Cruising – Seabourn style

PUBLISHED: 19:38 18 April 2012 | UPDATED: 21:16 20 February 2013

Sail Away party

Sail Away party

Karen Bowerman always said she wasn't one for cruising, but that was before she took her mother round the Greek Isles and discovered life was remarkably good on the ocean waves

Karen Bowerman always said she wasnt one for cruising, but that was before she took her mother round the Greek Isles and discovered life was remarkably good on the ocean waves

Our instructor, Craig, shows us how its done: he twists his left foot out, lifts it high off the ground, takes an exaggerated step, turns his ankle in and spins his body round - all the while swooping his arms in and out of various (implausible) positions.

Im still half asleep and wonder what on earth Im doing attempting such a complicated manoeuvre, especially at seven in the morning. But then I glance out of the floor-to-ceiling window and take in the view. Where else could I dabble in tai chi overlooking the glistening Aegean, as my home cuts effortlessly through the waves towards the Greek island of Mykonos?

This was cruising, Seabourn style, and although fitness classes werent compulsory, Id been keen (when fully awake) to embrace the whole onboard experience. It had led to a rather lengthy to do list, but one I was managing to work my way through rather nicely.

Sampling the champagne had come first, naturally. After tai chi, came the spa, where a hot stones massage, a dip in the hydrotherapy pool, a steam and a sauna all needed ticking offI was in for a challenging morning.

I wafted back to our cabin feeling a little sheepish. For seven years my mother had wanted to go cruising and Id ignored her. Now this week-long tour of the Greek islands on Seabourns luxury yacht, the Odyssey, was turning out rather well.

I found my travelling companion on our private balcony, enjoying a mid-morning hot chocolate. I pulled up a chair and joined her. Across the water lay Mykonos, the coastline dotted with whitewashed houses and the domes of hidden churches. The islands emblematic windmills stood on the hill, their rickety sails and chubby, conical bodies glinting in the sunshine.

My mother had spent the morning simply enjoying our suite. Our cabin was so luxurious you could easily call it such. We had a sofa, a small dining area, a spacious granite bathroom (with dual basins, shower and a standard sized bath) plus, what was apparently a real bonus according to die-hard cruise-goers: a sizeable walk-in wardrobe.

I was more taken with the mini bar, stocked according to our choice, but without a mini bottle in sight.

I cant possibly get through that! Mother exclaimed, spotting the Baileys Id requested on her behalf. (There was a whole litre).

You dont have to drink it all! I replied, although it seemed a shame.

As we tried to control our delight Anita, our stewardess, knocked on our door. She entered with a smile and a choice of soaps, then whipped out a notepad to jot down any additional (alcoholic) requests! For the next seven days she left our suite immaculate, scattering chocolates, rosebuds, island guides, menus and Molton Brown toiletries in her wake.

Our first taste of the high life came early on, at the Sail Away party round the pool bar. We toasted a week of decadence with bubbles and blinis (all drinks, including champagne, are included) as the Odyssey Quintet played us smoothly out of port. Our cruise, from Istanbul to Athens, was to take us to Lesbos (Mytilini), Kusadasi in Turkey (for Ephesus), Mykonos, Rhodes, Patmos and Mylos, with a choice of excursions on the way.

From then on, what we did with our time was entirely up to us. There was a week of non-stop entertainment if we wanted, with deck games and dance classes during the day and cocktails, concerts and cabaret at night. Alternatively we could just drift from whirlpool to sun lounger to al fresco bar, requesting ice creams and cocktails as often as we pleased.

Although cruising isnt all about food, its easy to see how it can be. I spent my first breakfast wandering, aghast, round the multitude of food counters.

There were five choices of yoghurt, seven of fruit juice, nine of cereals and twelve of pastries, plus fresh fruit, smoothies, muffins, waffles, pancakes, cold meats, cheeses and numerous cooked alternatives. If I decided on bacon, did I prefer English, American or Canadian? If I went for a doughnut, should it be chocolate, sugar, custard, maple, cinnamon - or just plain jam?

I settled on the days special: scrambled eggs with truffles, and ate on deck, overlooking the Byzantine-Genoese-Ottoman fortress of Mytilini. (It seemed I wasnt the only one confused that morning).

That afternoon we took the tender ashore before returning to the ship for tea. As John on the grand piano struck up (rather predictably) Tea for Two (although he did add some impressive twinkly bits), waiters in white gloves swooped round circular coffee tables, carrying silver teapots balancing on trays draped with crisp, white linen.

There were miniature croissants with beef and horseradish, slithers of egg sandwich, fresh scones (with three choices of cream) strawberry tarts, chocolate torte and gateaux. I reached for another raspberry millefeuille but did my best not to indulge, for there were canaps in two hours and dinner in under three.

Ah dinner! No time to be shy! A jovial social host in immaculate black tie spotted us lingering at the door of The Restaurant. Within seconds hed offered each of us an arm and had swept us inside to dine at the table of the Argentinian chief engineer!

On our last night we were offered a table for two overlooking the sea. We sat down to a gala dinner of caviar, foie gras, grilled scallop, filet of beef, warm chocolate cake and so much champagne that I found myself having to decline.

As we returned to our cabin I admitted it wasnt going to be easy returning to a life without stewardesses, social hosts and seven course dinners.

Well, youre just going to have to learn to live with it! mother said (rather bluntly I thought), unless of course-

She broke off and shot me a look I hadnt seen since I was a child; it was the look she gave when she had me exactly where she wanted.

- unless of course, we book again for next year!

There was triumph in her voice; I rolled my eyes and gave a mock sigh. I already had a brochure in our cabin.

Seabourn cruises:

Seven day Turkish Delights & Greek Isles cruise on the Seabourn Odyssey from Istanbul to Athens, via Lesbos (Mytilini), Kusadasi (for Ephesus), Mykonos, Rhodes, Patmos and Mylos from 1,599 pp for a double/twin cabin, all inclusive. Excursions cost extra.

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