Day 248 At sea in Ionian / Adriatic to San Marino.

fj8XFqnGS0KIufs9ogGDtgI wasn’t going to blog today, since we have been on a ferry overnight and most of the day – but I couldn’t resist telling the tale of our journey!

‘Grimaldi’ by name, totally grim by nature. Although our ferry from Greece to Ancona in Northern Italy was booked with Minoan Ferries, we couldn’t help but notice that when we went to check in, the board above our lane said ‘Minoan Ferries, members of the Grimaldi Group’. Immediately, alarm bells should have started to ring!

You may recall, way back in March this year, we caught a ferry from Bari to Dubrovnik with Grimaldi line ferries. This was the ferry trip that we shared with about a hundred hormonal teenagers, on ‘job experience’! We very nearly ended up being entangled in a fight that broke out between two amorous teenage males over a rather encouraging female! In the end, we didn’t complain – what would have been the point? 

So it was with some trepidation, that we queued up at the port. We arrived in good time, and were in the fourth row. By the allotted ‘final check-in’ time, there were approximately twenty lines of cars, and many more of lorries. We waited in the still intense heat of the night, waiting for our ferry to arrive. We waited, and waited. Clearly, when the ferry hadn’t arrived at our departure time of 11pm, we knew it would be a late night. Eventually, at 11.15, the ferry arrived, and started to load, mostly the lorries first, skilfully reversing onboard. They then started to load the cars – but in reverse order i.e. the ones that had turned up last, we loaded first. After over an hour or more of watching everyone else get on, and wondering how on earth they were going to fit us all in, a man came rushing out to the car park, and shouted ‘Only drivers in cars!”. This meant that all the passengers had to unload from the remaining vehicles, with overnight bags, and trudge in the dark onto the ferry on foot. Bear in mind, this is now gone midnight. One elderly lady is clearly struggling up the ramp, and starts to cry. Others, with small children they have had to wake up in the cars, and drag them across the parking lot, were besides themselves.

I managed to negotiate my way onto the boat, but realised that my phone was still with Howard in Oscar, so I had no means of contacting him. At the reception, I think I must have looked so bewildered, and unable to understand the shouting in Italian, that an elderly purser led me to my cabin. Half an hour later, Howard appeared, rather frazzled, saying that Oscar was virtually last on, right by the ramp.

Our night and day on board the ferry were much as any other ferry trip – dead boring. We slept, and ate, and slept, and ate. When it came for our time to arrive, we all dutifully queued by the barrier, waiting to descend to the car decks, a little like the ‘rope drop’ at Disney.  We waited, and waited, whilst three, yes three, officious men in their uniforms stood importantly, doing absolutely nothing, but preventing anyone from getting to their cars. An impending sense of doom started to develop. Then, just as they started to let people pass down the stairs, they suddenly shouted, ‘Only drivers!”

‘Stuff that !” we both thought simultaneously, and pretending I was also a driver, descended to the car deck, with one of the little men shouting after me. Down below, all hell had let loose. Unbeknown to us, the lorry drivers had been allowed down by another route, and were already driving their huge juggernauts off the ferry. We dodged between the lorries and back to Oscar, to find a huge red lorry, with a very irate driver, gesticulating at Howard, for blocking his exit. I must say, that at this point, Howard was far from generous in his comments back to the lorry driver. We leapt in, reversed off the ferry, and made a dash for it. I am left wondering though, how on earth the obedient car passengers who followed the steward’s instructions, and abandoned their driver, ever managed to meet up again? There was nowhere at all to stop as you drove off the ferry – it would probably be a hundred yards or more down the road, before the vehicles could stop and retrieve their passengers. Pure madness!

The Grimaldi system for embarking and disembarking borders on farcical. Having now taken over thirty ferries on this trip, we are officially awarding them the prize for the most inefficient load of idiots we have come across. It is remarkable that they didn’t insight a riot. 

Tonight, we have just arrived in San Marino, a self-governing republic or micro-state within Italy. It has a population of just over 33,000, and sits on the slopes of Mount Titano. Tomorrow we will explore, but for tonight, we are calming down after our rather stressful journey.

Having survived the ferry, already we are able to laugh at the sheer lunacy of their system.

My only photo of the day, therefore, is Howard raising a rather sarcastic toast to Grimaldi!

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