Friday, 1 October 2010

Adriatic Cruise, Part 1.

14 Sept 2010; Tuesday: London to Marseille

We had stayed at the Comfort Inn on Argyle Street, just opposite St Pancras because we had to be up at 4.30am. It was a good job our alarm clock worked because we didn’t get the morning call promised by reception. We had to go and collect our tickets because they hadn’t arrived in the post but no problems and we we were through security and off at 6.20 for Lille.

Aboard the Eurostar

Lille Station

One and a half hour wait at Lille, then we chose the wrong way down to the TGV and had to drag our cases down the stairs – couldn’t see a lift. Of course, we were on the upper level on the TGV but it taught me that you don’t have to haul your cases up; you can just leave them below. We sat opposite a young Flemish couple who had more legs than an octopus and insisted on wrapping them around each other and everything else. They carried on a loud conversation for about 3 hours in Flemish so everyone had to listen but no-one could understand. Frustrating!


Picardie, Valence, Avignon, Aix en Provence, Marseille. Arrived at 15.17.

Marseille from the station

No-one to meet us so a slightly disparate group of English tourists waited in an impatient mood while a phone call was made and, eventually, a bus turned up; the courier using traffic as an excuse. Not a good start to a holiday, though the weather is beautiful, and hot. The bus then took an age getting out of Marseille due to the total lack of traffic control. Not surprising there’s gridlock.

First sight of Orient Queen from the bus

Check in

We finally arrived at the quay for a fairly lengthy check-in, including further security checks. We were asked to choose a sitting for dinner; 6.45 or 9pm but, as it happened, unless we wanted to sit on a table with only French people, the only choice was 9pm. It might have been interesting to practise one’s French, but this was supposed to be relaxing. 9pm for dinner seemed very late when we hadn’t eaten properly all day but I think that, on normal days when we’ve had lunch, 9pm might be fine.

Leaving Marseille

Dropping the Pilot

First evening on the Boat Deck

The cabin is tiny and we have to be quite ingenious to fit everything in but we do have portholes so we have a view of the outside world. We watched the presentation in the lounge - all about excursions but, as we rather like excursions, that suited us. They were doing a deal if we booked almost all the excursions so we did just that. We didn’t want to be stuck on the boat in a harbour far from civilisation. However, when it comes to Venice, we’ll go our own way.

The Boat Deck

The G+Ts we had at the presentation, on empty stomachs, went to our heads so we went and say on the open Boat Deck in the open air. This is one of the best places to sit; it’s out of the wind, gets the sun and the views are good.
For dinner, we were on a table of 8 but with 10 places so, if no-one joins us tomorrow, we’ll spread out a bit. A good group; all people we can talk to. One couple really interested in art and museums, another has lots of cruising experience – they came to it by first cruising on the Canberra, the ship that brought us back to UK from the Bahamas in 1970. The others are Scots, rugby fans and enjoy the Western Isles as much as we do. A really good 4-course meal, bottle of Sancerre and service so swift we were finished by 10.15. However, after the long day, we were all keen to get down to our cabins for some sleep. We discovered that there’s no bedside lamp for Marea to read by. I have a ‘light wedge’ which is perfect and Marea had to use my tiny torch. There’s only one available power point, in the bathroom, so I have to plug my CPAP in using my extension lead – something I’ve learned by hard experience (hotel room power points aren’t always in convenient places). The bed was very comfortable (or was this just exhaustion?) Corsica and Sardinia in the morning, plus lifeboat muster. What fun!
5 September 2010; Wednesday: at sea

We awoke to sunshine through the portholes and a rather mist view of Corsica. The (essential) shower was very good, if tiny. We’re learning to live in a small cabin again; a bit like NB Ophelia. After breakfast we had lifeboat muster on the Boat Deck; life-jackets, checklists and a final inspection by the Captain. The crew video the whole proceedings, presumably as evidence that they carried out all the procedures. One Frenchman next to us talked through all the English announcements until I told him to shut up. Why don’t they tell people “It’s those who don’t listen who die in accidents”? Grumpy Old Man mode…

We got a hairdryer for Marea from reception, thank goodness, and we arranged for someone to come and fix the TV, not that we’ll watch it much, but the odd news bulletin would be good. Marea also bought some sunglasses to replace the Prada ones she got out to bring with her, then absent-mindedly put back in her handbag and forgot them.

We had a very lazy day; sat out on the Boat Deck (under an umbrella – very hot in the sun), read a little, watched people come and go, had lunch and got thoroughly rested. Tea and pastries at 4pm because we don’t have dinner until 9. Dress tonight is ‘formal’ which means the linen suit and a tie – yawn.

Tomorrow, Sicily – Messina, Taormina and Etna. (We’re not going to Etna).


16 September 2010; Thursday: Sicily

We were a bit late leaving the dining room last night – about 11pm – so it was a case of straight to bed, except that I banged my shin on the cabin stool and took the skin off – more weeks of slow healing. We were joined by another couple for dinner so now we are 10. They had a dispensation on the first night because one of them has just recovered from an illness and she needed an earlier night. I couldn’t untangle the CPAP wiring so it was even later when I got to bed.

Up at 6.30 for breakfast and a bus trip to Taormina.

Passing through Messina

by DH Lawrence

A snake came to my water-trough
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat,
To drink there.

In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob-tree
I came down the steps with my pitcher
And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough before me.
Complete poem at


Porta Catania, Taormina

It’s about 50km to Taormina and the views over the Strait of Messina are fantastic. Sicily is mountainous so the road goes through 13 tunnels on the way, then rises on concrete expressways up to the base of the village. THEN you have to take a lift up 7 levels because the bus can’t go any higher. Taormina is very pretty. It reminded us a bit of Lucca but it has only 1 main street with 3 arches, the Porta Catania, Porta Media and Porta Messina; self explanatory, really.

Looking over to Etna

Taormina Main Street

The Greco-Roman Theatre

At the top of the village is the Greco-Roman Theatre which, since being built by the Greeks has been altered, rebuilt and restored many times. We saw, on a poster, that the Royal Ballet are coming to perform. In the village, we bought a couple of dishes with a chilli design and a necklace for Marea. The only thing I wanted was a straw hat, having decided not to transport one all the way from UK. I got one for 10 euros – not bad. We enjoyed this excursion, though Marea was in some pain towards the end and I had to persuade her to stop and have a rest.

Taormina shops

Porta Media

The Duomo

2 shots of the rather precipitous road

Back to the ship for 1.15 and lunch in the dining room – more a la carte than yesterday’s buffet on the Boat Deck. We ate with 4 Americans, Denise, Annette, Natalie and her husband, Carmine (wonderful name!) While we were having lunch, there were repeated calls for a particular passenger, then, when it was time to sail, we were told that our departure would be delayed by half an hour while divers inspected the hull underwater (or searched for a missing passenger – they wouldn’t tell us anyway). During our conversation, we found out that Natalie and Carmine had joined in Venice and Annette and Denise in Rome and that they were leaving in Venice and Rome respectively. We had thought this was a ‘there and back’ cruise but, obviously, it’s continuous and people join at various ports and do a 10 day circular cruise. We went up to the Boat Deck but couldn’t initially get any shade. Then, as the ship turned along the Calabria coast, the shade came round for us without our having to move seats to find an umbrella.

Casting off

Leaving Messina

Dropping the Pilot

1 comment:

  1. Most wonderful to find your nicely detailed account of your Adriatic Cruise! Kudos to you!