David and Tena Smith planned for a relaxing getaway and got more than they bargained for...
After 10 years of discussion and persuasion and finding that our Son, still at home, would be in Germany with the Scouts for 2 weeks, we finally took the plunge of a 7 day cruise in August 2009 with “Ocean Village” in the Western Mediterranean whilst he was away. We chose Ocean Village because our elder Daughter had had 2 holidays on the ship (her first being part of her honeymoon) and thoroughly recommended it.
We flew to Palma in Majorca and set sail for Tunis in beautiful, warm weather spending the first night and all the next day relaxing at sea. Arrival in Tunis was met with their first rainfall for a month but, nothing ventured, nothing gained we boarded our coach for a tour round Tunis and Carthage, seeing both the good and bad parts of each, and the sun came out for us to enjoy our first trip off the ship.
After attending a “Mamma Mia” concert, we retired and awoke in Civitavecchia for the main purpose of this itinerary – a visit to Rome & the Vatican. Our coach took us round the main sights of the city before leaving us with our guide for lunch and a tour, in 40˚ heat, round the Vatican including St. Peter’s Square, Museum, Sistine Chapel and then finally the Trevi Fountain – Tena, being Catholic, found this visit quite uplifting whilst I, as a non-Catholic, found it quite symbolic to be able to stand on the spot where Pope John Paul’s funeral service had taken place.
David & Tena at Trevi Fountain
Then followed trips round Genoa (not a place we would particularly chose to visit again; Port Grimaud & St. Tropez we both found Port Grimaud wonderful, but were left somewhat disappointed with St. Tropez) and finally Barcelona (a City not to be missed) where we saw La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi decorations everywhere and the Olympic Village.
Life on board ship exceeded all our expectations in the quality, quantity and choice of food served on an informal basis which suited our purpose better and the onboard entertainment eg. Ice Sculpture, Fruit Carving, Gala Dinners and Evening Shows etc. were such that we felt this may be the future of holidays for us.
Docked at Genoa
The stresses and strains of our 4 year old grandson having a heart transplant at the end of January 2010, after only a fortnight on the transplant list, led us to search out another cruise in the Spring and Tena, being very keen on all things Egyptian, found us booking our 2nd cruise on Ocean Village this time in the Eastern Mediterranean to incorporate a trip to the Pyramids & Sphinx of Giza.
In May we flew to Crete and embarked the ship at Heraklion. We had pre-booked daily excursions off the ship, the first of which was to Cairo (from Port Said) – 17 coaches convoyed us to Cairo with police and military escorts, for a while running alongside the Suez Canal, arriving at the Archaeological Museum to see Tutankhamen’s treasures and then on to the Sphinx & Pyramids, once again enjoying temperatures of 40˚, but the Cheshire cat look never left Tena’s face for the rest of the week!!
David and Tena with familiar landmarks in Giza
Next stop was Limassol in Cyprus, where we just meandered the resort on our own having done Cyprus on a previous holiday but not that particular resort. Several fellow passengers suggested we should be on deck next morning for docking in Rhodes – an experience not to be missed as the true beauty of the island can only be fully appreciated from a seaward approach – our tour here took in Lindos Gold and hand woven rugs as well as some of the wonderful scenery. Ephesus, from Kusadasi, followed the next day with a coach tour round the usual sights (thank goodness the coach was air-conditioned!!). Our final port of call was Piraeus, where our coach tour took us to Athens for the Acropolis and original Olympic village together with other well known landmarks on the itinerary. We flew back from Heraklion the next day into Manchester and arrived home in Loughborough to find the house still standing, clean and tidy, having left the Son to his own devices for the week!
I think by this stage we had become ardent cruising fans and both feel that a holiday in any one place would pale into insignificance against being able to wake up in a different City/Country each morning!! Having said that, a week in France in August, staying with dear friends of ours who had retired to the Dordogne some 9 years ago (we try to visit them about every 18 months or so) and I must say we had a lovely relaxing time with them, flying East Midlands to Limoges and then a hire car to their house about 40 kilometres away.
The long, hard winter that followed led us to cast around for another sunshine cruise, when we found to our dismay that Ocean Village had relocated to Australia and were therefore no longer available to us. A trip to our favourite travel agent brought to the fore a booking with Thompson Cruises on “Thompson Dream”, again to the Western Mediterranean but this time the main port of call being for Naples with the opportunity of a trip to Pompeii (another one on Tena’s wish list!!).
Early April saw us flying once again to Palma to join our ship, after a health scare for me a couple of weeks beforehand, spending 3 days in Leicester Royal Infirmary where gall stones were ultimately diagnosed (we went with the Consultant’s blessing, but with strict instructions to stick to a low fat diet until a clinic follow up at the end of May).
Our first port of call was Cagliari in Sardinia with a conducted tour round the main sights – a lovely, leisurely start to the week. Our next day was the long one, docking at Naples for the trip to Sorrento and Pompeii – what a trip, Sorrento for its beauty and Pompeii for its magnificent history all in glorious sunshine and excellent company (the Cheshire cat look appeared once again!). It is amazing to reflect on the depth of the excavations and what those excavations have revealed.
Rome the next day we did the easy way with a shorter trip entirely by coach to save the weary legs.
I think the next day’s trip to Ajaccio in Corsica proved to be the highlight for me with its stunning scenery and being able to sit outside one of the hillside village coffee shops soaking up the sun whilst gazing at the snow covered mountain tops in the distance at the same time. (How the coach managed to negotiate the very narrow, winding lanes and bridges with shear drops either side defies description).
David & Tena in Ajaccio
Docked in Ajaccio
Our final port of call was at Palamos for a trip once again to Barcelona where we were able to wander on our own and appreciate the atmosphere of La Ramblas with its markets and other unique attractions for a few hours.
Arriving home the next day, once a again to clean and tidy house, we both felt that this cruise with Thompsons was equally as good as Ocean Village – the staff were exceptional in looking after my dietary needs and very attentive to all our other requirements; the shows brilliant and all other aspects just as good.
Suffice it to say that we now see ourselves as well and truly bitten by the cruising bug and eagerly await our 4th cruise via Fred Olsen to the Norwegian Fjords in July which should have me looking like the Cheshire cat as this is really one at the top of my wish list – WATCH THIS SPACE!!
David & Tena Smith
David and Tena enjoyed cruising so much they decided to have another go. Why not have a read about their Norwegian Adventure?