Smooth sailing into history around the Greek Islands and Turkey
THE cruise liner Azamara Journey has barely left Piraeus, near Athens, for Mykonos, the first port of call on our week-long cruise of the Greek Islands and Turkey, when I get chatting to Dennis.
Over drinks at the al fresco Sunset Bar, which I have been quick to locate on Deck 9, the New Yorker tells me what has persuaded his family group to book this cruise.
‘ ‘ My daughter Stephanie’s a physician,’’ Dennis explains. ‘‘She’s always wanted to visit Kos, birthplace of the father of medicine. And while we’re on the subject of medicine, looks like you could use another of these excellent mojitos.’’
The mojitos are certainly excellent, but it’s fair to say they come as no great surprise even to someone like me who’s brand-new to ships such as this. I did know enough about cruise liners to have guessed there would be mojitos, along with such entertainments as the Win-ACruise Bingo sessions (Cabaret, Deck 5), the Brighten Your Smile seminars (Astral Spa, Deck 9), the Guess That Song get-togethers (Looking Glass Bar, Deck 10), and many of the other onboard activities, facilities and dining options that I read about in the Daily Schedule that awaits me each evening in my stateroom (Deck 6).
In my first few hours aboard a ship that takes some getting to know (Azamara Journey carries almost 700 passengers and runs to 11 decks), not much surprises me beyond the Purelle antiseptic hand-wash dispensers deployed at every eating area and exit to minimise the possibility of onboard contagion. And, of course, Dr Stephanie’s highbrow homage to the home of Hippocrates.
It is an early lesson that some fellow passengers, rather than devote the entire week to the likes of the pool and sun- lounger area ( Deck 9) or Casino Luxe’s slot machines (Deck 5), clearly have one eye on the shoregoing gangways (Deck 3).
Stephanie is not the only person, for example, on the trail of fabled birthplaces. At our Mykonos anchorage the following morning I run into an Australian couple barely able to contain their excitement at the prospect of joining the excursion to nearby Delos, the sacred ruin-strewn islet where the god Apollo supposedly was born.
Late one evening I even hear a fastidious Englishman asking if a crew member could find out it would be before the ship arrives off Samos and how close Azamara Journey would pass to the island. This retired mathematician means to fulfil a lifelong ambition of gazing on the home island of Pythagoras, even if it means setting his alarm clock to take in little more than a scattering of night lights across a dark sea.
US company Azamara Club Cruises has long enjoyed an enviable reputation for its onboard operations and in the course of my cruise the unfailing efficiency and warmth of the 400-plus crew, and the quality of the food and bar service — everything from snack stations, through smoothies and cocktails, to diverse and imaginative buffets as well as the ship’s two signature