MEDITERRANEAN CRUISE JUNE 2009
Ship: Island Escape
This was a 14 night cruise of the Mediterranean which I was doing on my own; it was two seven night cruises which looped back to Palma in the middle with the weeks on either side visiting different ports. Including Palma the ship visited eleven ports. I had chosen to go all-inclusive so my drinks were included in the price. Overall it was good value for money.
Tuesday 2nd June Good flight - on time - Glasgow to Palma. Arrived in Palma at 12.30, had to wait an hour for luggage but from then on embarkation was smooth. The bus trip to the ship was around 20 minutes. The cabin is just OK but not in any way as good as the Royal Caribbean cruise I had done previously. It is a bit tired and in need of freshening up, a bit like a hospital room, very basic. Size wise it was certainly fine for one, maybe a problem for two. It was an outside cabin with two portholes.
Had a G&T in the Sundowner lounge and digested all the info and excursions then went to the Beachcomber (self service) and had a salad and fruit for lunch washed down with a glass of wine. Met up with two ladies I had been speaking to in luggage reclaim. The Beachcomber is a bit holiday campish, I would much rather be served and I don't think I will enjoy evening meals when I've got to find my own table rather than have the same waiters each night.
Did a spa tour, I would really like the hot stone massage and the BCA which tells how much fat - muscle - water is in the body, probably much different at the end of the cruise from the beginning!
I wanted some quiet time so had a G&T and read my fab new e-reader (a great benefit on a cruise as I don't have to carry six paperbacks with me) before going to the excursion presentation.
The excursion presentation was excellent and very comprehensive, giving details of all the excursions offered. Not sure which ones to do, I'll have a think about it.
Nice dinner, self service with many different choices.
I went to the Welcome Aboard show in the Ocean Theatre. Quite good, lots of dancing and singing. Afterwards went to the Deck Party, it was really good: singing, dancing, competitions - fab. -------and then to bed at 11.30.
Wednesday 3rd June At Sea. Slept quite well, too late for breakfast in the Island Restaurant which I thought was the nicest so went to Beachcomber then sat in the sun reading for ages, after that we had the usual muster drill.
Afterwards lay in the shade by the poolside reading Barack Obama's autobiography, 'Dreams of my Father', a brilliant book. Had lunch by the pool and a couple of cocktails of the day. Watched everyone play Gladiators, good fun. I had afternoon tea in the Beachcomber then a drink in the Lookout Bar which is at the top of the ship and has beautiful panoramic views. This bar is really quiet during the day, I don't know why because it's well located with windows all the way round.
I watched Revolutionary road in my room, it starred Kate Winslet and Leonardo de Caprio. There were different up to date films showing constantly on the TVs in the cabin which was good.
Had dinner in the Oasis - it was lovely. The Oasis is the a la carte restaurant on the Island Escape and you pay a little extra but they do have deals, e.g. if you book a certain number you get one night free so it brings the added cost down. I had: Tempura Tiger Prawns French Onion Soup Sole Normandy Cheese & Biscuits Coffee & Brandy Delicious and the service was excellent, I was on my own and I felt the staff really did make a fuss of me.
I then went to the Sundowner to listen to the music. Assen, one of the resident entertainers, is brilliant - a fantastic guitarist and singer - mainly rock!!
Then I went to the Lookout bar and listened to the Karaoke for a wile.
And so to bed!!!
Thursday 4th June Trapani, Sicily Up early, quick breakfast then waited in the Bounty lounge for the tour to be called. Erice and Segesta pronounced Erichay and Seggesta (soft as in suggestion) Erice is a medieval town 710 metres above sea level. We accessed it via the longest cable car I have ever been on. The views were stupendous. When we got to the top, Maggie, our Sicilian guide, took us through the cobbled streets to the Cathedral which is very beautiful. It is a mix of styles. The ceiling looks like embroidery, very intricate. Then we walked through the lovely little streets to the Baliol Gardens and the castle. Very beautiful and again, spectacular views.
From there we went by coach to the Restaurante Belvedere for lunch. I was at a really nice table of people. We had: Antipasti (sun dried tomatoes, olives, cheese, bread and a kind of ratatouille) Rigatoni with tomato and cheese Veal and paprika potatoes Fresh fruit salad All washed down with copious amounts of really nice red wine.
From there we took a 45 minute coach trip to Segesta which is a 36 column Greek-style temple. Very well preserved. Built in the Doric style, very simple columns, 10 or 12 'barrels' stacked on one another, no adornment. Really interesting, sandstone not marble as you would expect. From there we drove back to the ship.
In the evening I had a couple of Margueritas (cocktail of the day) then dinner in the Island Restaurant.
Went to the show, it was themed on Broadway, very good and afterwards drinks in the Sundowner.
We were delayed leaving Trapani so were not due into Naples until lunchtime. We were notified that the full day excursions could not now take place as there was insufficient time in Naples. I had to rebook from the Isle of Capri trip which had been a full day, on to the Herculaneum excursion. This was all done quickly and efficiently.
Friday 5th June Naples, Italy (Neapolis means New Town) Naples was founded in the 8th century BC and Mt Vesuvius is 1282 mtrs high.
As we had been delayed in leaving Trapani the tour to Herculaneun did not leave until 11.45. It was a 30 minute journey from the ship. Herculaneum was destroyed by hot mud and lava in the same Mount Vesuvius eruption that destroyed Pompeii. It is a smaller city of about 4,000 people but was much richer, with wealthy people from Rome having holiday homes there. The new, modern town of Herculaneum has been built on top of the old city and the Italian government is slowly trying to buy back land to continue excavations. At present it is about 25% excavated.
The whole trip was really interesting and made me want to learn more about the Vesuvius eruption.
At night went to the Ross Roberts cabaret, he was excellent. He is the cruise director and had to stand in as the original artiste had a flight problem and didn't arrive. After the cabaret I went to the Sundowner and listened to Starlites and Assen. Got to bed around 1.00am
Saturday 6th June Livorno, Italy Arrived in to port an hour late due to congestion in the port.
My excursion was to 'Puccini and Pisa'.
We took a coach trip to Lago del Toro, which is also known as Puccini's Lake where we had a boat trip. On the boat we were served with sweet dessert wine and little biscuits while listening to Puccini. He composed Tosca, Madam Butterfly and La Boheme amongst others. It was quite overcast but very enjoyable. We then went to see Puccini's house which was very interesting. He was a very rich man in his time. Afterwards we took a short drive to Pisa and saw the Leaning Tower, the Baptistry and the Cathedral. It was very beautiful and impressive. Really clean and sparkling white marble. What a great photo opportunity!
At night I watched the Reader (with Kate Winslet). I'd wanted to see it for ages and it was worth waiting for - great movie.
Dinner in the Island Restaurant then off to the Sundowner to listen to the music.
Sunday 7th June Cannes Very windy but sunny and hot. We had to take the tender to get ashore. I had decided not to book an excursion from here as I've been to this area a number of times and was quite happy to do my own thing.
I wandered around Cannes for a few hours, stopped for a beer and read the Sunday paper, very relaxing. Cannes is very easy to do independently, there is a little train on wheels which you can go on and it takes you around the town and there are earphones giving commentaries in different languages.
There was a market on with lots of stalls; I bought a Danielle Steele book in French. I thought it would help me learn French. I always make 'Holiday Resolutions' when I'm away and this time it's to learn French.
I had to queue for ages to get a tender back. Very, very windy!! There was only one tender running for safety reasons because of high winds. I don't think they had kept enough qualified crew on board to manoeuvre them in bad weather and apparently one of the tenders had got damaged - it smashed into the ship I think, or so someone said.
Despite the wind it was still hot though.
The journey back was an adventure! People were getting soaked with spray, we had to have two tries at getting alongside the ship then had to jump from the tender to the ship.
Monday 8th June Barcelona Arrived at Barcelona around 10.45, we had a quick disembarkation but had to queue a little while for a shuttle bus. I had decided to not to do an organised excursion here either as the ship docks so close to the city.
When I got off there was a hop-on-hop-off bus, 21euro for the day, this included three routes, really good value. The Blue Route was south, the Red Route was north and the Green Route was somewhere else. I did half the Blue route, through the Gothic quarter, amazing, then transferred to the Red route which went to the Sagrada Familia, the remarkable building designed by Gaudi and still unfinished. I would like to have gone in but was afraid of being late. It is something I would really like to do in the future though.
Got off the Red bus at the Place Catalunya and walked down La Rambla. Quite an unusual street. It has a wide promenade in the middle between the two lanes of traffic which is populated with cafes, stalls and entertainers. There are stalls selling everything including animals, (rabbits, geckos, birds) and the usual souvenir stuff. I had a beer and people watched for a while.
I think I prefer the sophistication of Cannes and the Old Town in Nice but I loved the Gaudi architecture. The entertainers were interesting though, dressed up as statues, monsters, pieces of fruit etc. etc. I got back to the ship around 4.30pm, had a light lunch then a couple of drinks in the Lookout bar as I watched Barcelona disappear from view.
Tuesday 9th June Palma This was changeover day for those who were doing a seven night cruise so all the public areas on the ship were busy with people waiting for their call to disembark.
I had breakfast quite early, and chatted to a couple of people then I went in to Palma. I couldn't find anywhere to get a map on the ship or in the Port terminal. I got a shuttle bus (1.35 euro) to the Centre of Town (a guess!!). I walked through some of the old streets and came across a shop selling walking tours. I managed to get a map and realised I wasn't far from a Tourist Information Office. I got a better map and info about the hop-on-hop-off bus. The stop was right outside and it cost 13 euro. I went round once and then back to Pueblo Espanol which is a complex built recently recreating the very best and most historic architecture in Spain. It is very clean, very beautiful, with some shops and a couple of bars but very quiet. I had a coke and relaxed for a while. I walked all the way back to the ship - very hot and very tired! Had a snack and then a shower.
I had dinner in the Oasis: Canapes Smoked Salmon Parcels Asparagus Soup Filet Mignon White Chocolate Bread Pudding Delicious!
I went to the show in the Ocean Theatre afterwards which as usual was very good, the entertainment on this ship is really excellent.
Wednesday 10th June At sea A totally lazy day! I read all day, and watched some of the poolside activities. Nothing much else to say! Had dinner in Oasis: Canapes Duck Spring Rolls French Onion Soup Tenderloin of Pork Apple Strudel
Preferred last night's but it was still lovely.
I went to the Ocean Theatre show afterwards, Jayne Curry, who was a bit like Jane McDonald, then Loryn and Ed (Opera) they were great!
Thursday 11th June Olbia, Sardinia Up early, arrived into port about 7.30, beautiful.
I did the 'La Maddalena' trip.
We drove across the island and caught a ferry to the island of La Maddalena then drove around for about 50 minutes before having 50 minutes free time in the port. The scenery both on the larger and smaller island was absolutely stunning, quite beautiful. The colour of the water rivalled the Cote d'Azur but it was emerald green rather than azure blue. It's called the Emerald Coast.
The guide, Robert, was great. He was English but married a Sardinian and had lived in Sardinia since 1982. He was really knowledgeable.
I would love to come back to Sardinia!!!
There are three airports on the island and Easyjet and Ryanair fly from Stanstead and Gatwick, I suspect though, that it would be expensive once you get here.
The temperature reached 32 degrees today - boiling!
Ate in the Oasis again: Canapes Shrimp Croquettes Chicken Soup Salmon Chocolate Dessert
Friday 12th June Civitavecchio, for Rome Early start! It was a 1 ½ hour journey to Rome. We had a good guide, Maria, then picked up another guide when we entered Rome. The tour was called 'Monumental Rome'. I saw the Circus Maximus, Pantheon, Colisseum, Trevi Fountain and we went in to the Vatican City and right inside St Peters Basilica which was absolutely amazing. We saw beautiful work by Michaelangelo, so, so beautiful.
We had lunch at an outside cafe: salad, bread, pasta Milanese, coffee ice cream and lots of wine. Lovely! And a really friendly table, maybe because of the unlimited wine!
I slept on the way back, we got back to the ship around 6.00pm. Exhausted.
I had dinner in the Island restaurant and met some nice Irish people, and then went to the Sundowner, where Assen and the others were playing then we had the 'Lock-In' which was an impromptu fun night. Bed at 1.00am.
Saturday 13th June Livorno I didn't get up until late. I read all morning and spoke to a lovely couple from Perth over breakfast.
I went on a wine tasting excursion in the afternoon which was very good; the vineyard was set in such beautiful countryside in the heart of Tuscany. We were shown how wine was made and then had a cold lunch of meats, olives, bread etc washed down with their own wine. It was a really good excursion, very relaxing.
Had dinner in the Oasis then went to the Sundowner to hear Assen play. I bought his CD, there are some great tracks on it.
Sunday 14th June Nice We sailed right into the Port of Nice which was fantastic. The city looks beautiful from the sea. I have holidayed in Nice quite often so didn't choose to do an excursion.
I just love it here! I got off the ship at about 8.30 and wandered through the Old Town, not much open this early.
I discovered a book exhibition 'exposition de libraire de Nice' which I think means Exhibition of Bookshops of Nice. Lots of authors including Douglas Kennedy but there was a long queue for him. I found a park and read for a while then wandered down the Cours Saleya and the old town for a bit. Had a Pastis (always makes me feel French) at the port overlooking the yachts then found a cafe and had a Pain Bagnat and a glass of red wine for lunch (4.50 and 2.50, 6.50 euro in total), and then got back to the ship at around 2.30.
Oasis again at night then went to the show, a Night of Musicals, and finished in the Sundowner for more music.
Monday 15th June Mahon, Menorca Went up to the Lookout Bar to watch us coming into port, beautiful, nicest port entrance yet. The ship docks right at the foot of the town of Mahon, just up a few steps and you're in the shopping area. It's a beautiful little town. I wandered about for a while then had lunch, tapas (tortilla, Russian salad, and a beer 7.50 euro), really nice.
I went back to the ship for an hour, very hot 28 degrees, then in the afternoon I went on a tourist boat trip for an hour around the bay which was really good.
Menorca is a beautiful island; the houses are stunning and so many beautiful boats.
At night dinner in the Oasis as usual, lovely, but looking forward to less food, have definitely put on too much weight.
Went to the show afterwards, it was really good, spectacular, probably the best yet. It included the Rocky Horror Show, Barcelona, Chicago, Carousel and some swing stuff. Afterwards I went to the Sundowner: Assen, Bobby the Starlites and then: 'A Band On Ship' - absolutely fab!!
And so to bed.
Tuesday 16th June Palma Woke early, 06.15am, with the sounds of the ship's engines as we docked at Palma. All luggage is colour labelled by flight so easy to locate. Early breakfast in the Island, pancakes, bacon and maple syrup, delicious.
Waited in Sundowner to be called - due to leave at 10.40.
09.40am An hour to go before pick-up, this is the worst time in a holiday, I just want to get home now. Disembarkation was easy, on time and the bus to the airport was there waiting. Good flight home.
Overall a good value-for-money cruise. Once I realised the deals that could be had by dining in the Oasis I was happier. I don't think it particularly good to have self service all the time if you are on your own. The entertainment on this cruise was excellent and the excursions were great. The cabin, as I've said, was a bit shabby and tired but overall a really enjoyable holiday. Would I return to this ship? I'm not sure, overall I think Royal Caribbean has my vote, the extra cost is worth it. Read Less