Monday, 19 September 2016

Cruising the Iconic Islands

Friday 9 September 2016. We drag ourselves out of bed at 2:30am ready to be picked up by taxi and taken to Manchester Airport for another week of serious research for material for this blog.

We are flying to Corfu to board the Thomson Dream cruise ship for the Iconic Islands cruise. Our itinerary will be: Corfu > Day at Sea > Thira, Santorini > Bodrum, Turkey > Syros, Turkey > Chania, Crete > Argostoli, Kefalonia > Corfu.

We have been to Corfu quite a few times now. On quite a few ships too, come to think of it... Ocean Village Two, Thomson Celebration, Thomson Spirit, Thomson Dream and Thomson Majesty. A couple of times we have been able to explore the town and take trips round the island, but this time we join the ship and are happy enough to lounge on the pool deck, trying to keep awake. A cocktail called Hurricane seems to help... As we have been a few times, I left my camera in the bag so any photos of Corfu are from previous years.

This is Corfu's cruise terminal. You are dropped off by coach from the tiny airport and pass through via a fairly fast-moving queue where you are given your boarding pass which will act as your permit for leaving and entering the ship and for any on-board purchases from shops or bars. We have an all-inclusive drinks package and whilst certain drinks incur a surcharge we'll be certain not to drink them... Luckily in any case our favourite tipples are free from any surcharge. Once you have been processed you are free to go through to the ship. It's only a short walk and your cases will be taken by the ship's crew from the coach to your cabin so you are not loaded down with luggage. A free bus service is available for those who prefer to ride or are unable to walk.

I may not have brought out the camera, but I did spend a bit of time on the Promenade Deck (Deck 9) with the sketchbook, drawing this view of the two fortresses of Corfu. Sail-away was not until late due to those passengers arriving on later flights. By the time we sailed we were happily sitting in the Water's Edge cabaret bar, listening to our long-time friends, Tomas and Maris, who perform as duo 2 Intense. A lovelier pair you could not hope to meet. We have been friends for six years now and try to meet up with them at least once a year.

The following day, Saturday 10 September, is a day at sea. We are sailing towards Santorini - a place that we have had on our itinerary several times before, but we have yet to visit. It has no port to dock a large ship and so requires a tender boat operation where the ship anchors off shore and you climb down (stairs - they don't make you do rope ladders...) into smaller tender boats which ferry you to the landing stage. If it is windy or choppy these cannot operate and that has always happened to us before, forcing the ship to divert to somewhere else. Fingers crossed we might make it on Sunday!

The day is spent reading and sitting on the pool deck, drinking (today we tried out a cocktail called West Indies Yellow Bird) and joining in with things like Trivia Challenge and identifying the Mystery Voices as the entertainments crew kept us from getting bored. The evening was the Captain's Formal Evening, a chance to dress up and have your photograph taken with the Captain, followed by a Reception during which the senior staff are introduced. After this, dinner is served in the Orion restaurant on Deck 4, where every evening the menu consists of a starter, a soup or salad, main course, dessert and tea/coffee.

Once the meal was finished, we went back up to Deck 8 again and Fran nudged me to point out the sunset over the stern of the ship (or as I like to call it: the blunt end...)

Once again we made for the Water's Edge bar with Tom and Maris, who on this trip were sharing sets turn and turn about with a young singer/guitarist Ben Moss. We both remembered Ben who started out on Thomson Celebration as an 18-year-old not all that many years ago and his four years with the Thomson fleet has seen him mature into an accomplished and confident performer.

I was invited to do a couple of numbers, joking that had I known I was to be invited to the stage, I'd have dressed up... Maris provided some harmonies for me and the audience reaction was very good - thankfully they must have drunk quite a lot during the Formal Reception and meal!

At 11:30pm all of the musicians on-board came together in the Medusa Loung for Band Jam. 2 Intense and Ben Moss were joined by pianist Keith Kerslake, duo Heart and Soul and party band Soundroom all on stage together to perform a quick-fire series of dance and rock 'n' roll numbers. We were right at the back of the room and the photo is a bit blurred I'm afraid. We were joined by a party of three couples from Glasgow and had a very enjoyable hour with them. My sides were hurting with laughing by the end!

Will we make it at last into Santorini? Tomorrow (and the next article) will tell!

Iconic Islands Index

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