I’ve known my friend Erica since we met on our first ever Disney trip together back in 2009. We’ve always stayed in contact and, along with most of the original members of the Disney 7 (our group of mummy bloggers from way back who met on our very first Disney trip), chat pretty regularly. Erica lives in Edinburgh (where she runs the hugely successful Edinburgh food blog, Foodinburgh), so we don’t get to see each other that much. Every so often the opportunity comes up for us to take a trip together, and this time as we were both so busy, we wanted to choose a holiday where we could kick back and relax. We wanted lovely, chic surroundings for a few days of quiet contemplation and catching up, with a bit of light exploration thrown in. As you probably know, I’m a bit in love with cruising: I love the glamour, the gorgeous surroundings, the delicious food, cocktails on the deck and waking up in a new port with all the fresh possibilities of exploring a new destination, so we chose a Greek islands trip from Malta on board P&O Oceana – a beautiful not-too-big, not-too-small ship, with a bit of old-world glamour thrown in. And although you might not immediately think of taking a cruise with friends as a grown up holiday option, we absolutely loved it. Here’s why we think cruising with friends is fabulous:
A place to escape
You might think that a big ol’ cruise ship is full of noise and people, and that you never get a moment to yourself, but actually one of the things we really liked about Oceana was that there were so many comfy places to sit and relax. Away from the pool decks that can be really busy on a sea day, we found a spot on one of the lower decks with loungers looking out to sea, and if we wanted to escape the sun, there were lots of really nice little areas with comfy chairs to sit and read, sip a cocktail or just chat. Our cabin had a private balcony too, so on one of the sea days we spent the entire day lounging in the sun, feet up, watching the ocean slip away beneath us. Heaven.
We both place a lot of importance on food when we’re travelling, and I was already aware of the reputation that P&O Cruises have where dining is concerned: working with industry big hitters like Marco Pierre White to provide outstanding food options, whether that’s Eric Lanlard’s indulgent afternoon tea on board Britannia, or fabulous gala dinners on board Oceana specially created by Marco. Main dining was really impressive, with no stuffy seating plans or set timing. We always found items we liked on the menu, the food was of a very high standard and the service friendly and attentive. The wine list was creative and interesting and we were especially taken with the selection of American red wines.
We also really liked Café Jardin, a casual, light and airy restaurant, open for delicious breakfast and lunch, which then transformed in the evening into a speciality restaurant serving contemporary Italian fare created in partnership with Italian chef Gino d’Acampo.
Another favourite was speciality restaurant The Beach House, especially because there were a few tables out on deck and you could dine on delicious steaks, cooked on hot lava stone directly at the table, while watching the sun set and sipping a cocktail – truly magical.
History, mythology and discovery
We started our journey from Valletta in Malta, and were disappointed that we hadn’t left enough time to explore, as it looked gorgeous. We’d decided before we set sail that we would take a few excursions and enjoy truly immersing ourselves into the history and mythology of these wonderful islands. We also enjoyed a couple of really interesting talks from historians onboard before we visited the ancient sites, and I thoroughly recommend this, as it gives you a heads up on what you’re experiencing when you get there. We really enjoyed visiting the ancient site of Delphi, where you’ll find the Temple of the Apollo, home of the mystical, future-predicting Oracle – a pretty long drive from the port of Piraeus in Athens, but well worth it. It’s an elevated site and there’s a lot of walking, but it really is the most magical, wonderful place.
In Santorini, we chose to visit the two major towns, Oia and Fira, for boutique shopping and gorgeous picture opportunities (Erica is the best Instagram husband – while we were on board, I took over P&O Cruises’ Instagram account), but also visited the beautiful black sandy beach at Perissa, where we swam in the sea and nibbled some delicious local delicacies at a beachside taverna.
One of the things I love most about cruising is ‘dinner and a show’. There’s just nothing nicer than getting dressed up when you’re cruising with friends and family to go out to dinner and take in some fab entertainment afterwards. The theatre on board P&O Cruises Oceana is beautiful and has a gorgeously retro Art Deco feel to it. We enjoyed a couple of really good shows, including a performance of some of the West End’s most famous hits in the production of ‘Encore’ by the Headliners Theatre Company, and a brilliant performance by Samatha Lomax, an excellent singer with a fabulous, funny stage presence.
Time to relax and recharge
We were determined to take it easy during our time onboard, so on the couple of days that we didn’t have excursions booked, we took the time to wander into town, potter in the shops and just explore at our own pace. We were really impressed with Heraklion for this – there’s a lovely mixture of boutiques, shops and cafés to wander, as well as some ancient buildings to explore. We headed back to the ship pretty early to take advantage of the special deal in the chilled out Oasis Spa (look out for these – they’re often better value than booking in on the very first day of the cruise), and I treated myself to a heavenly combined treatment which featured a head, neck and shoulder massage, Swedish back massage, foot and ankle massage and a soothing collagen eye treatment. The whole lot came in at a bargainous £75
We disembarked in Valletta feeling completely chilled out and relaxed. We’d had time to talk, catch up, explore and enjoy ourselves, surely the perfect way to spend a holiday. We might even make it an annual event!
Recreate our trip
If you fancy cruising with friends on a similar trip, the cruise that we took has very slightly changed itinerary: a seven night cruise on Oceana (E916A) departing July 11, 2019 from Malta and calling at Piraeus for Athens, Heraklion, Rhodes, Souda Bay and returning to Malta, costs from £899 per person for an inside cabin. The price includes return flights from selected UK airports, full board meals and entertainment on board.
Many thanks and lots of big squeezes to the gorgeous team at P&O Cruises.