Cruising through the Mediterranean Sea
A tour of Mediterranean through cruise leaves you with a memory that lasts for a while
Very rarely does it happen that you wish for something and it actually comes true in full bloom in matter of just a few weeks. I was amidst changing jobs and wished to take a break, the effect of which would last for a while.
With this heavy feeling in my heart, I googled “cruises”. Just the mere sight of the aquamarine blue and the magnanimity of the ship attracted me to ransack all Lonely Planet issues to get the recommendations and the websites of almost all the cruise lines operating in the West Mediterranean seas.
And before we knew, we were embarking on not just a cruise but on a lifetime experience that turned out to be priceless. The way cruises are is that they leave you asking for more in everything— the in-house entertainment, the shore excursions, the health and wellness rejuvenating options, the dance and fun activities are more than enough to keep you busy even if you are travelling alone.
It was a 10-day long holiday to the best parts of Europe, sailing through Sardenia Islands; South of Italy covering Naples, Rome and Livorno; South of France, covering Nice, Monaco and Monte Carlo; and small quaint, pretty little villages on the way back. The different shades of blue we saw as we sailed from one country to the other was mesmerising—Deep ink blue, aquamarine blue, sky blue, midnight blue, turquoise blue, Navy blue—they were all Mediterranean blues, bordering with their countries and merging with one another to form another blue.
A daily schedule sent the previous night would help us plan our next day. The most crowded of all decks in the afternoon used to be Deck 11, for the pool and the Jacuzzi as the Europeans love the sun and water together and take a lot of trouble to get tanned. Evenings used to be exotic, glamorous and flamboyant—dressing up for Broadways was a religion on the ship! We were in for a surprise with India’s culture and heritage being showcased along with South Africa, Australia, United States of America, Europe and China. None of us would have clapped so hard and loud with our head held high.
I also knew I had to find my ‘me’ time on the cruise. I wanted to watch the endless sea and feel like I was the only one on it. There was a sunrise time given on the daily calendar, with the time ranging between 5.45 and 6.15 am. Since, I needed my quality time with myself, I woke up at 4.30 a.m. to hit the deck by 5 a.m. And then, love struck, when the first rays of sun enveloped the Mediterranean deep blue waters of the sea. It was the most memorable time on my holiday. How often do you see the moon set and the sun rising simultaneously? I saw the sun coming out from behind the mountains, as if shy, but slowly and quietly. The dark waters suddenly sparkled like a thousand stars had landed on them.
The first time we stepped out of the ship was in Olbia, Italy. It is a beautiful town and so small that one could explore it completely on foot in half a day’s time. We enjoyed walking on the cobblestoned roads and finding our way through the narrow alleyways, discovering its history and culture. I have been fortunate to visit many synagogues, cathedrals, churches in Europe in the past but there are so many of them that it’s hard to keep track of what you have seen and what you have missed. But every time I entered a church in a city, I felt I hadn’t seen anything like that before.
Next on the map was Italy with a stopover at Naples. I had heard and read so much about Naples but either the hop-on, hop-off didn’t do justice or we had seen many more beautiful parts of Italy. It is originally a Greek settlement and is known for its colourful street life. Spaghetti and pizza were developed here and its songs are in the ‘bel canto’ style. It’s also famous for housing many Greek-Roman paintings and sculptures.
We were now moving to the north of Italy, towards Civitavecchia. It was founded in 108 AD in order to provide a safe maritime entrance to the capital of the empire and is the safest door to Italy. Civitavecchia port is 100 km away from the state of Rome—Learning this we had consciously chosen to explore Rome through the ship excursion while planning the cruise excursions back home. Visiting Vatican, the Sistine chapel, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and other touristy points and coming back in time to sail at 6.30 p.m. was ambitious. Aiming the coin in the Trevi Fountain and wishing for a return was more fun this time than the last and having a take-away pizza slice by the roadside reminded me of having street food in Mumbai.
We next moved to Central Italy—Livorno. It is the capital in the Tuscany region and lies on the Ligurian Sea. It is a major sea port and commercial center. It is the home of the Italian Naval Academy, naval shipyards and a naval arsenal is located here. The best hop-on hop-off tour so far was in Livorno.
This evening of the Broadway was on Histoire d’Amore—love story musicals. And I had no idea what was coming my way. They were playing Frank Sinatra and I loved it to an extent that I knew the lyrics and could sing it too. I didn’t care much that I was the only one in the audience singing it loud and from the bottom of my heart, as if it was being performed for me and as if someone had told the entertainment director about my favorites.
Cruise was at its fag end but the best was yet to come—South of France. It was a relaxed excursion to Nice and Eze village with a visit to a perfumery being lined up. What we were excited about was the tendering of the ship. As the ship couldn’t dock due to the depth of the water levels, it had to be tendered, where other smaller boats would take us up to the shore. It was like a mini adventure and my mother with her silk saree was given special attention while getting onto the boat.
Hurried shopping, quick photographs and a quiet bus ride back to the ship left a beautiful memory but a sad one too—we knew it was coming to an end—all beautiful things eventually do.
More than the experiences, what will be more precious are the memories I have collected. It took away the troubles the real world causes, and gave me the contentment that my real world doesn’t manage to. So, was it a dream? And did I live it?
I don’t know but I left a part of me in the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean.
A curious and passionate professional having straddled across the financial services industry in India, Geetanjali is now the Marketing Head of an AMC, who loves spending her “me” time either baking or behind the camera.