Our Greek Adventure: Part 1
Most people I personally know are not sold on the idea of a ‘cruise’, they feel it’s something reserved for the more elderly amongst us. Since travelling alone with Eddie I look for ease and it was the idea of being able to see a lot of places in a short amount of time with the least amount of travelling possible, that sold me the idea of a Thomson Cruise around the Greek Islands – I chose the Aegean Meze because Mamma Mia sold me the illusion that I might find love or at least have the opportunity and I have always wanted to visit Mykonos.
There are a few tricks to travelling alone with a toddler and one of them is being organised and getting packing down to a fine art. Once you have mastered the art of packing, getting to the airport and getting on the flight ideally needs to run as smoothly as possible. This unfortunately is out of your control, it happens as and when your child decides to start listening to you at security. Trying to collapse a buggy, remove all electricals and toiletries, take off shoes, all the while ensuring your toddler doesn’t run off (and making it look like you’re not breaking a sweat) should be an Olympic sport.
After a few ‘break for freedom’ attempts last year in Gibraltar Eddie now patiently waits alongside me and even puts ‘bunny’ voluntarily in the tray. We have this part nailed. I have never flown with Thomson Airways (www.thomson.co.uk) before but we were whizzed through security, having organised fast track and then sat in the airport lounge eating pretzels the size of Eddie’s head in no time. Yes it costs more, but you can’t put a price on your sanity and if you want to make it to the aircraft without looking like a 2007 Britney Spears, these little luxuries make all the difference.
So we made it to the aircraft feeling happy and relaxed. Now it’s not until you’re sat on a squeezy jet flight (which I currently am whilst writing this) that you appreciate airlines with spacious seats and we had plenty of room on Thomson Airways. Their inflight ‘safety’ film is also the funniest and most genius safety demonstration I have ever seen and has possibly inspired a career in air hostessing for Eddie Bear who hasn’t stopped telling people to ‘fasten their seat belts’ since. Along with the invention of iPads, kids snack packs are a great way of keeping your child happy and fed through out the flight.
When the pilot announced the entire flight from Birmingham to Corfu would take less than 3 hours I nearly wept for joy. Eddie is also at that fantastic age where he will happily watch the iPad and I’ll read something educational like Cosmo so the journey passed very quickly. After a fantastic flight we smoothly touched down in Corfu and before we left the aircraft, Eddie had a childhood rite of passage – he met the pilot.
There’s nothing like a toddler crazily reaching to press multiple buttons in the cockpit to raise stress levels and I’m happy to report ‘Pilot Andy’ is incredibly calm under pressure. I whizzed us off the plane before any damage could be done and before I knew it we were arriving at the ship with a less than 30 minute transfer time. There was a real atmosphere of excitement as we boarded the Thomson Dream – the feeling that we were all about to embark on a shared adventure was not one I expected to feel. The first two ‘cruise myths’ were dispelled immediately – 1) not everyone was ‘older’ and 2) my cabin was incredibly spacious. We arrived just in time for dinner and bed which was perfect as we were both shattered. We were greeted at our cabin and then given an extra knock an hour later to check we were settling in ok and if we needed any help. I started to unpack and was stopped by a pat on my leg, “I can help you mummy,” came a little voice. There are so many times Eddie is incredibly adorable and it melts my heart. So despite being shattered we unpacked our bag together and headed to bed ready for the first days adventure.
Being in an ‘outside’ room we had two windows which provided endless entertainment on the occasions we were in the cabin and Eddie spoke about what he could see; mountains, waves, beautiful Greek port towns and on one occasion, to my shock, other passengers on a cruise ship parked alongside ours. If you are a ‘first time cruiser’ with the luxury of a window just because all you have seen so far is sea, you will eventually dock and see actual people and when that happens you want to be wearing clothes. The best thing undoubtedly about having windows was seeing Eddie’s face upon waking up that first morning and seeing we were on water. He just stared in wonder and took it all in, after a while he said “It’s taking us to the beach?” It made me feel so emotional and lucky to be sharing such an experience with him.
After a buffet breakfast (where I had to get up no less that 6 times) we headed to the children’s pool which sits alongside a larger pool. Despite me insisting that the water would be artic temperature Eddie insisted I submerged myself to see; once I had turned a shade of blue, he then dipped a toe and proclaimed it was ‘icy cold’ and he wouldn’t be getting in. This was our only day ‘at sea’ which we spent sunbathing, exploring the 11 floors of the ship and eating ice cream.
The following day I woke and did a YouTube Barre workout whilst secretly wondering if I’d left it too late to get a bikini body when I was already on holiday. I dressed Eddie in Little Ro (I am obsessed with Spanish children’s wear brands – I am a fan of the traditional style on children) the light linen shirt and pale green shirts were the perfect choice for a Sunday in Crete (www.littlerolondon).
I threw on a white dress over my Bahimi Bikini – after a nip slip the previous day had left me and Barry from Birmingham red faced the bandeau was relegated to the suitcase and I firmly tied my Santorini bikini around my neck. I chose the white and blue as it seemed the perfect choice for a Greek island (www.bahimi.com) .
The ship docked in Crete and we meandered through the little port town until we found the perfect sandy beach. It took 30 minutes and I was sweating profusely (attractive) by the time we arrived as Eddie had dismissed the first pebbled beach we had arrived at as “not a beach”. I carried Eddie, the push chair and two beach bags down 50 precarious beach steps to the bemusement of the locals, only to discover there was, in fact, a slope.
Ammoudi beach is a gorgeous sandy cove with a lovely stone restaurant with white tables and chairs. On the way to the beach we stopped to buy Eddie a bucket and spade and the shopkeeper showed us pictures of his children and gave Eddie an extra toy. I hate to say it but Eddie was right, a ‘real’ beach has white sand and turquoise waters and so we spent the day drinking fresh orange juice, paddling and building sandcastles. As it was Sunday we were joined by lots of chattering Greek families enjoying quality time together. It was so lovely to be in the sunshine, with the smell of salt water and listening to the waves lap up the beach. We headed back to the ship in the late afternoon and stopped along the way to enjoy the best frozen Greek yoghurt I have ever eaten. We headed straight for the children’s pool when back on the ship and Eddie quickly made 2 new friends. That evening I decided not to brave the buffet again but to head to Orion with mini me where we were waited on hand and foot by hilarious waiters who made animals out of napkins for Eddie and laughed and joked with everyone about the events of the day.
I chose, (you aren’t forced) to sit on a ‘sharing table’ with other people and have an adult conversation. We were seated with two lovely ladies from Cheshire and their husbands who have done many a Thomson Cruise and keep coming back for me. They listed ‘friendliness’ as the reason they chose Thomson over other cruise providers and it’s not hard to see why. All the staff from house keeping to waiting staff have big personalities. In the entire week I didn’t once walk past a member of staff that didn’t say ‘Hello’ to me. Once I had discovered the luxury of other people bringing me and Eddie our food I wouldn’t be tempted by the buffet again despite the amazing selection on offer.
The following day I was so excited to wake in Mykonos. We had to get a little boat to the dock which Eddie found very exciting. On the dock it was a walk about 10 mins round the harbour to the bus which took us to Mykonos Palace Hotel situated on a long strip of white sand beach. Unfortunately the sun didn’t receive the memo and the weather was awful. We wrapped towels around ourselves and went for a walk along the beach and looked for seashells. Then I decided to hit the beach bar and we had fresh strawberry and banana smoothies. I quickly realised that we were wasting time slurping smoothies and watching Peppa Pig under towels when we could be exploring so we got a taxi back into town.
The sun came out as we got to town and we ended up having lunch on the harbour front. We spent a while exploring the white stone cobbled back streets that seem endless – you would spend days meandering through them and keep discovering new places. We had a crepe and ice cream in the most friendly ice cream shop in the world. Although I felt that of every place we went to – we were always met with a smile, Eddie’s cheeks were pinched and everyone was keen to talk. I was reluctant to leave but we eventually walked back to the dock and Eddie fell asleep on the boat back over. As I hadn’t brought a buggy this left me with the small challenge of carrying him and the bags off the boat, up the stairs, through security, (taking bags on and off) up 5 flights of stairs, along the gangway and to the back of the boat where he stayed asleep and I sunbathed for 30 blissful minutes – it was incredible.
That evening we sat with a wonderful couple Gordon and June from Sheffield who have been married 56 years! Personally I liked the sharing tables in the evening; essentially you’re sharing with well travelled people and everyone had such interesting stories. I was also so impressed by the amazing vegetarian options available. We returned to bed that evening to yet another wonderful towel animal and although I hadn’t yet found ‘love’ or broken into spontaneous song we had more islands to discover and the promise of another adventure the following day where we would wake in Turkey…