Swan Hellenic Minerva Cruise October 2012

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Swan Hellenic Minerva Cruise October 2012

Wednesday 24th October.

When I arrived at Gatwick I was pleased to see Swan Hellenic staff, who welcomed me and directed me to the British Airways desks to drop my baggage off. Then we flew to Naples, and were greeted by more Swan Hellenic staff, who took over our baggage, and transferred us to the lovely Minerva, about a 15 minute journey by coach.

We boarded on Baltic Deck, and luggage was waiting for us outside our outside cabin, B5 on the same deck. The cabin had twin beds, with a small desk and seat, and two portholes, with masses of storage space in the wardrobes and drawers. The bathroom had a shower with a curtain which was VERY cleverly weighted, so it stayed where it was put (!) and I was very pleased to see the L’Occitane toiletries, always welcome. Of course, we had TV in our cabin, with up-to-the-minute films shown throughout

Minerva stayed overnight in Naples, and after unpacking and the boat drill, we were invited to meet some of the officers, crew and guest speakers at a cocktail party in the Card Room. I was delighted to meet John Carter, the travel broadcaster and journalist, who was also travelling on Minerva, working on his travel articles. After this , we went to the lovely Wheeler Bar, for drinks with Captain Giovanni Biasutti, who was, of course, charm personified! We finished the evening with a late supper in the self-service Veranda Restaurant, and had an early night, in preparation for a day of excursions the following day.

Thursday 25th October.

After an early breakfast in the Veranda Restaurant, I presented myself ready for the independent excursion to Sorrento, whilst my colleagues went off to Pompeii and Herculaneum. Whilst en route by coach to Sorrento, we went round Vesuvius, and our guide pointed out places of interest as we drove along the 75minute route - a very pretty ride indeed. Most of the passengers elected to stay just an hour and a half in Sorrento and took the coach back. However, the guide advised me that there is a fast ferry back to Naples later in the afternoon, and I took the 4pm ferry back after a very successful afternoon visiting the sights, shopping, and wining and dining, and arrived just in time to meet my colleagues returning from Herculaneum. It was really lovely to have had an afternoon in the warm sunshine after all that rain and grey skies in London!

To relax afterwards, we had pre-dinner drinks in the Shackleton Bar before going to the main silver service restaurant - The Swan - for a delicious evening meal. We rounded the evening off listening to the band in the Orpheus Lounge, which has fantastic panoramic windows looking out to the front of the ship. We watched sailaway as we left the port of Naples, en route to Livorno.

Friday, 26th October.

A day at sea, and after a late breakfast at 9, we went to the Livingstone Lounge to help out with the jigsaw, and try to find someone interested in a game of Scrabble!! As I’m not a bridge player, I decided to miss out on that, and instead, spent most of the morning relaxing on the sunbeds on the Funnel Deck, in the sunshine. When the sun went in, we just popped into the Orpheus Lounge for a coffee, and were lucky enough to hear the performers of Opera Barcarola rehearsing - amazing talent, and I could have listened to them for hours, but lunch was calling!

Having missed the talks on Etruscan Places, and the Mediterranean Look at Life by the guest speakers, due to having my nose in a book, we had a fascinating tour of the Bridge - where Captain Biasutti forbade us to sit in his chair (!), followed by a tour of the immaculate Galley area, and met the Executive chef, Sebastian Gnida. We took tea in the Swan Restaurant, and then prepared for the Captain’s Welcome Party which was being held in the Darwin Lounge, a black tie event. He introduced many of the officers, and we were treated to a welcome drink and canapes. It was so nice to see all the passengers and crew dressed up to the nines, and we were very impressed to sit with the Captain and officers for dinner in the Veranda Restaurant, which had been beautifully prepared for the Gala Dinner, which was available both there and in the Swan. Again, it was up to the Orpheus Lounge on the Promenade Deck to listen to the very talented Sunflower Band.

Saturday, 27th October.

Sadly, we woke to heavily overcast skies and driving rain, but there was no way we were going to miss the Lucca excursion. What a beautiful little walled town it is, too. Full of narrow cobbled streets, little independent shops and cafes, and many churches and other places of interest, we followed our guide, and then had time to ourselves to buy shoes, handbags and other treats that Lucca is famous for. Our poor "yellow-coats" were standing outside in the pouring rain, directing everyone back to the coaches to take us back to the ship for lunch. I really must go back to Lucca again.....

After lunch, there was a trip to Pisa planned, but the weather was so windy and rainy that we decided to go and look at Livorno, which had a big food fair in the centre of the town, and again, lots of shops in the collonnaded area. By then, the rain and wind had held off for a short while, and we enjoyed our afternoon in Livorno. In the evening, I took advantage of the Salon onboard and had my hair done! Then, dinner in the Swan and drinks afterwards in the Shackleton Bar, but then, the weather took a turn for the worse! The wind picked up, and so did the waves, and the Captain was obliged to warn us we were in for a very rough night, riding 10m. waves and a Force 9 gale en route for Civitavecchia and Rome. The outside decks were decidedly out of bounds.

Sunday, 28th October.

As the song goes, Oh What a Night! Not much sleep, and I don’t believe the crew got any sleep at all. The seas were very heavy indeed, and when we did finally arrive at Civitavecchia early on Sunday morning, the ship was unable to dock, and the port was closed due to severe weather conditions. Meetings were held by the staff, and even the ferries were unable to dock, and it was decided to make for Sardinia and travel in the lee of the island, as the seas would be much calmer then. Sadly, I chose to spend most of the day in the cabin watching the television, and surfacing for the odd bowl of soup for sustenance, as the crew had offered sea-sickness tablets, which at least allowed me to rest. As planned, at about 11pm or thereabouts, the seas calmed, and we had a peaceful night sailing down to Cagliari, on the southern tip of Sardinia. As we had been unable to land at Rome, this meant we missed our return flights, and our incredibly competent tour leader, Brian Langford, spent several hours rearranging our departure to London the next day.

Monday, 29th October.

Woke up to a peaceful morning, and had breakfast in the Swan Restaurant, and then up to the Orpheus Lounge to watch Cagliari come into view, and what a view it was. Sadly we were unable to visit the island, as we had to disembark shortly after the ship docked, to take our Meridian flights back to London, via Florence. What a fantastic adventure we had all had. The other guests were all on excursions to Nora, or of Cagliari and a folklore show, which the Cruise Director (Paul Carter) had been able to arrange once it had been ascertained that Cagliari was to be the next port of call. We were all very sad indeed to leave Minerva, as we had all been thoroughly spoiled!

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