I have just returned from a week cruise onboard the Ocean Village in the Mediterranean. Thankfully although the end of summer in the UK, the Med was still steaming hot so i return with a full belly (from all the lush food) and a nice tan!
We flew with Thomas Cook airlines and arrived in Palma at lunchtime. Everything went very well and ran smoothly. One thing to bear in mind is that Palma airport is huge, its a 15 minute walk to reclaim your luggage at Palma airport, so if you have walking difficulties speak to the rep and get a buggy ride to the baggage reclaim area. Once we have collected our bags we were met by an Ocean Village Rep who directed us to a fleet of buses ready and waiting to take us on the 20 minute ride to our ship.
This is when your adrenaline starts flowing - if you've never cruised before, the size of the ship takes your breath away. (Though admittedly its not the largest i have been on)
This was the last time we saw our luggage until we reached our cabin. Once we got off the bus we queued for a few minutes in the port building where we were given our cruise cards and register our credit card etc. From this moment on everything you pay for gets paid with your room card which in turn is deducted on the last day from your credit card. Anyway, by this time you could see that everyone was getting excited and couldnt wait to embark. Once past the photographer (who, believe me, you will encounter a lot on your cruise) it was a blast of alcohol gel on the hands (another thing you will get used to every time you go into a restaurant or gym on the ship) and up the gangway. This took us straight to deck 5 where the main reception area is. Ready and waiting were many stalls set up with information of various facilities. Here you could book your table at the Bistro or take leaflets for the Karma Spa etc.
We didnt actually get access to our cabin until 3pm so we spent the first 3 hours getting to know the ship, this in itself was a little tricky as we had to carry our hand luggage round with us. At 3pm to tannoy said our cabins were ready so off we went to find it. When we did we were really pleased, the cabins are massive. We booked a GG grade cabin on the lowest deck which is P deck. I was slightly concerned at first as i had always thought that the lower down you were on a ship, the noisier it would be due to engines etc - but I was very pleasantly suprised at the peace and quiet. The cabins are extremely spacious, plenty of storage space - even the shower is large enough for two people. I couldnt fault the maid service at all, our room was cleaned daily and i looked forward to the handmade biscuits we were left each day!!
The itinerary we covered was their 'Beaches & Basillicas' itinerary.
- Day 1: Fly Uk to Palma, Majorca
- Day 2: At sea
- Day 3: Tunis (La Goulette), Tunisia
- Day 4: Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy
- Day 5: Genoa, Italy
- Day 6: St Raphael, France
- Day 7: Barcelona, Spain
- Day 8: Palma, Majorca, Spain
The first evening when you set sail there is a sort of 'sailaway party' where they play music and everyone goes out on deck as the ship leaves port. Its quite nice and gives you a real buzzz to start the holiday off with.
Everyday you will bump into at least one of the ship's photgraphers whether you are coming down the gangway to spend the day in port, dining in the Bistro or watching the Moon show! Its free to get your photo taken and its always a good idea to just pose and smile. There's no obligation to buy, you simply take a look at the photos that go up in the gallery the day after and if you like any you can buy them, if not, no problem. We actually had about 9 photos taken and only one we liked (because the others were me without make-up and not a pretty sight!) it was about 8x10 inches and we had it framed all for £15 which i thought was an absolute bargain.
Waking up each day in a new place is a very exciting experience, i'm not using the type to wake up early and fling the curtains open but i just couldnt wait to see what each day brought. You usually get into port at around 7.30am daily and set sail again around 6pm although this varies from port to port and is usually outlined in more detail when you book. There's not much chance of forgetting anyway as you get a daily newsletter every evening which contains everything you need to know about the next day. Eg: where you dock, how long for, what the main sights are, local transport, any excursions, onboard entertainment, special offers, restaurant opening times - basically you name it, its in there! It always came in very handy, they even had a map of the port town with all the sights marked off if you were not joining an excursion.
The ship itself was great. Very comfortable and definately became a home from home while we were there. The staff were all very friendly and proffessional and you could tell they actually enjoyed their jobs. You never had to look far, when you needed a query answered there was always someone there to help. I'm not going to go into massive detail on the food, entertainment or excursions in this post as i'll do that next in detail on separate posts.
My only moan was that on our last day we had to be out of our cabin by 8.30am and our flight was not until 6.15pm which mean carrying your hand luggage around the ship with you all day. This meant it was difficult to get off ship and wander round Palma and equally as difficult to lay in the sun or swim due to needing a shower afterwards. There was no entertainment that day which meant time just dragged. We spoke to some other guests later that day who had been able to keep their cabin until 11am by tipping the maid 10euros and just asking her - i wish i had thought of this!
Overall it was a wonderful experience and very good value for money, we met many very nice people on the Ocean Village (and even bumped into an old neighbour!) and will certainly do it again. Thanks Ocean Village!
PS To view all my cruise photos click here!
Book Ocean Village here http://oceanvillage.idealcruising.co.uk/