Over the years, I’ve travelled using everything from a plane to a rickshaw. But there’s one type of trip I’ve never tried, and that’s a cruise. My previous sailing experience is limited to cross-Channel ferries on childhood holidays to France and a few choppy boat rides that had me reaching for the sea-sickness pills – it’d be true to say I’m not a natural sailor! I’m also guilty of believing the stereotypes of cruising as being for OAPs and honeymooners, and definitely not for independent travellers like me. But how can you know if you’ve never tried it? So when Celebrity Cruises offered me the chance to report from one of their trips, I decided it was time to try it out myself. So I set sail this week on the plush Celebrity Equinox – a world away from those cross-Channel ferries. I’m taking my mum along with me, and as two total cruise virgins we’ll be getting our head around ship (not boat, that’s lesson number one) etiquette as well as tackling our cruise preconceptions, all while visiting some fantastic destinations around the Eastern Mediterranean.
We’ll be sailing on Celebrity’s Venice to Istanbul cruise, visiting Italy, Croatia, Greece and Turkey. I chose this route because it starts and finishes in cities I already know and love, but all the stops in between are new to me. The cruise leaves from Venice, which I’ve only visited once – about 15 years ago in the depths of misty midwinter – so I hope to get chance for a quick prosecco stop in Piazza San Marco before we set off. From Venice we follow the Adriatic coast south past Croatia’s islands on the way to our first stop in Dubrovnik. I briefly dipped into Croatia last year on my way to Montenegro, so look forward to getting a closer look at the city and some great views from Mount Srd and the city walls.
From Croatia we carry on south along the coast of Montenegro and Albania and on to Greece. My last and only previous trip to Greece was a girls’ holiday in Faliraki after leaving university (very classy I know!) so I’m more than overdue another visit. We have three different destinations to explore, starting off with the island of Corfu before moving on to Katakolon – gateway to Olympia, where the first Olympic Games took place. From there it’s on to our final Greek stop, the island of Santorini. This is probably the stop I’m looking forward to most, I’ve seen so many fantastic photos of the white caldera-side villages and blue-domed churches that I suspect I’ll need to pack an extra memory card for just this day.
Leaving Greece behind we head cross over to the Aegean coast of Turkey, where our first stop is at Kusadasi. As well as being as a beach resort, it’s also the gateway to the ruins of the ancient Roman city at Ephesus. Our final day’s sail takes us north along the Turkish coast and through the narrow straits of the Dardanelles to the city of Istanbul. I made a quick visit here for the Turkish Grand Prix a few years ago so look forward to revisiting some of the sights, like the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, as well as doing some shopping in the Grand Bazaar. Then it’s back home – to plan my next cruise if I’m as much of a convert as most cruisers seem to be. Though I’ll still be packing those seasickness pills just in case!
Have you ever been on a cruise? If so do you have any tips and tricks this cruise virgin should know about? And if not is it something you’d like to do? Or have you visited any of the destinations and have suggestions for what I should see and do while I’m there?