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As promised, here is my review of a truly wonderful cruise, my first with Seabourn.
Seabourn Odyssey April 28 to May 12 2013
Our long and eagerly awaited first Seabourn cruise had finally arrived.
We had taken Seabourn’s flight package, which meant taking the 07.00 flight from LHR to Rome. This required us to leave home at 03.00, arriving LHR at 04.45 to be met by the valet parking service.
We were directed to First check-in, but alas we were flying Euro Traveller this time. We were first though security and quickly eating breakfast in the BA lounge, courtesy of my Marco Polo membership. In fact we had a quick coffee before boarding the transit for terminal B and into the ‘B’ lounge. We had fresh fruit salad and Champagne.
The flight was uneventful but unusually the aircraft was a 767. We had seats 12 JK with ample legroom.
On arrival (on-time) in Rome, we then waited with our luggage for ages (about 1 hour) before the transfer coach was ready to leave for Civitavecchia.
On arrival at the port – more chaos, as we were met by a long, long check-in line, with no staff to assist. Elderly long-standing Seabourn clients were treated abysmally, the port agents really letting Seabourn down. I was acting like a cruise agent, advising people what to do, having gone to find out and they eventually realised that something different had to be done. It took another hour to board and was our worst ever boarding experience – certainly not 6* cruising. However, once onboard it all changed......................
The staff were fantastic, so nice and friendly. We were brought our welcome champagne, but we had tasted much better, so we stuck to wine and cocktails. Our pre-requested bar was fully stocked.
Later that afternoon we wallowed in the hot tub forward on deck 6. We joined a couple from Australia and New Zealand, who were under-whelmed by the ship, preferring the smaller vessels. They had bought some champagne as they too, didn’t care for the free stuff!
We enjoyed dinner in Restaurant 2, which provided an excellent taster menu. We didn’t like the Pinot Grigio, instead opting for Riesling.
I followed this with two Irish Coffees in the Club, prior to an early night.
Up early aiming to depart at 08.00 for Sorrento and Capri, but we couldn’t get an early tender, due to departing tour parties and instead opted for a trip on a local bus, followed by a walking tour. We went to the railway / bus station and found a bus which took one of the many scenic routes along the rugged coastline, walked around a little and then returned on the same bus. We walked around Sorrento, including the magnificent cathedral,
before returning to the ship for lunch and sunbathing.
We returned for lunch at 1pm, reading for my exercise class on the Kinesis Wall.
Rosy spent afternoon on balcony, taking in warm sunshine, whilst I typed start of review.
I went to my first Kinesis class - a core stability exercise program using pulleys and weights. It was a very rewarding program and Rick, the instructor from Holland, was a credit to his profession.
Spent some quality time with Rosy in the hot tub, drinking cocktails. The waiters will even come round and refresh your drinks!
Dinner in main restaurant, preceded by cocktails in Observation lounge.
Had dinner with a younger couple, who live in Manhattan. They are both travel journalists and Seabourn have sponsored their cruise, so that they can write a blog, detailing their cruise experience.
Did my second class on the Kinesis wall – very hard work, but excellent for strengthening the core muscles.
Next a leisurely healthy breakfast, followed by a port lecture. Rosy then listened to the ports history lecture, which she found very interesting, particularly the section on Malta.
Next we joined a trivia team and did abysmally, as usual.
After lunch I played duplicate bridge. My partner didn’t know any systems, which made life challenging!
That evening was the Captain’s reception, with free drinks. Oh, hang on, drinks are free all the time! It was our first formal night so out came our finery.
Heavy swell for the first time this cruise, so walking around was challenging. We had an excellent dinner with Ian and Shelley, from Bradford. Much wine, lobster and Chateaubriand. This was followed by some excellent vocal entertainment.
Wednesday, 1 May
After a bumpy night and the clocks going back 1 hour, we awoke early, with the intention of getting off early, but the tender process was interesting due to the heavy swell. We eventually got to shore, where we were greeted by filthy surroundings. We found an atm and got some local currency, found the train station and took the metro to Sousse, about 30 minutes away. We passed the airport en-route. Sousse was another dirty place, with litter and detritus everywhere. We looked for the bird garden without success, visited a Rabat, then escaped back to the ship. The Rabat was just like any other ancient building, apart from having nice clean, modern loos, in one corner.
What I cannot understand about Tunisia, is that if the Country is heavily reliant on tourism, why not make the surroundings more attractive. The place is like a rubbish tip and we shall not be returning.
The tender ride back to the ship was again interesting as the sea conditions hadn’t improved. I was really concerned for the many elderly and infirm passengers. Apparently, conditions were so bad during the day that the tenders couldn't dock at the ship, so many folks got a bit sick, bouncing around in the choppy water.
The buffet restaurant was closed so we visited the grill. I had hot dogs, fries and ‘Mudslides’!
The weather has been disappointingly cloudy today and a little cool. I tried a yoga class, but decided I wasn't flexible enough, or to put it another way, I discovered Yoga was not for me, as my body doesn’t move they way the instructor demonstrated.
We ate a Thai dinner in the Colonnades Restaurant, with Ian and Shelley. It lacked flavour and the portions were small. Ian complained to the chef, who appeared to be unhappy to be publicly criticized.
This was followed by a ‘Scouse’ comedian, which made a change, but he lacked a few punch-lines. Maybe a bit tame, after Carnival?
Rosy on quayside, looking across to other side of harbour
Fountain at bus station, which is directly above where cruise ships dock.
We were due to take the Hoho bus, which I think is what we should have done. Instead Rosy discovered for 2.60 Euros, one can take any combination of buses for the whole day. We chose St Pauls Bay (Buggiba) and I reckon the driver must have had a bad day, as he was very aggressive, which meant an uncomfortable journey. The roads are full of pot-holes, so the buses must need plenty of maintenance.
Fishing village - St Paul's Bay
Bus stops weren’t always easy to find and buses had an interesting time-table, if you liked sitting in the sun for over an hour waiting for one. I found that we wasted a lot of valuable time. With an organized bus, we would know more and get more from the visit, albeit spending a bit more money! My recommendation, take the Hoho bus.
We returned to the ship for afternoon tea, having missed lunch.
I awoke feeling a could smell a bonfire and when I drew the curtains, the resort was shrouded in smoke from dozens of bonfires, with the smoke getting into the ships air-con! It was Greek Easter Day and the locals roast whole lambs on spit-roasts. Several places had many spits going at one time – there was sure to be a feast.
Several groups offered us refreshment, ranging from orange cake to home made wine. They were so friendly and we showed them photos of our family. Hey wanted us to stay but we didn’t want to intrude, so we returned to the ship and took them some champagne from our fridge, but they and the lamb had disappeared. It was all a bit strange, with the streets pretty much empty. The fire-crackers were constantly exploding and people were firing shotguns into the air. What lovely friendly people.
Alas this was Easter Monday, so no boat trips or local buses, so we walked around town, looked in a Cathedral, then climbed a considerable way up to and old castle and grounds, which seemed pretty neglected. It was 3 Euros each and made a nice change, with magnificent views. Next we meandered down and returned to the ship for a late lunch.
Odyssey from Castle
Rosy with Mango Margarita
Tuesday, 7th May
Seabourn Quest for Seabourn Odyssey - Corfu
Greek public holidays were still affecting public transport, so having walked to the bus station, we returned to the port to hire a car. We drove around much of the south of the island and had an enjoyable day, we even saw a flock of flamingos. We also met a group of hikers who were part of an organized tour walking around Corfu, taking 2 weeks.
We returned to the ship just in time for my Kinesis exercise class, followed by cocktails in the hot tub!
This was a tender port, but we were due to dock. When we arrived, there was another ship at the dock, having booked earlier than Seabourn! We got the first tender and it was quite amusing, as at first we went to the wrong landing site and had to reverse to the correct location – a bit embarrassing!
MS Columbus 2 - took our berth!
Having got ashore, we found a tour rep who advised that for 70 Euros, a taxi could take us to our desired location, leave us for an hour, then return us to the ship. We had read that Lovcen was a place of outstanding beauty, so we chose to go there, not realising that it involved a hike to the top of a mountain and an hour’s drive around 25 hair pin bends. It was exciting, but quite nerve-wracking at times. The journey took about an hour in each direction, in our very comfortable and superbly driven Mercedes estate. On arrival at the top, the road was covered by a metre of snow, so we had to walk.
Rosy had sensibly taken a coat! I was in t-shirt and shorts!
It was a steep climb, followed by 470 steps, including a tunnel section, past an underground restaurant, to a Mausleum at the peak. The views were fantastic, but it was a trifle cold in my beach clothes. We had no idea this national park was a mountain peak!
After our return to Kotor, we had a quick lunch on the ship, followed by a walk around the quaint old town.
This was a very frustrating day, as we had planned a visit to Krka national Park, described as a beautiful waterfall and park. The ship anchored at around 08.00, the scheduled time, but for one reason or another we couldn’t get in a tender until nearly 09.15, so missing the first bus, which left at 09.00. We should have bitten the bullet and taken a taxi, but we felt the fare of about 200 Kunas (30 Euros) was a bit expensive. It seems that it wasn’t as that is the metered price, as we found out on our return. Instead we walked around the old city and then took the next bus at 11.15, at a cost of 24K each. The journey took about 30 minutes, but the atmosphere was hot and humid and was a bit cramped. If we returned we’d definitely take the taxi, which would also allow for much more time at the park. We got off the bus, but there was no indication of which way to go, so we took a little longer to find the free ferry, than we should have done. The ferry was about to leave and at that time we didn’t realize that it was free, so we rushed (as directed by others in the queue) to the nearby ticket office and bought our tickets for 80K each. It is also possible to purchase tickets on arrival at the park. The boat takes 20 minutes and it is also possible to walk, should the last ferry be missed, but the walk takes just over 1 hour.
On arrival at the park, we followed the well-market path up the right hand side of the falls, passing toilets, various gift shops, cafes, etc. There was also an abundance of wildlife. It was a truly amazing place on a beautiful sunny day.
We saw and heard lots of frogs, bellowing out their mating call (sounded like loud birds!). We climbed to the top, taking about 45 minutes, then walked across the wetlands, on a boardwalk, to the other side, then meandered back to the entrance. We were there for about two hours, but could have spent over a day there. There any many other nature trails, boat excursions etc.
We had just missed the hourly ferry so we walked back. We were told it would take 45 minutes, but it was about 15 minutes longer and we aren’t slow walkers!
Next we had to find a taxi, as the bus wasn’t until 5pm, which would have been too late to get back to the ship. The Park Visitor Centre called the taxi, as none are usually waiting there. The taxi took about 15 minutes back to the ship and cost 200K.
I would recommend this trip to anyone, but take the ship’s tour or taxi, rather than public transport.
I am enjoying your report and photos, so glad that you enjoyed your trip, I did wonder after your comments regarding staffing levels!! What a pity you did not get more out of your visit to Malta, there are so many things to see and do which are much better than an all day bus trip to St Paul's Bay. In fact you could have just stayed in Valletta with all the little side streets to explore not to mention St John's Co-Cathedral with the Caravaggio painting The Beheading of St John the Baptist. A shorter bus trip to the walled city of Medina is always worth a trip as well never mind there is always another time.
The approach to this port is magnificent and only smaller ships could navigate it. The harbour entrance (or bay) is reached by navigating through narrow channels, so beautiful scenery on either side presents a perfect photo opportunity. Once through the narrow entrance, the ship anchors and passengers are once again tendered to the inner harbour.
This was another beautiful port and the staff in the visitor centre were really helpful, giving us a detailed map of many walks and cycle trails around the island. We hiked around 20 kilometres around various coastal paths and had a great time.
Yet another tendered port, but we had booked a fiendishly expensive shore excursion, which included a tasting at a local winery.
We had been allocated $650 OBC, which as most things were already included, was becoming difficult to spend and couldn’t be cashed out! We each had a spa treatment, some internet and this shore excursion.
Alas the weather was awful and although the ship kindly provided everyone with an umbrella, the streets were awash and it was unpleasant, so we opted to visit a coffee shop and wait for our bus to the winery. After half an hour the rain cleared a bit and we walked the ten minutes or so to the bus (buses and most traffic aren’t allowed to enter the centre of the town). After about 20 minutes we arrived at the winery, where we given a short tour and then we tasted 4 wines and ate olives, bread and cheese.
Then we enjoyed a scenic drive back to the port. The cost was $159 pp and I considered it to be robbery!
That evening there was a champagne and caviar party on deck, to 'celebrate' new friendships and a wonderful cruise.
After a fairly restless night we were up at about 05.00, as the arrival at Venice offers excellent photo opportunities, although we didn’t have to leave our suite until 08.00, allowing a leisurely breakfast before leaving the ship at around 08.45 (scheduled for 09.30).
We quickly found our luggage and were met by a Seabourn rep, who after some confusion allowed our taxi to take us to our hotel, where we had been allocated a day room, before our evening flight. The Hilton Garden Inn was about a 10 minute drive, on the way to the airport. On arrival our room wasn’t ready and no lunch voucher was available, so they stored our bags, then we took the bus to Venice (10 minutes). The 5 and 19 buses stop outside the hotel. We opted for an 18 Euro day ticket, which included all buses and water-buses, which proved excellent value.
On arrival at Venice, the water-buses 1 or 2 take passengers past most major sights and we alighted at St Mark’s Square, before walking to the local park, for me to use the loo!
Next we decided on some rest. So took the no. 1 WB to its terminus (Lido) and back to the bus station, where we quickly found a bus back to the hotel. We had an hour or so in our room, where I used the free wifi and Rosy sat outside in the sun, by the swimming pool.
Reception called to say our taxi had arrived and we took the short ride to the Airport, not the most modern from the exterior, but efficiently run inside. We were quickly in the Marco Polo lounge awaiting our BA flight to LHR. We could use the lounge through our credit card connections, but in truth it was one of the poorest that we had visited. The flight left on time and we had seats 6 F&G, but arrived late due to earlier problems at LHR. We arrived home at around 22.45, tired but having had a wonderful holiday.