This was our first ever cruise and followed us watching the Panorama sail into Santorini's caldera while we were on holiday there in 2015 - we did some research after we got home and the 2016 Adriatic Odyssey itinerary from Variety ... Read More
This was our first ever cruise and followed us watching the Panorama sail into Santorini's caldera while we were on holiday there in 2015 - we did some research after we got home and the 2016 Adriatic Odyssey itinerary from Variety Cruises looked very appealing - covering Croatia-Montenegro-Albania-Greece (calling at Dubrovnik, Korcula, Bar, Sarande, Paxos, Corfu, Kotor, before returning to Dubrovnik). We subsequently booked this 'cruise only' through Blue Water Holidays in Yorkshire, as this gave us a bigger discount than booking direct with Variety.
We arranged pre and post cruise overnight stay and flights ourselves, as we are used to making our own bookings and wanted some leeway at the beginning or end of our cruise to avoid any problems caused by delayed flights or return into Dubrovnik. Blue Water provided some information prior to departure but we would have appreciated more.
Points to note:
* Although we rung the boat beforehand to check which dock it was in, neither Blue Water or the contact on the boat mentioned that we had to access the boat via the international terminal next to the bus station, (the boat was treated as an international departure so passport checks were required before we could get to the relevant part of the dock). This led to us being dropped off in the wrong part of the port by a taxi, having to ask another boat's crew how to find the Panorama and a hot walk with our luggage along the length of the dockside.
* Shortly after embarkation we had a comprehensive briefing from the Captain and Variety representative, this explained most of what we'd been wondering about, specifically that no tips are to be made during the cruise, guests would instead be provided with envelopes on the last evening for a cash tip (in Euros) which would then be divided among all of the crew.
* The briefing also explained that drinks would be on account for each cabin, with the accounts being settled on the last night of the cruise using either cash (in Euros) or a debit/credit card.
* We were asked to book for excursions by lunchtime of the preceding day, to allow time for the necessary transport to be arranged. The cost per person increased for small groups and as there were only 17 passengers in our cruise the excursion groups were almost always in the smallest viable group size, which made them more expensive. We still booked for every excursion offered as we felt this was the best way to get the most out of our itinerary. All of the excursions were either good or excellent, with knowledgeable and personable guides, comfortable transport and some enjoyable tasting (and drinking) sessions included.
* The onboard wifi cost 20 Euros for 500mb, I didn't bother as I had 3G coverage for almost all of the time onboard, even when sailing down apparently uninhabited areas of the coast.
* We were very fortunate to have very benign weather during our cruise, except for one period of around 12 hours when we sailed through gale force 5/6 winds. Our response to this was to drink a little more that evening but 3 or 4 of the passengers skipped dinner and were a little unwell. It was a little unsettling at first when lying down but we slept ok without needing to take any seasickness / motion sickness medication.
* Almost all of the cabins are twin single beds, and as we are used to a king size bed this layout was probably better than us sharing a small double bed. Cabins are cosy but well designed and the small ensuite shower room was perfectly adequate.
* Some of our fellow passengers were unhappy with the wine selection offered onboard. We did think it was unfortunate that we were tasting excellent local wines on shore, yet the onboard winelist had some unappealing wines at rather full prices. Our response was to have the Mateus rose every time at 18 Euros a bottle, the most reliable, most palatable and cheapest wine on the menu.
* We had 3 or so swim stops during the week, not as many as I had hoped for but generally at least 2 hours for a dip off the boat in warm (for us anyway) Adriatic water.
* The sails were raised twice during our week onboard, they can only be used when the boat and wind follow a very specific range of direction but they are very attractive feature of the boat.
* Our fellow passengers included two couples below 40 and the majority were between 55 and 65, plus one slightly older. Nationalities were British, American, Australian, New Zealand and Polish. For some reason there was a disproportionately large proportion of passengers who worked in the oil and gas industry.
* Our lower deck level cabin (category B?) porthole didn't open (probably best on the windiest section of our trip) so fresh air was from a ceiling vent directly above my head, this was a bit noisy and draughty at times.
* Service was excellent throughout - Captain George and Dietmar both deserve a very favourable mention - having just 17 passengers may have given us a much better service experience than if the boat had been closer to its 49 passenger capacity.
* The onboard entertainment was limited to 'Greek night' while docked in Corfu, this was great fun and the Corfu Zorbas had us dancing enthusiastically.
* The cruise includes breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. We were very happy with the quality of the food but it would have been nice to have eaten onshore a few times as there were so many appealing restaurants and bars - perhaps two days could be offered without lunch and dinner to allow this?
Overall the Adriatic Odyssey itinerary was an excellent way to see this section of coast, I don't see how the itinerary could be replicated on land within a week and we got some fantastic views along the way.
The Panorama may not be as luxurious, pampering or boutique style as some had expected (based on their previous big ship experiences) but it completely met our expectations and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience, so will be looking for similarly sized boats for cruises in future. Read Less