Liz at “Living with Kids” published a post yesterday about cruises and initiated some great holiday memories to come flooding back to me (flooding not quite the appropriate word here!). We took a fortnight’s cruise in the summer of 2006, the year before I started making notes about our trips, so I am hoping one or two brain cells will make the effort to connect up and have a look in the old memory bank (I have a vision here of The Numskulls from The Beano running around my head, dusting off huge tomes labelled “What I did in 2006”).
I’m not a water person: not a good swimmer, never really been keen on boats. So not sure how or why we decided it was a good idea. Thankfully it was. We booked an informal cruise with Ocean Village, marketed for people who don’t do cruises. We wouldn’t have to dress up (shame, I rather fancied that part), no need to sit with anyone else at dinner ( a BIG BIG plus: didn’t relish enforced chit-chat), and there would be plenty for our 10 year old son to do (kids’ club with playstations, organised games, excursions which would interest him). However I think the real bonus was the chance to take a peek at lots of locations in a two-week period without the hassle of packing and unpacking.
Our itinerary? Fly to Palma then over 14 nights visit Tunis, Barcelona, Rome, Naples, Genoa, St Raphael, Florence (and Pisa), Monaco and Corsica. I can’t tell you how exciting it was every morning to pull back the curtains, step out onto the teeny balcony and then shriek as some workmen in the building opposite waved their tools at me as they shouted “Buongiorno!”. Worth remembering that not all harbours are aesthetically pleasing (at some locations I could only see the sea: didn’t perk me up half as much).
We had some very memorable onshore excursions: visiting the Nou Camp football stadium in Barcelona, climbing the Leaning Tower of Pisa, looking at naughty paintings in the ruins of Pompeii (see photo of markings in the pavements pointing the way to the brothel), letting off steam in a French waterpark and laughing at Italian tourists being constantly admonished for taking flash photos in an aquarium. We could have gone rafting and canyoning at some destinations but I think either Rory was a bit young or I was a bit scared (probably the latter).
On board, lots of cheesy entertainment, though we did have Coleen Nolan to entertain us one night and a fabulously rude comedian who delighted our spectacle-wearing son by spotting him in the audience and shouting “Oy, ‘Arry Potter! Ow old are you?”. We had sessions on juggling and street dancing, entered trivia quizzes in order to win cocktails at lunchtime and our son stayed in the kids’ club til very late one night when they had a Big Brother night, complete with tasks (thankfully he was voted out before he was completely exhausted).
My favourite part of the cruising day was the departure each evening from the port. It usually coincided with post-shower-sit-on-the-balcony-with-glass-of-wine time and as the horn blasted and people waved from jet-skis in the bay, I always felt we were starting the holiday over again.
Did we get sea-sick? No, the sea was very calm. But I am not a good sailor as you can discover when we went whale-watching in Iceland the year after, so although I really fancy a Baltic cruise sometime, I am a little wary that we might not be so lucky in future.
I think Ocean Village may well be disappearing soon as there is news it will be taken over by another company. However there are plenty of others out there and the market for attracting families is an important one. Worth doing your homework to decide which elements of each cruise appeals. Although in almost all of them I can guarantee the chef will, at some point in the week, carve a swan from a block of ice…..