Wednesday, 9 March 2011

The World of the Open Sea

Right, I know it has been a long time since I have written anything, in fact I haven’t put anything up in 2011 so I know there is some catching up to do about my new job and stuff, but for now I wrote a little diary thing on my phone while I was on the cruise back in January and just haven’t had a chance to post it up yet. Here we go….

First day Lara, Laras dad Brian and I were up early for the flight to Barcelona, I hate flying so I wasn’t looking forward to that at all. But it was all worth it once we arrived on board the ship. The scale of everything was just incredible and after five minutes of wandering it was clear we wouldn’t be going hungry. There was all the food you could ever dream of, even a BBQ by the pool with amazing burgers. It was mainly a chill out day but in the evening we had our first taste of real food. We went to a steak house after having some kick ass cocktails in a martini bar. The food was incredible. There was a Casino on board and I knew that this was going to be the best and worst place on the boat. We had a fairly early night and boat started moving quite a bit as we were heading back and it made the nights sleep nice, kind of like rocking you to sleep as a kid. Freestyle Cruising is brilliant.

This was a day at sea now, we had some brekkie which had more choice than you thought possible. I settled for a freshly made omelette. We chilled out and played scrabble a couple of times in the day (how rock and roll). We played bingo and had a quiz as well, so all in all just a totally chilled day. That night Lara was excited as we were going for Tapanyaki. It was amazing, the food and the whole spectacle of watching them chuck things around in front of you. The only downfall was this knobhead American fella on our table who had a friend or buddy that had been everywhere and done everything. He was one of those annoying muppets that just doesn’t shut up and can better anything that anyone has ever done, haha. Onto the Casino again that night, Lara won $166 off $10 on slots and I won $100 playing blackjack and roulette. Brain unfortunately was not so lucky. Then a pretty early night for ready for our day in Rome tomorrow.

Up early for Rome. Headed out on the coach journey from the port to Rome which lasted about an hour, met our guide who was brilliant and knew everything, what was nice was that even though he had probably seen everything 100s of times he still seemed to enjoy it. We saw so many ancient monuments and ruins and it was such a beautiful city. Took some nice pictures by the Trevi fountain and threw in some money as you do. More ruins and then onto the Colosseum which was immense. It was Huge! This was one of my highlights as I had always wanted to see that, we even got to walk around inside which was amazing. After that some lunch then onto St Peters basilica which was incredible. Amazing how these were all built back in the day before machines. Inside one of the features in there was a dead pope in wax, which was odd. Had some authentic Italian pizza from a little shop which was yummy. Back to the ship for dinner at one of the ships main included restaurants, was very tasty and kicked the crap out of the lunch we were given on the excursion. Onto a bar for drinks and played a few card games followed by a bit more gambling where we each lost a little. Then came bed at the end of a long but very enjoyable day.

Our second full day at sea so we had a lay in. We got up for some food and as there was all you can eat ice cream I thought it would be rude not to have some for breakfast (which was lush). Sat in the Aloha lounge (main reception area) for a bit where there was an amazing pianist playing when you chill out. We found a shuffleboard thing which was a new experience for us all. Chilled out the rest of the day and played scrabble, Brian whooped us both. Played another quiz which would become the norm for us. In the evening we had the most amazing sushi and it was prepared right in front of us at the bar, we even had a few extra pieces of fish/squid/eel/octopus. Brilliant, although the Saki we had with it was a bugger! In the evening we danced to 70's music, well Brian and I did. Lara chilled like a Loooser. We all went to the casino Lara headed off but I stayed for a few hours extra and played for ages, only ended up that I had won $20 but that was worth the evening playing. I was hungry so I grabbed some food at the 24/7 place which is like an American diner with burgers and chicken wings. Sleep!

Today we are off to Athens! Not every day you can say that! Lol. We saw the Acropolis which was brilliant. It was right up on top of a big hill and it was a lot bigger than I thought it would be. I took some great pictures. We saw some amazing buildings driving around Athens that were just so great to look at. Also saw the stadium which was used for the first modern Olympic games which was something special as it was made of marble. Greece was nice. Back on the boat I wandered to have a snack, had a bit of pasta and meatballs on the back deck looking out over Athens! What a day so far. Ate at another one of the included restaurants where, as always, the food was brilliant. Had a fairly quiet evening, watched a magician who was very good (more on this fella later in the story). Did some mental things like turning 4 doves into a cat! Had another quick go in the casino before a fairly early night.

Izmir, Turkey for this day, they come thick and fast on a cruise, haha. We didn't go on any of the organised excursions but decided to do our own thing in the city. We headed out on a hop on, hop off bus where we toured around. It was really run down in places and sometimes different on each side of the road - I was saying to Lara how it was pretty looking right and then pretty crap looking left. We had a nice lunch on the end of a pier at what seemed to be the Turkish equivalent of the expensive part of London, posh shops and bars and even a metal scanner for you to walk through to get in! Back on the boat, another quiz and then Italian for dinner. As always, awesome! Then Brian and I were quite drunk buy gambled some more. I lost $40 then won $100 so was up for the night. Good times! I headed up to the club lounge bit and partied on until 3.30am as it’s a chill out day tomorrow. Had a dance and met some Canadians and English people, even a Spanish dude called Diego, lol.

Day at sea so having a nice relax, the sun is shining so everyone was outside by the pool and on the upper decks. There was live music going on around the pool which was cool. The views were really nice as you could look in all directions and see blue sky and endless sea. Played some more bingo and watched the sunset getting some great photos. Dinner at a French restaurant which had some of the nicest food yet! They even offered a second main course if we fancied and I had 2 desserts. Lol. Quiet night with a couple of drinks chilling out in a bar before a fairly early night as we are seeing the Pyramids in the morning, I'm so excited.

We were up early for the trip out to the pyramids. It took three hours to get there but was well worth the drive as they were absolutely epic. We had a stop at the bottom of the big two and wandered around there for a while. We were taking loads of pictures and having to ignore some pushy sellers there too. We then went up to a high part of Giza to look down over all three pyramids which looked great with Giza in the background. We then drove down to view the Sphinx with the pyramids as the backdrop which was a real postcard picture. After the amazing time at the pyramids we drove through Giza have lunch on a boat on the Nile. The food was nice and the entertainment was really cool (having got back and watched An Idiot Abroad, Karl Pilkington went on the same Nile boat). It was just surreal to thing we were cruising down the Nile! After that a drive through Cairo to the Mosque. There were a lot of run down areas in Cairo, even people living in shacks in a cemetery, although a couple of them had satellite dishes which was odd! Onto the Mosque which was a first for me, we learnt a lot about the culture and the building itself was very nice too. Back on the bus for a visit to a Papyrus museum which had some nice art inside. Then back on the bus for the long drive home, I slept most of the way. In the evening back on the boat we were shattered so had dinner at one of the main restaurants (amazing as always) with the best dessert that I have had on the whole trip - a blueberry crumble, oh my god it was amazing. A couple of drinks and an early night as we were all shattered. A nice relaxing day by the pool tomorrow probably!

Started the day off with a bit of brunch as we woke up too late for brekkie, then did what anyone would do with the sun out in Egypt, chilled by the pool! Bliss! Ended up relaxing in a jacuzzi for 2 hours with a beer which was awesome. Got chatting to a nice couple from Maryland, US too. Heading to the Mexican/Tapas restaurant tonight which I'm sure will be decent. As I write this I'm watching the sunset off the port of Alexandria, taking some really nice photos. The Mexican food was excellent and better than we all thought it would be. Had a few games of cards then gambled a little. Well I say a little, I lost $100 and Lara lost $40 so it wasn't a good night. But we are only both down a little overall so it's not all doom and gloom. Lara and I went for a few drinks in the lounge upstairs where the DJ played either crap gangsta music or Spanish stuff, so not the best, but still a nice night. Another day on the open sea tomorrow so we will probably have another lazy one, what a hard life this is!

I was up fairly early and we had a nice big breakfast right at the back of the ship looking out to sea, nothing in all directions. A bit more scrabble, Brian keeps whooping us both again. Lara and I played some shuffleboard which was decent. Other than that it was mainly a chill out until the evening watching a show called Elements. The ships crew had been raving about this show all week so we thought we had better check it out although with the high praise they had been giving it we hoped it would live up to it. There was magic, dancing, acrobatics and just loads of other amazing stuff which made it one of the best shows I have seen! Fantastic! I almost wanted to go and watch the second showing later in the night. After that we headed up for some sushi for the second time this cruise, as before it was superb and we all left feeling extremely satisfied but also stuffed. I didn't gamble tonight but Lara had a little bash and made a small bit of money over the course of the night. Off to Malta tomorrow where I think we are doing our own thing rather than an organised tour so I'm looking forward to that.

I got up early to watch us dock as the port in Malta was very old-school apparently. It was very tight and I wouldn't have had the guts to drive the ship in there! We did our own thing getting on another hop on hop off bus. We visited a lovely little place with high buildings and narrow streets. It's looked like quite an old place and when we got to the back end of town there was views over Malta where you could see for miles. Back on the bus and Brian and I thought it would be really nice to sit on the top deck of the open top bus, bad idea. The rain started about a minute after we set off and didn't let up for quite a while. Lara went downstairs but it was so packed that Brian and I stayed up top and got soaked. It wasn't too bad though as it stopped after about 45 mins and we had great views of the drive through the Maltese countryside and ports. Back on the boat for a shower and a meet up for cake and coffee, brilliant. A great way to chill out after a wet, but enjoyable day off the ship in Malta. We had another go on the quiz, this one we WON! Whoop - Go us. After that Lara and Brian headed off to get ready/relax until we met for dinner but I stayed in the bar and had a few drinks. Then onto the steak house that we went to on the first night that we were here as we couldn’t leave without having some more of the most amazing beef around.

There was a party in the nightclub for an Ice White night that night. Almost everyone was dressed in White which was pretty cool. We were chilling at the bar and then we saw some of the cast from the elements show with the magicians as well. I caught his eye and asked for a photo. After that we chatted with them and they were really cool, he was saying that he does a lot of up close stuff which he can't really do in his show, luckily Lara had a pack of cards in her bag so he was doing tricks for us for ages! It was amazing. Not everyday you just chat to a magician and he busts out a load of tricks for you. It really made the night fun. We also talked with the acrobats from the show and Robert from the staff for a while too. What a night!

Our last day at sea.... Cry! Today was a very chilled out day. I sat in the hot tub for a couple of hours again which was cool. Had a wander round the ship and relaxed before meeting everyone for bingo, we were so close to winning but just pipped at the end. The final quiz after that and then onto the event of the evening, Tapanyaki for dinner. The food was simply amazing and, as before, the theatre of it being cooked in front of you is an added bonus. I will certainly miss the food from the ship! After dinner Lara and I wandered around the ship taking photos of all the bits about. I’m sad that this is coming to an end, it has been brilliant. The last hours were spent with a quiet drink and walking to see all the people that had made the holiday a little more special, one of the bar staff Chris 'Chizzle' from St Lucia who I had a great laugh with on board and Robert from the cruise staff who was from London and just great at what he does, brilliantly hilarious from the first to last moment. I am very sad that the end has now come. Flying home tomorrow will suck for sure!

I had never really contemplated a cruise before, and even leading up to this trip I didn't know what to expect. I can safely say that this has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Everything about it was beyond fantastic. The food on board was some of the best I have eaten anywhere, and when you take into account that I sampled food from all over the world from all cultures while I was travelling I feel I am able to say that with some conviction. There wad enough entertainment to have you busy almost 24/7 if you wanted to and if you just wanted to chill out there was plenty of other options. What is a massive draw for me, and will be again looking at future holidays, is that I have seen five countries in this trip and in all honesty being on the ship doesn't feel like travelling at all. All these places seemed to be coming right to your doorstep. Reading back over what I have written about this trip there has been lots of 'amazings' or 'brilliants' and I don’t want their value to decrease from over use. It really has been THAT good. For those of you that haven't experienced a cruise before I couldn't speak highly enough of my time over the past 12 days. I think this is something that everyone should experience. It was in summary - Incredible!

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