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A short stop in the Port of Marseilles

MARSEILLES, France — The Port of Marseilles was our first stopover in this 11-day Mediterranean cruise. We arrived early in the morning after a rough night at sea. One would think that a ship has huge, as the Royal Princess would not be affected by strong waves.Well this is one lesson that I learned in this voyage. Incidentally, the evening before we had a sumptuous dinner supervised by our Filipino waiter from Cavite and another one an Ilonggo. 

I asked the Filipino crew about their estimate of the number of Filipinos working in the Royal Princess, most of them say that at least 50% of the crew, from stewards, room boys, waiters, chefs, or cooks and utility workers are Filipino, trained by Magsaysay Lines, which has a training facility to hire Filipinos in cruise ships. Of course the majority of the ship's officers and staff are not Filipinos. But someday, we should see a Filipino reach the top handling a cruise ship.

I have only full respect for the Filipinos on board the Royal Princess because they were obviously very well trained, courteous to a fault, and always willing to assist any of your needs. When I told my room steward that because of my kidney transplant, I needed distilled water in my room,he merely told me that the water in the room was for sale at US$2.00 per small bottle. But after we returned from our tour in Marseilles, I found a gallon of distilled water inside my room; no, he didn't charge me for it. That's the Filipino spirit for you! God bless, Ronaldo!

Incidentally as we wrote in our previous column, I realized that Barcelona was an important Port for cruise liners, which is why we saw at least five or six huge cruise ships docked in Barcelona. The aduana in Barcelona was busy with container trucks lined up to re-supply or restock those mighty cruise ships which carry nearly 4,000 passengers each. Barcelona is also a favorite jump-off point for tourists taking a vacation on board a cruise liner.

Anyway, the next morning, the ship arrived in the Port of Marseilles.After breakfast, we went down to ride a bus to downtown Marseilles. It was a short 15-minute ride from the cruise ship terminal. What we didn't expect was that, another four huge cruise ships arrive also in Marseilles. But there were no container vans lining up to meet the ships. Rather it was a long line of tourist buses that went to meet all the cruise ships.

I have only been to Marseilles once some 15-years ago and apparently their biggest change is the cruise ship terminal, which is why so many cruise ships come for a visit. Looking at the tours in Provence, I didn't realize that even from Marseilles, you could visit the Pont du Gard Bridge, a 2,000-year-old Roman aqueduct that served the City of Arles. I recall that this city still uses its old (although smaller) Roman coliseum. It is not far from Avignon, the second Vatican during the time we had two Popes.

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Another unforgettable place I once visited in Provence was L'abbaye du Thoronet, an abandoned Cisterian Abbey built in the 12th or 13th century. But the Cisterian monks abhorred having a grandiose Gothic Church like the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. They constructed a very simple church but with one exception: it was one of the best sound-proofed of any church in the world.

It is a fact that all their tour guides are either a soprano or operatic tenor because they would bring their guests in the site where the altar once stood and start singing and their voices would come alive because of the great soundproofing that the monks put in that abbey. I wanted to come for a return visit, but the travel time meant that I could not visit Marseilles.

We had a great, although short five-hour visit to Marseilles and took a hop-on, hop-off bus ride around the panoramic view of the old Port of Marseilles. The only hitch was, with four cruise liners arriving at the same time, the food and bus services in Marseilles was over saddled. Marseilles is the biggest French port and the second biggest in the Mediterranean. Too bad, the visit was a short one, but we can always come again.  

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For email responses to this article, write to vsbobita@mozcom.com. or vsbobita@gmail.com.  His columns can be accessed through www.philstar.com.

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