The journey down from Nottingham to Southampton with Eavesway Travel went very well, as always, and we were on board our P&O cruise-ship Adonia destined for the central Mediterranean and actually in our cabin within 6 hours of leaving our des. res. Our luggage was delivered to our cabin less than an hour later.
Who said Adonia is a small cruise-ship? It surely didn’t feel like it. It seemed as big as Aurora or Arcadia - both nearly 3 times its size in passenger capacity. P&O graciously upgraded us to a penthouse suite (The Strathmore - otherwise just known as Cabin C91.) We‘d like to think we were given the free upgrade (worth about £1,600) because both our birthdays fell during the cruise (I became 74 but it’s not gentlemanly to divulge Trish‘s age}. WoW! It was positively humungous compared to our previous, quite adequate, de-luxe balcony cabins - luxuriously and attractively furnished. The deep wrap-around balcony took up almost half of the beam of the ship …. directly over the wake. It was equipped with a 54-inch Sony TV and a DVD/CD player too (but no instructions on how to use them. Similarly with the Jacuzzi.) It so happened that the sheer square footage of the suite often became a bit of an ordeal especially when moving around during the bumpier sea days - like when you are at one end of the cabin and you’ve left your specs and/or book at the other!
Our butler Ashok was new to the ship too - he had previously buttled on the old P&O Artemis (now renamed the Artania and operated by a German cruise-line). He was charming and looked after us very well throughout the cruise, bringing us daily canapés (even red & black caviar, once), ice and sliced lemon, a bowl of fresh fruit every 2 or 3 days and even serving us dinner in the suite on one occasion. We were as if to the manner born!
For 2 days outbound, in the English Channel, we encountered rough sea conditions (Force 6 to 7) but which, amusingly, abated as soon as we started to cross the Bay Of Biscay. We had Drama too! The Adonia assisted in rescuing 6 Portuguese fishermen whose small fishing boat sank from underneath them in rough seas. The ship also diverted to Majorca to disembark a seriously-ill passenger (we later heard from our cabin steward that the quite-old gent had been recommended to take a cruise - by his GP!)
As suite passengers, for breakfast, we were assigned the Ocean Grill - normally a Marco Pierre White dining venue, thus easing us very gently and leisurely into our day in a quiet ambience and very attentive personal waiter service. The Pacific Restaurant was our normal dining venue, where we found the tables a little too close. Ram & Ruprish, our waiters, were everything we have come to expect from P&O’s wonderful waiters - very friendly and sincerely eager to please. Patrick, our Filipino wine steward, was especially caring and helpful and took quite a shine to us. Nor did we encounter any ‘grumpy’ crew member elsewhere on the ship.
We didn’t partake of the evening entertainment because we had chosen 2nd sitting for dinner. So, by the time we’d downed a pre-prandial large Bombay Sapphire G&T in Raffles Bar with new-found friends, a large glass of wine with dinner followed by a generous post-prandial Courvoisier or Armagnac with our coffee, we were quite ‘well-refreshed’ and quite happily toddle off to our suite, get into nightwear and hyper-relax, perchance to dream? The fresh sea air, no doubt, helped.
I did, however, enjoy an afternoon classical music recital given by an English clarinettist and a Polish pianist - who told quite amusing jokes about Polish plumbers working in the UK!
(There were NO excursions at all arranged by P&O for disabled passengers in wheelchairs. This disappointed my wife immensely - as much because we were not told in advance of our booking or departure for the cruise. (A disappointing P&O communication failure?) I took 2 excursions: the first being to Sarande, vaunted as Albania’s premier sea-side resort. It will be nice when it is finished and tidied up. During the tour we saw many of the 30,000 concrete pill-boxes that were unaffordably built by the former strict Communist government ostensibly to deter invasion from Greece. The main attraction of the tour was the Blue Eye - a river with an attractive, distinctly blue tinge (from copper salts). The area was, however, poorly maintained, badly overgrown and uneven underfoot (almost dangerously so for even the fittest of the venerable intrepid explorers on the tour). I’m afraid Albania (the poorest country in Europe)is rather shabby and down-at-heel with little to commend it as a tourist attraction. (Early Unfinished WIMPEY or any Greek island 40 years ago?).
My 2nd tour was in Kotor, Montenegro, a scenically beautiful small city at the head of a Balkan fjord. The tour took us up into the mountains via a hair-raising series of 29 hair-pin bends. The highest mountain was still snow-capped in late April. We stopped for refreshments at a ham smoke-house (I’m sure the local red-wine was supplied in 40-gallon steel drums - so metallic was it!) We also sampled the local smoked ham which was sliced so finely that one lady’s sample was wafted off her plate by a sudden gust of wind and flew off into a field.
Our captain, Commodore Steve Burgoyne, retired at the end of the cruise. He is a very affable chap whom we met at his Retirement Party. His retirement home apparently has a few sheds (are we talking acres here?) and he is intending to spend a lot of time in one or other of them (making model cruise-ships in bottles, perhaps?) - to escape the rigours of sudden retirement. Jon Bartram, our enthusiastic Cruise Director was no slouch being very visible and almost hyper-active who kept the ship’s activities …..erm, err, active!
The standard of cuisine was rather disappointing, though. For example …. I was taken aback with slightly mushy sugar-snap peas! One main course was pork and beef mince wrapped in a cabbage leaf liberally smothered in a most unappetising, unattractive grey mushroom sauce the consistency of 1950’s school custard. A so-called lamb stew was roast lamb thinly sliced and propped up against a mound and hiding a glutinous pearl-barley and mixed vegetable compote. The grilled steaks, however, were always perfick!
We took fullest advantage of the penthouse suite rather than using the public lounges which were all comfortable and had a country house feel about them. We met some very friendly and interesting people on the cruise - Colin (a Glaswegian funeral director with a hearty laugh) & his wife Marion, Justin (a globe-trotting university IT senior lecturer) and his wife Avril. (And there were we two - just a long-retired Army squaddy and his missus!} But it is nevertheless true that on a ship of only 710 passengers you do tend to recognise and interact with more of your fellow passengers.
We really enjoyed the cruise and Adonia - it was quite different to either of the 2 other cruise-ships we have cruised on with P&O. Adonia has a special charm and ambience all of its own - although the upgrade may have helped somewhat in reaching this decision. We think Adonia now replaces Aurora as our favourite P&O ship.
Our next cruise, our 7th since 2009, all with P&O (who gets it mostly, but not totally, right), is already booked. We’re on Oriana (for our first time) this coming Xmas - but back down to earth in just a ‘simple’ de-luxe balcony cabin. Aaaaaaah! Poor us!