Friday, 25 June 2010


Day Nine - Wednesday 23 June 2010

I was out on deck just after 6:00am today to see the ship berth at Mykonos. I was greeted by a typically Greek scene of white buildings set into rocky hillsides, all set against a backdrop of blue Agean waters.

After breakfast we headed into Mykonos to see what it had to offer. Lots at white buildings, many with blue doors and window shutters set in narrow streets and lanes: shops at street level and dwellings above. Parts of the shore had traditional Greek tavernas and cafes with waves crashing nearby and water lapping across the floor. Every so often we'd come across a church building, usually quite small,in amongst the other buildings.



Day Eight - Tuesday 22 June 2010

We were due to spend all day today (until 4:00 pm) sailing to Santorini but unfortunately, due to windy conditions in the caldera, it would have been unsafe to operate tenders. There were also bad conditions on the island itself: high winds had put the cable cars off and heavy rain had made paths unsafe for use. We therefore were unable to visit Santorini which was disappointing but I'm sure everyone knows the decision was taken based on safety and comfort for all.

This meant a whole day on the ship which we hadn't bargained for but it wasn't a problem. We just ate some more........ It was actually quite nice having a restful day where weren't on the go and coping with the heat.

We took an early dinner as there was a Harry Potter film on in the Crystal Atrium that the girls wanted to see. I started watching it but left part-way through to go and take sunset pictures. I returned in time to see the end of the film with some nice shots bagged!

I sat watching some football for a short while before retiring.


Day Seven - Monday 21 June 2010

We berthed at Corfu at about 8:00am today and after breakfast ventured down the gang plank to explore, pausing to take a few shots of the ship, as we made our way to the dockside exit.

I'm well aware that cruise ships very often arrive at an industrial/commercial dock, in an area which may be less than attractive and being on foot, we saw that part of Corfu all too plainly as we walked towards the centre of Corfu town: very old cars; run-down buildings and a general feel of disrepair.Having said all that, there did appear to be some new building going on.

Just as we were nearing the town centre, the heavens opened and we had a down-pour that lasted a good twenty minutes. After sheltering in an alley way between shops for a bit, we ventured onward and came across the Corfu branch of Marks & Spencer, here Jamie finally found his "Holiday Hat"! With the rain still falling, we took refuge in a cafe before heading on to some much nicer and more traditional looking surroundings. We also came across some sort of civic or local government event, complee with brass band (wearing brass helmets) and plenty of the local constabulary.

A few more photos and back to the ship for lunch just as the sun was reaching that real middle of the day HOT.

Back on-board after the mandatory hand-wash and airport-style security check we took lunch in the Garden Cafe (indoor section) then had quiet afternoon enjoying the facilities Gem has to offer.

Dinner tonight was Mexican, complete with Margaritas ~ one small strawberry one complements of NCL then a standard sized raspberry one. Very nice. The show tonight was a tribute to seventies music and it was an OK mix of music and dance.The journey had been getting noticeably "rocky" as the evening passed and the dancers did well to heap their footing as the gentle roll of the ship became a bit more challenging making it difficut to walk in a straight line.


Day Six - Sunday 20 June 2010

I slept pretty well in a cabin (NCL refer to them as state rooms) that was more spacious than I thought it would have been. I don't think my room-mate slept so well, thanks to my snoring, which he had been warned about on several occasions - and not just by me!

We were now at anchor, just off Split, Croatia on a bright, warm and sunny morning. We breakfasted in the outdoor dining area at the aft end of deck twelve, where we had plenty of variety to make a breakfast to build any day on!

Transfer to Split was by tender from the starboard side of Gem, and what a choppy trip that was: not Unpleasant and less than ten minutes duration.Split was quite a mix of old and new, Diocletian's Palace dominating the facade at the thoroughfare some at the palace remains in use to this day for market traders and small shops.

The departing from Split offend some good photo opportunities along its coastline before me headed off on the journey to Corfu.

Dinner this evening was in the Grand Pacific Dining Room, a twenties/thirties styled restaurant with views out of the stern via large appropriately styled windows.Tonight's show, "Uber Rossi" was mildly funny although not really the mix of comedy and acrobatics suggested. Some of his humorous content was fairly amusing, but Rossi's acrobatic skills were less than "Uber", being pretty much limited to one armed hand-stands.Not that I'm suggesting could have done any better, but I don't promote myself as an acrobatics/comedy fusion act.

A stroll around the upper decks for some fresh air and a quick supper bite brought the day to an end as we cruised on to Corfu on a mildly choppy sea, with only a gentle roll reminding us we were aboard a ship. This became a little more noticeable as the night progressed but never reaching he dramatic stage!

Monday, 21 June 2010

Ship Day

Day Five - Saturday 19 June 2010

Up early for a swift breakfast the pack the car to return it to the airport before getting the bus to Venice to pick up our ship: the" Norwegian Gem". We used a new "People Mover" - small driverless train not unlike London's Docklands trains - to get from Plazza Roma to the quayside.

The cruise check-in process was fine and done by a guy from Grangemouth! However the following wait to embark was a bit of a bind but we soon boarded and had lunch.

"Norwegian Gem", around three years old, is a vast ship although only about half the tonnage of newer, similar vessels at 92500 tons. A total of fourteen decks provides no end of facilities for guests on board and also serves as "home" for the crew and staff. Eating can be a 24/7 experience if you wish and all tastes are catered for with cuisine from all corners of the world.
Although the ship calls at a new port each day there's more than plenty to do on board. I'm finding I have to keep reminding myself I'm on a "boat. So far there has been little sign of the motion usually experienced on smaller ships.

This evening, after dinner (we were lucky enough to get a table by a nice large window looking out over the Adriatic as we sailed towards Croatia) I was given a guided tour of the ship by the Quins, who had been on her a couple at yeas ago. We ended the evening by standing on the fourteenth deck watching another spectacular lightning show somewhere off to the north, after havig been to see the firt night offering in the theatre. I'm not sure of its capacity but it's a full sized, tiered auditorium that looks to have in excess of five hundred seats.

After enough stay watching I spent a few minutes in the bridge observation room. Although the screens were drawn, preventing a view of the bridge itself, the observation room has duplicates of the radar and helm instruments readouts, which were right up my street for eye-balling!

Bed time "My first night sleeping aboard a ship....."

I slept pretty well in a cabin (NCL refer to them as state rooms) that was more spacious than I thought it would have been. I don't think my room-mate slept so well, thanks to my snoring, which he had been warned about on several occasions - and not just by me!


Day Four - Friday 18 June 2010

Another day awaking to pouring rain but with this our last chance to spend time in Venice, we stuck with our plan for the day: a quiet morning the a drive into Venice to explore this famous city.

At to about an hour's drive we arrived in Venice and managed tofairly easily find a parking place in a serviced multi-storeya few hundred yards from a water bus stop. from here, we boarded a very busy water bus our next stop St. MarK's Square.

The water bus was a good opportunity to get a good look at Venice: the canals; buildings; boats and Gondolas. Most of the Gondolas we saw were very well kept, although some did look rather funereal! The buildings were all I expected of them and more. One of the most striking aspects of walking around Venice was its ability to surprise. Waiting through narrow streets and alleys would suddenly give my tohuge open squares with ever more impressive buildings. Unfortunately theBridge of Sighs is undergoing extensive renovation and restoration work so only a small part of it was visible though its tarpaulins. This was one of the structures z had particularly wanted the photograph butit wasn't to be on this trip. Ah well, a good excuse to go back soon! We crossed the Rialto Bridge and paused to take some pictures from it before continuing our waltz back to Piazza Roma and the car. A very modern bridge stands near the waterbus stop for Plazza Roma, in stark contrast to the buildings and bridges nearby.

Back to the car, out of Venice - after paying ow twenty-sixEuro parting fee - and heading for air last night at Lido de Jesolo.After a quick "reviver" we squared the place up ready for departure in the morning then headed off for our evening meal. After eating we had a quiet night to be ready for on early rise on "Ship Day".

Lake Garda

Day Three Thursday 17 June 2010

Today's plan - head for Lake Garda. after a light breakfast we headed out onto the Italian highways, en route for the south end of Lake Garda.

When we left, it was a bright, sunny, pleasant morning as we headed for the A4 - the Autostrada route for a quick journey to our destination for the day. As me travelled we could see ominous black clouds in the distance and it wasn't long before our bright day became dark and dismal with HEAVY rain! This was no ordinary down-pour. It was torrential, with bursts of thunder & lightning and rain so heavy it reduced visibility horribly. I've never been so glad I wasn't driving!

After a bit the rain and skies lightened and we had a bit of blue sky but by the time we reached Peschiera on Lake Garda the rain was back! We had a quick look at the lake but as the visibility was still very poor it was difficult to appreciate its grandeur and beauty, so we went for lunch - courtesy of Ronald McDonald. By the time we had eaten, the weather had improved so we decided to drive a little way up the lake's east coast, to a place called Lazise - an historic and picturesque little town perched on the eastern shores of Lake Garda. The water was pretty choppy with enough splashing at the water's edge to dampen us dowm again after the sun had raised our spirits.

We had a bit of a walk around and saw a few nice buildings then paused for ice-cream and coffee - a tiramisu inspired ice-cream for me and assorted other exotic flavours for the Quins. For the second day running our consumption of ice-cream seemed to have a favourable effect on the weather, with clear skies and hot sunshine appearing. But, it was time to take to the highways again and make our way back to Lido de Jesolo.

After Claire and Orla had a quick swim we walked along to the nearest village for our evening meal -"Yes", you guessed it: more pizza and chips! Repetitive but highly acceptable! After stocking up on a few "evening provisions" we made our way back to the lodge for tea, cards and 'snashters'.


Day Two - Wednesday 16th June 2010

It was torrential throughout the night although some blue sky tried to get through this morning. However, those attempts were to be in vain. We ventured out to find a supermarket to buy some provisions for the next few days and found a couple of places that met our requirements. But by 10:00am as we left the shop car park, the rain was back, accompanied by some impressively loud thunder. We had lunch to a background of heavy rain drumming on the roof and windows, punctuated by more peels of thunder.

Siesta time!

After resting for an hour or so and waiting to see what the weather would do, we cashed-in on a break in the clouds to stroll to the beach. Our first glimpse of the Adriatic, the Gulf of Venice to be exact, was to be a short one as the rain returned to chase us back indoors.

Not to be daunted by a simple thing like rain, we ventured out to explore the immediate county side and close-by small towns, ending up in a rather picturesque little place called Caorle which had a mix of old and new with some very colourful buildings and proper, hot, northern Italian sun! After strolling around for an hour or so taking in the sites and photographing some of the more interesting features of the town, we made our way back to our digs. The sun was still shining so we ventured back to the beach for some sand castle building before returning for our evening meal.

We ate on the patio this evening and enjoyed a relaxing seat in the evening warmth but were unfortunately chased in early by the local flying insect life: cards again, but I gave up early as tiredness began to get the better of me.

Flying Today

DAY ONE - Tuesday 15 June 2010

Breakfast at the Premiere Inn this morning at Gatwick was a good chance to stoke our personal furnaces for the day. After a bowl of fresh fruit with yoghurt and oat clusters it was a hearty plate of scrambled egg, sausage, bacon and mushroom with a couple of slices of malted wholegrain bread and a glass of apple juice - the clear variety; I'm really not that keen on the cloudy stuff. All self service, buffet style, eat as much as you like. Ideal!

Hiccup number one came in the shape of a broken-down airport/hotel shuttle bus but this was sorted fairly swiftly with the arrival of a replacement bus. Baggage check-in (we'd already checked ourselves in online) was nice and straight-forward, as was going through security. Airside was the usual mix of browsing shops and waiting. It was also where we learned of the French air traffic controllers strike - how surprising: hiccup number two! This resulted in a late departure and an altered flight-plan which routed us over: Belgium; Germany and Austria, instead of a more direct route over-flying France, before arriving at Venice Marco Polo Airport about one hour behind schedule. Not too bad, all things considered! Passport control and baggage reclaim Were swift and incident free.

Was there to be a third hiccup? "Oh yes", as the famous insurance-advertising dog would say! This particular challenge came in the shape of a VW Polo! Despite arranging a Golf or Focus sized hire car, we ended-up with a Polo! Now, the current VW Polo is a good bit larger than its predescesors but three adults, two children and associated baggage was certainly going to stretch this little German vehicle's abilities. However, after some minor (reversible) alterations and much 'packing-in of stuff', it was onwards to the Italian roads. Of course we're all aware of that old adage of pushy, wreckless Italian drivers but I don't think any of as were aware of just what crazy risks they take. Even travelling at the 70km per hour speed limit, maniacs would fly past us on single carriageway roads, usually into the face of equally fast travelling, on-coming traffic. It also wasn't that unusual to be the road-user who was meeting fast travelling, on-coming traffic! Fun, fun, fun. Jamie, the designated driver in the party - for this journey anyway - coped admirably, especially as he had the added woe of contending with some rather dubious navigational Instructions, not to mention a new roundabout that hadn't made it onto the maps yet!

We got settled in at our accommodation and ventured off for something to eat. Pizza all round - we are in Italy after all! A small side order of chips completed the meal - we are west coast Scots after all! Back to our lodge - home until Saturday - for a glass wine, a cup of tea and a game of cards.

And so the bed.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Updates from Tomorrow

I've not really had the opportunity to post entries this week - as I suspected may have been the case - but once on board the ship tomorrow I'll be making amends.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Lido de Jesolo

Well here we are. Night one in Italy. Travel was OK although we did have a delay of about an hour thanks to French air traffic controllers. Got a few good views from the flight including the English Channel, French Ports, Belgian and German countryside and the Austrian Alps. The final approach to Venice gave me first glimpse of the lagoon in which the city of Venice sits. Very strange to see buildings and roads sitting in amongst do much water

Just had a quiet evening in after a quick bite to eat. Tomorrow is either Venice or Lake Garda.

Some flight pics will appear here in due course.

Monday, 14 June 2010


Arrived at London Gatwick at tea-time and met up with my holiday companions.

We had a catch up and a bite to eat then it was off for a restful night.

Leave tomorrow lunchtime for Venice.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

The Final Countdown

By this time tomorrow I should be on final approach to Gatwick. Never flown into Gatwick before so not sure if we'll overfly the centre of London or not. Of course, it all depends on tomorrow's approach routes I suppose.

My holiday companions started their journey this morning and are already in the London area. We'll meet up tomorrow evening for drinks a blether.

My reactolites seem to be working well az we actually had some decent dun here the last couple of days. I'm pretty impressed with them really. Done most of my packing but still need to check the weight.......

To everyone who has taken the time to post comments, sorry they've been invisible until now. I have now sorted that out so any comments posted now should appear straight away.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Friday Night

Well that's work over until the first of July. Finally got my Croatian Kanus from the PO today. They had to re-order them. I reckon someone must have given "mine" to someone else.

Also picked up my new specs today, including one pair of reactolites. Just need some sun now to see how dark they go. Mind you - too late now......

Phase one of the packing is complete too as is my selection of camera gear.

I feel pretty well prepared so far but I'm sure something will come along to cause a hassle!

Don't forget to keep dropping by: this is the exciting bit coming. And where are all those comments?

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Lazy Night

Well, despite being full of great ideas to start preparing all my bits and pieces for taking away tonight, I've pretty much done nothing. There's always tomorrow and the weekend.

Went to the post office today to pick up my Croation Kanus to be told that no one could find them....... Apparently the girl who was on duty when they were delivered wasn't around to say why they weren't where they should have been. Back to the PO tomorrow.

Tomorrow is also "Collect Specs Day" which is always an exciting thing.

Not Long Now

Splashed out a huge £7 on a Straw Panama last night from Asda Govan. Still need something a bit more casual too though.

I did my online flight check-in tonight which made the trip all feel much more real.

Next task is to decide on what camera gear to take with me. At least one DSLR body and a couple of lenses, plus the usual bits and pieces of flash and filters and the like. No tripod, so might get mother to make me a bean-bag. I'll also have my little waterproof compact with me for snapshots. Also need a laptop to download cards to. I really hope there's more than one socket in the cabin for charging batteries etc.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Hat Woes!

Got the cash sorted out courtesy of a very helpful chap a the post office. About seven minutes after arriving I left with my Euros in my hand and a receipt for Croation Kanus to be collected later in the week. Have I enough, or too much......... There's always those magic little pieces of plastic.

Anyway, bunnets! Have you any idea how much a simple Panama Hat costs? Maybe I'm looking in the wrong places, but the wrong side of £40 in most cases: a bit more than I'd intended on paying for something I'll probably wear for less than two weeks! So, the hunt continues. I also need something a bit more casual, how about one of those French Foreign Legion style things? Maybe I need to find a proper hat shop!

What other stuff do I need to sort out this week? Sun protection gunge; power adaptors so I can charge my various gadgetry from the ships American-style power outlets - can't live without my gadgets - and maybe another pair of shoes?

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Got Them.......

Well nearly.

I finally visited the optician today and got a clean bill of "eye" health. But, more importantly, a pair of eye protecting sun specs was ordered. They've promised to have them ready before I leave. Let's see how good thay are at keeping up to their promises.

I was going to have secured some currency today too but that slipped off the end of my "to-do" list. Maybe Saturday!

Next on the purchase list is some suitable head-gear: perhaps a cool looking Panama? Not a big fan of hats but sun protection is a MUST.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Still No Shades!

I had intended to have been to the opticians by now to get new specs and a pair of prescription sunglasses. Haven't done it yet! I reckon if I don't get it sorted tomorrow I'll be walking around on holiday with screwed-up eyes.

Need to get a suitable hat too..........

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

A Real Departure

As I've broken entirely with my own habit of not really venturing off into the distance at holiday times, I decided to record it all here, for everyone to see.

Last August/September I received an invitation from friends to join them on their summer holiday, a cruise down the Adriatic, into the Aegean to Greece and returning to Venice. The cruise will be preceded by a few days in the Venice area - Lido de Jesolo - to ease ourselves gently into the holiday frame of mind.

My intention is to make an entry here each day leading up to my departure and also while on holiday, illustrated with some images of the adventure, of course.