Monday 13th May 2013 – Santorini
I have been looking forward to today having never been to Santorini before. Lizy tells me she is putting me on a donkey but we shall see about that. Oceania arrived so early that the sun was not even up and the hills and were shrouded in mist. I of course, was up and out on the balcony watching the arrival. A fleet of local tenders are waiting to take passengers off to the two different landing stations. One for tours, and one for independent passengers. Lizy is snoozing and as I type at 8.45 the sun has just broke over the hill. Its going to be another good day.
I went for breakfast alone and sat out on the aft terrace of the Terrace cafe. Lovely table with spectacular views of the little white buildings on the hill tops. I just chilled with my pot of English breakfast tea, my cranberry juice, berries and smoked salmon bagel. The choice is extensive with anything and everything on offer. You fancy it for breakfast and chances are it’s there.
We decided to wait until open tendering was announced as available. Not that I ever think that there is much waiting time with the ticket system. We were off the ship at about 10.15 and it was a short 10 min ride across to the docking point. With three ships in Santorini today the queue for the cable car was beyond stupid. I was not standing in line in this heat waiting to get on a cable car. There was no way I was climbing the steps, especially as lizy tells me that I had to share the steps with the donkeys, and the donkeys took priority. There was no queue at all for the donkeys so you know what happened next! Yes, I got on a donkey. Well lizy got a pretty little donkey, I got more what would be described as a horse so I guess they match size to weight! I know some of you will be in disagreement with the donkey rides in Santorini, but fact remains that they started off delivering supplies up the hill 100’s of years ago. The donkeys only go up twice before they are rested in the shade for a few hours. They have shade and water. You pass the stables where they are kept and it all looked ok to me, not that I am suddenly a donkey expert. The ride was fun. We were in a pack of 4 and the only male fellow passenger was giving a grand national style commentary most of the way up. Not that we were going at anything like Grand National pace, just a gentle clip clop up the hill. Mainly Lizys donkey was in the lead, but the others tried to give her a run for her money. We did have a guide following up behind and he berated a man when he did something he clearly he shouldn’t have done. Don’t know what it was, maybe he tried to make his donkey go faster, but the donkey man was looking out for his donkeys. The views on the way up were simply stunning and how I managed to take photos whilst holding onto a donkey for dear life I don’t know. The donkeys take you almost to the top, and Mr Donkey Man instructs you to get off. That’s fine Mr Donkey Man but I don’t even know how I got on, so getting off is an impossibility. He more or less dragged me off which I guess is the only way, but not at all lady like. It was quite hard work ensuring you stay on a donkey. And now I have steps to challenge me, along with the heat of the sun. I confess I was breathless and had to take refuse on someone’s front step after about 5 mins. Blame the altitude! But nothing had prepared me for the searing heat and the sun rays bouncing off the white walls. As soon as we reached anything that looked vaguely like a bar I was in there with an ice cold can of sprite. Think we should have chosen somewhere less breezy as the wind was cutting straight in and I could feel my face burning despite the sun block. Onward and upwards and we had a little nosey around the shops. Now, I was in a gift shop minding my own business, just choosing a fridge magnet like a typical tourist, when Lizy came up alongside me and seemed determined to distract me and get me out of the shop as soon as she could. It later transpired that there was a live lizard thing on the floor having a cheeky look around. I thought they liked being near the sea? What did he want to be so far up a very hot hill for? Lizy was right to get me out of the shop as soon as she could, there were a lot of breakables in that shop and if they had been in my way on my exit route it could have got messy! We decided we had to venture higher up and further along the hill in search of the famous blue domed church buildings. I was in Santorini so needed to see one. We seemed to walk for miles, and indeed we did, as I now learn that we walked to the next village along the hill tops cobbled paths. We found the blue domes though and the views enroute were just stunning! There were some fabulous little hotels and restaurants en route, but I knew if I sat that would be me done for the day and there would be no moving me. I had to keep going and the walk back to the town where we started off seemed like a trillion miles. There was no queue for the cable cars, but apparently it does get really busy late afternoon when people head back to the ships so you have been warned. The donkey was 5 euro per person by the way, the cable car 4 euro per person. We went straight through and onto the next set of carriages. The ride down took about 5 mins so you have to be quick with a camera if you want to catch a photograph. The queue for our tender seemed quite large but we were the last two allowed on so we were just in time.
After a wash and freshen up we headed to Waves for some lunch and I caved in and had a burger. It was excellent so worth the calories. We washed it down with the $5 cocktail of the day and then took up residence on a sun lounger for an hour or two and had a lovely rest.
Tonight we are dining in Toscana, but first we had pre dinner drinks in Martini, the clock tells us that it is officially Martini o’clock! I had my Manhattan and Lizy had her favourite moneypenny. The canapes board arrived along with the nuts and crisps and it is all very civilised. It seems a little quiet this evening but maybe everyone is tired after another long hot day ashore.
Another speciality restaurant this evening. Dinner in Toscana did not disappoint. We had a fab table overlooking the wake. Shame we had just missed the sunset. The sommelier was keen to suggest his wines to us, he was very persuasive and I do like a wine steward that knows what he is doing. I admit that I don’t have much of a clue when it comes to wine, and nothing wines me up more when you ask a wine waiter for a suggestion and they look at you with a blank expression. So we opted to change from our usual preferred wine. It was a very good choice but it now means we have two unfinished bottles in Oceania Riviera wine cellar somewhere. Next challenge was the olive oil menu. Oh my days, I didn’t know where to start. The olive oil man and his trolley were busy so the head waiter took us under his wing. I had already chosen my vinegar as it had strawberries and cherrys in. Naturally I had no idea if that was a good or bad thing but I liked the sound of it, so my oil was matched to be another of delicate fragrance. Lizy already knew that she liked rich and spicy so again the head waiter made his suggestions for her. Then the bread arrived looking like a sail boat with so many choices of bread in it you could get fat just trying them. The food was amazing and we were totally spoilt for choice. I had asparagus, followed by the nicest of nice minestrone soup and then lasagne. The food got far more interesting and fancy than that, but after 9 nights of fine dining I was ready for the simple things in life. It was all delicious. Lizy had some pretty impressive looking ravioli. We had the trilogy of deserts which is the best way to try all of them and I had a really good cappuccino.
I declined my after dinner liquor tonight as I knew we were heading back to Martinis for my long awaited chocolate martini. We have tried every night to be awake enough to venture back to Martini’s but it hadn’t happened. Now I was there, drinking it and it was amazing. If you want to know how good it was, you need to book and Oceania cruise!
The sea is a little bit bobbly this evening, but we still had to catch some air out on deck and chose to chill for a while on the lovely comfy sofa beds of The Sanctuary. These day beds are just blissful and i just love all the little random pockets of comfy chairs everywhere, both outside on the open decks and inside in the various bars and lounges. But our real beds were calling us. I went out of the balcony and for the first time this cruise the sea actually looked like see and was kicking up quite a wake as we cut through it. The rest of the time it has been like a mill pond. Lizy was looking forward to being rocked to sleep but just as I was going into sleep, you know the bit where you body jumps a bit? Well the officer driving the ship found a hole in the sea at the exact same time as I was slipping into sleep and I let out and almighty yell, lol. That woke lizy up and it was rather amusing.
Tuesday 14th May 2013 – at sea
Wide awake at 6.30am this morning and I tried to fight it. I couldn’t work out if today was Athens or at sea. Just as well we are at sea as I haven’t packed! So, last day today. Best make the most of everything Oceania. Time for some breakfast in Terrace Cafe.
This morning Lizy was attending the Culinary Arts Centre for her Pasta class which she was really looking forward to. Lizy had her culinary class at 9.30 am this morning ‘A Passion for Pasta’ and she looks like she is having fun. If you are not booked as a couple you are paired up with somebody but she swapped partners because the first one looked a little scary. She ended up with Alan, who might have been Australian, but it seemed a good match and they were getting on like a house on fire when I left. I was granted permission to sit in and take photos but didn’t think I could spare one and a half hours of my life for the occasion. Lizy had already thrust a bag of washing at me first thing this morning so I had that to attend to. My morning was spent flitting between laundrette, pasta class for photo opportunities and drinking coffee in Baristas. Lizys pasta class was $ 45 pre booked and the chef made the pasta giving them samples at every stage to check for texture etc, but as pasta has to rest for a while before cooking, by the time they arrived back at their work stations there was pasta dough waiting for them. They all donned hats and aprons and it looked great fun. They were also plied with wine as they rolled the pasta through the spaghetti making machine and then cooked it with various other bits. I went back at various stages to take photos, but sadly missed out on wine.
Washing and ironing completed I was ready for some sunbathing but we appear to have entered the Greek equivalent of the Bay of Biscuits. I wasn’t ready for that! In fact a near monsoon swept across the open deck. Nothing else for it then it was time to pack, and I don’t quite know how but I somehow ended up packing for lizy too. I think its a Mum thing?!
First Noon announcement of the cruise, from the Captain on the Bridge. I guess that is down to us being in port every other day of this cruise. He claims that due to heavy traffic in Piraeus tomorrow we will now be arriving there this evening and over nighting before disembarkation. We are currently only 8- miles from port so it makes sense I guess, and at least we know we will be in on time. I do wonder if it was planned though and it would have been better for us if we had taken an earlier flight. But hey ho, an overnight in port would be a bonus to many.
We decided on lunch in the Grand Dining room and were served by our favourite waiter from Honduras. We had a lovely window table for two and watched the dolphins swim along side. The Grand dining room offered everything from hot dogs and burger, sandwiches and wraps to a full blown three or four course lunch. I had consommé and we both had the chicken teriyakia wraps which were lovely. We declined a desert but he insisted on bringing a plate of cookies with my coffee which we couldn’t resist
Lizy decided to get another film from the extensive DVD library and it didn’t look like the weather was going to pick up so I took the decision to snuggle under my duvet and watch the film too. Fatal to put the duvet over me and I was asleep in no time. I awoke just as the credits rolled. The weather looked a lot more promising and decided to done a swimsuit and go investigate. Result, the sun had got its hat on over the pool so I took up residence on the oh so comfy sun lounger and it was glorious. I had to take advantage of the Yellow Bird cocktail at $5. I could feel my nose burning in the sun but this was too nice I just had to lay in it. I had to cave in at 5.30pm due to feeling the glow but I’m sure it was perfect for a good while later.
After a shower we both stood on the balcony watching our arrival into Piraeus. It was a gloriously sunny evening. Loads of passengers were out on their balconys, the most I had seen all cruise. Regent Seven Seas was glowing in the evening sun as we glided past her and berthed at the other side of the terminal building.
So its out final evening onboard. We needed to make the most of it, so were soon suitably attired and in the Martini Bar selecting our favourite Martinis during our final Martini o’clock. If you haven’t already guessed this has been my favourite bar. I could sit in here all night and people watch, listen to the pianist. Lets face it you wouldn’t go hungry with the selection of snacks and nibbles they deliver to you. There is a bit of a buzz about the ship tonight, the excitement of being in port a little early I guess. I overheard someone say they had just arranged a tour of Athens by taxi during the evening for 60 euro. If they had an early flight out of Athens tomorrow then I guess they would have missed getting a glimpse of the Acropolis etc. The crew are also looking forward to grabbing a few hours ashore to I’m sure, if only for beer and wifi. So, we had our usual little spot in Martini Bar and as per usual anyone and everyone drops by our table for a chat. Its a bit like speed dating, they come and sit opposite, have a natter, move on and in slips the next person. All very random, but friendly. Ive really enjoyed chatting to the different passengers onboard. And do you know what’s refreshing? No moans, no whinges, no niggles! I think it must be a Brits thing to have a moan, or maybe I have been on the wrong cruises of late where moans have been justified to a certain extent. Everybody onboard seems genuinely impressed with every aspect of their cruise, just as we have been.
Our final dinner this evening is in the Grand Dining Room, just as it had been on our very first evening onboard nine nights ago. And the Wow factor is still there. It’s just so grand and luxurious that I love the surroundings and the ambience. We had a table for two, by the window and we watched the comings and goings on the dockside. People coming to look at the ship, crew going out in search of free wifi, which was available in the terminal building. Dinner was just divine and we ate it like it was our last supper, which is what it was in Oceania terms. Lizy looked non too impressed though that her bedtime was pushed a little further back when I ordered my cappuccino. When it arrived I asked why she didn’t have a hot chocolate? Oh my, you should have seen her face! You can get hot chocolate in here?!! The waiter was onto it and he delivered it complete with whipped cream and all the trimmings. Lizy was impressed, but at the same time gutted, as she had not realised she could indulge in such luxurious hot chocolate in a public place.
For my final evening onboard, I had one final mission. I needed to finish on a Big O cocktail, just as I had started nine and a half days ago in Venice. Martini Bar it was then, and just one for the road! Stateroom 8019 was calling to us, and despite having already had hot chocolate in the Grand Dining room we had to order a pot for bed, just for old times sake. Lizy was already known to the stewards as hot chocolate girl, so if we didn’t order a pot on the last night they might have thought we had gone awol and sent out a search and rescue party. I sat on the balcony watching the comings and goings on the dockside drinking my final hot chocolate, before closing the door and getting under that feather duvet and 1000 count Egyptian thread sheets for one final sleep.
Tomorrow we will be in Athens at a nice 5* luxury hotel and I will tell you more about my new found love for Oceania Cruises, so make sure you check out the next instalment.