ADONIA - Western Mediterranean - 2-18 May 2012
Lisbon, Gibraltar, Alghero, Rome, Portofino, Sete, Barcelona, Port Mahon, Portimao
I was first to check-in at the QEII Terminal as I was able to use the Caribbean desks and then there was a short wait in the terminal, where I picked up a couple of the free magazines to read on board. My friend soon joined me. There was a separate area with drinks and newspapers for Ligurian members. The two top levels and suite passengers were called first, then Caribbean. It was lovely to be back on a small ship. We headed for the Curzon Lounge for the free champagne etc! It was nice to find that instead of the plate of dry sandwiches and crisps that you used to get, there was a hot and cold buffet with canapes (including smoked salmon with salmon mouse and caviar), hot and cold wraps, delicious pies and pastries (eg. Scottish pie) as well as deserts. They are still smartening up the ship and on boarding day two people were measuring up for new carpets in the Curzon Room - which looked fine to me!
When the cabins were ready we headed off up to Deck 6 and to C36. We had an outside obstructed cabin. In fact it was between a lifeboat and a tender so we could see the view quite well. The layout was long and side-ways on so the two beds had the heads forward with our feet pointing aft. The storage was OK, but was mostly cupboards and quite a lot of it was low down. There were two bedside cupboards with one shelf inside and a lamp fixed centrally on top. This was a good height for reading in bed though. The flat screen 19 inch TV was in a corner unit with two cupboards below (one with a safe inside). There was one large wardrobe with full height hanging and a small wardrobe with half height hanging and four small drawers. The dresser had a fridge one side and another cupboard with single shelf the other. There was 10 inches clearance under the beds so our cases fitted under opened out in half. The bathroom had a corner cupboard with mirror door and three shelves, there were three corner open shelves and two corner racks in the shower. A full length shelf was under the basin but this held the bin as well. There were the usual free toiletries of Molton Brown shower gel and White Company shampoo, conditioner and body lotion, a shower cap and Elemis sewing kit. The hairdryer is in the bathroom and has to be used standing, so I was glad I have packed a travel dryer. A nice touch is that one of the two UK-style power sockets over the dresser is mounted upside down -- great for some of those those larger transformer/chargers that won't fit if the socket is too close to the surface.
Our Peninsular Club badges were on the bed together with a free pair of blue P&O Cruises slippers each -- one size fits all -- not -- and a voucher each for our free sailaway champagne
After muster drill we went to the small prom deck for our drink and to listen to the band -- yes we had a band! We were going to sail through the Western Solent. As we reached Calshot a large black cylinder was raised on the last to indicate our direction and we stood watching Grand Princess and IOTS having to go the long way round - so for the first time I saw the Needles Lighthouse just as the sailing ship Royalist was coming in under full sail.
It is lovely to see so many ex-Artemis officers and crew on board and catch up with some of them. Our Captain was David Box, not Capt. Perkins as listed in the Peninsular Magazine.
Thursday 3 May 2012
It was a very calm night. We were then just off Brest and had two days at sea before we reach Lisbon. The weather was amazing -- calm seas since we left and blue sky with occasional clouds. After the weather at home for the last month this was wonderful. We passed Aurora earlier heading homewards. I found the service excellent so far. A lady asked where the water was for example and was asked where she was sitting and it was brought for her. The travelling alone meeting had about a dozen ladies -- one of whom was on my table on Artemis on one cruise -- 2008 I think. The Crow's Nest is beautiful with a striking tartan carpet. All long the front windows are low padded leather benches which make excellent foot stools if you position the chairs correctly. You can then recline with a fabulous view forward. There are also two binoculars on stands at each side, in case you spot something you need a better view of.
Friday 4 May 2012
Another calm night and we were through the BoB. Last night's Welcome Party was good, with plentiful drink and canapes. We chatted to the doctor for most of the time - hopefully the previous night's Code Alpha (which came through to all cabins at around 1am) was not too serious if he could attend the party. The dinner was the usual good offering - lobster for me but there was a good variety including chicken, sea bass and beef.
As Adonia is WiFi, I was able to type up my journal and reports in the cabin.
We headed up to breakfast in the Conservatory, where we ate it throughout the cruise -- and until the last two days in the BoB again, we ate it outside on the aft teak deck with a fabulous view of the wake. Since breakfast is served until noon, it means fruit juice is available free until then as well, which is good. We were by then in dolphin waters and there was an announcement earlier from the bridge that there was a large pod on the port side - I leapt to our window, but I suppose, as usual, they had dived under the ship by then. As the sun was shining, I sat on the prom deck but there was a chilly wind and the spray was being blown up. The nice thing about Adonia's prom deck is its closeness to the water, but conversely, it mean you get wetter! The not so nice thing is that it is not wrap-around and has a nasty composite surface, although if you sit with your feet on the rails the chair doesn't slide backwards! The other downside is that it is not that long and when the tenders are in use, is closed.
There are lots of 175 Celebration touches about the ship such as special badges worn by the crew, a large 175 flag flying from the mast and gratifyingly, our book prominently on sale in the shop. Although I do like the ship, she is not a replacement for Artemis and I have a few reservations. The main sun deck has plenty of sun beds (quite close together though) and teak tables and chairs, but if you want a reclining chair (as I do), you are restricted to the promenade deck only, unless of course you resort to my tactics of learning how to fold up one of the teak prom-deck chairs and carry it up in the lift to Deck 10! Trouble is, it disappeared every night back down again! The service is definitely a star up on the other ships, as are other touches such as linen napkins everywhere, not paper ones, and a waiter was in the Conservatory to make your tea and coffee etc.
Saturday 5 May 2012
We arrived at Lisbon at 9am, having been sailing up the river since 7am. After a bit of a rocky evening and night, the weather was glorious. Adonia was very stable and in fact it was only really noticeable how much we were pitching when you looked at the horizon. Caryll and I set off after breakfast to explore on foot. We docked at the bottom of the Alfama District just behind HAL Rotterdam. As we set off Thompson Spirit was arriving too. The Alfama or Arab quarter area is very attractive with narrow winding streets and locals going about their business. We entered the Church of St John the Baptist where a local was eager to explain all about the church to us. Then walked to the Cathedral and into the main city centre. We found a cafe and sat outside, close to the Triumphal Arch at the centre of Commercial Square and had a coffee. After a bit more wandering we caught the free shuttle bus back to the ship. The sun was quite hot, although there were a few clouds around too. As we arrived back at the dockside, we walked up to the other two ships to take photos. No one was bothered which was a nice change. We left at 3.30 as we have to get round to Gibraltar for tomorrow.
Sunday 6 May 2012
We woke at 8am to a beautiful bright morning and an announcement from the bridge that a pod of well over 100 dolphins were on the starboard side. Suffice it to say they had disappeared by the time I had thrown on some clothes! We were in the Straits of Gibraltar approaching the narrowest point with our arrival due at 1pm. There was lots of shipping to watch and a few more dolphins. After berthing, Caryll and I walked into town. We had an hour or so to explore before meeting Anthea in Casemates Square. Despite being here a couple of times before I had always done tours so have never actually walked up the main street, which was very nice. As we returned to the ship, Rotterdam and Brilliance of the Seas had arrived. As we were the first to leave, the sailaway in the sun was brilliant, watching the two other ships fade into the distance as we headed off round Europa Point towards Sardinia.
Monday 7 May 2012
We woke to the promise of another beautiful day. It was to be the last sea day since we then had six ports in a row. The Adonia Uncovered event took place in the morning. This was the usual display of fruit carving, napkin folding (by Andrew, a waiter who was my table waiter on Artemis and who remembered me -- how do they do that?), mechanical engineering and towel folding. At 11.45 it was the Caribbean Lunch where Caryll and I were seated with the Safety Officer and two couples. He took the ship out of Gibraltar yesterday, under the Captain's supervision. At 7.15 there was a "radio" play starring officers and crew, including my friend Stephen who is Housekeeping Manager. It was hilarious and better than some of the so-called comedians.
Tuesday 8 May 2012
Another beautiful morning as we arrived off Alghero in Sardinia, the first of our tender ports. The ship's tenders are very smart with panoramic windows all around so great for photographers. The tendering operation went very smoothly although the seas were a bit on the choppy side first thing -- I got very wet feet at one point as I was sitting by the entrance to try and get photos. Both of us had missed the fact we were supposed to get tender tickets to board, but fortunately Stephen was on the platform and waved us on board anyway (after a grumble!). I hadn't been here before and loved exploring the narrow winding streets of the old town. It is a pretty seaside resort and the low, pastel-coloured houses overlooking the marina and waterfront reminded me of photos I had seen of Burano. There was a church round every corner and shops selling the coral and turquoise jewellery that is the local specialty. After walking through the centre, we paused for a delicious gelato while sitting in the sun before setting off again round the town walls. These were interspersed with towers and huge catapults.
Wednesday 9 May 2012
We were up early for our arrival in Civitavecchia to see the other ships arriving or in port -- Minerva, Norwegian Epic and Ruby Princess were already in and Sovereign arrived just after us. Caryll and I took the Rome on your Own tour, leaving the ship at 9am and getting back at 6pm. It was VERY hot in Rome and we walked far more than I had planned. We were really lucky though as we were dropped off at the bottom of St Peter's Square just as the Pope was blessing the crowd and touring round the audience in an open top car. He then returned to the steps of St Peter's and a service continued. Although I am not RC, it was a moving moment and one I never expected to see. After that we crossed the Castel Sant'Angelo bridge and headed up the Corso Vittorio Emanuel II to the Forum and Colosseum -- a joint ticket cost 12 euros. Then we headed back towards the Piazza Navona and Pantheon, although we lost our sense of direction and ended up at the Trevi Fountain!! As we had to be back at the meeting point at 4.15, we picked up a pizza and ate it in Pizza Navona, rather than find a cafe, before going to the Castel Sant' Angelo. There is very little shade in Rome and with the hot sun beating down we are both a little scorched again!
Thursday 10 May 2012
After the noise and heat of Rome, today's tender port of Portofino was bliss. It was another glorious morning as we woke to the sound of the anchor being dropped and the tenders lowered from outside our window. After breakfast out on the stern deck again we set off ashore, this time remembering to get tender tickets! Once again this port was new to me and I was not disappointed. The sun was shining on the ochre-coloured buildings with their faded green shutters as we motored into the harbour. The water was so clear that dozens of different fish could be seen swimming around in the harbour -- almost like an aquarium. After a wander through the main area together, Caryll set off to explore further round the headland and I pottered about the town, stopping for the obligatory gelato (2.80 euros) and later on a small beer at a pretty cafe overlooking the harbour. Also anchored in the harbour was Sea Cloud II -- a five-star, new-build three-masted tall ship carrying 96 passengers, who were being tendered ashore alongside us. Another delicious dinner but one thing I have noticed though is that the sommelier doesn't come around with post-dinner liqueurs.
Friday 11 May 2012
Yet another glorious day as we arrived in Sete around 9am. On first impressions it was not that exciting but the surrounding area was very nice indeed. Caryll and I were on an excursion to Carcassonne, somewhere I had long wished to visit. It was a 2 hour drive through vineyards (the area is Languedoc & Roussillon) of muscat and fitou grapes to the walled medieval city. Here we had a walking tour of around one and a half hours through the narrow cobbled winding streets lined with ancient stone and timbered houses, past the castle and to the Cathedral. Inside this magnificent Gothic and 19th century building we were treated to a short concert of plainsong by four Russian men -- such as sung in Orthodox Russian churches -- it was magical. They certainly knew something about acoustics when they built these churches! Outside swallows swooped in the hot sunshine and butterflies and moths floated past -- as well as a HUGE flying beetle of some sort! We then had about an hour of free time. Caryll and I bought a couple of salad rolls and sat around a fountain in one of the old squares. It was perfect. As the cruise berth is right beside a residential street, people were out on their balconies waving at us as we departed.
Sunday 12 May 2012
We have arrived at Barcelona to another beautiful day. We are berthed at the World Trade Centre behind what we thought was a small cruise ship but according to the Captain is one of Roman Abramovich's yachts (note plural!) -- only 20m shorter than Adonia! As we have both been here many times before, we decided to catch the HoHo bus from the cruise terminal this morning, although Caryll swapped routes halfway through. It took me right round the main city and up the centre, past the Olympic stadium, Spanish Village, station, cable car station etc and back past the Jewish cemetery with great views over the cruise berths. It was very hot out and the pool was getting well used. The only teak decking is aft of the Conservatory. The rest is astroturf or composite, which is unbearable to walk on in bare feet in the heat. I asked about the Red Ensign we have been flying as there is a shield on it and was told it is the Bermudan Red Ensign. Since the whole fleet is registered in Bermuda I am not sure why the other ships fly the "normal" UK ensign. As I returned to the ship a yacht race, or rather several races, were taking place right next to us in the inner basin so I had a grandstand view over lunch on deck. We are due to sail at about 5.30 -- they list the back on board time and sailing time as the same on Adonia!
Sunday 13 May 2012
It was a stunning morning with calm turquoise water and pretty pastel-coloured houses lining the waterfront and up the cliffs. We had to turn 180 degrees - quite a feat in the narrow harbour and berthed right at the bottom of the steps up to the old town. As we had breakfast on deck, Minerva arrived with a tug so we watched her berth behind us. This looked fairly difficult as she doesn't appear to have any thrusters and needed pulling round by the tug and then winching in to the quayside using her bow lines. Caryll and I set off to explore this lovely town. It is quite a climb up initially but once at the top we were rewarded with lovely views of the ships and marina. As it is Sunday most of the shops were closed but the first church we found was open and quite spectacular. There was a small open air market and cafes and we sat with a couple of glasses of Sangria and took in the atmosphere. We were both on a hunt for a hat as I had left mine in the reject pile when told the last cruise to the Med was wet and cold and Caryll lost hers (bought in Alghero) on the top of the bus in Barcelona! There were some good clothes shops as well as souvenirs and artisan goods and I found a nice black straw hat for 9 euros. I wandered round the lower waterfront area before arriving back on Adonia just in time for the deck barbeque. The Captain stopped for a chat with me -- he was very visible around the ship, as were the other officers, unlike other ships I have sailed on, although of course being small there are fewer places to hide, and he frequently had breakfast in the Conservatory with pax. Sadly we only had until 2.30 here as I would have liked to have taken the glass-bottomed catamaran out into the estuary mouth, but on the other hand our departure back along the narrow inlet was well worth watching. Finally there was an early show at 7.15 for the late sitting diners, so we both went. It was a John Denver tribute act and was very good, although I thought he could have chosen a better selection of songs. We then went to dinner, which is now so much better as we have got to know each other better, although putting two singles with three couples is not the best combination IMO.
Tonight was casual/Tropical, and after dinner there was a Tropical Deck Party which was great fun under balmy Mediterranean skies, after which we went to the quiz. Thank goodness we finally have a sea day tomorrow and a lie-in and leisurely breakfast.
Monday 14 May 2012
Ah - the bliss of a relaxing day at sea. The Peninsular Party was that evening and it was also black and white night. We only had one port left - Portimao, then two days sailing home. The Party in the evening was at 8pm for both first and second sitting passengers, presumably as the numbers are less now.
Tuesday 15 May
We arrived at Portimao, Portugal. This is our last port and were up early for the sail in as our tour was leaving at 8.20. At 7am it was 20 degrees on deck and got hotter as the day wore on into the mid 30s. Like Port Mahon, our full day here had been cut to around 6 hours so our plans to take the shuttle to Praia de Rocha after the tour had to be cancelled. The beaches in the Algarve are spectacular as are the cliffs surrounding them. We travelled first the Cape St Vincent to the lighthouse on the south west tip of Europe. From there we drove to Sagres, stopped at some more wonderful cliff formations and then to Lagos where we had an hour. Then back to the ship for 1pm.
Wednesday 16 May 2012
spent the morning dolphin watching from the prom deck and making the most of our last two days. After a grey start it turned out bright, warm and sunny, although there is a colder easterly wind. Adonia is pitching a little, but not uncomfortably. After lunch out on deck we watched The Adonia Regatta. Three people submitted boats - you had to make a boat from items found on board, that would float, withstand a mini tsunami (Darren the ent. officer jumping in the pool) and carry 6 cans of soft drink! I would have been pushed to choose a winner as there were all excellent and all passed their tests. By teatime the ship movement started to increase and the Captain came over the tannoy warning us to take care moving around the ship and to secure everything in the cabin. I was already beginning to feel a little queasy and so took a seasick pill and decided to skip dinner, even though it was our last formal night. I was not alone as there were four people missing from our table it seems. For only the second time in my cruising career I was well and truly seasick! In fact the wind was only Force 7, but was hitting us from the north east and causing the ship to corkscrew.
Thursday 17 May 2012
Our last day on board and there was packing to be done. Unfortunately it is still rocking and rolling, although we both felt fine after a good night's sleep and a light breakfast. The movement made it a bit exhausting and we didn't really do a lot else. At 3pm there was a Murder Mystery in the Curzon Room. It was a bit like a radio play but the audience had to guess the murderer and motive (and win a bottle of wine).
So, in conclusion, a few thoughts about Adonia -- I loved the elegant restaurant, excellent service, friendliness of everyone -- being welcomed back on board by name every time, from embarkation to disembarkation and every port in between -- and the size. Andersons was lovely and The Conservatory is the best buffet restaurant in the whole fleet IMO, with a logical layout and hand gel and cutlery at every entrance/exit.
Also, at present there is only one entertainment venue so you cannot do both the syndicate quiz and go to a show due to timings, although we were told something is being done about that -- not sure what though.
I don't like the deck area so much. Aside from the terrace behind the Conservatory, the only open decks are in the middle so there is no escape from the Sailaway music aside from the prom deck and no other view of the wake. Plenty of sunbeds but again -- all in the centre and I cannot get up from them. Indeed, more than once I saw a lady call over a deck steward to help them up. The only reclining chairs were on the prom deck so I had to carry one up to deck 10. Also there is no unobstructed view forward -- the Sky deck has blue glass all around so useless for photography. I commented on this to the Captain, who is also a keen photographer, but, as he pointed out, he has the bridge wing to use!
Would I sail on her again -- yes -- absolutely -- if the price and itinerary were right. IMO she is probably best suited to port-heavy cruises with not so many seadays. Being able to visit places like Portofino, Port Mahon and Sete was brilliant and tendering was easy and quick where required. I had a great time and some good memories.