And we’re getting excited. Well, I am, but Val is has been embroiled for two weeks with a vital stage in the project she’s working on. But as soon as that’s finished – hopefully before the cruise starts – she’ll also start getting excited about it, I’m sure.
We’ll be on Azura for 14 nights, cruising to the western Mediterranean and back. Ports of call include at least two new ones for us – Villefranche and Cadiz. There were to have been three – La Spezia was in the original itinerary – but that was switched to Livorno about a month ago. We’ve booked five excursions: at Vigo, Lisbon, La Spezia/Livorno, Civitavecchia and Cadiz, and we’ll be doing our own thing at the remaining ports: Gibraltar, Villefranche and Ajaccio. Additionally there’ll be time after our excursions finish to explore Cadiz on our own.
For the first time we’ll be on Freedom dining. We’ve done club dining up until now, second sitting, and we’ve had some great times. More recently, however, it hasn’t worked so well for us. The mix of people on our tables hasn’t worked as well – perhaps the groups were just too disparate – and on occasions we’ve had people leave the table part-way through the cruise (must have been something we said) and other people join the table part-way through the cruise (must have been something someone else said). That makes it hard to build relationships, even temporary ones. We’ve probably been as guilty as anyone, to be fair – we’ve often had three meals away from the table during a cruise, in the special dining restaurants, and that has probably not helped other people on the table. So we decided to try Freedom dining for this cruise. We’ll be very happy to share a table, and for the occasions when we want a meal for just the two of us we’ll go to the other restaurants. We’ve already booked meals in The Epicurean and Sindhu, and of course there’s also The Glasshouse which we greatly enjoy. We could also use the buffet in the evenings, but we’ve never had much success with that; we don’t like to eat too early, and that seems to be the secret of using the buffet successfully in the evening.
It’s also the case that as time has passed, we’re feeling less and less comfortable going to bed shortly after a meal. I know one answer would be stay up until later, but we just can’t do that – we are very much ‘early to bed, early to rise’ people. So eating mid-evening rather than late evening should suit us better.
Excursions: as I said above, we’ve booked five and will do our own thing in the other three ports. One or two readers may be surprised at some of the places we’ve decided to do excursions; for example, Vigo and Lisbon, where it is so easy to go ashore independently. Well, yes it is, but the problem is that we’ve done so at both of those ports many times already, and I think we’ve run out of options for what to do. So this time we’ll do excursions rather further afield. In Civitavecchia we simply can’t be bothered to go through the hassle of getting up to Rome on our own – yes, it can be done and we have done it, a couple of times, but it’s hard work and we find it a bit stressful so we’re going to do an excursion out into the countryside. At Livorno we are booked on an excursion to the Cinque Terre (we hope – see here and here for a discussion of the issues about that following the switch of ports from La Spezia to Livorno); this was always something we wanted to do, and will be a new place for us. The places where we will do our own thing are those where we haven’t been too many times yet, e.g. Gibraltar and Ajaccio, or where we haven’t been at all, e.g. Villefranche. It’s also the case that all of these are ‘easy’ ports – either she ship is berthed close to town, or we’ll tender into a central point.
Just a few more days to wait….