Sail away, sail away: A cruise holiday

Sail away, sail away: A cruise holiday

I was at work cleaning up the counter and pouring coffees when my boyfriend Jack poked his head around the corner, with a cheeky look on his face. I asked him what he was smiling about. “How would you feel about coming on a cruise?” he grinned.

Four months later and I was jetting off on a flight to Malta from Gatwick at six o’clock in the morning. I was powered by coffee, and couldn’t sleep because I was so excited. When the coach pulled up, Jack and his brother Joe were waving frantically at me from the top of the ship. I was the only one on the coach who had gasped when the Oceana (the ship) was in view.

This cruise was booked in celebration of Joe recovering healthily and happily from his heart operation. He has a rare condition which only six people have in the country, and sadly in September, he went under cardiac arrest. But with his happy-go-lucky attitude, quirky sense of humour and quiet determination, he made it through. It was therefore rightly dubbed ‘Joe’s cruise’, so we made sure to make it amazing for him. Jack’s family very kindly invited me on, so before I start, I just want to say a massive thanks to them – it was an absolute pleasure and privilege being a part of this.

We travelled to the most incredible places, all of which I’d never been to before. Malta, Corinth, Mykonos, Rhodes, Agios Nikolaos, then back round to Malta again.

In Corinth, we toured a museum and roamed around the remains of the ruined city. Bless the tour guide – she knew a hell of a lot of information, but she had the most monotonous voice which meant we all lost interest halfway through. This was made up for by the incredible buffet at the end, where I tried Baklava for the first time and ate approximately 7 vine leaves (aka my favourite nibbly food).

Mykonos was stunning. So many gorgeous little alleyways brimming with special little shops. I found the most beautiful jewellery shop, where as an early birthday present Jack kindly bought me a bracelet, made with silver symbols of prosperity and sparkly Greek opals.

Rhodes is a medieval town that relishes in its rustic charm, which worked in its favour in terms of its beauty. However, we sat down at a restaurant outside and a drunk man started singing. A waiter came out to shoo him off, but the drunk man pushed the waiter, so the waiter pushed him back. This man was heavy set so he tipped over and bashed his head. The waiter then proceeded to hit the drunk man on the floor while all us customers looked over in shock. In England an ambulance would have been called and arrests would have been made, but in Rhodes, the waiter was ‘let go’ and they lied about sending for medical help. We moved to another restaurant. Besides this, we all agreed Rhodes was a lovely place.

I had my heart absolutely set on going to Agios Nikolaos, as it looked the cutest in the brochure. I wasn’t wrong. A huge river reached across the little town, where we mooched around the shops and drank traditional Greek coffees which had me bouncing off the walls with its strength and sugar.

In terms of the cruise ship itself, I was constantly having to scoop my jaw off the floor. Everywhere you turned, there was a sprawling staircase or a hallway aglow with lights and paintings. The staff were professional yet thoughtful. There was always a personal touch to everything, whether it was chocolates left on the bed after the evening meal or the waiter knowing I secretly wanted two squares of focaccia even though I insisted on having one.

Joe was invited to The Bridge by the deputy captain, where all the officers navigate the ship. Beforehand we were told that one man had paid £5k in a charity auction to go there, and only a few crew members had been too, so we felt very privileged. Joe loved it. On one of the last days, I came up with the idea of buying a souvenir captain hat and getting the captain to sign it as a surprise, which Joe donned proudly at the dinner table.

I know you’ve scrolled this far because you want to know how good the food was. My goodness, it was just indescribable. Three courses every night. Vegetarian options eating out are often really rubbish, but the cruise chefs were really creative with flavours and even converted me to (good) mushrooms. Chickpea cake, ricotta and spinach ricciole, eight layered chocolate cake… My tins of beans at university somehow won’t compare! Even the local food at the ports was so fresh and delicious. Oodles of feta and vine leaves? Yes please.

I also really enjoyed getting glammed up every night. It did make me laugh that my ball gown was £13 in the sale for the black-tie night. But with the enchanting atmosphere and the wonder of being somewhere so special, I was so elated.

This is a holiday that I’ll always remember. Great food, brilliant company, and memories that won’t fade. When university gets stressful next year and the pressure gets a little bit too much, I can flick through the photos. I’ll lick my lips and taste the salt from the sea. I’ll touch my cheeks, glowing from the brilliant sun. I’ll feel the pure happiness, same as I had inside of me the whole week. If you’re able to go on a cruise I would really recommend it as a fantastic way to see lots of different places, while at the same time getting looked after in a beautiful and safe environment.

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