A few months prior, I had dreaded telling my sister that we'd booked another cruise. I knew it would inevitably led to the discussion (again) about how cruising isn't for her. It's not an uncommon view, and to be fair to my sister, she has cruised before, so at least her opinion comes from experience.
Her trip was with Holland America Line, and she struggled with the general hubbub onboard and the structured days, coming away from it feeling like she'd been herded around. My husband and I had chosen to travel again with SeaDream, who cater for a hundred guests rather than over a thousand, and we knew that it was a completely different experience, more akin to a travelling boutique hotel.
Our itinerary began in Athens, hopping between the beautiful Greek coastline and the islands into the Adriatic, ending with an overnight stay on board the yacht in Dubrovnik. It was lovely to go back to Athens, which we visited on our first ever overseas holiday in the '70s on an arduous coach trip. We've always been quite intrepid travellers, but we prefer a little more luxury these days, so SeaDream really fits the bill, almost like sailing on our very own super yacht.
Once we'd checked in we headed to the Top of the Yacht Bar to grab a drink and watch the coming and goings of the port. The barman welcomed us by name, having met us a year prior when we travelled with SeaDream in the Caribbean. I was suitably impressed, whilst my husband, rather embarrassingly, took the opportunity to test whether he could remember our preferred drinks!
Our trip took us to Hydra, which was a real throwback to our first holiday, with no traffic on the island and a completely undeveloped feel. We sailed through the Corinth Canal, with a pilot boat leading us into the channel. I could not believe how deep and narrow it was - you could almost touch both sides of the canal from the ship. The whole experience was unforgettable.
In Delphi, we climbed what seemed like a never-ending set of steps to reach the archaeological sites - it was definitely worth the effort. We saw ancient temples, Roman theatres, and right at the top of the site was the Stadium of Delphi. The views from the top were spectacular; this was where the Ancient Greeks held the Pythian Games, which included gymnastics and track and field events. We had the place almost to ourselves, and wandered around imagining what the atmosphere must have been like when the Games were held all that time ago.
Kotor was a wonderful highlight. A tiny walled city at the end of the Bay of Kotor, it was the prettiest place on the whole the trip. Imagine the Norwegian Fjords but warmer. We arrived in the afternoon and wandered the cobbled streets, heading back on board to change and enjoy a delicious meal served on deck, and then jumped off again for a long after-dinner stroll, blissful.
When we arrived at our final port of call, Dubrovnik, we anchored next to quite a few other super yachts, some with their own helipads. Ours wasn't quite as sleek, but we felt it stood up. Dubrovnik is an absolute jewel, it must be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. To walk around the old city walls is an experience not to be missed, and we enjoyed our final evening of the trip here before tearing ourselves away from SeaDream and back to reality.
Throughout the holiday we enjoyed unstructured days, wandering ashore when we liked, easily nipping back to our room when my husband inevitably forgot something or other. We dined on board and the staff quickly got to know our preferences, always trying to tempt me with a top-up of rosé at lunch.
The food was exceptional, with evening meals presented to the table under silver cloches, lifted in unison for all at the table with a chorus of "for your dinner pleasure this evening". A charming bit of theatre, which added a hint of formality to the relaxed and laid-back atmosphere created by the warm friendly service and casual dress code (we didn't need to worry about taking ball gowns or dinner jackets, or even cocktail dresses and suits).
What we loved the most was the constant effort to delight. Whether it was cleaning our sunglasses when we were relaxing on deck, the little gifts waiting for us in our room on many evenings (my husband still wears his personally embroidered SeaDream pyjamas), or the charming towel art, every effort was made to ensure that we wanted for nothing. And it worked. We had the most amazing trip and are looking forward to when we'll be able to go again. It's just a shame I'll have to tell my sister when I've booked!