A former teacher and charity worker from the North East of England, I love people and places and like to try out new experiences wherever possible. Capturing that 'perfect pic' is all part of the pleasure. Access issues are a particular interest.
Published February 10th 2014
Mediterranean Odyssey West to East
We were on a cruise across the Mediterranean from Spain to Cyprus and, although for me it was all about the destinations, life on board offered a hint of luxury for those who just wanted to relax and enjoy the facilities. After all, part of the joy of travelling is the journey there as well as where you're going.
It had taken me a while to persuade my seafarer husband to come on a cruise but we got there eventually.
I'm not the best of sailors so I was a bit apprehensive about the journey per se although I loved the idea of all the fantastic places this itinerary promised. The cruise was called 'Ancient Odyssey' and we were aboard the Thomson Celebration taking in ports such as Rome, Valletta, Aghios Nikolaos (Crete), Alexandria, Cairo, and Ashdod (Israel).
According to my hubby, Colin, the best place to overcome sea sickness is up on deck, watching the waves and seeing the horizon, this helps your brain make sense of why the floor is moving.
But what if it's night-time or the weather's bad thought I - so I took some sea-sickness tablets with me just in case.
As it happened the weather wasn't too bad and the worst it got was about a gale force 6, which is reasonably calm, but sickness remedies and a medical team were available on board should you need them.
Another useful thing was a laundry room on every deck, so that you could freshen up your clothes after a long hot day ashore (and save you hauling so much luggage).
We had a comfortable twin bedded cabin with a picture window so we had some natural light in our room and could wake up to see a new port each day.
Thomson Celebration in the harbour at Aghios Nikolaos, Crete
Between your ventures ashore, you can relax and use the facilities on offer. There are several restaurants aboard the Thomson Celebration, including the main dining room where food is on offer virtually 24/7. The self-service counters are restocked several times a day with different menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner – and even a late night buffet. A waiter service restaurant with a set menu and wine waiters was a rather large affair but very nice, however, if you wanted a more intimate dining experience, a smaller a la carte restaurant, which required a booking and incurred extra charges above your cruise package was available on another deck.
Importantly, the use of antiseptic hand-wash was required by everyone entering a dining room or returned from a trip ashore in order to mininmalise the spread of infection. With a couple of thousand passengers and crew aboard, it seemed the sensible thing to do.
The cost of our holiday included all meals on board but excluded drinks from the bar. After we booked, we were offered a 'drinks package' at a cost of £250 per person. We decided against this as we didn't anticipate spending that much over the 12 day duration of the holiday, however, the couple we shared a table with said they got the same package for £99 each. Maybe there were different deals on at different times, depending on how far in advance you booked your trip, so it's worth while checking through this kind of detail.
Captain's gala dinners at the start and end of the cruise gave everyone a chance to dress up and I even bought my hubby a tuxedo specially for the purpose before we went as he's really more of a jeans and t-shirt man most of the time. Formal photographs were on offer and you could choose which ones you wanted to purchase the following day, when they were displayed in one of the lobbies for guests to peruse.
Formal Photo Shoot onboard the Thomson Celebration
It was my birthday while we were onboard and we happily shared a table in the dining room with another couple. On finding out this information they called a mariachi style band over to our table to sing 'Happy Birthday' to me. I always find this kind of thing highly embarrassing (but secretly I love it).
The on board entertainment was excellent, even if X Factor supremo Simon Cowell is quite disparaging about cruise ship entertainers, the shows were of high quality and I would have paid to see them at any theatre in the U.K.
On leaving Malta, we had a guest comedian, who had been flown in to entertain us for one night only and a good time was had by all.
As the itinerary was packed with interesting places to see, we only had a couple of days with making landfall.
Our journey between Malta and Crete was one of our few full days at sea, with passengers choosing to sit around the after deck and enjoy the lovely sunny Mediterranean weather with its beautiful blue sky and azure sea.
The pool had been refilled with seawater after the ship's refit before we joined and holidaymakers were happy to make the splash while the on board entertainment team were hosting deck games and quizzes and the bar served cool drinks and traditional afternoon tea consisting of scones filled with strawberry jam and cream.
Virtually all the sun loungers had been snapped up but we managed to find a couple of seats and enjoyed the spectacle of people making fools of themselves, participating in silly games.
Spa treatments (at an extra cost) and shopping outlets occupied other passengers while it was also possible to choose your forthcoming excursions (and see your bill) by viewing the television in your own cabin.
On board presentations of the excursions available at various ports of call were held a couple of times during the cruise to help you choose which trips were right for you, quite often they gave guides as to the level of activity or walking required to help passenger judge for themselves if the trip would be too strenuous for them. Customer services staff were on hand to answer any questions you may have, or you could visit them at their information desk on another level at your convenience.
All of the excursions were at an extra cost, the prices varied depending on the nature of the trip. Some trips ashore only required a short shuttle bus ride to take you from the port to the town centre, often only costing a few Euros and payable on the day while others needed to be booked in advance.
Our two hour journey into Rome cost £38 per person. Although this was simply a means of transporting you from the ship to the city centre to explore Rome under our own steam, there was a tour guide on board the coach to give out maps and lots of information as we travelled towards the Eternal City.
Our trips to Egypt and Israel were over £90 per person for each trip, however, they included lunch and other activities, such as a river cruise along the Nile and Egyptian and Israeli tour guides throughout the day.
One of my favourite on board events was the 'baked Alaska' parade in the main restaurant, as all the chefs who had prepared our food throughout the voyage came marching out bearing huge silver platters and were introduced to the guests as they made their way to the front of the restaurant.
Baked Alaska Parade aboard the Thomson Celebration
There were a couple of formal nights - but these are really for the guests who want to dress for the occasion and have a bit of fun, rather than any kind of stuffy upper crust perception hubby might have had before we went.