Occupation:Local Government Officer
Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Sun Cruises
Sailing Date: June 30th, 2003
Somehow my wife Maureen and I found ourselves rising at 4am on the morning of Monday 30 June to drive to Cardiff International Airport to catch a flight to Larnaca, Cyprus. From there we would catch a transfer coach for an hour’s drive to Limassol where we would go aboard the Seawing for a cruise around various Greek Islands with a dash of Turkey and Cyprus thrown in for good measure.
It was to be a first for both of us. Personally, I have never been a water baby and a trip across the Channel on a stormy night had me turning green with the rest. However, having made the decision to go (just how I’m not too sure) here we were and I was determined to try to enjoy the experience.
Seawing is a comparatively small ship with less than a thousand passengers and around 350 crew.
We instantly had an ‘official’ photograph taken at the bottom of gang plank; something we would grow used to during the rest of the voyage. We instantly checked in and had a special swipe card issued, this would be the only form of payment we would have to make on the ship. At the end of the week your credit card account was debited and that was that. We also opted to take the second sitting for dinner which was to be served at 2030.
Next we went to find our cabin. This was a major issue. Would it be tiny? Would it be claustrophobic? Would the portholes be small? Would we like it? We opened the door and first impression was it was better than expected. It was not tiny, not big mind you, but not tiny. Two square windows, around 2’ square gave plenty of light and visibility and the bathroom was more than adequate. Good start.
Everyone had to be on board for departure to the first stop which was Heraklion, Crete. For the first 36 hours we would be at sea. That would be a test. Would we be bored? Would the food be any good? Would the other passengers be OK?
The first food to try was the afternoon buffet. That was certainly good and I wouldn’t have coped with much had I eaten between then and breakfast on the plane. There was a number of things to try, We opted to have a good look around the ship. Everything seemed fine and we were amused to note that the ship’s daily newsletter asked guests not to reserve sun beds with towels. No Germans aboard
- surely not a problem. We were to discover that this was, indeed, to be an irritation.
Dinner was great, all five courses of it and as a bonus the waiters and assistant waiters provided a medley of hits from the sixties over coffee, providing their own accompaniment with guitars. After dinner there was an assortment of entertainment to enjoy. Those of us who had been up since the
early hours opted for an early night. I slept surprisingly well and instantly felt more confident for the rest of the week. Outside the temperatures had gone over 100 degrees, inside the cabin the air conditioning made the cabins about 20 degrees!
After the days sailing and a compulsory safety drill at which we met the Captain for the first time we were left to enjoy the various things on offer during the day. This varied from a daily quiz and cross-word to games by the poolside to bridge to Scrabble to working out in the fitness room to dance classes etc There was plenty to do.
The majority of people we discovered did disembark at the various ports but some opted to remain on the ship.
First port was Heraklion (Crete). Temperature in the nineties when we decided to stroll into the town. Not an un-pleasant experience but not memorable to be honest. Three hours was enough before we returned to try to find a snubbed. We did! An hour in the sun was enough for us but many stayed horizontal all day. Dinner was followed by cabaret with Diane Cousins, described as Wales' first lady of comedy and song. She was great and her hour spot went quickly by.
We departed at 1800 and sailed for Piraeus, the port of Athens. We had booked an excursion to the Acropolis. Well planned trip with 9 coaches being filled at £26 per head. Good business. We battled through the Athens traffic (told it was a better day) and seemed to see all the 4 million inhabitants one to a car.
The Acropolis was worth the trip but when we gathered at the highest point in temperatures of well over 100 degrees with no shade, I felt the 20 minute talk by the guide, informed as it was, was, was excessive by 19 minutes. We also saw the Olympic stadium and other tourist spots and returned to the ship around lunchtime.
Santorini was next stop. Sounds more Italian but it was beautiful. Transfer to land was by a local tender service which operated non-stop during our stay. To get to the village of white manicured buildings there was a choice. Cable car at 3 euros or 587 steps by walking or on the back of a donkey.
I am no animal rights camapigner, although our selection of household pets have no cause to complain, but to see a donkey carrying an overweight young man up the steps in temperatures again exceeding 100 degrees made a number of wonder to whom we should protest. Later we walked back DOWN the steps and that nearly killed me. What must it be like to go up with a passenger on your back?
Lovely village, plenty of shops (especially jewelers), vantage points and cafes. we got ripped off for 47 euros buying 2 iced coffees, a cactus juice and two mouthwatering sweets. I reckon 30 euros was for the view which was stunning. Some believe this is the location of the legendary lost city of Atlantis. Relaxing cool time in the cabin before time on deck, dinner and Steve Salter (singing sensation) in cabaret. He was good with a Neil Diamond impression standing out. Apparently later in 2003 he's on Stars in Your Eyes as Michael Ball.
Kos came next. This was to be our favorite. A pretty town with a nice beach (sun lounger with parasol 3 euros). A 14th century guards the impressive harbor although we did see our first beggars of the trip, complete with tiny children. Other fascinating ruins abound with the sanctuary of Asklepios standing out. To get there we paid up 3 euros (is everything 3 euros?) to go on a small road train. Worth the trip to get the breeze. We arrived and tried to enjoy climbing the 110 steps in temperatures pushing around 110 degrees. after the return trip we bought a nice oil painting by the harbor. We enjoyed Poolside Trivia and a relax both in the sun and in the cabin before dinner again beckoned (5 courses each night) before the show The Magic of Musicals. Great stuff with the ship's performers (6 but seemingly 26) showing immense talent.
Finally off we went to marmaris in Turkey. We were to have just a few hours here having been taken to the bazaar on a coach. The Iraq war had shattered the tourist trade of Turkey and the shopkeepers were even more in your face. Nonetheless it was interesting but a place that more time would have been great, especially with time to get on a pleasure boat and go off to see the turtles.
Back to the boat for more of the same as we sailed at noon to head back to Cyprus. With the ship at sea access to the bow was allowed and it proved a lovely spot with breezes to dampen down the high temperatures. Cases had to be packed and outside your cabin door by midnight, so that was job to be done.
Back in Limassol we had to evacuate our cabins at 8 o clock. We saw the immigration people on board and the whole checking-in procedure was carried out on Seawing. The next time we saw our cases we would (hopefully) be at Cardiff.
Summing it up. We loved the experience. We noted the usual percentage of whiners. We noted a high percentage of those who seemed to think they had to eat each of the six meals each day (and ask for extra main courses at dinner as well). How much do these people eat at home?
The entertainment under the capable control of Sammi C Baker, the Cruise Director, was very good with an attempt to please all sorts. As the bulk of the passengers were older this could have been a great problem but I didn't note too many bored younger people during the week. I also note previous reviewer have criticized facilities for the young. I think that's unfair. Most of us are older when we try cruising.
The ship was not as big as some (I was told by the more wise travelers) but it was big enough and very well appointed. The staff were absolutely brilliant and the waiters and cabin crew especially seemed to be on the go 24/7. I have little doubt that they are terribly poorly paid but you would never have known. How do people smile all the time and remain absolutely polite at all times when the attitude of many of the passengers does not reciprocate those essentials?
The Gala Buffet served on one night at midnight was good enough to photograph. Indeed a half hour session for photographers was set aside. The food was stunningly presented amidst incredible ice sculptures. Us? We were so stuffed after dinner we did not partake.
Criticisms? Not too many I have to say. The final morning when we had to hang around on deck for 4 hours with no cabin to go to and no money to spend aboard, was boring and a bit of a drag. Official photographers exploited every opportunity and the photos were not cheap. Surely they could ease this up a bit. The cost to us over the week was immense and we did not get the second formal portrait or the shot of the group on our dinner table. Despite warnings about towels reserving sun beds not being allowed this was abused with no apparent action. I realize it would be difficult to get stroppy with passengers but it was frustrating not to get a space on the few days the ship was packed whilst at sea.
All in all - great! Well done Going Places and My Travel for sorting out a well-organized package at a reasonable price. I think I will cruise again!