Sunday 27th July 2014 – at sea
Champagne Breakfast on the balcony was a nice way to start the day, Danish pastry, fresh orange juice, pot of tea and chilled champagne. All very civilised, well it is Sunday!
We were one of the first out on deck, there was only us, the pool butlers setting up the chairs for the day and the joggers and walkers. Its so lovely and peaceful when the decks are quiet. The pool butlers were very busy going about their business and work as a team to get all the loungers dressed and looking smart for the sun worshipers. I have watched them roll those towels and there is a definite art to rolling them so tightly and to such perfection.
At 10.30am we started our transit of the Bosphorus, so we slowed right down which of course meant the breeze dropped. I thought we should surely all melt. Last time we came through here it was 8 days ago and it was night time, and very windy. A running commentary from the bridge pointed out all the places of interest and it took approximately one and a half hours to reach the other end past the Blue Mosques. Absolutely stunning scenery and fascinating – ooh there goes my cultural side again! There were drinks stations set up on almost every corner of the deck to go and help yourself to soft drinks and fresh lemonade, but I found the salt rim marguerita to be very refreshing. At one point I had to go and stand under the cold shower by the pool just to try and cool down a little, but I was in fear of missing sailing under the bridges and past the Blue Mosque so didn’t venture into the pool until we had past the last point of interest. When I eventually made it into the pool it was the busiest I have ever seen it, but of so soothing.
After a quick change and freshen up we headed for a light pasta lunch at Terrace Cafe. It amused me that today everyone is trying to avoid the sunny tables. We had a pleasant table, just about in the shade, with a gentle breeze. To follow I had fresh strawberry ice cream and vodka lemon sorbet. Oh yum!
I think you can probably guess where I headed after lunch. Yes, the tranquillity of my suite, and I climbed between those cool, fresh cotton sheets and rested my little eyelids.
By the time I woke up it was time to transit the Dardanelles. thank heavens for the wake up call by the name of Rozario with the daily canapes. Im loving the rattan balcony furniture which are like big comfy reclining chairs. A girl has got to be comfortable when sitting watching the world go by. We were still in the Dardanelles when I had showered and changed for dinner. The scenery was just stunning and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect.
Daniel my Cocktail shaking Bartender extraordinaire was in fine form this evening, just as he has been every evening. My lime green dress inspired the best tasting Melon Martini ever produced at sea. Ok, so I might have had more than one, but hey, I’m on holiday.
I was so looking forward to this evenings meal. We dined in Red Ginger and it didn’t disappoint. Possibly the best meal of the cruise, but all of them for me have been excellent. I do love this place and the choices on the menu just excite me. everything was so very tasty and just scrummy (for want of a better word) we were one of the last to leave, but thats nothing unusual for us!
After dinner we nipped into the theatre to see the end of the End of Cruise Show, and congratulate all of the amazing crew members as they passed through the theatre to the applause and cheers of the passengers who they had served for the last 10 days. We met back up with our bar buddies after dinner in Martini Bar and I have no idea how we ended up in a game of Name that Tooon, but we did. I think we did ok, but I was more interested in my Martini Cocktails – that’s what bars are for! from there we moved onto Horizon Lounge where we proceeded to have a very very late night, early morning. I think if we had nipped upto the bridge we could have perhaps assisted the Captain maneuvering into port.
Monday 28th July 2014 – Kusadasi
We are not even berthed yet. There should be a breeze on my balcony and there isn’t. Oh, its going to be a hot one!
We wandered upto Waves to claim our usual spot on the Terrace for breakfast and were joined by Ina and Willie, we did our best to avoid the sun, with the parasol up but despite it being very early the sun was burning into the back of my neck. I feared I would have sunstroke before I had even finished breakfast.
As per usual we were one of the first to leave the ship. I cannot describe the heat of the sun today, other than imagine being in a very gleaming shiny hot oven with everything sparkling at you in an attempt to blind you, at the same time as trying to avoid swallowing the thick hot air. It was just unreal. Being among the first ashore meant we couldn’t even get through the terminal shopping centre without being hassled to purchase a leather coat. Now I love Kusadasi, and could spend all day ashore here just browsing, haggling and generally having a mooch around. But not today! How many times can I possibly give a polite response to the questions “you come inside you buy leather coat” “you want nice carpet” “Hello, Good Morning, you want nice genuine fake watch” “look, see, no hassle, you shop in peace” Ohh it was all too much. Did the shopkeepers really think I needed a leather coat, with fur lining and a fur hood? Really? Well I didn’t, just the thought of trying one on was too much! It was like torture and death by sunlight, with verbal torture from every angle. If we lasted 40 minutes in total ashore thats as long as we lasted and I wanted to run to the tranquillity of the ship screaming “I surrender”!! Kusadasi had beaten me today. It was just too hot. Within minutes of being back onboard I was standing in a full on cold shower in my bathroom. Bliss, just sheer bliss!
Mr C thought a swim would be a good idea so I donned a swimsuit and we headed up to the deserted pool area. Wow, its no wonder there is nobody up here. It is baking. The pool was no relief either, the water was luke warm and my head felt like it was a pea simmering to be kept warm for dinner. I retreated to the loungers set back in the shade – an area I had never ventured before, but after a glass of lemonade I was beat and retreated to my suite. Yes, lemonade at this time of day – shocking! But enough sun and heat now.
After a bit of packing it was time for lunch and we opted for a very light lunch in Waves. Why? Because I really had to do afternoon tea today. I love afternoon tea Oceania Cruises style. And it didn’t disappoint. In my opinion Oceania afternoon tea far exceeds Cunard white gloved afternoon tea. It is far more decadent and way superior in offerings of sandwiches, cakes and pastrys. The service is white gloved. You can choose to sit and be served by various waiters that come round with silver trays and sweet trollies, or you can go to the table and make your own selection. Versace china in laid on the perfect white linen table cloths. Champagne is served from the drinks trolley with a strawberry of course. I had the most divine turkey sandwiches, delicate little pastries and warm scone with cream and jam. I wish I could have fitted afternoon tea in more this cruise, but the food is so amazing everywhere that you don’t know what to try next.
Back at the suite I had to organise the packing and get as much of that done as I could. I could of course of asked Rozario, the butler, and tempted as I was, I cant face anyone else doing my packing. I need to know where things are. Rozario bought us our final canapés of the cruise this evening. That was a sad moment. He was always my signal to wake up and start getting ready for the evening ahead, but its nearly all over.
I simply cannot be late for my final Pre dinner Martini of this cruise. Im wearing burnt orange this evening and Daniel has a puzzled look before I am even seated. You can see the cogs whirring in his head trying to establish what Martini to mix me tonight that matches. Of course he managed it. We have had such a good time at the Martini Bar. Who needs ports of call when you have a floating Martini Bar?!
Dinner this evening is in Polo Grill. We have a lovely table for 2 by the window, and the perfect sunset outside. But oh its warm, its so hot and the air conditioning is struggling to regain normality after the heat of Kusadasi. Mr C was the first to step outside. It must be warm if he is struggling. And before we had even ordered I had to step outside too. This was causing much concern among the waiters, but all around you could hear people commenting on the air conditioning. I think it was just too much for the systems to try and cope with and recover from the heat of the day. I’m guessing people had sat with balcony doors open all day and now the aircon was on overdrive.
Oh the meal was devine. Mr C had the 32oz rib, which I have to be honest I have roasted smaller ribs of beef to feed three of us on a Sunday. That amount of meat is too overwhelming for me. I think I upset my lovely waiter because I ordered the spit roast chicken. Im just meated out. I don’t want to see any more red meat, as delicious and perfectly cooked as it is on here. My simple chicken and jacket potato was just perfect for me this evening
Our evening ended in the Martini Bar where it all started. Mr C finished off his trial of brandys while I recapped on my favourite Martinis. Daniel and the bar team continued to entertain until the end, until it was time for hugs Goodbye. Will I be back? You bet I will!
Suitcases had to go outside before retiring for the night, and so to bed. I didn’t sleep at all well. I was up at 4.00am looking at the coastline light up, shortly afterwards I could see the port approaching so got up again, and then I was up again to watch us berth.
Tuesday 29th July 2014 – Athens
Breakfast opened at 6.30am in Terrace Cafe and as usual we were one of the first in, the Coast Guard was hovering in his little boat off the aft for ages, no idea why, but eventually he gave up and went for his breakfast I presume. After breakfast we collected our hand luggage from the suite but were in no hurry to disembark. He had a hotel booked but I knew they wouldn’t have a room ready for us so early, so we chose to chill out by the pool. I was eating ice cream before 9.00am, for no other reason than I could! I utilised my last hour onboard by having a snoop around the suites, for research purposes of course. I think the Owners suite has my name on it at some point in my life. Oh wow, you should see the entrance hall. Floor to ceiling sloping window overlooking the wake. Sit up bar area, Grand piano, marble floor. Oh yes, get Daniel behind that bar and it would be the perfect setting for me. Oh Wow again the lounge is simply stunning. Yes my idea of heaven at sea. Separate bedroom with a huge bed looking out to sea, and the bathroom with whirlpool bath and bigger than many cabins I have seen. I would have loved to have a snoop on the balcony but my now the cabin stewardess was almost growling at me so I had to be polite and leave.
Just before 9.00am we decided it was time to disembark, the masses had gone which meant the bun fight for cabs would have dispersed. Our luggage was located in Green priority 1 area. I had 3 identical cases, two large and one medium sized. Green 1 was practically empty and right at the front stood our medium case, then a gap as wide as a case, then a large case. We looked among the handful of others that remained, and it wasn’t there. Then we checked the other areas, convinced there was no case I approached a girl from Oceania and she searched, then a lady from the ground crew joined the search, followed by another lady and then a male supervisor. All the time they looked with Mr C while I stood guarding what cases we did have. All the time I was drawn to magenta coloured large case at the back of Green 1. Our cases were matching purple Tripp cases, with a bow of florescent pink net tied to each top and side handle. This other case was more magenta pink/purple, larger, totally different design and make, but had a tiny pink ribbon on the handle. Different, but too many similarities. I checked the Oceania label and it was heading for a Singapore airlines flight. Why was it the only Chinese piece of luggage in the baggage hall? I am often mistaken for Miss Marples! I shared my gut feeling with the Oceania girl and she contacted the ship via walkie talkie to try and establish if this Chinese lady had disembarked. Not east when you can’t read Chinese, but yes they were confident she had disembarked. The space for mobile phone number on the luggage label was blank, as was the suitcase address label. Call back to the ship for full contact details. The mobile number was called and luckily someone answered. But! The woman who answered spoke no English at all. Not even ‘Do you speak English’ they tried asking her to pass to the taxi driver, but nil communication meant the Oceania team had to hang up and go in search of an interpreter. The baggage hall was almost deserted by now apart from a few crew on wifi, but anyone that was slightly oriental would get asked by each and every one of us if they spoke Chinese. We knew that the Chinese passengers onboard were all long gone and I feared the worst. But as the hall cleared even more, one of the team found a Chinese couple sitting quietly reading with their backs to us on the far side. Success, they understood English and agreed to speak to the person on the end of the phone that we believed had my missing suitcase. No, it wasn’t them, but they think they knew who it was and we were given another mobile to try. This lady did speak broken English, confirmed she had a case fitting the description of the one in the baggage hall but as far as she was concerned she had all her cases and was almost at the airport an hour away. The ground crew girl was most insistent that she come back to the port to identify this case, but she was taking some convincing. 15 minutes later the girl called her back to ask if she was on her way back to port, but still not convinced she asked to speak to the taxi driver and spoke Greek to him to insist he turn around and come back. Thank heavens they were in a taxi and not a coach. We were offered the opportunity to go to our hotel and they would send the suitcase over to us when it arrived, but I needed to wait. I needed to see it with my own eyes or I wouldn’t settle. I was still half convinced that this Chinese lady had just forgotten her case and didn’t even have mine. The Oceania team and the ground crew were simply amazing. Yes I was a little ratty to start of with, my case was missing, so I was not a happy bunny. But they kept me calm and positive, although it was suggested that maybe Mr Laid Back C and the member of the ground crew go and identify the suitcase when the Chinese lady turned up, while I stood back with the Oceania girl. I think the Chinese Lady would have sensed my total disapproval at her stupidness had I been within eye line of her. Apparently she was very, very apologetic and wished us a good day. But I was to busy celebrating and cheering with the Oceanai a team and check in staff for the next cruise. We were given a right royal send off in our taxi as we left the port. I don’t need that drama gain and need to find some even more unique identifying ribbon for my case in future.
We had a short taxi ride from Piraeus port to our Athens Hotel, Atheneum Intercontinental. I hadn’t realised when I booked it that it was the same one that Oceania use, mainly because I refer to it as Intercontinental and they refer to it as Atheneum. So the place was buzzing with Oceania passengers who had just disembarked all sat around waiting for rooms to become available. We checked in and immediately our Platinum Elite status was recognised and we were whisked off to a very important looking desk in the lobby. We were instantly upgraded to a superior deluxe room, but when I told her what a stressful morning we had had she invited us for coffee in the lounge and said she would be back shortly. Coffee arrived and next thing we knew to advise that she had just held off two suites for us. One larger one at the back with no view, or a smaller one with a stunning view of the Acropolis and we were invited to look at both before she allocated one to us. Well the full view of the Acropolis did it for me so we accepted the smaller one. Having said that it was huge! And very spacious. The view was stunning. We had double doors and a doorbell – what more could a girl want. Gifts, fresh fruit and water arrived, cases were delivered. Oh yes, I’m a happy girl. We had access to the Concierge lounge for drinks, canapés, snacks, full breakfast tomorrow and again a fab view of the Acropolis. After freshen up and a drink in the lounge we took the complimentary shuttle bus into town. How hot? How noisy with traffic? We headed down the main pedestrian street and turned left at the old church at the bottom and we were in the old town. Perfect! I do love it here and think I would like to spend more time here for a long weekend maybe. I have places I need to discover. We stopped off at one of the many little street cafes for a chicken wrap and a cool drink, before setting back off to Parliament Square for the changing of the guard. How this soldiers do stand so still in that heat I don’t know, but it’s a massive test of endurance. I stood next to both of them for a photo and I found them quite scary how they just stare. Wouldn’t like to meet one of them when they are angry anyway! Our complimentary transport back to the hotel left at 10 past the hour so was perfect timing for when the changing of the guard finished.
Im liking this suite life! Suites all the way for me in the future! The air conditioning was perfect and lovely and cool.
We had booked for dinner on the upper terrace at the Premier Restaurant. A very trendy terrace, with a range of seating areas all giving excellent views of the Acropolis. It was after 7.00pm and the sun was still fierce. The poor waiter was struggling in the heat. I had my Cosmo to cool me down, and as nice as it was it wasn’t as good as the Martini Bar offerings. We had a table for 2 reserved for 8.00pm. Oh wow, the food! It was totally amazing from start to finish. I had chicken, but not like chicken I have ever tasted in my entire life. Mr C had the lamb which again he said was beyond perfect. My desert of Lime Mohhito, well what can I say? Words do fail me on that one. It was so amazing Mr C almost ordered another. Just to die for! We retreated to the bar for a nightcap before heading to a lush cool bed in our suite.
Wednesday 30th July 2014 – Athens
I had a lovely sleep, but I was still awake bright and early. I nice refreshing shower, secured all the cases for our departure and we headed for breakfast in the Executive lounge and had breakfast on the balcony in view of the Acropolis. I grown quite attached to the Acropolis this time around. I had no affection for it until now, which is possibly a result of being dragged around it in the heat as a child. As you all know I don’t do culture and monuments! After breakfast we sat by the pool for a while, trying our hardest to suffer the heat, just because it would be the last for a while, but it really was time to check out which we did via the comfort of the Exec lounge. My time in Athens was complete, I had met a Stravros again. Stavros was checking us out and even gave me a gift, compliments of Intercontinental. I was a happy little bunny as I got in the taxi to the airport.
It’s a good 45 minute journey in a taxi to the airport and I was amazed when he only asked for 38 euro on arrival at the airport. I had it in my head it should be 55 euro but I think that’s how much from the port to the airport. It cost us 25 euro port to hotel and 38 euro hotel to port. A 15 minute taxi ride back in the UK from home to the train station costs me £17.50 so this is indeed a bargain and the taxis are spotless and air conditioned too.
We were still early for BA check in, but as there was already a queue we opted to stand in it as I knew the Oceania transfers were yet to arrive. Athens airport has little to offer but I still insisted on looking in every retail outlet. We headed for the peace and quiet of the Exec lounge and had the place more or less to ourselves before being called to board the flight.
I had pre booked my seats for the return flight and we had extra leg room on an exit seat. Cabin crew were cheerful, and considering I don’t like flying it wasn’t too painful. We had stunning views over London as we came into land and I think I spotted every iconic landmark as we swept over the city. Lovely smooth landing, but then we had a female first officer land the plane! I was like a rabbit out of a trap to be the first at the baggage carousel, nobody was taking my suite case in error this time! Meteor Meet and Greet had the car waiting for us so it was all pretty effortless. Home James!
It has been a thoroughly amazing cruise, and I have enjoyed every nano second of it! Oceania were faultless in every aspect of or cruise. The food, the service, the Martinis!! I have no niggles, no concerns. I just wish we were onboard for longer and in hindsight I would do a 10 and 7 day back to back in future if I wasn’t doing a longer voyage. It took us a while to adjust to the heat, the time change etc, so a longer cruise for us would have been better. I will just have to go back and do it all again. The ports have been a welcome change from the same old same old. With the exception of Istanbul and Athens I hadn’t been to any of the ports before so it was a new adventure exploring those.
As I think you might have guessed, I did love my suite. But next time it would be simply amazing if I could convince Mr C that I need to sample the delights and benefits of the larger Vista or Oceania Suites. Ideally I want the Penthouse, but Mr C needs to work longer hours before I can have that one.
We enjoyed every meal. Mr C does love his food, so his belly was more than satisfied. I rarely even enter a self service buffet on any ship but the Terrace Cafe and Waves Grill were just in another league. We received excellent service throughout our time onboard, and we certainly weren’t given any special treatment above other guests.
I even loved the ports. So refreshing to go somewhere completely new to me and different, with new places to explore.
We met some great like minded people onboard and enjoyed many a laugh, and a few Martinis!
For me, Oceania remain as one of my top recommendations for an excellent all round cruise experience!