As we sail into Crete it’s so hot (37c or thereabouts) that my lipstick melts; I was going for a Boho vibe, but instead wind up looking more like Bobo (as in the clown). Looking up to the bright, blue sky I can see planes regularly flying overhead, testimony to the huge popularity of this island – the largest in Greek’s enviable tourism portfolio – with overseas visitors flocking in from all over the world.
Since the ship is able to go right into port at Heraklion, there’s no wasting time trying to navigate the occasionally choppy waters of the Aegean on a tender – you can simply disembark and catch a cab to the city centre for only €5. If you want to do more than browse around the cute curios shops then you could opt to take a tour to Knossos Palace, linked to characters from Greek mythology such as the formidable Minotaur, said to be the result of Queen Pasiphae’s forbidden liaison with a bull (Greek mythology being chock-full of stories that would give our modern soaps a run for their money any day).
The next port of call is even easier to negotiate: the port of Ephesus is just a five minutes’ walk or so from downtown Kusadasi (pictured above); the only thing that British visitors should remember is to exchange their euros for Turkish lira and to purchase a data package if they want to connect to the internet, as EU roaming packages do not apply here.
I can’t believe it’s my last night on board; the trip has simply flown by, always a good sign in anyone’s book. The itinerary has been a delight (relatively unspoiled islands such as Milos contrasting nicely with tourist hubs like Mykonos and Santorini), the food fantastic – see left for a photo of the magnificent paella that was presented at BBQ night. As well as those old standards of breakfast, lunch and dinner, there’s a chef’s live cooking station every day where tempting treats such as pasta, tacos, burgers and noodles are all on offer (and, importantly for the budget-conscious, are included in the price) – well, a cruise is no place for calorie-counting after all.
Twice-nightly theatre shows are suitably entertaining and appropriate for all ages and nationalities. Plus, there are added extras like the dance troupe from Crete (pictured below), as well as a musical trio performing at lunch every day. For me though, it’s the service that stands out: immaculately pressed clothes are delivered to your room; there’s no need to cart heavy luggage around to see new sights every day; you feel looked after by the incredibly obliging staff and genuinely believe that nothing is too much trouble; the hospitality crew know you by name and remember your drinks order; it’s a little like being in Downton Abbey by Sea.
With cookie-cutter hotel chains determined to squash guests into bland, minuscule rooms and charging them for every single little extra, it’s surely time for the cruise sector to come into its own. Spurred on by younger, digital-savvy colleagues, I’ve come up with a hashtag that to my mind captures the essence of cruising: “see the world in style”; I think it really is quite a fitting description of a most enjoyable way to travel.