For their first holiday as a couple in 17 years, Chris Mosler and her husband Huw set sail on an Eastern Med cruise – and came back new
I’m walking through the narrow, winding streets of Mykonos, and the bright pink bougainvillea against the white walls and blue- shuttered windows of shops and houses looks too perfect to be real. Each corner brings a new delight: a taverna with gingham tablecloths, an olive tree shading an inviting courtyard or an art gallery offering a cool retreat.
From the top of the hill the whole town is laid out before me, gleaming brightest white against the bluest sea; out in the bay the ship we have been calling home for the last week is at anchor. Not for the first time on this adventure I feel like I am on a film set. I can’t help myself and I burst into a medley of songs from Mamma Mia. It’s a good job none of my teenage children are with me.
Mykonos was our last port of call after a week at sea on Princess Cruises’ Island Princess. When my husband, Huw, and I boarded in Venice we were slightly nervous cruise virgins; by day six we were cruise converts who were contemplating barricading ourselves in our stateroom and refusing to leave. We have never had a ‘holiday’ together as such, always choosing to self cater with our four children. I am also used to being the organiser, so I think it took me about five minutes to sink into the delights of being looked after. Our well-appointed stateroom had been carefully prepared by Maurius, who was also on his first cruise and almost as excited as we were. The enormous bed with Egyptian cotton linen looked very inviting, as did the chocolate strawberries and Champagne.
Unpacking and hanging our clothes in the generous hanging space made me pause for thought – I wouldn’t be packing it all up again until we reached Greece.
A Martini in Crooner’s Bar, overlooking the astonishing three storey Atrium with its glass lifts and sparkle, followed by a trip across to Venice by water taxi, and I began to feel like an extra in a Bond film. The sights and sounds of Venice on an early summer evening were intoxicating; gondoliers plying their trade, Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square) buzzing with life, the sound of violins drifting on the air and all around me the sheer beauty of the city. We ate dinner in 300-year-old Ristorante Antico Martini and watched elegant Venetians spilling out of a performance of Madame Butterfly at Teatro La Fenice next door. As we strolled back to catch our water taxi to the ship I could feel all the cares of our working lives drifting away.
The next morning saw us sitting on our balcony eating fresh croissants and sipping tea, contemplating a trip to Venice in the rain. Many of our fellow passengers were zooming off on organised tours to visit the Murano Glass Factory or to take a gondola ride to the Doge’s Palace in the Piazza San Marco but we opted to spend the morning just meandering.
A rainy Venice was still breathtakingly beautiful and we dipped our toes into the busyness of St Marks’ and the Rialto Bridge before diving into the back streets and strolling along the small canals, eating pizza by the slice and taking shelter inside ancient churches. We were fascinated by the hubbub of daily life on the waterways. Ambulance, police and fireboats whizzed by, rubbish boats with onboard cranes ensured that the streets and canals remained relatively litter free, postal workers delivered the mail by boat and, of course, the gondoliers were cheerfully ferrying passengers around.
Back on board we snatched a quick game of table tennis before heading to the topmost deck of Island Princess for a glass of Champagne and enjoy the departure. Seeing Venice from 15 decks up was awe-inspiring; hundreds of years of history laid out before us as we sailed down the Grand Canal.