Florence Hotels Articles

August 11, 2010

Cruise travel: Pros and cons

A cruise is one of those types of vacation that I’ve always doubted as being for me, what with all that dressing for dinner and non-stop food.

Then of course, there’s the expense, or at least there was.

Then along came British company, Airtours with a clutch of refurbished ex-Caribbean cruisers offering vacations pitched firmly towards the traditional package-tour end of the market.

We booked an upper deck (outer) cabin. It was still the same twin bed layout as inner or lower cabins, but it had square windows instead of a porthole; and advantage of being further from the waterline. The other advantage (or some might think it was one) of an upper deck placement is proximity to the shop and main passenger loading point. It was a bit like having a hotel room directly off the lobby.

OK, so the main port was Palma, Majorca, and all the ports of call were in the Mediterranean, but it was a cruise; a chance to sample one without spending the next ten year’s beer money or the kids’ inheritance on it.

The itinerary was well thought-out. The only lengthy time at sea was the first leg from Palma to Ajaccio in Corsica.

In general, it seems that most cruise liners like to travel through nights, with a new port of call in the morning. Since this distance couldn’t be covered in 12 hours, the boat was the sole competitor in a slow bicycle race scheduled to take 36 hours instead, involving a lot of wallowing around in some surprisingly rough seas; even the Barbadian crew were looking a bit pale, especially when “your friendly Captain Olsen*” decided to heave-to (and boy did it heave) for boat drill.

* I’m sure he was the Swedish Chef in the Muppets

This also helped to cement in my mind the first of my “Why I Won’t Be Cruising Again” rules.

Being at sea during daylight is boring if you don’t like sunbathing and a non-stop round of eating.

To be fair, the food was plentiful, but only “OK” in standard; about the same as the “international cuisine” being served some 36 hours astern in Majorcan hotels.

Landing in Ajaccio is enchanting, and once moored, the bows of the boat are seemingly only a matter of yards from the main thoroughfare. Provision was made for a sightseeing tour with a lunch stop in the rugged hills of this picturesque island.

Evening was spent passing between Corsica and Sardinia.

The next days port of call was Livorno (I always think the English version, Leghorn sounds like a laboratory sheep), the nearest port to Florence,

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