We woke up at our normal time to have breakfast this morning. Did I mention that I really liked our hotel’s breakfast? Today I asked for cappuccino instead of the regular coffee. It was excellent.
Around 8:30 one of DH’s colleagues stopped by the hotel to say goodbye to us. Then we hastily packed up and headed to the station so we could catch a train to Milano. At Cordona, we caught the M2 and went to Centrale, where we just barely made our Frecciarossa train to Bologna. Literally. Like, it left four minutes after we sat down. Whew.
The Frecciarossa is the “Red Arrow”, a superfast train that hits 300 km/hr. They have bragging monitors in each carrozza (car) telling you what the current speed is. The speed flashes red when you hit 300 kph. So Italian. 😉
The Frecciarossa is also very awesome in that it has free wifi for passengers. Rock on.
We got to Bologna with no trouble, and found our Frecciabianca train’s track on the monitor. It was a few minutes late but we got on fine, and found our seats right away. When the conductor came by shortly after, though, he said that our car was “no good” and they wanted to move us to a different car. He quickly figured out that we had no idea what he was talking about, and kindly did some pantomimes and wrote down our new seat/car assignment on a piece of paper for us.
The closer we got to Bari, the nastier the weather became. We started with light rain, then steady rain. As we neared the coast, we got a great view of the surf.
This did not seem to bode well for our trip on the ferry…
After about five hours on the Bianca, we arrived in Bari. Hooray!
Except we didn’t know exactly how to get to the port. I couldn’t load my Google map because there was no Wifi available. Boo! Fortunately, a nice resident helped us out. She actually walked us to the port, because she figured we would get lost in Veccia Bari (Old Bari). She would have been right.
We made our way to the port. By this time, everyone was exhausted and hungry. We kept going only by the glorious vision of the port ahead in the distance.
At the port, we found the ticket counter for Montenegro Lines. Unfortunately, there was a sign on the [dark] window saying that we would have to find our check-in information at “Marisabella Terminal”. Where the hell was Marisabella Terminal?! We asked a woman at an “Infopointe” desk. She pointed outside. “Take bus,” she said, a bit sharply. “White bus.”
We went back outside and looked around for a white bus. There were no buses to be seen, white or otherwise. A man in a yellow reflective vest who looked like he might know something was standing near the entrance, looking somewhat official. We asked him about the bus. “Marisabella?” I asked him in my best I’m-a-lost-but-not-dumb-tourist voice. He pointed at the ground next to him. “White bus,” he echoed. “Here.”
Okay. We waited near the pointed spot for this white bus. After several minutes, a dirty van pulled up. It was vaguely white and had two men in the front seat. Both were smoking cigarettes. The one on the passenger side gestured to the back door and said something in Serbian/Croatian/Montenegrian (they all sound the same to me). “Open,” he said in heavily accented English, when no one responded. DH opened the door. We started to get in, but I wanted to make sure this “white bus” (which was really a grey-white van) was headed to Marisabella and not to, say, some detention camp somewhere. The man nodded, his cigarette bouncing on his lip. We got in. He gestured from the front seat for us to close the door. Such is the customer service policy at Montenegro Lines. I can only say that it is consistently applied.
At Marisabella we checked in, and were told by a brusque but very efficient young representative from Montenegro Lines that our ship would board at 20:00. “Where?” I asked, since we were now quite far from the port. “At port,” she responded in her best You’re-a-tourist-and-therefore-an-idiot voice. I held up my hands. “How do we get there?” She stared at me for a minute, then we both said in unison: “White bus.” I nodded, grabbed our tickets and passports, and we went back out to the parking lot to wait for the bus.
This time, we were picked up by a more bus-looking vehicle (though by American standards it was hardly a “bus”). It turns out this was a shuttle that runs between the main port, the Marisabella Terminal, and the other terminal (where our ship docks). We had to go to the main terminal, however, because we had to go through customs. In hindsight, this all seems so obvious. At the time, however, tired and hungry and sore from walking with our luggage, we were frustrated by the complete lack of direction. We did not understand why we couldn’t go directly to our ship. And we really hoped there wasn’t a problem, because this is the only ferry until Sunday! I did not want to be stuck in Bari longer than necessary.
We still had two hours before we could board, and we were all hungry, so we decided to get something to eat. Unfortunately, the restaurant in the port did not take credit cards. We actually ran into this quite often in Italy. Most places, especially pizzeria and gelaterias, would only take cash. And sadly, we didn’t consider this before heading down to Bari, and only had 17 Euro cash between us. So all we could buy in the port were three panini – two hotdog and one hamburger (I wasn’t going to risk buying something that not everyone would eat!) We shared the three small sandwiches, which were mostly crusty, airy bread, and drank water that we poured into our water bottles from the bathroom tap. Such hillbillies. But we figured there had to be a cashpoint somewhere in the port, and asked a few people. They all claimed there was one, and gave us varying directions; finally, DH found it and was able to withdraw 250 Euro. At least we would be able to eat on the ship!
We went back into the port. No one, from the other passengers to the staff, seemed to know what was going on. We got in a line and started asking other people in the queue what they were in line for, and when a number of them replied “Bar” (and the one who did not actually got out of line), we figured we were in the right place. We waited in line for a long time, and then determined that we were actually in line for customs. We made it through customs and followed a vague set of ropes and walkways to the outside, where another “bus” would take us to our ship. It had started raining again, and as we started to get into another “white bus” (read: van with sketchy looking drivers), a third man pointed to a small, flatbed pickup. We figured he wanted us to put our luggage in the open bed of the truck and ride in the van. I didn’t want to do this. We had backpacks and DH had his satchel with laptop. Everything would get soaked. I smiled and held out my hand in the universal “it’s raining” sign. Since no one else was waiting for the van, he let us get on with our luggage. We were finally on our way to the Sveti Stefan 2.
We found our way to reception, where three very curt Serbian women were working the check-in desk. They examined our boarding passes doubtfully, and seemed almost disappointed when everything was in order. One barked a number to the one behind the desk, and she spun a key kiosk around with alarming flicks of her wrist until she found the corresponding cabin key. The first woman took it and handed it to us. I shrugged, and gave her my best I-give-up,-I’m-a-stupid-tourist-and-I’m-exhausted-so-just-tell-me-what-to-do look. She let out an exasperated sigh and walked over to a hallway, and pointed. “You follow me,” she said. I gulped and nodded. She walked to the last cabin and stopped, spun on her heel, and pointed to the door. We had found our home for the night.
The cabin was small, as we expected. It was very efficient, with two sets of bunks and some shelves for storing luggage. There was a light for each bed and an overhead light for the cabin. There was only one electrical outlet, but we had an adaptor with two receptacles so we were able to charge a cell phone and the kids’ tablet. Best news of all: there was a shower! We only paid for a WC and sink, but somehow we had lucked into this extra bit of luxury. Before he did, I made everyone take a Dramamine.
DH wanted to check out the shower right away. After he finished, we went upstairs to get some dinner. Armed with a pocket full of Euros, we were optimistic. A pleasant, though slightly dated, dining room waited at the top of the stairs. We went in and were encouraged to seat ourselves by a tall man with a very heavy accent. A few minutes later, the waiter came by with multilingual menus. Though the service ended up being horrible, the food was surprisingly good (and cheap) for a ferry boat. DH had “Mixed Meats”- pork skewered and grilled; a pork chop; some ham, and fries. The girls had spaghetti Bolognese and I, preparing for a stint in Montenegro, ordered cvapcici– a spicy lamb sausage that I had once tasted at my FIL’s church.
By this time, the kids were wiped out and the Dramamine had kicked in. They actually fell asleep in their chairs waiting for the food, and hardly finished their plates. I took O6 back to the cabin while DH paid the bill. (You know, of course, that they took credit cards.)
We got into our bunks and in a few minutes the ship set sail. S8 passed out as soon as she hit the pillow. O6 had a very annoying second wind and took several minutes to settle down. I am pretty sure I was the last to drift off, but it was a fitful sleep. We met a storm shortly into our crossing and the sea was really rough. I was very glad everyone had taken Dramamine, as I was a little queasy in spite of a double dose. There were a few really big swells that caused the hull to come out of the water and back down again with a loud bang, which was exciting. But it was calm by morning, and we were roused by sharp raps on our cabin door as one of the reception women went up and down the hallway, waking passengers. But that’s tomorrow’s post.