Boy those 17 nights just flew by, didn’t they?
This year’s big holiday saw us adventuring on the P&O ship Ventura for 17 nights on a greek cruise with two of our friends and the in-laws. Sounds hairy I know, but it actually turned out alright. I could have done with a bit more ‘alone time’ as that is all I am craving now, but I couldn’t have been in better company none-the-less. We had three rooms in a row which worked out perfectly for having a few before dinner drinks on those warmer (less windy) evenings that we could spend out on the balconies together.
I saw some amazing sites that, yet again, weren’t fully appreciated until I came home and looked at the photos. It’s almost as though when I have a beautiful sight in front of me, there’s too much for me to take in with no way to see it all; but when I take a snap shot of the view, I then can really see it all, the nuances, the detail of what’s there. It’s as if, I know I am seeing something wonderful, but I can’t quite let myself go to really be there in the moment. Thank god for photography, that’s all I can say.
After leaving Southampton and having three days at sea, the first stop was Palma, Mallorca. Glorious weather but not a lot to do for a day’s fly-in (ship-in?) visit.
Then after two more sea days we had a run of four stops. First was Souda Bay, Crete. The sail in was fantastic with views of the sunrise over snow topped mountains. However there’s not actually anything in Souda Bay, it’s just a little fishing village so we hopped on the shuttle bus to the close town of Chania for a walk around. Chania was lovely. Along the bay we found venetian style architecture and many taverners vying for our custom. It was Easter Sunday when we stopped on Crete, and the Greeks take Easter very seriously. From all accounts it is their Christmas. And one of their Easter traditions is to cook a whole lamb on a spit and have the entire family round for a big celebration. The meat would then be used up over the next week in various recipes. All around the bay and the back streets were lambs roasting…I don’t think I’ll ever forget the image of one lamb on a spit that had its eyeball hanging out of the socket and flung around as it rotated. Ugh. Safe to say, I didn’t order the lamb when we stopped.
It really is beautiful by the harbour, we walked around the wall that leads up to the lighthouse and offered a stunning view back over the town and up to the mountains in the distance. The people are friendly too, we got talking to a couple of locals on our way back from the lighthouse and shook hands as we parted, I instantly regretted it when one of the men nearly broke my hand with his grip, but don’t worry, I kept a straight face.
The next day we arrived on the island of Mykonos. We had a tour booked for the afternoon so we had time to venture off and explore on our own for the morning. As a group we wandered through the town but when our friends and in-laws went back to the boat before our afternoon guided tour, Dan and I took a stroll through the backstreets and enjoyed a bit of quiet time on the beach. I loved Mykonos, but when we had our tour we learned that it’s not somewhere I’d like to return to during peak summer time…as 150 thousand people descend on the island every day. Yep, every day. We weren’t at peak visiting time and it was already packed, those streets are tiny, how on earth that many people can fit on the island puzzles me.
After the tour we were taken to a taverner for some traditional greek food and greek dancing. We were served up big bowls of greek salad and a plate of unidentifiable meat, not anything to write home about but the dancing was really fun. The dancers showed us some of their moves before getting everyone up on their feet to join in. Before we knew what was happening we were all linking hands, weaving through each other trying to keep in time when really we were just running sideways in one big line – but it was great fun. We all sat down again as the dancers showed us how to do it once more – this time with fire! Lighter fluid was being squirted on the floor, flames going up, cigarettes being thrown around; it could only happen in Greece, let me tell you. A health and safety nightmare. As we left, the heavens opened, fully, buckets being tipped on our heads heavy, but it didn’t ruin it for anyone, we were all in good spirits after that. Could have been the Raki.
The next day was the big one, Athens. Athens was a bucket list place for Dan so he had refused the Raki and any other alcohol the night before in case it ruined his Acropolis visit the next day. As it turns out, he didn’t need any alcohol for that! If you are intending to visit the Acropolis and have visions of it being romantic or carefree in anyway, prepare yourself for the complete opposite. Just trying to get up to it was STRESSFUL, the sheer amount of people and then the amount of those people pushing, shoving and queue jumping (I’m British, queues are very serious for us Brits – it’s a fair system RESPECT THE QUEUE), made it simply a bad mood inducing situation to be in. How can anyone marvel at the history in front of them when they have an elbow in their back? We were then dropped into Athens where we found a lovely bar hidden away. We could relax, take a breather, have a bite to eat and recuperate before heading back out into the busy main streets of Athens. Let’s just say, that’s one ticked off the box and doesn’t need to be repeated.
The fourth day of port calls saw us waking up to the sights of Santorini. We had breakfast in bed while we looked out to the island close by. We tendered across to Santorini in a very bouncy speed boat where we were then picked up by coach for a visit to Akrotiri, which can be described as pretty much the Pompeii before Pompeii. Over 3600 years old, Akrotiri is an ancient city that was destroyed after a volcano eruption and left untouched until it was rediscovered in 1967 through excavations of Santorini island. We were then taken to the top of Mount Elijah…it was really high! And then taken back down to Santorini town for a look around on our own.
We were given tickets for the cable car to make it back down the port to catch the tender but what with Dan not liking heights, flying etc, there was no way we were going to get him in a cable car, let alone one that had an hour and a half wait. When I asked the guide how could we get down the hill without using the cable car, she initially said there isn’t a way, then changed her mind and said the only other way is down about 500 steps along a donkey track, but it smells so you don’t want to do that. No, no, she said, get the cable car. We didn’t get the cable car. We took the donkey track. Down and down we went, having to leap out of a charging donkey’s way at a moments notice. They were carrying people up the hill, they had their route and they were taking it whether someone was in their way or not, it was up to the pedestrian if they wanted to get out of its way. I was so glad that we only had to walk down the hill, really that was hard enough in the heat and height of it, but we we passed so many people walking up that were simply struggling to breathe – I really did not envy them. We made it back to the boat and could then enjoy the sail out of Santorini from our balcony.
The next day we were meant to stop in Katakolon, but conditions were too windy for the ship to dock, it would have been the Costa Concordia all over again, so the captain made the decision to keep on sailing. At that time the only stop left was Gibraltar, so it was in the lap of the gods as to whether we would get a further stop in between. The sea was rough and it was windy conditions so the boat couldn’t go too fast either to make any extra time.
However, two days of sea days later we arrived in Cartagena instead. Dan and I were pleased to be stopping in Cartagena as a previous cruise we were on was meant to stop there but this stop and another had to be cancelled when the ship we were then on needed to be repaired – and so had to stop in Barcelona for three days of repairs instead. Though the sun shined as we docked in Cartagena, it was freezing as the wind had a real bite to it. We walked up to a castle from where we had a lovely view over the city, and then made it to the roman amphitheatre before checking out some of the shops. I’m going to a wedding in August and managed to find my outfit in one of the shops, a dress for €15. Just under £14 for a beautiful dress is mind boggling. I didn’t have time to try it on but figured that at price, if it didn’t fit, I could just charity bag it and buy another one. Luckily when I tried it on, back on the boat, it looked lovely, however it will need to be taken up by about a foot! Before heading back to the ship we stopped at a little bar for some lunch. I had my ‘must have when in Spain’ of Spanish omelette, and man it was so good…
The next day, the last stop of the trip, was the familiar sight of Gibraltar. This would be our third time here and since we’d already been to the top of the rock with the monkeys and looked around the town, Dan and I thought we’d do something different and go dolphin watching…
Since it was pre-booked, we had no choice on the morning of it but to go and do it; if it were something we could have booked on the day, we wouldn’t have done it. It was dull, grey and cold. Surprise, surprise it was a wash out with only one dolphin coming to see us for a split second, and not even everyone on the boat saw that dolphin, so some saw nothing on the trip. We were so frozen by the time we got off the boat that we headed straight to the nearest cafe for a hot chocolate. After that we bought our duty free Hendrick’s Gin (currently £40 a litre in our local Tesco, we got it in Gibraltar for £21!) and headed back to the boat. On meeting up with the rest of our gang they said nothing but told us to watch a video they had shot… my friend had been filming a monkey sitting quietly on a wall when all of a sudden it leapt off and jumped onto my father-in-law’s back and instantly began opening his bag and ransacking it! Just as that monkey got off, another leapt onto him and apparently stayed sitting on him for fifteen minutes with no one offering him any help to get the monkey off. Honestly it is so funny how typical that kind of thing happening to him is! He’s a man with a fair few stories that’s for sure.
The sea days were mostly made up of quizzing (so many quizzes were happening throughout the day, and it still took us until the last day before we won one outright!), gyming (yet I still managed to put on half a stone), eating – breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, appetisers, dinner and midnight snacks were all available (might explain the extra half stone), game playing, gambling…and to be honest not a lot else.
Which to me is perfect.
And that is the kinda long gist of my holiday that went by in a flash. I can’t wait for the next one already!
Until next time. x