Asen­ti­men­tal jour­ney

Smooth sail­ing into his­tory around the Greek Is­lands and Turkey

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Afloat -

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

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