Friday 9th September 2016
All pre departure checks have been satisfactorily completed and we are ready to load the case into the car and head for Heathrow to start our next holiday adventure. The last few days have been reasonably organised, packing went a little too well, and I have that nagging “I’ve forgotten something” feeling. I have the luxury of 128kg of luggage allowance, over 4 suite cases, plus generous hand luggage allowance. So why have I only packed 3 cases weighing 65kg. I need to see a doctor!
Mr C and SatNav woman are in cahoots with each other. We got on the M6 at junc 3 and I had a deja vu moment of when I last left Mr C and SatNav woman to get us to Heathrow. Last time she took us along the A14, through villages I had never heard of. By the time we approached junction 2 of the M6 we were borderline arguing about the route. Needless to say, I won, and we exited the M6, cut across to the M40 and had a relatively stress free journey to Heathrow with only one little hold up on route.
We pulled up at Sofitel and the doorman was immediately over to greet us. A nice man took away the cases, and another took the car away to park it. We breezed into Sofitel where there was a small queue at reception. I was more than willing to wait my turn, but before I had even had chance to stand still another receptionist appeared from nowhere, threw open the leather blotter pad on the desk and greeted us to check in. Nice cheeky little upgrade to Junior Suite with lounge access and we were directed to our room first floor, zone 1. This hotel is massive. The lift music was a bit over funky, loud jazz music. I wouldn’t want to be stuck in there too long. Our room was just past the internal Zen Garden. First impression of the Junior Suite, nice but nothing to blow your socks off. Bathroom is nice with nice bath and large separate shower cubical. We have bathrobes and fancy toiletries. Most of all I have plenty of space which is always good when there is luggage involved. Our room overlooks the whirly car park exit, but I choose not to stand watching the cars exit because it was making me dizzy. Time to check out the exec lounge. If we had timed it better and arrived before 4.30pm we could have had afternoon tea in the lounge. Or we could go for posh tea in Tea 5, or we could go to the Champagne bar, or one of the many different bars and restaurants. But why bother when there is a lounge with all inclusive drinks. It was empty when we arrived so helped ourselves to some wine and a nice sit down on the comfy sofas. We snacked on some very good canapés of salmon, noodles, quiche, breads, cheeses etc. Several glasses of wine later I sampled the gin, and you will be surprised to hear I also sampled the coffee. All good. We were flagging. Mr C poured a couple of night caps and we headed back to the room. We have an early start in the morning.
I climbed into bed and it was like a huge fluffy marshmallow. A flump in fact! Uber soft bed and pillows. I could feel a nice peaceful sleep coming on. All was going well until about an hour into my sleep when Mr C kicked out in his sleep and booted me right on the shin. Ouch! And he dared to tut at me when I woke him up with a yell. My shin is still hurting now. From that moment my sleep time was over. I put the TV back on and chanel hopped. Bored now. At 3.00am I caved and got out of bed, put all the lights on and got in the shower. Mr C try’s to inform me it’s not time to get up yet. Too late, I’m already up and suffering sleep deprivation. Good job I was up early because I needed an extra hour to put all the toiletries back in the cases that Mr C can’t seem to live without.
Mr C acquired an airport trolley. Check out was swift and we breezed through along the walkway from the hotel and found ourselves in the departures at T5. No niggles with each other, which is usually caused by luggage, the car drive from hotel to airport, parking the car etc. Sofitel is the way forward, effortless!! Baggage drop was smooth. Fast track security a breeze, well it was for me. Liquids in clear plastic bag, iPad in the tray with phone, hand luggage in another tray, through the scanner, job done. But not for the male species going through security. I stood back and watched a row of them faff around patting pockets, removing belts, patting more pockets and each time security lady asked again for them to remove all watches, keys, coins, belts, phones, so they mysteriously found more items about their person. I was through the scanner, collected my stuff and stood back waiting for Mr C so got to observe the row of male species in reverse as they collected their items together. Refilled every pocket, re threaded their belt etc. How did they wake up this morning not knowing they needed to pass through airport security? Clearly never a Boy Scout because the male species were not prepared this morning. My security experience was good so I gave the green smiley button a slap as I passed. Within 5 minutes we were in the BA Lounge. Now sit down, but you are going to be shocked to learn I did not partake in alcoholic beverages this morning. I think that might be a first for me at an airport. I blame sleep deprivation. I had a tea, a coffee, a juice and a croissant. I was even too tired for retail therapy. I know, I know! Call the doctor.
We were soon called to the gate for our 7.00am flight and by 7.01am we were pushing back. Lady Captain in charge this morning who clearly likes to be on time. The weather outside is grim. Grey drizzle. Not that I have been outside or had a whiff of fresh air since we entered the Sofitel at 4.30 yesterday afternoon. A fleet of BA aircraft lined up in the runway and it was soon our turn. Well it was after a beast of an Etihad plane landed. It was huge, and it’s wings were bending and flapping as it roared to a standstill. In complete contrast was our Airbus320. Jeepers, thank heavens I upgraded to Business Class Club Europe or whatever it is. It’s a 3-3 configuration, but we have the luxury of the middle seat between us blocked off. In the past these have at least been pushed together to make the middle seat literally fold in on itself. Not this one, it forms a table between us. It’s very compact with not a great deal of leg room, no TVs etc. We are on row 2. The couple in front of me are so irritating. Don’t know why, they just are! The couple across the aisle are a bit odd too lol, glasses on a chain on the end of her nose, reminds me of some fashion woman off the tv. She keeps having a tidy up. And somewhere, a few rows back is a bloke with a big booming voice. Don’t think he has shut up since he boarded. I might have to tell him I’m bored of listening to him now.
Breakfast was very good. Full English, warm breads, fresh fruit and some weird yogurt thing. Lady with the glasses liked it. I love the tea cup. Royal Dolton with London scenes on them. Service has been excellent. The BA man decided I needed some fizz in my life and produced a bottle each for me & Mr C, he also produced some orange juice with the advice it was better that way. He wasn’t wrong. I took a sip of the fizz without and it was not the finest of champagne lol. Nice BA man has just passed by again with his drinks trolley. Glasses lady declined, but as soon as she heard me ask for dark rum and Coke her eyes lit up. She was on it, almost grabbing the vodka from his bottom drawer. Mr nice BA man didn’t have any dark rum for me. I was going to go with vodka but he’s decided I should had JD and Coke. Ooh been a while since I had one of those.
So I’m sitting here typing away, sipping on my JD at the same time thinking to myself, I wonder what my Harry Cat would think of it being on a plane. Strange but true! There is a spare seat between us to curl up on and he could have a little mooch around between the rows of seats and up and down the aisle. Just then something brushed the back if my ankles. On my life, has Harry Cat stowed away? No, it was the bloke behind me stretching out his legs. How much flamin’ room does he want? A swift reaction with my foot movement soon shifted him. Mr Boom voice is still rattling away. He likes the sound of his own voice.
Let’s see where we are. The overhead monitor informs me we have 250 miles to go, about half an hour by my calculation. No, according to the monitor we are 41 minutes away. The sky is very blue so that’s a good sign and we are just flying over Kastoria. I’m going to catch up with whatever Mr Boom voice is prattling on about.
We landed on time at Athens airport. It as the quickest taxi to gate I have ever known and the doors seemed to open immediately. There was a massive queue at immigration but luckily they let a bulk load through so we were at the front within minutes. Mr Immigration must have decided I looked suspicious because he gave me a right look over, and checked all pages of the passport. As soon as we got to baggage claim our cases were there in front of us. I like those Priority stickers they put on at Heathrow. Straight outside and into a taxi. I reckon plane to taxi took less than 20 minutes.
The taxi driver wasn’t the happiest chap in the world. I dint think he really communicated. For info, fixed rate taxi from airport to city centre is 38 euro. We were at Intercontinental just outside town so it was 40 euro.
Check in at the hotel got very confusing. It turned more into a sketch from Fawlty Towers. We had booked one grade if room, got complimentary upgrade to another grade of room, but were being offered a reduced cost upgrade to another type of room. All the time I had in my hand a completely different type of room upgrade. After much confusion, a few back office chats and Guest Relations lady was sent to sort us out and offered to show us the different room types. We didn’t get very far because I chose the Junior Executive Suite. She thought I wouldn’t like it because she knew I had requested an Acropolis view room, which this didn’t have. It had the word suite in it, so really what was not to like. This suite was much nicer than the Acropolis room that we had last time. Separate lounge and bedroom. Big entrance hall, nice bathroom. I was a happy bunny. We went for refreshments in the exec lounge and an excited older lady came rushing up to us with great excitement. She seemed delighted we spoke English. Apparently they are all foreign in Athens! Oh dear. How she managed to get from Australia to here was beyond me. After a quick drink in the Exec lounge we decided to go into town for an hour, or rather I did. I could tell Mr C didn’t really want to. But he went through the motions with me. Stood and waited for the hotel shuttle bus with me, even got on it, then suggested he might like a lay down. And off he went back into the hotel. In town I stopped by the Changing of the Guard before walking across the square in to the shops. Oh boy it was busy. I don’t really think I have ever experienced it that busy. Maybe it’s a Saturday thing. I had a good route march around the town, down to the flea market and back through the old town. I wanted to be on the next bus back to the hotel so had to stride it out up the hill. I was nearly melting waiting the few minutes for him to arrive.
No time to chill out and relax back at the hotel. We had a table booked at the Premiere rooftop restaurant. Oh I love it up there. The cocktails are Devine and the view is stunning. I had the most devine Lady martini. The meal was excellent. Food is on another level and desert did not disappoint with its dramatic entrance. I met the broken man as we left, and I sympathised with him because that’s exactly how I felt. We swung by the exec lounge for some hot chocolate en route back to the room, and finally I hit my bed.
Sunday 11th September 2016 – Athens
Ooh we have had a big day today. It nearly went a bit pear shaped at the start of the day after I woke up late at 9.00am, which was not the in the plan. I would like to say I had been asleep all night and had an amazing sleep, but quite the opposite. I woke up at 2.00am, melting. I got up to sort the air con in the bedroom but I couldn’t cool down. I knew the lounge would be cooler so eventually gave up and crept out of the bedroom, slid the doors too and laid on the sofa. Bliss, the aircon was beating down on me. A laid there for an hour or two, before returning to the bed. By now my turned back sheets had almost turned to ice from the aircon. Next thing I knew it was 9.00am. I had to sort clothes, shower, get to breakfast before 10.00am.
Plan today was to go to The Acropolis. Anyone that knows me knows that I don’t usually do such things, but MR C really wants to go. He has never seen it, but I had been as a child which is probably what puts me off wanting to go again. I don’t recall it being any fun last time I went there.
After breakfast we got our stuff together and headed off on our adventure. We could have waited for the hotel minibus to take us, but decided to jump in a taxi and it was only 7 euro so no big deal. The taxi driver was telling us that today was quieter up there because there were no big cruise ships in. Yesterday there were two hour queues just to get tickets. The taxi dropped us off and I looked up. How on earth was I supposed to get up there in this heat? It looked very daunting, so daunting I purchased water before my accent. It certainly tested the leg muscles. The queue for tickets was only about 10 mins, and then the real climb started. I wonder if there is ever such a thing as a cool breeze. It didn’t help that Mr C stopped every 20 paces to take photos. I pushed on. I’m not going to pretend that I found the Acropolis awesome or anything, for me it was more of a sentimental journey. I guess I just don’t appreciate culture. Mr C loved it and would have done the whole day up there. The walk down was no easier than the walk up, and it was getting hotter. We walked back to where the taxi dropped us off, but then decided to walk down to the Museum, except we had walked too far down the hill, ended up at the back of the museum and had to get back up a very steep hill to get to the front of it. Mr C got an ear battering at this point.
I had a mission to see the Plaka area, so that was next on our tour. Very pretty, quaint little streets full of shops and bars. Needless to say we found a lovely restaurant and sat in the garden with a huge fan blowing directly on me. Bliss at last. It was aptly named Acropolis Restaurant lol. I asked for a cola and a wine. The cola was to drink very quickly because I needed it. The man obviously thought I was thirsty because he bought me the most massive glass of wine I have ever seen. It must have had half a bottle in it. Nice wine though. Mr C had a salad, I had lamb cooked in lemon which was different. After the meal I asked the waiter for a vodka Coke thinking that another wine that size would finish me. He bought me a cola. I questioned where the vodka was! “Ahh sorry, sorry” and off he scurried until he returned with almost half a pint of vodka as way of apology. This man is trying to kill me. We eventually stumbled away, with he is inviting us back tonight for free drinks. I liked it there.
We had another little wander around the streets. We almost went in a little Ouzo bar but thought better of it. Eventually we made our way back to the main road and went and checked out a few more ruins in the form of Hadrian’s Gate and the Temple of Zeus. Oh there is no stopping me now on my quest to be the goddess of all things tourist related! I could be the next Joanna Lumley. Mmm maybe I’m more Judith Chalmers.
So, it’s hot, we are tired and need a lay down in a cold room. We had a choice a few minute walk up the hill to get the hotel mini bus back to the hotel, or bit longer walk down the main road to the hotel. There wasn’t another hotel bus due for about 30 mins because they are less frequent on a Sunday, so I made the decision we would walk back. As it turned out it was quite a way. Mr C was not happy to be hoodwinked into this trek. How very dare he after he forced me up a rocky mountain to lots of slippery marble to walk around a ruin! However my Fitbit was ecstatic and was giving me all sorts of praise for my efforts today.
I was straight in the hotel room and ran myself a nice cool bath, and relax. No time to lay around and relax, we needed to be out this evening. The Concierge has booked us a meal at Zorbas in Mikrolimano. So pre dinner drinks in the Exec Lounge and on the terrace with the Acropolis in full view. I can’t get away from it. Taxi to Mikrolimano was only 7 euro. The restaurant host was all over us when we arrived. Michael the Manager came to great us. Table literally right on the water edge as promised. Perfect, just perfect. With this being a fish restaurant, the waiter came over and proudly presented a huge platter of freshly caught fish for us to choose from. Mr C was in his element but I could barely look! For me it was more like a ‘I’m a Celebrity’ jungle challenge. I found drinking more helped. I knew it was a fish restaurant I would just preferred not to have seen the platter under my nose. The meal and the service were just amazing. We could hear a party going on across the bay and all around the crescent shape of the bay we could see that every property on the waterfront seemed to be a restaurant of some kind. We would definitely revisit here in future. The view was so serene, I was mesmerised. The moonlight, the little boats coming in with their catch of the day and then we were treated to a lightning storm. The restaurant had really filled up, obviously popular and good job the hotel concierge booked for us or we wouldn’t have known. As with the lunch restaurant earlier we were treated to a massive platter of water melon. What is it with water melon and Athens. Have they had a massive crop this year and just trying to off load it. I am all water melon’d out after our lunch time feast, besides which I have my eye on a pear poached in port. The waiter was not impressed when I darted to ask for one. Clearly not eating my melon was an insult. The pear was delicious, a little night cap later and we decided it was time for a stroll. Mr C had the perfect opportunity for a romantic stroll, but oh no, not Mr C. He leads me down a dark alley through a car park and down to a breakwater and sets up his camera and tripod. He wonders why I’m on edge. I’m on watch for robbers in the dark. None materialise but even so, I was less than impressed with Mr C. Apparently the photos are worth it though! We walked back to the restaurant and they got us a taxi. Back at the hotel we were too late for the complimentary drinks in the Exec lounge so hot chocolate it was.
Monday 12th September 2012 -Athens Oceania Riviera
Big day today! Well that’s what Mr C declared it at 7.00am like a 5 year old excited about Christmas. My big news of the day is that I slept. It’s a miracle. Well it was until Mr C woke me up. Stupid boy!
Breakfast was taken on the terrace of the Exec Lounge in the glorious sunshine with a view of the Acropolis. Mr C filled me in with a bit of history about the Acropolis – he must think I’m getting into this tourist lark. I really am not. His short version of why the Acropolis fell down was because in the 16th century the Greeks were fighting with the Venetians. The Venetians fired a cannon ball at the Acropolis and took out one of the pillars and down it came. I wondered if they had just done it to be spiteful. Apparently not. The Greeks stored their gunpowder up there to keep it safe, hence why the Venetians thought it a good idea to destroy it. Pretty dam stupid of the Greeks to put all there gunpowder somewhere so precious if you ask me. That’s if I heard the story correctly. I was trying to look like I was listening, honest.
Back at the suite I needed to collate all the various items that had found their way into wardrobes and draws and fit them back in the suite cases. Didn’t take long, so I had time to chill whilst Mr C edited his beloved photos. We haven’t had a sunrise photo yet, but give him time!
Our Oceania cruise tickets state 12.00 noon check in. I’m thinking 11.00am check out from here, 10 mins to the port in a taxi, then see what happens from there. We shall see.
We have had a lovely stay at Intercontinental Athens. Loved the space that the Junior Suite has given us. I hate being crammed in a standard hotel room especially with a load of luggage. We have had room to sit and relax in comfort, and if one has been awake before the other we had the added benefit of another room to go into. The staff have all been lovely. Nothing too much trouble and always with a smile. The lounge has been another bonus with complimentary drinks, breakfast, snacks and canapés throughout the day, and of course the complimentary drinks and fizz etc. Highly recommend the Intercontinental. Lovely pool too, not that we had time to venture there this time. Too busy being a trainee tourist!
So, it was about 10 past 11 by the time we went to check out with the Concierge in the lounge. Slight query on the bill, but no hassle it was removed without fuss, paid and she called for a bell boy to collect our luggage from the room. By the time we walked down the corridor the bell boy was already there with the luggage. Impressive service! He whistled for a taxi (they have whistles in their pocket) and we were off. At last a talking taxi man. So far we have only had minimum communication with the taxi drivers but today was better. The roads were rammed. Oh heck I didn’t factor this in. Mr Taxi driver was on it though and knew how to nip around cars like they didn’t exist. He liked the look of our ‘boat’ “Classy” he said. Well, he’s not far wrong.
We were greeted at the entrance to check in by the nicest clipboard lady ever. I remembered her from last time we were here when one of my suitcases went missing. We were directed inside the terminal building, and then guided onto the Gold carpet for suite guests and checked in. Within 5 minutes we were through security and I was in my usual sun lounger with a Big O on the way. And relax! In fact that’s exactly what I did do for the next hour or two. I observed my fellow passengers arrive in the glass lifts on deck 12 and walk through to either Waves Grill or Terrace Cafe for lunch. Suites were announced as ready at 1.30 but we were in no rush. I eventually tootled down to put my hand luggage away. The cases had already arrived but I just looked at it in the hope that it would unpack itself. Unfortunately it didn’t!!
After another hour or so on deck we decided we had to go and unpack. I use the term “we” loosely. Mr C just rattled on about the amount of clothes I had bought with me. Little does he know that he got off lightly and I could have bought more than double this with me.
Mani the Butler dropped by to say his bit. Hot chocolate has been ordered for bedtime. Sergia the stewardess also dropped by. Oh my days she’s a hoot. She is lovely and is bringing me my favourite Bvlgari toiletries. It appears they have been downgraded to the blue ones but she said I can have my usual green Bvlgari no problem. She also bought me another 10 coat hangers. Honestly if you could see how many coat hangers Oceania cruise provide you really would wonder why I need more.
Muster Drill as fast approaching. Our muster station was the Martini Bar. How appropriate! Time was ticking and by the time we got back from muster we had less than an hour before we aimed to be out for pre dinner drinks. I asked Mr C to run me a bath whilst I did something else. He ran me a bath alright. A scalding hot one, and I mean proper hot. I had no time to half empty and cool that down so I jumped in the shower instead. Disaster I turned the rain shower on by mistake and frightened the life out of myself. I thought I had drown upside down!
Getting out for a pre dinner drink in Martini bar was a rush to say the least but somehow I managed it.
Flirtini for me. Mr C had a vodka martini and then we wondered why he felt wrecked. Angry pianist is no more. We have a singing pianist, I enjoyed a little sing song to myself with Mr C looking at me like I’m some sort of freak for knowing the words. He has no idea how much time I spent at Canberra Alice Springs sing a longs every sea day as a child. My Dad liked his lunch time pint, and I had a fruit cup and sang along to the old tunes of the day.
We have Toscana booked for 7.30pm this evening so we strolled along to the aft and took the lift to 14. The American couple in the lift were fascinated that we were from the UK. Why I’m not sure?
We had a lovely window table and I had full view of the restaurant. Our waiters were lovely, so attentive and happy to serve our meal. Nothing too much trouble. Sommelier was straight over and swiftly bought a bottle of perfectly chilled Nobillo. There were lots of lovely things to choose from on the menu but after the last couple of days in Athens eating a lot of meat I really just fancied something simple and light. I chose asparagus, minestrone soup and I asked for the possibility of some Arabiata pasta. Absolutely no problem at all for my lovely waiter. The olive oil and vinegar man appeared with his trolley. I love the way they match the oil and vinegar to suite your taste.
Meanwhile, at the table to the side of us a group of four had arrived. First thing out of one of their mouths was “remove these glasses, take them away, and remove them. We don’t drink” who knew glasses could be such an issue. The one woman sat on her foot curled up in her chair for the entire meal. The two men arrived 5 mins after them. They kept dismissing the waiter every time he tried to take their order. Eventually they ordered Caesar salad which is tossed and dressed table side. The waiter rocked up with his big trolley ready to do his thing with said salad leaves, and it was like he wasn’t there. He was just serving it into four plates ready to be served to the four seated, when the two men got up from the table and left. I knew exactly what the waiter was thinking. His face said it all! Quite rightly he downed tools, quite abruptly, but not that they noticed, and walked away. Leaving the Caesar salad in limbo. I presume the two men had been for a cigarette, and it was pretty obvious that now they were back the two women expected the waiter to resume duties with immediate effect. Fair play to him, he made sure he was busy waiting on guests that appreciated him. Our meal was perfect. Perfect from start to finish. What a fabulous meal to start our cruise.
We sailed at 9.00pm without any fuss, just quietly slipped away. We finished our evening with a Hendriks gin in Martini Bar. I had caught my second wind, but Mr C was flagging. He could hear his pot of hot chocolate calling. Sure enough, back at the suite, Mani had left a pot of hot chocolate. Mr C was a happy man. I sat on the balcony looking at the stars. I could have sat for a lot longer but my bed did look pretty comfy. And it didn’t let me down.
Tuesday 13th September 2016 – Santorini
I woke up this morning wondering where yet the heck I was. Not surprising really considering the amount of beds I have slept in over the last few day. I knew my Oceania bed wouldn’t let me down, it was great.
We had ordered breakfast at 7.30am and Mani was there right on time. Santorini is outside and the small boats are already getting in place to tender the shore excursion passengers ashore. I enjoyed my salmon bagel, juice and cup of tea out on the balcony before sneaking another 5 minutes back under the duvet.
Oh my life. Today it was so dam hot. The day started with a visit to the theatre to collect a tender ticket. My bottom didn’t even reach the seat before we we’re called to embark our tender. Perfect.
MSC, celebrity and Windstar were in today. And people were running to get tickets for the fast boat to Oia. We didn’t rush and got our tickets for the boat with ease. 15 euro per person was for fast boat across, bus to Oia the allegedly bus back to Fira. More on that later.
I’ve been to Santorini before but last time just looked around Fira. Oia is lovely, but…! It was hot, it was rammed, I was tired and I don’t do crowds. I was struggling a bit if I’m honest. The streets are tiny. Very narrow, and if you happen to get a tour coming towards you it can be a bit too much. There were Japanese brides everywhere who had clearly just rocked up for a wedding photo shoot package. There were also a lot of models all over the place hogging the photo vantage points. I was quite glad when 11.00 am arrived. Time to find a nice relaxing bar with a good view, and an ice cold bottle of wine! We arrived at 10.45 for the bus and it was total chaos. Where was our bus? Anyone to assist us? No they were too busy dealing with incoming buses. The incoming bus drivers didn’t want to know. In the end I pushed my way to the front of the queue to have a word. Oh my life world war 3 nearly kicked off with Americans yelling at me. I was informed the 11.00am bus had left. After that the tour person blanked me. Eventually her queue cleared and I was able to get back in to see her. No problem. She has ordered us a cab for us and another couple. Well, I know she was under pressure before but a bit of courtesy in the first place wouldn’t have gone amiss. The other couple were British but had emigrated to Oz 20 years ago. Oh my days, she could pickle pork. Thought I had gone deaf when I got out of the cab.
I was hot, and I was very bothered. Santorini is lovely but I was done with its glowing hotness as it reflected from the white walls. The cab driver dropped us somewhere pretty extreme and it was quite a trek back to the cable car station. We didn’t want the cable car station but it was the only place I could get my bearings from. There was no queue at all for cable cars when we passed it at around 11.30am.
We had a short walk to the left of the cable car but I was beat. It was hot, there were tours of people coming at us. Retreat to cliff top bar overlooking the ships. Absolute bliss! A gentle breeze kept me relatively cool. We ordered a bottle of Santorini 2013 (it was a good year, so I’m told) and we just sat! Heaven. Ships below us in the deep blue sea. Peace and tranquillity away from the crowds. I as happy again.
We decided we were all Santorini’d out, so we headed for the cable car station. Oh my days! How many people in the snaking queue? I would have stood in the queue because I knew it would move pretty fast, but Mr C was having non of it. So two choices remained. Donkey down, or walk. He made me walk!!! The walk I could cope with. The walk on the donkey poo, slippery steep steps with smelly donkeys I couldn’t cope with!! It was disgusting. I was not happy. It was hot and it was smelly, very smelly! First if all you had to get past hordes of donkeys waiting for the next riders. That in itself was bad enough. There were asses everywhere. I was in fear of one of them wanting the toilet. Every time I saw a tail twitch I was freaking out. I knew dam well if one of them took a pee my white lace Skechers were ruined. “Watch where you are walking” Mr C informs me. I’m watching, and there isn’t much path not covered in poop. There was a lot of people trying to walk down the steps, some of them not really cape able of doing so. Mr C lost his rag at one bottle neck and stomped on ahead of me. I was not happy when I slipped and lost my footing and almost fell to my ass. I did sort of fall to my ass, but I somehow managed to hover with nothing to hold onto. I looked at him helpless but he didn’t come back to help me. I was in that midway position where I needed to put my ass on the floor to get the strength in my legs to aid me back up. In the end a lady helped me up, I was do grateful because I did not want to sit in that donkey poop. After that I grabbed Mr C and dug my nails in his arm. He wasn’t going anywhere. The stomp to the bottom was never ending. The donkey poop was in the back of my throat. I do not recommend it!
The tender ride back was quite choppy, especially waiting for it to fill up. I couldn’t wait to get back to the ship. Once we were through the suite door we both did the same. Dumped our clothes and had a double shower. He had the shower cubicle and I had the shower over bath. I feel semi clean.
Time for lunch at Terrace Cafe. A nice table under the shade of a parasol, chilled glass of Prosecco and a veiw of Santorini. Perfect once more. I had a simple pasta dish freshly prepared by the chef and a green salad. Ice cream to finish and I was happy. There was all sorts of food available plus the Tex Mex theme of the day, but I just wanted simple and I really enjoyed it. We decided to go to Baristas for an Illy coffee, also perfect! Now, I was hoping to go to bed but Mr C convinced me to have a Bahama Mama at Waves Bar with him. We spent a while chatting to Dominique the hotel manager which was quite interesting. Then I heard my bed calling me, so I went straight down to greet it. It was bliss, sheer bliss. Next thing I knew Mani was delivering the canapés. I couldn’t be bothered to be sociable so rudely pulled the covers over my head. The Hibiscus fruit Minestrone was lush. Outside Santorini had gone. I missed that departure.
After a lovely soak in a Bvlgari bath crystal bath I had to get ready for the night ahead. It was hard work tonight. This holiday has not been very relaxing so far.
We were out just after 7.30 but the Martini Bar was rammed. I had forgotten it was Captains Cocktail night, so that means two hours of free drinks in all bars. That certainly brings them all out, and oh boy were some going for it. One American was very keen to come over and tell us it was ‘free’ and to ‘fill our boots’ he was very proud of his two red wines each that he was taking in to dinner! Each to their own.
The bar was too busy to get a seat but we were joined by a lovely couple who asked to share our table. Lesley and Rob. We chatted about anything and everything and spent a really nice hour just exchanging stories. They were dining in Polo Grill. We were dining in Grand Dining Room. I like to dine there on Captains night just to get my Cappuccino parfait Cup desert. We were advised on arrival at Grand Dining of a 15 minute wait for table for 2, and invited to take a seat in the bar. We didn’t have a problem with that. It was only a few minutes before the restaurant manager came to advise us that a table was ready. We had the same sommelier serve us that served us upstairs in Toscana last night, she made the recommendation for this evenings wine and it was very good. I made the wrong choice of soup. But that wasn’t an issue, I just made Mr C swap. I had rib of beef and then my parfait Cappuccino cup, followed by a latte and petit fors.
Mr C wanted to go to the Casino Bar. But I could hear the singing pianist in Martini Bar. I of course won. I entertained Mr C with my singing and then some old Canberra tales – he loves Canberra tales! Happy as I was I felt enough Martini Cocktails had been consumed for one night and so Mr C was a happy man when I declared it bedtime. Hot chocolate and cookies were ready and waiting compliments of Mani. Mr C was in heaven. I sat on the balcony for well over an hour. A lovely warm balmy evening. A coast line light up. Gentle swishing of the waves and stars in the sky.
Wednesday 14th September 2016 – Katakolon
Mr C was creeping around in the dark again. Could only mean two things. He was either going to the Gym or as I suspected, he was off to take sunrise photos. Stupid man. I maxed out another hour or two of shut eye before Mani appeared with breakfast. I really couldn’t be bothered to be sociable at that time of bed, so instead chose to cover my head with the covers, which was ok until I couldn’t breath. After breakfast on the balcony I was up, washed, dressed and out on deck in my sun lounger, doing what I do best. People watching from behind my shades.
We berthed at Katakolon at about 9.30am but not many people made a move. I lasted until about 11 by which time my legs were burning. I had put the sun tan lotion ready to put in my deck bag, but somehow forgot to pick it up. We decided to get changed and go for a stroll into town. It was so peaceful, serene, and quiet in the town. All the shop keepers gave a welcome Hello, but non of them hassled you. There were some very nice jewellery shops. It I dare not look too closely. I bought a bag though. Had to be done. The Main Street has always reminded me of some sort of town from an old western movie with nothing but tumble weed rolling down it and things haven’t changed much. I had a stroll up the back street, met some cats and a kitten. It was such a pretty idyllic little street. Then we wandered along to the little beach next to the pier. Very happy and funny memories of an afternoon spent on that beach when the kids were little. I was glad I found it again.
It was an effort to stroll back the few hundred yards to the ship but we managed it. It was so hot. We needed to Retreat to Waves Bar and the barman made me a lovely Mango Daiquiris. After a quick freshen up we opted for lunch in Waves Grill. I had the Cajun chicken and some salad, followed by strawberry and Grand Marnier ice cream again. Oceania do lovely ice cream.
We then did something we have been putting off ever since we got on board. We took all of Mr C’s shirts, and a few of my dresses to the laundry to iron them. We get a certain amount of things pressed free for Penthouse Suite grade, and I could have sent the rest. But I couldn’t face being that lazy. Me and Mr C had quite a system going. I ironed, he sorted and re hung them. We helped a Japanese lady work out how to operate the washing machine, oh she was funny. Why to Japanese giggle at everything. She made me giggle. I was glad to have crease free things at last. The clothes had been in in the cases far to long before we got chance to hang them up. All done now though.
When I got back to the suite I had a shower and had every intention of sitting quietly on the balcony. If only my next door neighbours knew how to be quiet! She decided to call her daughter on loud speaker on the phone. Said daughter was obviously poorly so I got the full run down of her health and medication in graphic detail. Thankfully she’s gone in now! But next time we will be having words.
We sailed 30 mins early for some reason. Maybe everyone was on board already and the pilot wanted his tea. We didn’t leave quietly either. Captain let the whole town know that we were out of here. He couldn’t take his finger off the horn. Katakolon has been a perfect wind down port. Loved it there.
We had nowhere booked for dinner this evening. Just as well because I had a bit of a ‘what to wear moment’. Got there in the end though. We were out at about 7.30pm and Martini Bar was busy. A stool was at the bar for me though. I had Breeztini this evening, followed by Appletini. Both delicious. Mr C thinks he is James Bond. He started with vodka martini and moved to a 007 martini. I could tell both were killing him lol
Thursday 15th September 2016 – Corfu
By the time I woke up we were berthed, but that took me a while to work that out because we were port side too again so we had the sea view again. Mani bought the breakfast which saves me so much effort. It means I can wake up as I eat and we can plan the day at the same time.
We have been to Corfu more times than enough, and as much as I love it, we had decided to do something different. My ideal day would have been to see the places that The Durrells had been filmed, but it was scattered all over the place so it wasn’t to be. A lady in the Martini Bar told me later that there was filming for the next series whilst they were at the old fortress today. Dam.
We decided instead to go to Paleakastritsa. For no other reason that it stuck in my memory from a visit we had there during an Thomson educational back in 1995. I knew it was 25 kilometres away so guessed it might be 40 euro each way. Turns out it was 100 euro round trip and Spiros agreed to collect us at a time convenient to us. He drove like he was in a rally, and was clearly loving the empty open roads with no early morningtraffic. We arrived and saw Paleo probably at its best, totally deserted. I was a bit underwhelmed at first, but Mr C was happy. He had a Monastery up a hill to investigate and some caves in a boat too if he chose to. The main beach was a bit too public and close to the road for me. So we investigated another. Too tiny and rocky. So tried the next bay. That was much better. Clear lappety lappety sea, a man hiring boats out, sun loungers with parasols. Nice. Mr C went off to trek up the hill to see the views from the Monastery while I just laid there listening to the sea gently lapping on the shore. Bliss. The man at the boat hire place has a great office. I want one. What an idyllic place to sit and wait for you boats to come back. We thought about hiring one. It was 40 euro for a small boat. It did seem tempting but we chose not to. Once his boats had gone out he just kicked back in his office. What a tough day in the office that must be!
It was hot, I needed to attempt the sea. Thankfully I had bought my sea shoes with me because there were some big rocks under foot. The current was a bit spritly and tried to knock me off my feet. I gave up and retreated to the other side of the boat office. That seemed much better, less rocky and calmer but Mr C says that’s impossible. What does he know about woman’s logic. The sea was amazing. So clear and not too cold. We had an hour to dry off in the sun but really didn’t need that long, so we packed up and trekked to a bar. I could not believe how many people were in the resort once we left our little cove. It was as if there had been an invasion. Where did all the people come from? They seemed happy enough crammed onto their sun loungers with hardly enough to to walk between the loungers. Unless you were on the front row the only view you had was that of the back of the chair in front of you. Not my idea of relaxing on a beach. We stopped by a little bar for a glass of wine and waited for Spiros to arrive. He was right on time.
We had an ‘incident’ during our journey back to the ship. Now let me explain. Mr C gets pretty freaked out by wasps and bees. A bit like me with lizards. He suddenly noticed a wasp on his arm and let out a scream and started flapping (similar to what I would be like if a lizard appeared from nowhere) poor Spiros nearly span off the road. I tried to explain so he put down all the windows in the hope that Mr Wasp would take flight. But no he decided to try and get a ride back to Corfu town with us. Eventually Spiros could take no more of the stress and pulled over, opened the door and let Mr Wasp out. Mr C could relax now. Spiros explained that it was because all the grapes were now ripe so they get all the bees and wasps at this time of year. Spiros seemed amazed that we didn’t want dropping in the town and just wanted to go back to the ship. It was hot, we had had enough. I just wanted a shower and to chill, so that’s what we did. Showered, drink at Waves Bar, light lunch in Terrace Cafe, balcony, sleep and chill. Well deserved I would say.
We are dining in Red Ginger this evening at 7.30pm so an early start. Pre dinner drinks in Martini Bar, chatted with a lovely couple from New York. I say chatted. I think we got their life story!
For the first time ever we sat somewhere different in Red Ginger. We had always sat in the far wall in the past, so it made a refreshing change to see Red Ginger from a different view. We ordered far too much starter. I totally misread the share platter, which I though consisted of chicken satay skewers. It consisted of just about everything and we had also ordered more beside. By the time the soup came I was stuffed. Never mind, the orange infused tea might help it all along. A couple sat to the side of us with a very obvious Midlands accent so I had to ask where they were from. Turns out they are not too far from us in Tamworth. When I responded with where we were from, the couple on the other side of them piped up ‘no way’ they live literally just round the corner from us. Unbelievable. We all had a good laugh and a giggle over our meals. But we were finished ahead of them so left them to it. Probably not bump into them again.
We retreated to the Martini a Bar, supposedly just for one. But oh what a night. As soon as we sat down a pretty eccentric American couple next to us started to chat. Oh my days. I don’t know if she hadn’t spoken to anyone for a week but she really did not know when to shut up. She then got her phone out to show me a photo of their time in Athens. Great! Lovely. Then she showed me pics of the time a hurricane hit there town. Oh dear, tragic! I saw her neighbour, his roof, his trees. Then we moved on to family pics. Then cars, “oh and this is the time we were in” … Please release me! Her drink was nearly empty. Please don’t order a refil. It must be time for her bed. It was! Fantastic. Except she hopes to see us again. Even the bar tender had a little giggle at my pain. Luigi the pianist was back on, that bought me back to reality of Oceania life. Oh get me another drink. The next couple to take their seat were British and much better to chat to, as in at least we got a word in edge ways and didn’t have their life history in photos to show us. We were so late leaving the bar tonight. Luigi had done his third set of the night and he came over to chat. We really were very late leaving the bar, but there were still a few in, and apparently a Horizons was busy too but we didn’t have the energy to find out.
Hot chocolate on the balcony, perfect end to a perfect day. There were ships alongside us and following us. The coastline was still in view. I could have sat there all night.
Friday 16th September 2016 – Kotor, Montenegro
Has it really been a week since our adventure began at Sofitel Heathrow? It’s been a long week. I had the first night of lack of sleep all cruise. Mr C decided we were going to sleep with the door open. The result of which was I was way too hot. But the thought of getting up to shut the door was way too much effort. When I did eventually get up I could see a ship sailing very close alongside us and my guess would be that it was P&O Oceana and in the morning I was proved correct. I’m far too much of a ships anorak!
Mr C had an alarm set for some really ungodly hour. Mani, the Butler said to see the full sail in to Kotor we needed to be up two hours before arrival. The thing is we lost an hour between countries so now I have really no idea what time it is. It’s dark anyway! I do love the sail into Kotor, slowly winding our way through the Fjord like calm waters. There was quite a prosession of ships going in this morning. Celebrity was ahead of us and NCL was behind us. Then out of nowhere came P&O Oceana and swopped past us all to take prime position at the berth in town. I wasn’t impressed with that as she glided past my balcony! We attempted breakfast out on the Terrace this morning but it was rammed so we went for a walk, came back half hour later and we got the perfect table overlooking the stern. I had a bacon, sausage and baked bean buttie. It was great. Not very ‘Oceania’ I admit, but it was what I wanted.
Mr Cruise Director informed passengers that tenders were ready to take us ashore. He also said there was a good chance of rain so I chose to change out of my sundress. As it turned out, I really should not have listened to him. We got our ticket for the tender and were on the next boat, so in and out of the theatre in 5 mins. It was a long tender ride into town. P&O Oceana got the berth, which is a bit rich considering! Celebrity Constellation was anchored the closest, we were next and NCL Spirit was behind us. I love Kotor but it was such a shame to visit on a day with so many ships in port. The poor little fortress town was rammed, even at the early hour we were ashore. I dread to think what it was like later. Me &Lizy had such a chilled day here last time we were here. It was all too much for me. It was hot. There were way too many people. I was overtired and just wanted to go back to bed. Mr C was keen to climb the hill of the fortress of St John. The views are said to be amazing. But no way could my legs carry my body up there after what I’ve put it through during the last few days. Mr C opted to climb the hill and I opted for a stroll through town, watched some local dancers and then an empty tender back to the ship. After a quick change of outfit I retreated to the deck on a lounger by the pool. Peach Daiquiri cooled me down, Cuba libra helped revive me and a large Hendriks nearly put me to sleep! It was hot, like mega unbearable hot. Mr C came back from his adventure up the mountain. The photos made it worthwhile. But he said I wouldn’t have managed it, and I believe him. The sun was getting too much for me so I had to retreat to the suite. Have a shower. And then I called the Butler and ordered some lunch, with a glass of Nobillo. As you do! I had a lovely chilled out hour in the balcony watching the world go by, with my glass of chilled wine. Then I had to go check out the inside of my eyelids. It’s hard work this cruising malarkey.
I was woken by Mani’s knock at the door with the afternoon canapés. I was sort of awake, but not really. My body was literally screaming at me to not get up. I tried several times but it wasn’t very successful. P&O Oceana was just going past on her way out of the Fjord. I can’t say that she glided out serenely because I could see the entertainment team jumping about like lunatics and the DJ was blasting out YMCA – classy! Apparently I slept through Celebrity Constellation departure, and NCL Spirit followed Oceana. We were still tendering passengers back from ashore.
I was in two minds as to whether to go out tonight. There was big effort involved. I was determined not to leave the balcony until we had past the little church on its own island. It’s a shame the sun had gone down, but it was still beautiful with the church bells chiming as we passed.
There was a Pavarotti concert out on deck. Not the real Pavarotti obviously but a video concert. Perfect for a sailaway from Kotor (unlike YMCA) there was a full moon and it was just stunning in the warm balmy air.
We dined in Terrace Cafe. As predicted the aft terrace was very busy, so no free tables, so I chose a table under the lovely Amber chandeliers. Wine service was faultless. All of the staff are lovely, the girl at the salad counter loves to see what I’m wearing. She seemed to really like this evenings Ted Baker dress.
We could only manage one drink in Martini Bar this evening. We were beat and we were in fear of attracting crazy talk-a-lot people at the bar again. So we had a well deserved early night. The hot chocolate was waiting for us when we got in, much to Mr C’s delight. I sat on the balcony for an hour watching the coast line of Croatia. By the time I got back in the suite Mr C was fast asleep with a movie playing to itself on the television.
Saturday 17th September 2016 – Split
I was woken in the night by the loudest, biggest, almighty clap of thunder I have ever heard in my life! The balcony door was closed so it was incredibly loud. I shot out if bed to look, and the lightening was like a firework show. It was going off all over the place. Eventually Mr C got up and he couldn’t believe his mince pies. You can’t beat a good storm at sea. As long as it clears for morning!
‘Captain Do as You Like’ has got us berthed at 7.00am. We call him Captain Do as You Like because that’s exactly what he does every port, apart from yesterday, he has departed at least 30 minutes early. You have to be on your toes with this Captain.
We have berthed in Split today. Last time I was here in 2009 it was a tender port and our particular berth does look absolutely brand new. Silver Spirit has just come alongside and berthed opposite us. I was feeling a little bit envious when she arrived, and then I realised we would have a much smaller suite on my there than we have on Oceania and for quite a bit more money. Personally my on board accommodation is important to me. To some people a ‘cabin’ is just somewhere to wash, change and sleep. To me it is my retreat. Somewhere I can totally escape and have my space. I like a separate seating area, a nice balcony, a nice bathroom, plenty of space and somewhere to just generally chill out and call ‘home’ for my time on board.
The weather was playing silly Devils this morning. It changed from a lovely sunny morning to one of very blustery showers quite quickly. We waited to see what the weather was going to do, so to fill my time I nipped in to the Future Cruise office and booked a couple of cruises! Oops! It’s a no brainier. Extra OBC. Protected deposit. Price guarantee. What’s not to think about?
I finally decided on an outfit to go ashore in. Decided it wasn’t quite sundress weather and opted instead for white jeans and top. It was quite a walk into town, but by the time we got there we were melting. The sun had broken through the cloud and burnt them all away. It could not have been hotter. Hey ho.
We had a walk around, Mr C got his photos. Split is lovely, but I really was hot and bothered. We had a proper route march back to the ship just to keep Fitbit happy. A quick freshen up and we were ready to go and get some lunch. Terrace Cafe was just opening so it was nice and quiet. We had a perfect table on the aft corner of the terrace, but oh it was hot. A glass of Prosecco, and couple of glasses of Pinot Gris made it a very relaxing lunch.
Mr C somehow lured me to Waves Bar but I surprised the barman with a request for a Sprite. We had a nice chat to the Hotel Director again, such a nice man.
I was undecided what to do with my afternoon. I could here my bed calling me from the suite, but the sun loungers up on deck 14 looked similarly inviting. I opted to get changed and retreat to a sun lounger on deck 14. Hat over eyes and I was in. A nice little 40 winks took place on a lovely peaceful deck. We had a dip in the pool to cool down. Don’t think I have ever seen the pool quite so busy as it has been this trip. We had a 4.00pm departure from Split and The Orchestra were playing some sailaway tunes around the pool. The deck started to get busy, so time for me to retreat to the suite to view the sailaway in peace.
A nice Bvlgari bath and I was ready for the evening ahead. We were out early this evening because we were dining at Polo Grill at 7.30pm. I had a Flirtini in Martini Bar before we arrived for our meal. There was quite a queue at Polo Grill, most were giving there stateroom number or name on entry. I never got the opportunity! The maître de was one step ahead “Good Evening Mr & Mrs Chadwick, I have a lovely table for you” I’m not sure if it was a good or bad thing that they knew my name. It was a little unnerving to be picked out and personally escorted to the table. He had even arranged for Silver Spirit to be sailing alongside and for a full moon to rise directly in our view. Our waitress was from Poland, Agnus. She was pretty scary, in a nice way, but I feared for my life if I didn’t eat my meal tonight. Everything on the menu sounds amazing, I want it all, but I tried to be good and ordered the tiniest things on the menu. I was stuffed after my starter. I need to stop eating. I attempted the French onion soup, but knew I had to leave room for the fillet mignon. I nearly cried when it arrived, no more food, please no more food. We had been so good today. A pastry for breakfast with Illy coffee, a light pasta salad lunch, and now we can’t eat our dinner. That’s bad. How I waddled out of Polo a Grill I do not know. We fell into the big double bed sun loungers in the alcove of deck 14 and that was it, game over. Mr C fell fast asleep. I couldn’t move. The rest is history. We called it a night and went to bed with our hot chocolate. Poor old dears!
Sunday 18th September 2016 – Venice
Are we there yet? I kept opening one eye to glimpse to see if Venice was approaching. I eventually caught it just at the right time so kicked Mr C out of bed. Mani delivered the breakfast at 7.00am just in time as we past St Marks Square. Perfect timing. I ate my breakfast watching Venice glide by – as you do on a Sunday!
We are being very lazy this morning and can’t decide what to do with ourselves. I think 90% of the ship must be ashore already, but we can’t make up our minds about going ashore. We didn’t book this cruise because of Venice. It was the other ports which attracted us. So we shall see. The weather was looking a bit iffy again. Certainly looked cold and blustery down on the dockside. Everyone was going ashore dressed for winter. We decided to return back to bed and see what the weather decided to do.
It was like flippin’ Clapham junction in the suite this morning. We were laid in bed with the balcony door open. Next thing we knew a man in white boiler suite comes through the balcony partition. “Morning Madam, morning sir!” And off he went to the next balcony. I got up and closed the balcony door, which is just as well because two mins later his mate came along with a hose firing water all over the place to clean the balcony. Next thing I knew the stateroom attendant was knocking at the door, could she come in? No, sorry come back in an hour. Next thing we knew she had gone through next door and was on our balcony squirting and polishing the window and balcony door. Then Mani appeared to collect the breakfast things. I needed to get up. It was like scene from a Benny Hill movie. So much for a quiet lie in!
We decided we would go ashore. We were at the far end of the cruise terminal but we decided to walk to Plaza Roma. There was a shuttle bus that took you to the main water taxi station within the terminal area, but still we decided to walk. That’s a good 20 to 25 min brisk walk from the ship to Plaza Roma. As we got to the main road the sun was coming out and it was getting warm. We got to Plaza Roma and it was very warm and sunny.
We then decided to keep walking instead of take the Vaparreto. I will be honest, by the time we got to Rialto Bridge I had had enough. It was hot and very busy everywhere. I wasn’t wearing my nice wafting sundress which I originally planned, and my day wasn’t going quite to plan. It was so busy on the bridge it was like every man for himself to get across it. There was no room for politeness. We ploughed on until we got to St Marks square. Oh my life it was sinking. The water as coming up fast and they had a certain amount of raised walk ways in place. Some areas of the square were cut off. If you made one wrong turn it was easy to find yourself trapped by water. It was crazy because the sun was getting hotter and water getting deeper. Just to get to the water edge by the gondolas was hard work. I could have stood and cried just thinking about the trek back to the ship. Yes we could have taken the Vaparreto back to Plaza Roma but they were packed to bursting and I wouldn’t like that. We made one final push to go see Bridge of Sighs, first time I have seen it in years because it has been being renovated under cover.
And so the trek back to the ship. We had a couple of detours. One was into Pandora for a must have charm or two. I also went into another shop to make a purchase for Mum. Just as I did so someone started taking photos of things in the window display, and then more and more joined in until there really as a big crowd out there. The shop keeper couldn’t believe it. She asked if I was a famous person because she had never known this before. She seemed very bemused by the whole situation.
We picked up two small bottles of Fanta en route through the back streets of Venice, over Rialto Bridge again and walked as far again. It was no better when we reached Plaza Roma because I knew there was still at least 25 minutes walking left. The sun was scorching. The only thing that was happy was FitBit! It was having a whale of a time telling me how fab I was. I wasn’t feeling it. Venice security has always been very tight. They won’t let you in the end if the building near the ship, no you have to walk to the far end, enter, then walk the entire length of the terminal building inside to get to security. They proper scrutinise photo ID and cruise card before letting you through. Then all bags are scanned. We were released. Let me back on my ship. I have never been so happy to walk up a gangway. We had just got in a packed lift upto deck 10 when I looked down and realised Mr C hadn’t got his tripod. He had left it in security shoreside. He was not a happy bunny and jumped out of the lift at first stop and ran down the stairs. I had no time to wait in sympathy. I needed a cool shower, and I need it now. I prefer the shower that is over bath, because the shower cubicle tries to drown me with that rain shower thing.
We had missed lunch and I didn’t fancy anything in Waves Grill so we went for a nice Illy coffee and they serve lovely little filled bread rolls so a couple of these each was just enough.
We went back the suite and cracked open a bottle of champagne then kicked back in the sunshine watching the dockside antics of people arriving back at the ship. Most were protesting at not being allowed into the terminal building opposite the gangway. I felt their pain at the long walk. Most amusing was one old lady who had made it within feet if the gangway. She was right opposite where we were sat, so that probably 10 cabin doors distance from where she was to the gangway. Ships security lady went across to talk to her. She wasn’t moving, so security lady radio’d for a wheelchair and left the lady leaning on a building. Wheelchair arrived with a steward. He took her bag off her and walking stick. Assisted her into the chair, then tried to hand her back her bag and walking stick. Oh she was having none of it and was very dismissive. He tried to give the bag back again, but still she refused. He clearly didn’t know what to do with the bag because he resigned to hanging it around his neck, and it looked pretty heavy. It was an amusing sight but I felt sorry for the young lad. He was trying his best but the old dear was having non of it. She milked it and made sure she was pushed up the gangway too. I might try it!
I spent my afternoon just pottering in my suite. That’s the reason I have a suite – to potter at leisure. I painted my nails, had a nice bath, get ready at leisure. Of the luxury of having time to do such things. We watched our departure from Venice from the comfort of the suite balcony. Botticelli and the Three Kings concert was being broadcast across the open decks, judging by the people I spoke to afterwards it’s probably just as well I didn’t attend. Sounds way too emotional for me. We attended the Martini Bar which was fabulous because we more or less had it to ourselves. I don’t know how we managed it but we were late for dinner yet again. If only they would move the dining room to the Martini Bar! We had no sooner dined than we were back in the Martini Bar for what transpired to be a very late night. I seemed on a mission to try any martini which may have previously eluded me. I may regret this!
Monday 19th September 2016 – Ancona, Italy
Oh my life why did I have that Milky Way martini last night to finish off my evening. Yes, I blame just that one particular Martini out of all that were sampled. I woke the morning with it threatening to leave by the way it arrived. It had not gone down well. I made several attempts to get up out of bed, but it just wasn’t happening. We were docked in Ancona, which didn’t look over exciting, plus they have advised the shops don’t open on Mondays. The buildings look nice, but most exciting thing was the Fincantiari ship yard right opposite the balcony. That’s about all I can say about the place. By 9.45am I felt well enough to get dressed and go in search of some breakfast. It was hammering it down outside. We got as far as Waves Grill for breakfast and the smell hit my belly and the Chocolate Martini decided to make its presence known to me again. I was straight down the aft stairs, along to my suite and back under the duvet. Do not disturb! Two more hours sleep later and I felt slightly more human. Let’s attempt some lunch.
En route to a Grand Dining room we stopped to chat to Sue & Alan, which then transpired into a very long wine fueled lunch together. The Grand Dining room is even more stunning in the day than during the evening in my opinion. The fact that it became our own personal dining room for the last 45 minutes of the meal with everyone else long gone, made it even more fabulous. The food, as always, superb and with great company.
For a while the sun came out and I thought we might actually get ashore, but the heavens soon opened again and the thunder and lightning recommenced. Mr C went to Martini Bar with Alan while I returned to the suite and chilled, mainly under the duvet, because I could! But when Mr C returned and got under the duvet and started snoring his brains out it meant it was time for me to get up and potter. It was raining so hard at one point that I couldn’t see across to Fincantieri. What a day!
After a nice soak in a Bvlgari bath I stood on the balcony and watched us depart Ancona in glorious sunshine. Typical. As is my ritual, I stood and waited for the pilot to disembark. For some reason three officials left the ship and jumped on the pilot boat, much to the delight of some crazy loud American woman in a balcony above. She started blowing kisses, thanking them loudly and telling them how much she loved them and Italy.
I was ready on time for once for the evening ahead, Mr C was not. And then he had to photograph his beloved sunset because the sky was the right colour.
Martini Bar was busy. There has been a cocktail party earlier for loyalty members which we didn’t attend because it was too early at 5.45pm, but I guess this is why the bar was busy and it had bought people out earlier. We sat and chatted to a nice couple next to us who lived really close to us, small world again. We were really undecided what to do about dinner. There was an Indian Buffet in the Terrace Cafe which came highly recommended by Butler Mani, but we had eaten in there quite a lot so I was hesitant and wanted a change. We opted for Grand Cafe and it did not disappoint. Perfect table for two overlooking the wake, and a perfect view back of the entire restaurant. Big comfortable high backed chairs and as always impeccable service. Our waiter was from India so Mr C and he had many chats about Mumbai, Puni and the areas he had recently worked in. We both really enjoyed our meals. I chose the melon in Drambuie and champagne and then I had the Dover Sole whilst Mr C had steak and fries. The Dover Sole was filleted and bone removed at the table by the waiter who was clearly an expert at it. It was just divine. I finished off with a desert that none of the waiters could really recall what it actually consisted off. I liked the title so I ordered it, and it did not disappoint. The table to the side of me had desert envy. It was delicious. A sort of raspberry and vanilla sorbet with a volcano of meringue shards. I finished off with a hot chocolate whilst Mr C opted for a liqueur Cafe Ole.
We had to go on a little detour en route back from the restaurant to see the Maître De at Jacques. We have a table for two reserved at 7.30pm tomorrow evening, but have agreed to swap to share a table of four with Sue &Alan. They were in fear of sharing a table because they had only managed to get a table for 4 at time if booking. So better the devil you know, and all that, and we thought it would be nice to share especially on the penultimate evening.
Not surprisingly, Sue and Alan were at the Martini Bar when we arrived. Alan started off with the Bourbon shelf, but was on the whisky shelf by the time we arrived. Si, the barman is very knowledgeable of his spirits. Luigi was doing his stint on the piano, and as good as he is, we realised he plays the same set over, and over, again. Night after night. Not that we were listening this evening we were too busy nattering. I tried to order a Sprite at one point but Si was not happy with this suggestion and reminded me where I was, so a Big O it was! It was a very late night. The bar had closed and Si ordered the taxi’s. Mr C’s flask of hot chocolate was waiting for him and I sat on the balcony watching yet another lightning storm.
Tuesday 20th September 2016 – Bari, Italy
Mr C can be so annoying. The alarm in his brain is set for sunrise and he’s pacing to and from the balcony waiting for it to happen before leaving for the deck to get a few more hundred photos of the dam thing. I fall back to sleep and next thing I know he is back with the balcony door open and the wind howling through. A few sharp words and balcony door was closed. He redeemed himself by having a cup of Illy coffee waiting for me.
I’ve heard mixed reports about Bari. I don’t recall ever having been there myself so it was time to go find out. We had every intention of walking into town, but as we came out of the terminal there was a mini bus allegedly waiting to go, so we hopped on. We sat and we waited, and we waited, until being told to get off little bus and get on the full size coach which they promised was about to leave. No it wasn’t! Like I say, we should have walked. We were dropped quite a way past, what I now know to be the old walled town area. We were bombarded with offers of tours. Walking tours, little train tours, mini bus tours. I took a seat on a bench while Mr C took photos and the crowds dispersed. I asked directions to the old town, but that clearly got lost in translation and we found ourselves in the very commercial designer shopping area. We asked a nice looking older Italian man. Ooh that was a test of his English and our Italian. He directed us miles beyond where we really wanted to be. In hindsight, I think he did send us to the original old part of town, but not in the sense of the word I wanted it. It was miles away anyway, so back we trekked. Eventually with a bit of help from Google maps the old walled area was located. It was not much more than a stones throw from where we originally started. It was pretty, I liked it. Why couldn’t we have found this two hours ago? I was fascinated by three ladies sat outside their back door making pasta shapes. It all seemed very normal to them and were looking at me rather odd for staring. I wanted to take a photo but I daren’t. All in all the little old walled town was very quaint and lovely. But Mr c was bored. He wanted to go back to the ship, and he wanted to go now. But this was the last port of call and I had a shopping mission to fulfil. I headed back to the new town and he walked back to the ship. FitBit was ecstatic with my efforts again today. My feet were less happy. My sense of direction isn’t as sharp as it might be. I walked along the front and did a right, so I told myself that if I kept going right I would end up back where I started. Clearly I didn’t follow my own instruction and must have started doing left, right, left at some point because what I thought was heading in the direction of sea clearly was not. Where was i? How to I work Google maps? I was hot and very bothered. I messaged Mr C and told him I was lost in some dodgy looking student area. He was in the comfort of Waves Bar. I did not wish to hear this. He was concerned and told me to get in a taxi back to the ship. I will not be defeated by this. I choose to walk behind two mums with young children, purely for safety. Where they were going didn’t really reflect in the equation. After about 30 mins walking I eventually found my way back to something recognisable, but not without getting lost finding the courtesy transfer back to the ship. I really should not be let out alone sometimes. And to top it all it was a failed shopping mission! Oh boy was I glad to see Waves Bar from the comfort of the Glass lift on the ship. It felt like I had crawled there on my hands and knees.
After a spot of light lunch we needed to find somewhere tranquil and serene for a lie down. We chose the Spa deck at the front of the ship. it was really quiet when we arrived, with lots of beds available. We opted for a double bed with sun shade hood and nested down in there with our backs to the ship looking out over the bow. Soft drinks were available on the trolley just inside the door. I had a dip in the thalassotherapy pool, went back to my bed. All was quiet and peaceful but then we could hear a kafuffle going on behind us. So frustrating for a nosey person like me not to be able to see what was going on. Mr C rolled over and stuck his head around the shade hood of the bed. It was something to do with a double bed and a single bed being available behind us. a couple arrived and the lady sat on the single bed and the man sat on the double bed. But at the same time he sat on the double bed, and another lady sat on the double bed with him. He didn’t want to share his double bed with this strange woman. I’m thinking it can’t possibly be as simple as that, but as I couldn’t see it I can’t really work out what it was all about. If it were that simple surely the logical thing to do would have been that single woman swapped to single bed and couple had double bed? Anyway, it all kicked off. Man was not happy and did a bit of shouting and said he was going to find someone to assist. He came back with a deck attendant who probably quite rightly didn’t want to get involved. Bit more ranting later and man goes in search of the Manager. Oh I so wanted to stand up and observe. Manager was doing his best to resolve the situation in some way, but let’s face it if the woman wouldn’t shift and there were no other vacant beds, it was a bit of a stalemate and no amount of shouting was going to resolve the issue. Knowing that I had spent enough time out there anyway, and knowing that in the next 20 mins or so I might be going in anyway, I asked Mr C if he was ready to leave. He was ok with leaving, but by now there were others looking for beds on the spa deck. I approached the Spa Manager and quietly suggested we were about to leave and did it help him out in any way. Our beds were wet from me having been in the pool, but he was welcome to the bed. He could not believe his luck. He walked towards me hands clasped together quietly mouthing the words ‘Thank you Madam, thank you’ Were the couple in question thankful? Where they hell! Still grumbling and moaning at the poor Spa Manager. To me it was obviously what the Spa Manager was really thinking, but he was the height of Oceania professionalism and dealt with it impeccably.
I needed a lie down after my afternoon of soap opera on the deck. It all happens at sea!
We were dining in Jacques this evening with Sue & Alan after saving them from being subjected to dining with strangers lol, better the devil you know and all that! It was quite amusing as we sat looking around at who was being seated at the tables for two wondering if they were the ones who got lucky after thinking they would be on a table for four sharing. We had the same lovely waiter that we had for our long lingering lunch in Grand Dining room yesterday. I was disappointed that my pumpkin soup was not in a pumpkin. I’m not so sure I even like pumpkin soup, but I always order it just to see it being served from the pumpkin. The meal was divine, it came a close second to the first meal I ever had in Jacques. We had great company with lots of laughs. What a fab penultimate evening it has turned out to be.
Sue & Alan headed off to the theatre to see the end of cruise show, no prizes for guessing where we headed for. Has to be done. I just love the Martini Bar, what can I say. Sue & Alan returned having clearly enjoyed the show and loved being clapped out of the theatre by the crew. I just love the way Oceania do things.
Wednesday 21st September 2016 – at sea
It’s the penultimate day. Not a day I enjoy. But to be positive. The sun is shining outside. It’s a beautiful day at sea as we head to breakfast at Terrace Cafe. As we walked along deck 12 to Terrace Cafe I was utterly shocked to see so many flip flops, books and sun tan lotions sunbathing. I have honesty never ever seen so many reserved sun loungers on any Oceania cruise that I have been on. Maybe it’s because there are more Brits on here than I have seen in the past. We had breakfast inside this morning due to it being very busy out on the back terrace. I did think of a pretty quick way to clear the area – just announce that all books, bags and items reserving sun loungers bad now been removed and were on the ‘table of shame’ that would have freed up a few tables! I left breakfast before Mr C in the hope of locating a sun lounger. No chance. I went through to the spa area convinced it would be even busier out there. Hey, result. Plenty of double and single beds out here. We took up residence on two single beds on the port side. This really is the life. Rob and Lesley took up residence beside us. We hadn’t really seen them to speak to since Captains Gala night, so we had a good catch up, lots of laughs and giggles. When I went back to get changed I had to stick my head out on decks 14 and 12. Officer and deck boys were out in force removing items that were reserving the beds. Yes, that’s another reason I love Oceania, when they say you can’t reserve sun loungers they mean it. The ‘table of shame’ by Waves Bar was full. I hope the passengers who attempted to reserve sun loungers are proud of themselves.
We vacated our beds at lunchtime and went for one final lunch at Terrace Cafe. It was the busiest I have ever seen it. We had to share a table outside for the first time ever this cruise. But it was all good. A lovely couple from Sutton Coldfield and a French couple. It was very hot out there. I needed a few glasses of chilled Nobillo to help me along. I had a lovely pasta dish and some fresh salad followed by pink grapefruit sorbet and strawberry ice cream.
I love my balcony. I could sit here for hours, but I can’t put it off any longer. The packing had to be done. The cases were already on the bed when we got to the suite which wasn’t the most welcoming sight. I decided to shower first, then a sit it the scorching hot sun in the balcony followed. The packing seemed to take forever. I had had enough, so I concentrated on getting ready for the night ahead and off we went for our final pre dinner drinks in Martini Bar.
We are celebrating tonight. I have just been informed that GoCruusewithJane was named “Best Cruise Agent” at the Cruise International Awards earlier today. Massive achievement which makes all the hard work we put into the business worthwhile. Massive thanks to all my fabulous clients. Mr C was a very proud man this evening and was bursting to tell anyone that would listen.
Martini Bar was busy this evening, which was no surprise. Sue and Alan walked through on their way to dinner and before I knew it Mr C had invited himself to dinner. They might have wanted to dine alone! In hindsight I think we got a table for four easier than we would have got a table for 2. We had a stunning table directly beneath the Swarovski chandelier which dominates the Grand Dining Room. We had the same lovely waiter that served us for our long lunch in Anacona and again in Jacques last night. He is a real sweetie. I chose the fruit in liqueur and then the roast turkey, followed by key lime pie and a French Kiss liqueur coffee. How fabulous is that. Despite being in the restaurant before 8.00pm this evening we are some if the last to leave. We are getting a reputation for ourselves. Sue and Alan joined us for one final drink at Martini Bar before heading to bed. We have all had a great time on the couple of occasions we have got together. It’s been fab.
For me it was one final sing along with Luigi and his piano, we said our goodbyes to our two favourite barmen of the cruise and it was the final stroll back to our suite.
I went out onto the balcony for one final look at my stars. The moon was so bright. Then I realised the sky was lighting up with fork lightening. Mr C and his camera is going to love this. I quickly called him and he couldn’t believe his eyes. A storm at sea on a clear night with no rain – photographers idea of heaven. Camera was out and I was instructed to block all light from the suite onto the balcony. Eye, eye then Captain. I will just get on with the finalising of packing shall I? Then I heard an almighty crash if furniture and a lot of cursing and swearing. I suggested he might want to keep it down a bit in consideration of our neighbours. That’s didn’t go down to well. He hadn’t kicked the furniture as I first though but fell against the chairs in pain as he kicked the metal support structure of the balcony railings. He was not happy and is quite convinced that his little toe is broken, maybe worse. I can tell he is in a considerable amount of pain. He hopped over to the bed yelling out very loudly. What could I do! Elevate and pack with ice Lizy advised via text. No he didn’t want that so I administered two co-codamol and hoped that helped in some way. He got a good photo of the lightening though!!I had to struggle to get all three cases out on my own. I earnt my bed tonight.
Thursday 22nd September 2016 – Athens
There is only one way to start the final morning of a cruise and that’s with a stress free breakfast delivered to the suite by Mani, our lovely Butler. It was still dark at 7.00am when it arrived and I was trying very hard to wake up with the bright suite lights on. Mani was his usual polite self, greeted us with “Good Morning” and proceeded to set the table in the exact and precise way that he had done on any other morning during this cruise. This is just another thing that I love about Oceania Cruises. Unlike some cruise lines your cruise doesn’t start to grind to a halt the day before disembarking. The bathrobes are still in bathroom. No clean linen has been squirrelled away in my drawer. No folder full of next cruises ports of call etc. This is our suite until we disembark. Mani left wishing us a safe journey home. I had my salmon bagel, cornflakes and a pastry, whilst Mr C had his omelette and cornflakes. We got washed and dressed at leisure, did a final check of the suite, and left just after 8.15am. We took the lift straight down to deck 4, through the terminal, collected our cases and were in a taxi to the airport at 8.30am. Disembarkation could not have been smoother or any less stress free.
The taxi driver explained the roads were very busy at this time of day which we expected. We were in no hurry and had time to kill before our flight. So, when he eventually got out of the traffic, he took us the coastal route which was very nice for a change. Whilst we were stuck in traffic in Piraeus I thought what a grim grey place it is, but it does have some lovely old buildings stuck in between the 60’s and 70’s concrete architecture. Such a shame.
It took over an hour to get to the airport this morning, usually 45 minutes but it does depend on the traffic. We knew we still had well over an hour before check in opened but there was little else to do so stood patiently waiting close to our allocated check in desk. Several more joined as the time went on. Mostly Oceania passengers but not all. There was all sorts kicking off. People moaning and groaning that they had to wait. No seats? Of course there were seats just not where they wanted them. One lady had a rant at me because her flight wasn’t until 2 hours after ours. Was that my problem? Did she book with GoCruisewithJane? No! People were going up and giving check in staff a hard time. At one point an airport official came to try and disperse the waiting gaggle of people behind us. That did not go too well at all and some declared a mutiny. Then the checkin lanes were changed to British Airways. Oh see the waiting passengers surge from the back! If you have ever stood in a queue with me you will know that nobody gets past me, especially when I was there from the beginning. I spotted the Club Europe sign go in place before most. The crowd had already started to surge, but I cut across three lanes of trolley cases and people and I was there. Pole position. Still people dared to tut me lol. I had been there from the very beginning so their tutting was not justified. Checked in. Through security via the fast lane and the hobbling Mr C was yards behind me. Straight through to the executive lounge, and relax. I went for the compulsory browse of all duty free outlets then something to eat with a hot chocolate and a sandwich in the exec lounge.
I spotted on the monitor that it was advising to go to Gate 7 for our flight, so knowing that Mr C could barely walk we decided to set off. The gate wasn’t actually open when we got there, but slowly the passengers started to arrive. That’s when things got entertaining. A massive queue formed, plus a smaller queue, behind wheelchair assistance and families with children. To me it was obvious this would be the Priority queue so obviously I joined it knowing we were Club Europe. People in big queue were not happy about little queue. There as a row brewing.
Meanwhile at the desk two different men were being called to the desk. Both seemed to appear unhappy about something which was being put to them. Much shaking of heads and they returned to their position in the queue. Meanwhile a woman was getting very vocal with the airline staff. The same two men were called back to the desk. Whatever they were being asked was a firm no on their part. Woman and husband still having a go at staff.
Back at the small queue they had started to embark us. Oh my days, hear the big queue kick off. Woman at the front of big queue came and blocked our queue and demanded an explanation from the staff. “Shambles, shambles” she screamed. Oh my life, calm down. Did she think the plane might leave without her? Mr C hobbled up behind me and we were in our seat on row 4 in no time. Then on gets the lady who had been at the desk having a grumble. She was on row 1. Her Hubby was on back row of Business Class. So that must have been what she was having a grumble about. Was she going to let it drop? No! First thing out of her mouth to the bloke next to her, who was one of the men that was called to the desk twice, was “are you going to move so that I can sit with my husband”. He politely advised her that he wasn’t prepared to give up his extra keg room seat because he had been working for the last 2 weeks etc. Oh she was not happy! She caused chaos in the galley ranting at the flight attendants. Why they attempted to be polite back is beyond me. She went back to her seat. 10 seconds later she was up again to complain about the man next to her. He was allegedly blocking her from getting out with her legs. Mr C thought best idea would be to off load her. She sat down. The flight took off. Seat belt sign went off and she was up out of her seat again en route to see hubby. Anyone that made eye contact was told how ‘vile’ the man next to her was. I didn’t make eye contact. I couldn’t help myself. I had to look behind for the next instalment. The bloke next to her husband was the other man who kept getting called to the desk. She had a go at him. Why couldn’t he move? He wasn’t moving! Back up to the crew she goes! Oh my days. I can only presume that she didn’t choose to pre book seats during the period when there was a fee. She might not even have chosen to pre book seat yesterday from one of the computers on board ship, when it was free. Hey, if she had a decent travel agent they might even have checked them in 24 hrs prior to departure and tried to secure seats. It’s been entertaining but I’m sure there is more to come from her.
Lunch and wine has just been served. Most delicious chicken and leak dish. Probably the best meal I have had to date in the air. All washed down with two bottles of Sauvignon Blanc. The view of the coast line has been stunning since we left Athens. I have seen the suspension bridge in Dubrovnik and the harbour of Split. We are currently flying over the beautiful mountains of St Moritz. Such an amazingly clear day.
Not long before we were back to reality in the form of the immigration queue at passport control at Heathrow airport. When we finally got to the front of the never ending snaking, hot, sweaty queue we decided to do the biometric passport scan thing. In reality it would have been quicker to stay in the other queue and let a grumpy immigration officer nod us through. At least the cases were on the carousel by the time we got there, so we were soon enroute through the airport back to Sofitel to collect the car. Sofitel exceeded my expectations once again. We stepped out of the lift, a concierge saw car parking ticket in hand, took it off Mr C and ushered a driver to bring the car round to the front doors. Could not have been any smoother.
So, another fabulous cruise adventure on one of my favourite cruise lines, Oceania Cruises is over. But it won’t be the last. As I have said many times over, we do love Oceania Cruises. I love the elegance that Oceania ships offer me. The dining is on another level, and consistently good no matter which restaurant we choose to eat in. We both have busy lives, so the laid back chic ambiance that Oceania Riviera offers suits us. I aspire to reach the dizzy heights of Oceania or Vista suites one day, but for now the Penthouse suites more than suits our needs. I am one of those people that likes my own space on a ship. I want somewhere I know I can go and spend time and just relax, chill out, enjoy the space. I have passed the days where a cabin is just a place to eat, wash and sleep in. I need a bit more of my own personal space. But we are all different and Oceania offer all grades of stateroom to accommodate most needs from inside, outside to balcony, then several grades of suite. And let’s not forget those Martini’s! Did you work out that I’m a bit of a Martin fan. Im becoming a bit of a connoisseur when it comes to a good Martini cocktail.
If you are considering an Oceania Cruise, but find yourself reverting back to your usual mainstream cruise line, just do it! It’s a different style of cruising to mainstream, but a fabulous one. Oceania are offering some great cruises for next year, with fabulous ports of call. Something for everyone.