Romance on the High Seas

Our journalist GEMMA WEIR is dreaming of twinkling waters...

Our journalist GEMMA WEIR is dreaming of twinkling waters…

Life is full of little compromises – I hate that! What I don’t mind, is when a compromise works out to be more in my favour than I originally thought.

When I imagined myself on a honeymoon of a lifetime, I could visualise myself looking quite magnificent in some highly decorated kaftan, posing for the Instagram photo of the year at sunset outside the Taj Mahal. Not, on a cruise ship.

I compromised.

I tried to silently persuade myself that I might not have such a terrible time and that a cruise was certainly a good way to knock off a few ticks on my destination list without having to face an aircraft for each new place – a bonus for the flight averse. I battled with my memories of Mrs Bouquet and Richard from ‘Keeping up appearances’, bragging about their QE2 Brochures to the neighbours as I shuffled into the travel agent. If we were doing this, we were going to do it right…Right?

Royal Caribbean Please. Mini-suite, Balcony and a chocolate on my pillow.
We would fly to Barcelona and set sail from there – Serenade of the Seas. She is a magnificent ship and everything about her is fancy. I mean, sure, she’s more Zsa Zsa Gabor than understated Audrey Hepburn, but we can most certainly live with a bit of sassy glamour for a fortnight.

Most of us have an expectation of a cruise ship, by that point I had only stepped onboard that one and it exceeded my imagination back then; I have since stepped board on quite a few cruise ships (occupational hazard), and have come to realise that not all cruise ships are created equal! Royal Caribbean, bring the A game! I had not realised that I had accidentally set the bench mark for future sea voyages up rather high indeed.

The food, the entertainment, the public spaces, the service, the comfort luxury of sitting on our very own balcony, nibbling our way through a room service breakfast of croissants and tea overlooking Venice as if it were a hazy postcard – This is an experience of luxury. I think though, that what has embedded this particular holiday in my mind, is the life long memories that I would never have got on another holiday, was more than the expectations of luxury – it was the experience of world travel in luxury that washes you like no other holiday. One could argue that of course that would be the case here, this was a honeymoon after all and a honeymoon is always set to be a magical beguiling adventure no matter where one travels to – I would laugh at such a presumption and suggest that such an assertion is made by a person who has only had one, wisely chosen, honeymoon and knows no different!

What does in fact make for a magical beguiling adventure, isn’t just a trip being fresh off the back of a wedding, or in an extremely well put together ship with all the binge worthy food one can consume at a rate they never thought was possible; sure, Royal Caribbean brought all of that and more, of course they did, they’re Royal Caribbean. But what I was given was the gift of so much more than just a cruise.

I was given the gift of sitting on a jetty in the afternoon sun in Montenegro, surrounded by turquoise waters lapping the edge while my new husband and I enjoyed fresh mussels that were caught twenty feet away; the gift of waking up in Italy and rushing to the train like two lovers from a black and white movie to spend the day together in Rome with a private tour of the colosseum and buying rubbish souvenirs from a dodgy looking character in the street. The memories were made holding hands on a gondola through the water ways of Venice and walking through the quaint cobbled streets of Split in Croatia; being caught in the lashing rain waiting to go to Pisa and realising that we were too tired and wet and we would rather have a luxurious day in the spa onboard the ship – spending the rest of our day in white robes and slippers being oiled up with geranium and lavender, sipping on water with floating cucumber.

The memories will last from when we arrived to our cabin to see what little towel animal was waiting for us that night, only to find a questionable looking flannel waiting for us at the end of the bed and spending the next half an hour in laughter at what we dubbed ‘the honeymoon special’ origami towel arrangement! It was not doing our research on where we were going to for our next port and spending a lovely relaxed day walking up and down a sleepy marina, only to get back to the ship to realise, Pompeii was on the other side of the mountain!

We all know what to expect of a fair cruise, we all know what to expect of a great cruise and we all know what to expect from an exceptional cruise – but our budgets aren’t the only measuring stick of what makes a truly memorable, magical cruise – It’s how we feel when we first put our travel tired foot on the carpet of the hallway at embarkation after a long afternoon in the airport and it’s the feeling of fullness, in every way, when we have to leave to go home to our real lives.

I’m a cruise convert. Waking up in a whole new place to get lost in each morning, setting sail from port as the sun sets, leaving the twinkling lights of one land behind and being excited about what you’ll open your eyes to in the morning. Get me back on board… I still have to see Pompeii!