my day.  It was fun and I learned a lot.  I was thrilled when one of my fellow travellers recognised my blue striped Tshirt from the packing post I’d written before I left (yes, she’d read it!).  I enjoyed good company, good food, and loved my visit to the Benaki Museum (more on that in future posts).

Greek Orthodox icon in gold

My day was definitely not wasted – I visited a place a wasn’t sure I would get to

So how do you save the day, when your travel plans don’t work out as you hope?

Firstly, stay calm and don’t complain.  Getting in a bad mood doesn’t improve the situation for you or anyone else.  If you get bad service or people are rude, that’s different.  But getting angry because the weather is bad, a museum is closed for renovations (as happened to me in Istanbul in April) or your ship doesn’t come in makes no sense, and does nothing to help the situation.

waves crashing on a beach near Athens with a storm gathering in the background

No one can help the weather……

Work out what you can do, rather than focussing on what you can’t do.  That helps maintain a positive mood for you and everyone else you are with.  We could go somewhere for food and a chat, even though we couldn’t go on the ship.  We were, so to speak, all “on board” with that idea.  That was our focus.  When we found a lovely café, the focus was on what to eat and enjoying each others’ company.  I never heard a single person say they wished they’d been on the ship.  There were vloggers (video bloggers) and travel photography bloggers who had literally no material.  At least I could write something about my day.  And I got another great idea for a different post I hadn’t thought to pitch for during the day.  WIN!!

Take advantage of the extra time you have.  Go and do that shopping, or have an impromptu walk and get a little bit lost.  Use the time as a “bonus” rather than a missed opportunity.  If you are tired, use it as rest time.  Write postcards, find a café full of locals.  When our bus arrived back early to the conference venue we all went in and got ourselves registered.  That saved us having to get there early and queue to register on the first morning.

Consult your guide book and your travel plans for other options.  When I looked at my map and realised the Benaki Museum was just along the street from where our bus dropped us off, and that it was open, that was my day solved.  I was going to take advantage of the time and do something I wasn’t sure I would get to do otherwise.  Imagine my delight when I arrived and discovered that it was a free admission day as well?  I saved myself EUR7, and had a fabulous afternoon.

models wearing historical Greek costumes at the Benaki Museum, Athens

Indulging my passion for fashion at the Benaki Museum

That’s part of the joy of travel for me.  Some days are not what you expected them to be.  Sometimes they may be even better.  Even if they aren’t better, they are at least different.  Going with the flow and playing it by ear can yield some of your best travel memories.  It’s not a case of “if” things go wrong – if you travel enough, you can guarantee they will.  It’s how you respond to them that makes the difference……

Have you ever had your travel plans go completely awry?  What did you do instead, and what was the result?

Author’s note:  I was hosted by MSC Cruises during the morning.  Ship board photos provided by MSC Cruises.  Other photos author’s own


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11 Comments on “What to do when your ship doesn’t come in: the day I didn’t go on a cruise with MSC cruises”

  1. Anne Sutherland-Smith 09/11/2014 at 5:05 pm #

    Jo, thanks for sharing your story of how to deal with a travel day which doesn’t work out as planned. It sounds like you had a great time anyway and these are great lessons for all travellers.

  2. Pamela 09/11/2014 at 5:13 pm #

    Interesting post about making lemonade out of a lemons. Totally agree about not getting annoyed when things beyond anyone’s control go wrong. Important to have a Plan B or to find a way to make the best of the situation. Once had to wait for a couple of hours in a taverna at Piraeus because the ferry company had received a call saying there was a bomb on board the boat to Hydra (this was during the NATO bombing in former Yugoslavia). We could see the experts crawling all over our ferry at the dock. Who’s going to complain when they check thoroughly? -even if it does eat into the day. We had to stay put because we didn’t know when the ferry might be cleared to leave. So we ordered coffees and bought lots of post cards. Spent the time writing to friends and family. They appreciated it. We did eventually get to Hydra and loved it.

    But it is one of the reasons we never go on cruises. Our interest is in really seeing the places we travel to. On cruises you only get a quick glimpse. Fine for those who just want that and to relax on a ship. We’d find it boring – have already done long haul shipboard travel in the past and know it’s not for us.

    But so good that you enjoyed the company of the other bloggers. What happened to you all would have been a good bonding experience. Best wishes, Pamela

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 09/11/2014 at 5:26 pm #

      You’re exactly right Pamela – it was a great bonding experience. And I agree with you totally about your experience with the ferry. I never complain about a delayed flight when the pilot isn’t happy to fly the plane – if they aren’t happy, I don’t want to be on it!

  3. Vlad 10/11/2014 at 7:45 pm #

    To be completely honest, your Plan B sounds better than Plan A. But this may be due to the fact that I’ve never been on a cruise ship and I’m not sure whether I’d enjoy it or not. I’ll be the first to admit that when things don’t go as planned, sometimes I panic and get upset, but at the end of the day, these are the moments I remember the most and make funny/interesting stories later. 🙂

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 10/11/2014 at 8:08 pm #

      I confess to being a cruise cynic and had actually pitched on that basis, so I honestly don’t know which day was better. What I do know is that the day I DID have was great!

  4. Janice & George (@SandInSuitcase) 11/11/2014 at 6:59 am #

    Yes, it’s a given that the more you travel, the better the chance that the best-laid travel plans will go wonky. With cruises, we always plan to arrive in the embarkation port the day before, to give some leeway for delayed or canceled flights. (Of course, the one time the PR company for the cruise booked our flights, they booked them to arrive the day the ship was departing – and that’s when our flight was seriously delayed, and we were going to miss the boat. We managed to rebook our flight to the ship’s next port, so we could catch it there on its second stop, and got to overnight beforehand in Monaco. It’s too bad your planned cruise day didn’t work out, but it sounds like you have the right attitude for travel – which means you really have to be flexible. Some things are just out of our control :-).

  5. Nancie 16/11/2014 at 12:59 am #

    Your great attitude definitely saved the day! The Benaki Museum looks worthy of a visit!

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 16/11/2014 at 8:33 am #

      Everyone’s attitude was great Nancie and we just fed off each other. We saw the waves and the strength of the wind, so we knew how bad it was. The Benaki was great and I’ll be posting about it separately

  6. Jullian Leonovich 17/12/2014 at 9:24 am #

    What a magnificent Theotokos Amolyntos icon! I am guessing that it is 16th-century and possibly from Crete. Thank you so much! Julian

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 17/12/2014 at 7:42 pm #

      Thank you Julian. It’s the one icon I didn’t take note of the details, but it was displayed with a group of other 16th century Cretan pieces so I think you could be right!

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