It is 15h50 here, I am sitting on our cabin’s balcony on the 12th deck of the Norwegian Epic, one of the largest cruise ships in the world. We are just about to leave port and head out for a 23-hour cruise to Santorini, Greece. Depending on how long you have followed theTravelsketcher your response to my situation will likely range from, “Wow Terry, that is great” to “ Excuse me! A cruise! You who regularly dissed tours and cruises??” Yes, a cruise. Here is a view of our ship from a cafe in Cannes, France, along with a sketch I did on the way from Barcelona to Cannes.
So why the change of heart? There is no easy answer but i think I can reduce it to three possible reasons:
– Curiosity triggered by friends experiences (compare Tim and Dave’s views)
– Recapturing lost time in retirement efficiency
Tim and Dave are two friends that have cruised, Dave many times and Tim just a couple. They are quite different in how they approach vacations and travel. Tim relishes solitude, a perfect morning anyplace is getting up late, having a couple cups of coffee and doing New York Times Crosswords – ideally sitting outside unless the weather is approaching arctic temperatures. Dave, well he will travel anyplace that there is a buffet, does a few tours, and likes Las Vegas for the food and shows but not for the gambling or bars. Yet they both have positive things to say about cruising – Dave gets up earlier than I do and hits the ground running.
We started to plan this cruise when Dave told us about an upcoming cruise they are taking, almost a month in the South Seas, Australia, and New Zealand. The concept of seeing a lot of places, if only briefly, in a compact amount of time was enticing, so we started to explore the idea.
We even ended up taking a tour, or excursion as they are called, in Malta. Not bad, of course I have eschewed the big busses and such it was interesting, though we both felt wandering the streets on our own would have been more enjoyable. Here are some quick sketches I did, you have to go fast when on a tour as even five minutes may not be available.
One of the reasons in favor of cruises is actually financial. Initially when you look at the price it seems high, but when you break it down to accommodation, transportation, food and beverage it makes sense. Had we booked a trip to each of these locations the final cost would have been much higher.
I have enjoyed being at sea and in the ports. This morning I stood on the highest deck outside at sunrise in 32 knot winds as the huge boat surged on the choppy seas, wonderful. Here are a couple of sketches of the ports we have been to.
The third reason we decided to cruise was efficiency. Thanks to COVID we lost two years of our retirement, which anticipated a lot of travel. A cruise enabled us to visit a few places in a shorter amount of time. We know now that we would not want to return to Livorno, Malta, or Cannes. And we know we do want to return to Corfu and spend a bit more time.
Messina was great, yet probably not due for a second trip. We sat in the Palzzo Calapha-d’Alcontres, next to the church and had coffee – Tricia took photos while I sketched the people.
The best place so far was Corfu. We stopped for coffee at a tiny cafe on a narrow street, two outdoor tables. I tried Greek Coffee for the first time, incredibly strong, grounds floating around, and some of the best coffee I have ever had. I learned from the owner that Corfu was the first place the British introduced cricket outside of the UK; interesting. Tricia took more photos, be sure to check her blog, I sketched.
We still have four days left with stops in Santorini, Mykonos, Athens, then ending up near Rome. We will do another cruise or two I am sure, in fact we are planning one from Lisbon in January to avoid some Normandy rain. Yet I doubt cruising will ever be our main mode of travel, we are just too independent for that, and the whole vision of a cruise ship being a floating Las Vegas is hard to embrace. What made Messina and Corfu the two best stops was that we treated both like we usually do, we explored the city, usually the old town areas, on foot. We will do that in Mykonos, and the excursions we have for Santorini and Athens are pretty much just bus rides that drop us off in good places to explore, so I am confident of good days to come.
In the end we are quite glad we are doing this, and we have a lot of memories that we would never have had if we had stuck to my negative view of cruising and tours. So one lesson is that it is good to be open minded about travel, which I guess I always knew. As I saw in a recent quote someplace, from Dan Rather I believe, “If we knew all the challenges a trip would bring in advance, we would never leave home.” (Well it was close to that anyway).
So however you travel, remember to find ways to connect with the places and the people, capture those moments on your sketchpad, and keep trying new places.
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Oh … if we get the opportunity we will go to Malta again and again 😉. We were there twice for three weeks each and still managed to find amazing places (like spending a long weekend on Gozo, the sister island of Malta). I remembered that when the cruise ships docked in the harbour, we made sure to go the quieter places, otherwise it could became very crowded in Valletta.
We have never done the cruise ship thing – we just love to be out in nature and do things in our own time … but I guess there’s always that first time …
I am guessing your experience was far different than ours, our tour took us from one end of the island to another. We visited the presidential garden, a glassblowing factory, and a winery. I wish we had just been able to explore a city. The route we took did not go through any city centers with town squares and outside cafes and such, the kinds of things we really like. Travel for us is about wandering and of course food, I think you folks do a lot of hiking and such, which we did many years ago. And then for me I love to sit and sketch, which sadly time did not allow.
I am not sure that cruising will be our go to, as like you we like to do things in our own time, but it was worth a try. You might like some of the eco cruises that are focused on nature and often involve actually working on nature projects.
Thanks so much for your comments,
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I can imagine how nice it would have been for you to just sit in Valletta and make a few of those wonderful sketches (while enjoying their home delicacy, pastizzi) 😉.
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Wish we had known that option, we thought we would see more on the tour, oh well such is life.