As we move in to 2018, I thought this would be a great time to reflect on my cruise highlights from 2017. Last year I spent a total of 161 days on the P&O Cruises ship Oceana.
During the winter, we cruised around the Caribbean and north America and transited the Panama Canal. During the summer we were based out of Malta, visiting ports in Croatia, Italy, France and Greece. Here are some of my favourite memories from 2017.
Monaco Grand Prix 2017
Watching the Monaco Grand Prix live was one of my best cruise experiences. Tickets were organised through the ship’s excursions team and we picked up coaches from the port of Villefranche. We were shuttled in to the centre of Monaco and we had the day to soak up the electric atmosphere and watch the race. Luckily we took lots of sun protection and water, as the seating area was open and it was very hot! This was a once in a lifetime experience, never to be forgotten.
Panama Canal transit
I experienced my third Panama Canal transit in 2017. This major feat of engineering always amazes me. We had perfect weather and the ship made a smooth partial transit to drop off passengers on shore excursions. Then we came back through the canal and docked in Colon. This is always a busy day for my husband and the bridge team as it is a long and tricky transit. In 2016 I went ashore on a tour to the city of Panama, which I really enjoyed.
Hanging out with Eddie the Eagle
Eddie to Eagle happened to be one of the guest speakers during a Caribbean crossing. As Oceana is a medium sized ship (not too big), I often bumped in to Eddie out and about. His talk was fascinating and very funny. We also got to spend dinner with him one evening. He was such a lovely man and I would love to bump in to him on a cruise again. He has achieved so much and is a great example of someone with real determination and ambition.
An overnight in the Big Easy
New Orleans is one of my favourite US cruise ports, preceded only by Boston and New York. Last year we had three days in New Orleans, which meant we could go ashore in the evening. After sampling some traditional live jazz music, a group of us ate some traditional southern cuisine in a restaurant in the French Quarter. I had a combo, which included gumbo and jambalaya. I love the vibrancy of this city and it was great to see a different side to it at night.
An Italian gastronomic and cultural journey
I love doing tours ashore in Italy, but I find I don’t always have enough time to experience the nation’s famous cuisine. Last summer, I got to visit two cities on my bucket list – Verona and Bologna. The latter is the birthplace of bolognaise (or ragu) and tortellini and it is also close to the Parma ham and cheese region. It seemed only fitting that I sampled the delicious tortellini ragu when I was there!
Verona was another special experience and I had heard a lot about its beauty. I was blown away by this wonderful city, easy to reach from the port of Venice. It reminded me of the Venetian city, with its colourful architecture and bustling piazzas. It was great to visit the impressive amphitheatre and, of course, Juliet’s balcony. I would love to go to Verona again!
Falling in love with Greece
I love Greece and the Greek Islands are one of my favourite places to stop on a cruise. This year we docked at Heraklion, Katakolon, Mykonos and Piraeus. I loved the charm of Mykonos with its winding cobbled streets lined with whitewashed buildings. I really enjoyed visiting Olympia, birthplace of the Olympics. It was great to see the original running track and what is left of the first stadium.
I also ticked another item off my bucket list. Since reading Victoria Hislop’s The Island, I’ve always wanted to visit Spinalonga in Crete. I finally got to explore this tiny island, accessible only by boat. I was able to see in person, the landmarks Hislop wrote about in her book.
Cruising from Malta
In the summer, Oceana had her weekly turnaround in Malta. We spent a week on this pretty island before joining the ship, so I got to know it pretty well. There are pros and cons to being based in Malta. Valletta is a lovely city and the island is easy to explore in a day BUT it was very, very hot! A weekly turnaround was great as it meant the ship could alternate her itineraries easily and there were a limited number of sea days. The flight to Malta from the UK takes less than four hours, so you don’t suffer jetlag.
Making new friends
Every time we join a ship, the officers and crew are always friendly and welcoming. I’m happy to say that this was also true on Oceana. I often have to venture ashore on my own, but it was great to make new friends who took me under their wing and welcomed me in to their friendship groups. This year saw me make new friends and renew friendships with old ones.
You can find out more about the destinations I have been to, on the Port Guides section of my website.
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