#Irma, um furacão monstro

Cuba, 1998

Em Setembro de 1998, durante a viagem de férias a Cuba, apanhei o furacão George. Na altura, considerado temível.
Quando atingiu Cuba, depois de provocar grande destruição nas outras ilhas das Caraíbas, vinha já brando e era um furacão categoria 1.

a grande nuvem

Sem vivenciar um, ninguém imagina a quantidade de sensações que é um furacão.

Desde logo, a aproximação, que leva horas. Contrariamente ao que habitualmente se pensa, aquilo não vem tudo de repente (lembro-me de termos ficado já no hotel no dia anterior, pelo meio-dia, e o furacão só passou durante a noite do dia seguinte).

Durante este tempo de espera, sente-se literalmente no nosso corpo a elevação da pressão atmosférica, a humidade torna-se elevadíssima, o calor é imenso. O céu vai ficando uma grande massa de nuvens negras avançando lentamente, uma grande massa uniforme de nuvens, que até nem parecia estar a andar, mas estava e sobre nós. A chuva começa, de início normal na intensidade mas contínua, já não para. Na foto aqui ao lado, estava a começar já a chover e via-se já a massa de nuvem negra a aproximar-se no horizonte, lentamente.

nuvens negras aproximam-se

pelo meio dia, um dia e meio antes do furacão passar

O guia deixou-nos no hotel pelo meio dia, com ordens de já ninguém sair sem ordem do pessoal. No hotel, sentia-se o nervosismo dos funcionários, apesar de já estarem habituados a furacões. Como turistas, podemos até estar com receio mas não temos a mínima noção!

Os vidros das janelas foram todos cruzados com fita-adesiva larga, para que o impacto não os projetasse para o interior em caso de quebra. Durante a tarde do primeiro dia ainda pudemos ir à piscina do hotel. No dia seguinte, já toda a gente tinha de estar apenas no interior do hotel, portas e janelas todas fechadas, o vento já era forte, a chuva era constante mas ainda dentro do que consideramos uma chuva forte.

Nos bares, os turistas como eu tomavam “mojitos”, toda a gente tinha os olhos na tv, mas o espírito era de relativa descontração entre nós, turistas. Pensamos: vai ser uma grande chuvada e ventania. Huh!

quando ele passa

O olho do furacão atingiu Cuba de resvés (em especial Havana, eu estava na outra ponta da ilha, em Santiago) durante a noite.

Ficámos sem electricidade, só com algumas lanternas dos funcionários, que fazem o possível por manter-se calmos e acalmar os turistas, estes agora já todos bem acordados, ressacas curadas e olhos arregalados na noite.

Só posso dizer que é indescritível o barulho, a força do vento mas sobretudo, o que mais me impressionou, a quantidade de chuva! É indescritível!!! É como uma parede de água, às toneladas, constante, continuamente, a cair do céu! E o vento, que levava as palmeiras a bater com a copa no chão, literalmente! Mas a chuva, foi realmente o que mais me marcou. Nem sei quanto tempo durou, mas foi longo e parecia que nunca mais acabava. O facto de ser noite foi ainda mais assustador.

cuba 1998.JPGFelizmente, estivemos sempre bem e a salvo. O dia seguinte mostrou a realidade, embora no hotel os funcionários fossem rápidos a limpar o máximo possível de árvores caídas.

Com o aeroporto de Santiago fechado, tivemos que fazer de autocarro o percurso até Varadero um ou dois dias depois. A destruição era visível na já bem pobre ilha, mas novamente o que me impressionou foi a água acumulada nas estradas, nos solos… era imensa ainda.

O George foi um furacão categoria 1 “apenas”. Não imagino o que será um furacão categoria 5, como agora o Irma!

Duma coisa tenho a certeza: só pode ser um horror! A não viver, de preferência.

Setembro, nunca!

Nota mental: nunca ir de férias para as Caraíbas em Setembro e Outubro. É quase garantido que se irá apanhar com um fenómeno natural nada agradável. Na altura, eu não sabia. A informação não se compara ao que é hoje. Não me apanham mais por aqueles lados nestas alturas. Pensem bem antes de comprar as viagens que nesta altura do ano são mais baratas para estes sítios. Pudera!

 

 

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Tourist saved by fishermen in an awkward situation

A foreign citizen was rescued by fishermen this Saturday (26th March 2016), 500 meters off coast of Santa Cruz,  Madeira Island.

Suspecting they had heard someone screaming, the crew quickly turned off the boat engines and tried to assess whether the suspicion was even true. Indeed it was! They saw a woman floating with a handbag and immediately pulled her up to their boat.

This quite unusual event has some rocambolesque contours. mapa madeira santa cruzThe tourist woman aged 65 years old, after finding that he had lost the ship’s departure (Marco Polo) at Funchal harbour, where she had arrived, went to Santa Cruz. Once there and seeing that the cruise ship crossed the sea in front of this local village, she decided to throw herself to sea and swim to reach the ship.

Needless to say, after having swum several hours, her goal failed.

She ended up in hospital and was diagnosed with exhaustion and hypothermia.

marco polo ship

I believe the ship arrived at destination in due time.

The strange thing is that her husband was in the ship!

Some say the woman was brave, other call her crazy. What do you think?

Winners 2015 – Hotels in Portugal – World Travel Awards

Hotel Pestana Porto Santo

All these hotels are in Portugal and all of them were awarded by World Travel Awards 2015, some of them, like The Vine, for the third consecutive year.

Click on the name of each hotel and see the nominees against which they were running to the award and you can, from there, go to each hotel site.

Europe’s Leading Beach Resort Hotel Quinta do Lago, Portugal
Europe’s Leading Boutique Hotel Vila Joya, Portugal
Europe’s Leading Boutique Resort Choupana Hills Resort & Spa, Portugal
Europe’s Leading Business Hotel Myriad by SANA Hotels, Portugal
Europe’s Leading Design Hotel The Vine Hotel, Portugal
Europe’s Leading Green Hotel Corinthia Hotel Lisbon, Portugal
Europe’s Leading Landmark Hotel Bairro Alto Hotel, Portugal
Europe’s Leading Luxury Resort & Spa Conrad Algarve, Portugal
Europe’s Most Romantic Resort Monte Santo Resort, Portugal
Mediterranean’s Leading Boutique Hotel Quinta da Casa Branca, Portugal
Mediterranean’s Leading Hotel Hotel Quinta do Lago, Portugal
Portugal’s Leading Boutique Hotel The Yeatman
Portugal’s Leading Business Hotel Pestana Palace
Portugal’s Leading Conference Hotel Corinthia Hotel Lisbon
Portugal’s Leading Design Hotel Altis Belém Hotel & Spa
Portugal’s Leading Family Resort Sheraton Algarve at Pine Cliffs Resort
Portugal’s Leading Green Hotel Vila Vita Parc
Portugal’s Leading Hotel Bairro Alto Hotel
Portugal’s Leading Hotel Residences Troia Design Hotel, a Blue and Green Hotel
Portugal’s Leading Hotel Suite Presidential Suite @ Sheraton Porto Hotel & Spa
Portugal’s Leading Resort Pestana Porto Santo All Inclusive & Spa Beach Resort
Portugal’s Leading Serviced Apartments Altis Suites
Portugal’s Leading Spa Resort Choupana Hills Resort & Spa
Portugal’s Leading Villa Resort Dunas Douradas Beach Club

the forgotten guests – Royal Caribbean Intl, Independence of the Seas

Imagine you’d made all the arrangements for a special holiday on a cruise, with your son, daughter-in-law and two young grandsons. Imagine that this was your very first cruise ever. Imagine also that this was a special occasion like your son’s birthday and you had also ordered a special cake and surprise to be delivered on his special day. Imagine also that you, as parents and grand-parents, wanted to give your son and daughter-in-law some moments of relief, joy and fun by keeping the kids with you on the evenings or diner time, or show time…Imagine that you have chosen the Independence of the Seas to have all this! Yeah! Not less than the second biggest ship in the whole world!

Imagine those days before the cruise, where you’re already dreaming that you’re on board and time seems endless. You start packing. Your family at Southampton gets on board, finally. You’ll be joining them two days after, at Madeira, the first stop of the cruise. This day finally arrives! You  ask a friend to take you to the harbor. This friend is also going to say hello to his aunt who comes in the ship. You can’t wait to be on board that cruise!

And then, your friend says that his aunt told him they weren’t coming to Madeira. That’s impossible, she must be seasick. But the ship doesn’t show, all morning, all afternoon, all night, all day. You understand the ship is not coming to pick you for your travel. And the worst thing? The rest of the family IS on board already, from the initial point of departure, Southampton, remember?

Can you imagine it?

This happened to my dear friends and neighbors Sandra and John, an English couple who lives randomly in Madeira and Cambridge. They waited for the ship that never came. Uninformed, left behind, sad and feeling miserable, they managed to know that the ship had faced bad weather conditions at the Bay of Biscay so the captain decided to skip next stop (Madeira, where the weather is fantastic at the moment, by the way) without any contact whatsoever to their guests left behind, till this moment, ie 27th April, 8pm. They were supposed to embark the 25th April.

After John’s several cell phone calls to their agency in UK, which took knowledge of the situation by the customers (!), they knocked at my door to express their frustration. Surprised to see them again, I decided to help them, so I contacted Royal Caribbean International through their Facebook page as well as through Twitter, and explain what was happening. The answer, 23 hours after, came with an explanation on Mother Nature’s power, and safety and security of guests and crew members (you can read the whole answer at the end of the post), with these final sentences:

“There are many things that we can control but unfortunately Mother Nature is not one of them. We apologize for any inconvenience this caused our guests, and we thank them for their understanding.”

Wow! is this Royal Caribbean International customer service…?

Mother Nature is not the only thing RCI can’t control. It seems they don’t control their guests lists and contacts either. And apparently they’re not aware that their guests-left-behind are quite far from being in an understanding mood at the moment, especially when they still haven’t received any contact whatsoever from the cruise line.

Other than the expenses incurred (all paid in advance), the lost holidays and the missed family gathering  are two things they won’t get back.  Royal Caribbean International took a decision that affected the financial and the emotional life of this couple. The least RCI could do is to give them a call or email them, none of these obviously avoiding the subsequent compensation.

Feel free to follow the conversation here http://www.facebook.com/royalcaribbean/posts/10150834306851397?notif_t=feed_comment or to show your support to Sandra here