It takes a lot for me to be excited about a holiday as I have travelled to so many wonderful places. I haven't done much cruising at all, but I was excited about this holiday as it was very different to the type of holiday I normally take and we had lined up some pretty amazing days out. The bonus was we were flying out of Birmingham which was great when you consider leaving home, checking in and through security it took 50 minutes. The flight to Rome was just over two hours and coaches were waiting to take us to the ship.
The check-in was quick, and we were in our cabin straight away. We went straight up to pool deck where we had a G&T and a huge comfortable sun lounger awaited. We popped into the ocean view cafe restaurant to check out the buffet for a spot of lunch where we were spoilt for choice with everything from pizza to a carvery, Indian and Chinese. Our departure was prompt from Rome; there was live music and the ship once out of port came alive. Shops opened, casino lights started to entice, live music played, and we all got familiar with our surroundings.
Dining is a major part of cruising. The food is superb. Breakfast has everything; egg stations, freshly made pastries, pancakes, fresh fruit and cereals so you are spoilt for choice. You can go a la carte or buffet. By the pool there is a grill that does wonderful chunky beef burgers or hot dogs. The buffet did a huge selection of food ranging from stir fry to curries, pasta, salads, pizza and a carvery. And don't mention the sweets! You could have an a la carte meal in the Opus restaurant.
For evening meals, we opted for flexible dining so we could turn up between 6.30-8.30pm at the main Opus restaurant or pre book and could choose our size of table so each day in theory we ate with different people. You could choose to be anti-social or romantic and have a table for two. There was plenty of choice on the menu and plenty of courses too - four in all so you needed an appetite to get through it all. Or if we could not be bothered to go to the restaurant then there was the buffet or one of the fine dining restaurants (for these you pay extra $45 per person on average). There were two formal nights on the cruise where we were able to dress up in our finery.
There was always plenty going on aboard the ship during the day though the weather was so good it was hard to pull yourself away from your sunbed. Each evening a newsletter was put on the bed with an hour by hour account of what was going on and information about the next port we were visiting. There were things going on throughout the day such as art auctions, quizzes, and dance classes.
With lots of live music in the evenings, an original touch was the night club which moved venue every night and was themed. One night it would be in the solarium and be themed around a Vegas nightclub and another in the sunset bar as a harem with belly dancer.
We picked a pretty amazing cruise visiting historical venues such as Ephesus in Turkey, Agia Sofia Basilica in Istanbul, Plaka in Athens and Naples for Pompei. We also visited the beautiful islands of Santorini and Mykonos famed for their Cycladic architecture. You needed to be fit as there was a lot of walking involved but it was worth it (plus we needed to work off all that food).
The cruise ship itself was very elegant with a lot of thought put in on every deck and the cabins were a good size. We slept really well and have come back feeling energized and felt we were away much longer that the 11 days we were away. I loved having a balcony and were never disturbed by noise or any turbulence. There are lovely pieces of artwork dotted all over the ship with a library on one deck, the hideaway with its quirky furniture and plenty of bars. Having the classic drinks package we could indulge ourselves with lattes, speciality coffees, freshly squeezed orange juice at breakfast and G&T’s plus Baileys for night caps and not worry about the bill at the end. People have this illusion that a cruise ship will be crowded, and you get stuck with people but to be honest there is so much space on board you are lucky if you see the same people twice.