Cruising From Malta, Part Two

Day 3 – Saturday – Mykonos

I woke up and saw that it was a couple of minutes before six, and the sun was shining, the sky was cloudless and the sea like a mirror. We were passing several small islands and as I lay there for a bit enjoying the view, I decided to try the internet as it had been down all yesterday afternoon and evening and, joy of joys, it was back. So, I indulged in a couple of posts on GP, sorted out a load of crap emails and answered a couple of messages while still in bed. It was still too early to get up, so I read my Jack Reacher book for a bit. Something is definitely wrong; I am more than 10% into the book and he hasn’t maimed or killed anyone yet.

I noticed we were coming into dock, so I nipped out on the balcony for an early morning picture of Mykonos just as we were going sideways into the cruise terminal (the small building on the dockside). No rush to do anything today as I have cancelled my excursion as it has been changed to include 1 1/2 hours walking round Mykonos town in the afternoon sun instead of a coach tour. I was not alone in cancelling and will be getting a full refund. Instead, I get the shuttle bus and have a stroll and a cold beer and be back in time for lunch before it gets too hot.

WorthingGooner, Going Postal
Early morning docking at Mykonos.
© WorthingGooner 2024, Going Postal

Down to breakfast in the MDR. I was there just before eight and asked to be put on a sharing table. I was shown to an eight by the window and was first, so I took the best seat with a view out of the window and across the room. I had sorted what I was going to order and enjoying my first cup of coffee when three old ladies were shown to the table, I don’t think any of them were under eighty. But they were quickly followed by two couples. The pair who sat next to me had flown to Malta from Belfast and had what I would call educated Belfast accents, not the harsh accents some from Belfast have. The lady next to me was delighted when I asked what part of Belfast she was from and wanted to know how I knew the accent. I explained I had work there for a year as an apprentice, many years ago.

So, it was time to order breakfast as the waiter worked his way around the table starting with the old ladies who were all hard of hearing and with his Indian accent it was quite funny, “I’ll start with yogurt, please.” “Fruit or plain, Madam?” “No, I don’t want fruit I want yogurt.” “Yes, but what flavour yogurt would you like, plain or fruit?” “Yesterday, I had plain yogurt with strawberries in it.” “Would Madam like the same today?” “Can I have plain yogurt with strawberries in it?” “Of course, Madam, strawberry fruit yogurt.” And so, it went on, it was like an episode of Fawlty Towers.

I think he was quite relieved when he got to me, and I had Rice Krispies and a P&O breakfast. For those of you who are wondering, a P&O breakfast is essentially a Full English, egg, bacon, sausage, hash browns, black pudding and grilled tomato. But you can add anything that’s on the menu like beans or mushrooms or an extra egg or sausage. It’s a nice start to the day. The old ladies had flown from Manchester, I bet it was fun on their flight.

Right, I’m off for a run into town before it gets too hot. Well, I’m safely back on board after taking the free shuttle bus into town and having a little wander to the nearest bar. It was absolutely scorching out of the air-conditioned bus, so I wasn’t going to do a lot of exploring. But sitting under an awning with a cold beer, watching the world go by was perfect for a while. Eventually, I dragged myself back to the shuttle bus pick-up in a big car park and headed back to the ship in plenty of time for lunch!

I decided that I would have a slight change of lunch today, so I had a burger instead of a hot dog and very nice it was too. I understand they make their own burgers on board, and it is clearly worth the effort as it is very good with a load of fresh salad. Of course, I washed it all down with a nice cold beer before retiring to my balcony to update this ‘epistle to the GP Puffins’, catch up on Jack Reacher (two dead and four maimed so far) and watch the people coming back from trips and queuing in the hot sun to get back on board ship.

WorthingGooner, Going Postal
The nearest Mykonos beach was within walking distance.
© WorthingGooner 2024, Going Postal

It’s a casual evening tonight so there is no need to get dressed up to the nines tonight. It’s my birthday day on Thursday when we are back in Valletta for a change over day, so I have been pondering booking to eat in the Epicurean that evening. But I don’t want to eat alone, so I decided to invite Gary and Hanna, who share the table in the MDR with me. When I got down to dinner, Gary was already there, so I broached the idea with him. I am happy to pay the supplement for all three of us from the extra Cabin Credit I get from being a Carnival (P&O’s parent company) shareholder.

One problem, Hanna didn’t come down to dinner, but Gary was more than happy to join me. I decided we would book for three and if Hanna wasn’t interested we would change the booking to two instead of three. The next problem was the P&O booking app said only 21:15 was available and we both thought that was a little late. So, I said I would go to the Epicurean after dinner and make the booking in person. Another lovely dinner, pumpkin soup, followed by chicken Milanese and then sticky toffee pudding with custard and ice cream.

After my coffee, I took the lift to the Epicurean, which is on Deck 16, directly above the MDR, which is on Deck 6. I’m buggered if I am going to walk that far up the stairs, even if there is no Deck 13! As a result, we have a table for three booked for 20:15 on Thursday. I don’t know if it is Menu A or Menu B, they alternate weekly, but I don’t really care as they are both excellent. I only hope Hanna turns up for dinner tomorrow.

Day 4 – Sunday – Souba Bay, Crete

Souba Bay is one of those natural harbours that has been fought over for centuries. Today, as well as a commercial port and cruise port the Greek navy has a home port there as does NATO. I understand that the NATO port is large enough and the water deep enough to accommodate the US’s nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. Consequently, we were a little bit later than expected docking this morning as we had to give way to a small Greek warship that was coming out of the inlet to the bay.

I was not in a mad rush as my morning excursion, ‘Leisurely Souba Bay,’ wasn’t leaving until 08:45. That left them plenty of time to get the gangway sorted out, and for me to have breakfast. Although not enough time to eat in the MDR, so I made for the dreaded buffet. I could see it was busy as soon as I walked in, and it was then that I remembered that P&O buffets no longer have trays. What kind of an idiot decided that they could save money by not offering trays beats me, but it means that if you want cereal, a fried breakfast, toast, butter, marmalade and coffee, you must make several trips to the buffet as you only have two hands.

I grabbed a spoon and a little box of Rice Krispies, tipped them in a bowl and added milk from a huge dispenser. The next question was, do I want to get a fry up and let it get cold or a mug of coffee as it’s one or the other? I opted for coffee and went to find a table. By walking further down the buffet, I came to a quiet area, everyone is clustered around the area serving food and they don’t seem to want to walk a few yards. I found a nice window table and ate my Rice Krispies and drunk some coffee. Now comes the more difficult bit, getting the fry up without the hovering table clearer swiping the remains of your coffee. I made it back with a fried egg, bacon, sausage, fried bread and a hash brown plus a bonus glass of ice-cold water for my pills, before the coffee was cleared. But the egg was hard and the bacon cold, the hash brown indifferent, the fried bread was good and the sausage OK. If I was served that in the MDR, I would have sent it back.

I was on my tour bus ten minutes early and we left on time with a guide who spoke excellent English. First stop was twenty minutes at a fort up in the hills overlooking and protecting the entrance to the bay. Fabulous views but 20 minutes out in the blistering sun was plenty for me. The coach continued its journey up into a tiny village (population 100) in the White Mountains that run along the spine of Crete. I wouldn’t have wanted to drive my little C3 up some of the roads we went up in a coach. We halted at a tavern for a much-needed cold drink and we were offered a tiny cheese pastie with local honey on it. Thankfully, I can’t eat cheese, so I had a good reason to refuse what nearly everyone else said was a disgusting combination.

WorthingGooner, Going Postal
Souba Bay Naval Base.
© WorthingGooner 2024, Going Postal

The third stop was the Commonwealth Graves Commission cemetery where there are the graves of 1,400 British and Commonwealth military killed in the First and Second World Wars. It is a wonderfully kept cemetery, as are all Commonwealth Graves Commission cemeteries and very moving to see that they were nearly all in their late teens and early twenties. The final stop was the grave of a local man who had fought to get Crete joined to Greece and was later Greek Prime Minister. In all honesty, the CWGC cemetery was more inspiring and better kept.

WorthingGooner, Going Postal
The immaculate War Cemetery.
© WorthingGooner 2024, Going Postal

Back to the ship just before lunch, so it was up to the Lido Deck for a burger, Chips and a very large very cold Pepsi Max and a sit in the shade, it is roasting out in the sun. I suspect there are going to be a few sore bodies this evening. A restful afternoon on the balcony catching up on this diary/postcard/whatever, snoozing and reading. I have finished the Jack Reacher and had to decide what to read next. I settled on Robert Galbraith’s (J K Rowling by another name) latest in paperback. So far I’m enjoying it.

And so, to dinner, once again it’s just Gary the Aussie and me, I wonder if Hanna didn’t like our company? Anyway, a most enjoyable meal, I had pate as my starter served with very thin slivers of toast. I chose breaded plaice for the main course, and it was delicious. It came with chips and mushy peas. My choice of dessert this evening was a black cherry cake and, of course, ice cream to help it down.

I was heading for my normal nightcap in the Planet Bar when I remembered the England footie was on the TVs in Brodies Bar, so I headed there. It was rammed and a local announcement was made it was also going to be shown on the giant screen by one of the pools. I found a seat there and waiters were passing around for drinks orders. There was an enormous cheer when England scored and in the first half they could have had more goals. But it didn’t look like the same team in the second half, but they managed to hang on for a one-nil win. And so to bed.

Day 5 Monday – Piraeus, Greece

As you all probably know Piraeus is the port of Athens and nowadays part of the Athens metropolitan area. The Metro (tram) line starts in Piraeus and runs diagonally through Athens terminating at the airport on the far side. The only problem is the starting point is about a mile from the port, which is a long walk when it is 40°C in the early morning. I have chosen to do an afternoon coach excursion called “Easy Athens”. I booked this months ago without knowing just how hot it was going to be here. Thank goodness I wasn’t here last week when it reached 45° and sites were closed because it was too hot.

We were already docked at the cruise terminal when I woke six this morning. The sun was up, and it looked very warm, so I went back to sleep for another hour. As we are in port, breakfast in the Main Dining Room is from 07:00 to 09:00, it opens and closes half an hour later on sea days. I suppose it was about 07:45 when I got to the MDR which was amazingly only about a quarter full. As I have mentioned before, the best route from my cabin to the MDR is straight through the buffet and it was heaving, so I was pleasantly surprised it wasn’t busy. Why people prefer to eat in the buffet beats me.

I was first on a sharing table for eight and was quickly joined by seven others. Service was prompt and, as usual, I started with Rice Krispies and followed up with a mushroom omelette and bacon. As usual, I was asked how I got an omelette when it is not on the menu. The answer is simple, you just ask, if it is busy they may say no, but 99 times out of 100 you will get it.

I retired to my balcony as my trip isn’t until two this afternoon. It was lovely sitting in the sun reading before it got a little warm and I moved over into the shade. I had an early lunch, just a burger and a couple of glasses of cold water, before heading ashore. A well-signed walk through the cruise terminal and out the other side to where a local employee was directing people to their coaches. Well, the poor girl’s English left a lot to be desired and everyone was asking, “What did she say?” In the end, we all headed for the coach park and sorted ourselves onto the right coaches.

Fortunately, the courier on the coach spoke excellent English and off we went. First, a photo stop for the harbour. Not exactly very scenic, then a run into Athens with what seemed like endless traffic lights. In the end we got to see the Parthenon, the Acropolis, the Plaka, Hadrian’s Gate, and several other ruins. Fortunately, there wasn’t too much walking as it was very hot. On the way back we passed the Nike stadium. Nothing to do with the shoes but another antiquity built entirely of marble. All aboard time was 17:30 and we got back to the ship at 17:20 but several coaches were behind us.

WorthingGooner, Going Postal
The Acropolis.
© WorthingGooner 2024, Going Postal

I had plenty of time for a much-needed shower before dinner. Once again, no Hanna, but Gary is decent enough to chat to over dinner. Tonight, the soup was a choice of French onion or tortilla. Having had both before on other P&O ships, I know the tortilla is highly spiced and very hot in a spicy way. So, I had the French onion, while Gary said he was going to try the tortilla, so I warned him, and he said he liked spicy things. Halfway through the bowl, he was red in the face and calling for another glass of iced water. I had roast loin of pork for the main and it was delicious. Dessert was a chocolate brownie which benefited from having vanilla ice cream with it as it might have been a bit claggy otherwise. Up to the Planet Bar for my nightcap. The waiter saw me come in and was straight over saying, “Vodka and lemonade, Sir?” I am becoming predictable.

Day 6 Tuesday – Santorini, Greece

It was about 06:45 when I woke, and we were slowly entering the vast bay of Santorini. It is actually the flooded remains of a volcano’s caldera and the five islands that make up the Santorini group, were at one time all one islands before the volcano exploded in the Bronze Age and the sea broke through flooding the caldera (or depression in the middle). The captain said on the Tannoy that the water is too deep to anchor so we will be drifting about a bit today using the engines and side thrusters to keep us on the spot.

WorthingGooner, Going Postal
Adrift in the Caldera at Santorini.
© WorthingGooner 2024, Going Postal

I am on a coach excursion this morning, but it is timed for 09:15 so there is plenty of time for breakfast in the MDR. One slight snag, because we are not docking its tenders to the ferry port and that means that I must be in the theatre at 08:45 to get a tender ticket for my trip. I was in the MDR in plenty of time to have my Rice Krispies, but it was an onion omelette this morning, I must have eaten them out of mushrooms! It was a very large tender taking 250 over to the dock where the coaches were waiting. A drag up the hairpin road to the top of the cliff and then off to a viewpoint on the southwest of the island for a photo stop. Next stop was a winery to try the local stuff. I had the local white and it tasted OK to me, but I am no expert. On to the highest point of the island at 583 metres with a view over the north coast and the airport.

WorthingGooner, Going Postal
The view from the winery.
© WorthingGooner 2024, Going Postal

Then down to one of the island’s few beaches on the north side of the island, not bad, but it’s black volcanic sand. Not much to do here except to buy an ice cream and sit in the sun for quarter of an hour. Then it’s back to the ferry port for the tender back to the ship and lunch. I must be lucky because most of the other trips have ended in the main town (Fira) port, meaning a walk down the 588 steps of the donkey trail or a long wait for the cable car. I was back in time for lunch (hot dog with onions and chips) but most importantly a cool pint of Doom Bar.

It’s much too hot for me to sit around the pool, but my balcony is in the shade today. I think I might go and read and have a snooze until it’s time to shower. Today is another black-tie evening, except I think I will put on my electric blue bow tie. I think I will take my time getting ready, otherwise I’ll be all hot and bothered. The Main Dining Room was very empty this evening, our waiter only had two occupied tables in his section, Gary and me on one table and three people on another, so they pinched his assistant waiter to go and help in the buffet where it was madly busy. Our waiter said that it was quiet because many people were only on for a week and didn’t bother to bring formal gear with them.

WorthingGooner, Going Postal
Can you see the winery on the clifftop?
© WorthingGooner 2024, Going Postal

Anyway, the meal this evening was excellent. I started with an amuse bouche, very oniony. Then a small smoked salmon starter. I skipped the soup and when directly to the main course, beef medallions. I asked for medium rare but apparently they were only available as medium or well done, so I had the medium and it was superb, tender and tasty. Now I know where all the mushrooms have gone so that I couldn’t have a mushroom omelette at breakfast, they are being served as a side for the beef, and very nice they were too. For dessert I chose lemon tart with an extra serving of ice cream. An absolutely excellent meal.

All Photos were taken by WorthingGooner and are his copyright.

In Part 3 – Back to Malta

© text & images WorthingGooner 2024