If you don’t cruise you loose
There is a saying that cruising is for the older generation, if you book to go on a cruise be prepared to sit around with your pipe and slippers.
Actually it’s more likely this saying came about because of 2 factors, firstly cruises have been inherently expensive and also the older generation appreciate the culture whereas the younger generation don’t really want to sit around, relax and take in country after country.
Things have changed, this is not the case on either accounts anymore, crusing can still be hugely expensive, but generally it’s not that bad, taking into account what you get and value.
It’s something we had considered doing for a while now but as it happened it fell on our 10 year wedding anniversary and we just simply took the plunge.
Not for one moment did I think it would be full of ‘oldies’ and line dancing and sedate Sunday afternoon tea, although you can’t help wondering what you had let yourself in for.
Interestingly we booked this cruise 1 year in advance so we could get all the upgrades, e.g. all inclusive, cabins etc, I would advice anyone booking to do this and of course you can spread the payments out as well 🙂
The year went quickly and we just couldn’t wait for the experience to begin.
We flew from Exeter which is literally less than 2 hours from us, straight to Palma on Thomson airlines, great flight, nice and quick, no delays – couldn’t have been easier. Upon landing in Palma, Majorca we got our luggage and went to the coach for the 10 min unite transfer to the boat.
As a child I had always been in awe of ships and boats, I used to love watching them come into Fowey and spent hours on key sides watching them dock, so when the TUI Discovery came into view in Palma harbour I was awestruck, an elegant boat with sweeping lines and a lovely pointy bow. The Discovery is the newest ship in the Thomson fleet, and although not new as it came from Royal Caribbean it has been totally re-fitted and re-painted.
We boarded early and had the rest of the day before we sailed to explore and settle in. It’s not the largest Ocean Liner in the world by any means but I would say this boat is mid class it holds nearly 2000 passengers so it’s not small by any means. The boat has 5 restaurants, 6 bars, an outside Cinema, a Nightclub etc, you name it and it has pretty much got it.
Our room was really good as well, as we had spent the extra money to upgrade it we were in an outside Deluxe cabin with balcony, very nice indeed, and as with all cruises you are treated to a steward who comes round with his team at least 3 times a day waiting on you – superb.
After unpacking we took a tour of the Discovery and familiarised ourselves with our surroundings, settled in had a few drinks and something to eat, and prepared ourselves for the paling party… Bliss oh yes and of course as it was September the sun was out and the weather was lovely, we hoped it would stay this way for the full 14 nights.
And just to clarify, yes there were a few oldies on the boat, but mainly it was full of adults our age, not many children but that was deliberate as we went in term time to avoid this scenario. We were told that the week before the boat was full of children so we were so relived this wasn’t the case for us.
I’m not going to turn this article into a day by day account of our experiences because I would be here all day writing and writing.
Let’s start with day 1 at sea, do you remember what I said about the weather. ha well we woke for our day at sea as we headed out of Palma towards Corsica, oh dear oh dear, well we had to have a bad day, so it was great to get it early I suppose, a force 9 head on. Modern boats have major stabilisers so it wasn’t as bad as people were making out, but boy were there a lot of sheepish looking faces and sick bags around that day as we rocked and rolled around the Mediterranean. It was like a ghost ship as well as most passengers decided to stay in there cabins to wait it out.
We on the other hand though decided to embrace it and enjoy the experience.
The next few days we enjoyed the destinations and the boat and made new friends, enjoyed the sun, food and evening entertainment.
Civitavecchia (for Rome), Italy
Livorno (for Florence and Pisa), Italy
St Raphael (for St Tropez and Cannes), France
We loved Corsica, we went on a trip to Rome and Florence, we sunbathed and relaxed in St Raphael, and tried to take in manic Barcelona.
This is the best thing about a cruise like this you get to see so much, visit so many new places and relax if you want to, there is something for everyone.
I had always wanted to visit Rome and to be honest we couldn’t dock in Civitavecchia and not do the Rome trip, so we embarked on the long 10 hour day trip to busy Rome, we saw all the sights that day but came away disappointed by Rome, I suppose it’s just one of those places you need to see in your lifetime but may never go back again, well that’s just us, we felt it was to busy, dirty and full of millions of cars and people all vying to get into all the sites and famous areas. Don’t get me wrong it was wonderful to see the Coliseum, The Pantheon, Trevi Fountain etc but in the extreme heat and busyness it somewhat took away the charm of what Rome should be like when the tourists are not there.
However in contrast we went to Florence and had an amazing day out, Florence is busy yes but it’s small and full of charm and sites all compacted into a small area, Florence is amazing and with out a doubt I would recommend a trip here over the neighbouring Pisa everyday of the week. We sat in cafe’s and marvelled at the Duomo, walked along the Ponteveccia bridge and wandered around the ancient cobbled streets of the city, we ate authentic italian pizza and enjoyed the markets, eat Gelato in the square and perused the leather shops.All in all a brilliant day out.
The first week ended in Palma, where we enjoyed the Gothic area and relaxed in cafe’s, the day before though in Barcelona was a different experience and one which I had wished I had researched a little better, for instance to get to the La Sagrada Famillia you have to walk over 6 miles there and back through mazes of streets and endure – yes endure the Las Ramblas – if you want to see this iconic Goudi cathedral I highly recommend one of the bus tours or the Metro – don’t walk it, it was a mistake, plus when we got there it was packed and hard to see.
So having had a wonderful first week we embarked on to week 2 where we visited;
Messina (for Mount Etna), Sicily
Naples (for Pompeii and Capri), Italy
Marina Di Carrara (for Florence and Pisa), Italy
Villefranche (for Monaco and Nice), France
This is the bonus of 2 weeks and 12 destinations, you get to see so much and as it was our first cruise we were determined to see and do quite a lot. Week 2 highlights for us were Marina Di Carrara with it’s wonderful beaches laid back feel, cafes and squares and the charms of Villefranche which was my personal favourite of the whole cruise, the south of France is wonderful Villefranche I could happily live in.
The 2nd week we scaled down the trips and only went to Pompeii and Vesuvius – this was an experience and again I would recommend you do this slightly differently to what we did, as the trips form the boat simply do not give you the time to marvell at the wonders of the Roman empire and the use theatrical disaster of Pompeii, it was amazing, but tiring and rushed – we were shattered after that day.
In amongst all the trips it’s hard to forget that we spent a lot of time on the Discovery meeting new people, enjoying the coffee port, the shows and decl 9 where we spent a lot of time doing quizzes and enjoying th live bands, going for a swim and sunbathing.
We departed the cruise wanting to book another straight away, we will have to wait but I can safely say this has changed my perception of holidays forever.
We have booked on another cruise for 2018 – The western med again but on the new TUI Explorer, can’t wait, this one should be special as we celebrate numerous milestone birthdays on the cruise and are taking other family members and catching up with friends at the same time.