Sam's Royal Clipper Adventure.
Saturday, October 8th
Up at 3.00 am to catch a flight from Newcastle down to Heathrow. Sat in terminal 5 waiting for my second flight I already started to feel tired, today is going to be a long day! I'm sure some of you reading this will be thinking 'that's fine, you can just sleep on the plane', unfortunately I am a nervous flier so no sleeping for me!
Upon arrival in Athens I met Emma Moody (Sales Support Executive), Sarah Garnham (Marketing & Design Executive), and David, my companions for the next few days. We exchanged introductions and then made our way out of the airport, where our transfer was waiting to take us to Piraeus.
When we arrived at the port I was hot (it was 28 degrees and I am more accustomed to the cool Newcastle climate) and tired but seeing the Royal Clipper for the first time made it all worthwhile!
We boarded the Royal Clipper and got ourselves all checked in. After a quick tour of the ship we grabbed our life jackets and headed to our muster stations to partake in the compulsory safety drills. The other three are all muster station A and I'm B so if there is an emergency I'm on my own!
After a wonderful welcome dinner we made our way up to the sun deck for the first sail away. It's hard to explain the feelings this evokes but anyone who has experienced it themselves will know how magical this first night truly is!
Sunday, October 9th
Woke up at 9.00 am feeling refreshed and headed to the dining room to meet Emma, Sarah and David for breakfast, after which we headed up on deck for our second safety drill. Some passengers are a little confused by how they should answer when their cabin is called and so there is talk of a third drill tomorrow morning!
By midday the Royal Clipper has anchored off Monemvasia and clearance has been given for the tender service to begin. We decided to grab a quick lunch on board before heading ashore to do some exploring.
Monemvasia (meaning 'single entrance' in Greek) is a quaint, pretty town home to a medieval fortress. We explored the fortress before stopping for a drink (and some free Wi-Fi!). The Royal Clipper was only anchored off Monemvasia for four hours but in all honesty four hours was probably enough.
We headed back on board for a few hours of relaxation before meeting at 19.30 for dinner. Tonight the head waiter sat us with a young Greek boy, called Constantine, and his father. The start of a wonderful friendship.
After dinner we headed up to the tropical bar for the nights entertainment - the fashion show. Emma and I had been volunteered as models, a fact Emma seemed happier about than me! (Or at the very least she hid her displeasure better than I did!) After the show we shared a couple of drinks with some of our fellow models before playing a couple of games of ball darts. Things quickly got competitive and I don't think me offering to play with my left hand was appreciated!
Monday, October 10th
Today the Royal Clipper made port in Katakolon where we decided to buy a ticket for something called the 'fun train' (emphasis on 'fun'). The train took us to a vineyard and a beach and we were welcome to get off and explore at both stops. However as the weather wasn't great we opted to stay on the train as it travelled back to the town centre.
When we got back to the town we discovered that three MSC ships had also now docked and so the main shopping street had gotten rather busy. At around 16.00 we decided to head back on ship (and noticed many MSC passengers stopping to take photos of the wonderful Royal Clipper) and relax on deck with a coffee and a book. With the gangway open until 20.30 the ship was rather quiet and so finding a nice spot up on deck proved a simple task.
Met for a pre-dinner drink in the tropical bar at 19.15 (I highly recommend you try a Mojito) before heading down to dinner, tonight our dining companions were American.
After dinner we headed back up to the tropical bar for the 'Music Quiz', some of the songs were a little too obscure for us but we managed to score a respectable four points (thank you Monty Python). I say 'we' but I seemed to be the only one on my team actually answering the questions!
Tuesday, October 11th
A day at sea today and so a slightly later breakfast, with no town to explore there was no need to rush up!
The day at sea offered passengers the opportunity to participate in a number of activities including; walk a mile, Boules, water gymnastics, knot tying, and yoga. Today was also 'mast climbing' day. I signed up for this activity but when my cabin number was called out I panicked and changed my mind! Watching the other guests (including Emma and David) did nothing for my nerves!
At dinner the head waiter sat us on a table for four. As nice as it is meeting and getting to know your fellow passengers it was lovely having the last dinner by ourselves.
Tonight was 'Pirate Night' with the crew all dressed up. Emma, Sarah and I played with Constantine and, as it turned out, made quite the formidable team! After a series of impressive displays we were declared the winners, although I think a lot of the credit belongs to Constantine!
Wednesday, October 12th
Woke up at 7.00 am to have breakfast with Emma, Sarah and David before they disembarked. We said an emotional goodbye (I was the emotional one) and I waved them off as they got the tender into Taormina. As it was still quite early and the Royal Clipper would be anchored off the coast until 16.30 I decided to spend a little more time on board before heading ashore myself.
I decided to grab my book and a coffee and sit in the piano bar. It was a slightly strange morning, I was obviously sad to say goodbye to my friends however I knew that I would soon be joined by five more from the Star Clippers UK office including Fay McCormack (General Manager) and Danielle Dudley (UK Sales Manager). Besides I still had Constantine to keep me company!
With the ship being quiet I decided to use this time to take some pictures and so I grabbed my camera and explored the ship, letting my inner photographer flow free!
Tonight was the Captain's Dinner with guests being offered a choice of Lobster Tail or Chateaubriand for their main course (although you may find if you ask politely the waiter and the chef will be willing to prepare you both!). It was announced during dinner that due to adverse weather conditions we would no longer be stopping in Ponza on Friday. Instead Captain Borowka had decided to anchor off Sorrento.
After dinner we headed up to the tropical bar to watch the 'Guest and Crew Talent Show', an entertaining evening with a number of the crew showcasing talents including; singing, dancing and magic. I contemplated performing but having already modelled for the fashion show I felt I had done my part.
Thursday, October 13th
Today the Royal Clipper anchored off Amalfi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, surrounded by dramatic cliffs and coastal scenery, famed for its Cathedral and its production of Limoncello.
After exploring the shops and taking the obligatory photo atop the cathedral steps, we stopped for a drink and discussed the possibility of dinner ashore (the tender service ran until 22.00). We decided to head back to the ship, freshen up and then make a final decision on where we would eat. However climbing aboard the tender back to the Royal Clipper it soon became clear that we would not be dining ashore, to say conditions were rough would be an understatement! I must admit I found the whole experience rather exciting although I can understand why some of my fellow passengers didn't. The best way to describe it - Imagine you are on a rollercoaster and someone has tampered with the controls, setting them to the most extreme (à la Mr Bean).
This evening's entertainment was scheduled to be a night of traditional Amalfi music and dancing, unfortunately with conditions worsening the local acts were unable to get on board. Our Cruise Director Gabor therefore organised a Star Clippers quiz. As tempting as it was to join in we decided it would be unfair and so we merely watched (and silently judged) our fellow passengers.
Friday, October 14th
With the Royal Clipper anchoring off Sorrento from 8.00 am, we were up reasonably early for a quick breakfast before venturing ashore to explore the town. A popular tourist destination, Sorrento overlooks the bay of Naples and from here Star Clippers offer excursions to Pompeii.
One member of our group, Fay, was familiar with a pizzeria claiming to be the oldest in Sorrento and so we disembarked the tender and set off, hoping to enjoy a 'slice' of history (pun very much intended). Thankfully it didn't take us too long to find and we were soon sat, full of anticipation for what was to come. I decided to order the Sorrento pizza, well when in Rome (or should that be Sorrento). By the way, the pizza was delicious and if you are ever in Sorrento, I would highly recommend you visit Ristorante Pizzeria Da Gigino.
Back on board the Royal Clipper for the final sail away. Once again the conditions had begun to worsen and it looked like we were in for another exciting evening!
Met the Star Clippers girls at 19.30 for our last dinner together. Having gorged myself on waffles during the afternoon snack I decided to be sensible at dinner, I 'only' ordered three courses! (The soup, a steak and some ice cream). After dinner a few of our party decided to call it a night, I, however, decided to head up to the piano bar to watch the slide show and sea chart raffle.
After one last conversation with Constantine and his dad (during which Constantine informed me he felt sorry for me, he couldn't imagine having to spend a week surrounded by women!) I decided to call it a night. Tomorrow was going to be another long day!
Saturday, October 15th
Woke up this morning just before 07.00 am, grabbed a quick shower and then headed down for breakfast, all ready for checkout at 08.15.
The transfer coach dropped us off outside Rome Fiumicino Airport, terminal 3 at around 09.30 and I exchanged goodbyes with Star Clipper girls before venturing inside. With my flight not due to depart until 15.30 I now had 6 hours to kill and as nice as Fiumicino airport is that was perhaps a little too long!
I finally landed in Newcastle at around 20.30 and I must admit after a long day travelling stepping off the plane into the cold North East air was wonderfully refreshing. I was tired, and at times I felt like I was still aboard a moving ship (a very strange sensation), but after the week I had just had that was a price I was more than willing to pay!