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I mentioned in my last post that I have already booked a cruise for 2013. It will be for fourteen nights on Ventura from Southampton to the western Mediterranean. Of those fourteen nights not much more than half will actually be in the Mediterranean – the rest will be on the passages between Southampton and the straits of Gibralter, or in ports on the Atlantic coast of Iberia. So if we want to cruise in the Med (and who doesn’t?), why not book a 10, 11 or 12 night fly cruise out of a Mediterranean port? That way there’s no wasted time slogging up and down the western Atlantic. It’s a fair question.

We have done such cruises, of course. Four of them, in fact: our first-ever cruise, for 7 nights on MSC Sinfonia out of Genoa, and three cruises with Celebrity out of Civitavecchia. We certainly enjoyed these latter cruises, especially the third one on Celebrity Solstice on which we visited Istanbul. But while the cruises themselves were enjoyable, we increasingly found the arrangements surrounding them to be irksome.

First, although flights from regional airports to the embarkation port are available, the cruise lines are generally unable to say whether these flights will be direct or not. We much prefer direct flights; on our first Celebrity cruise we met a couple from Liverpool whose luggage got delayed at Paris. They were three days into the cruise before it caught up with them at Mykonos, and those first few days were quite spoiled for them. The only guaranteed direct flights are from Heathrow, and that’s what we’ve done in the past. The flights out have all worked well but we’ve found that the arrangements for the flights home were not helpful. Twice we were booked on late afternoon flights out of Fiumicino which meant that by the time we’d got through immigration, etc, and into the car at Heathrow it was 7 o’clock or later, and we then had the drive back to Sheffield. We got back at nearly midnight exhausted, and needing another holiday to recover.

Of course we could arrange our own direct flights from a regional airport using a budget airline, but then we’d have to arrange our own transfers to the ship. Again, perfectly do-able, but also extra work and stress, and we don’t want either of those. Also we’d feel that we ought to fly out a day or so early – we’ve experienced delays on budget airlines often enough to be a wary of absolutely relying on one to make a connection. I’ve no problems using a budget airline when we’re staying at the destination because a hotel isn’t going to let go its moorings and sail away without us. However a cruise ship could do exactly that, especially if we haven’t booked our travel as part of the cruise.

Finally, there’s the pattern of the cruise. We have come to relish those first two or three days at sea doing absolutely nothing. Last year on Ventura I was in a pretty stressed-out state when we embarked because work had recently been especially busy, and it was the third day of the cruise before I relaxed. So we enjoy the initial chill-out period before we get into the port-intensive section of the cruise. Fly-cruises, on the other hand, often seem to pitch you straight into it – presumably the assumption is that if you’re flying you must be short of time so you won’t want to waste any more. That’s not the way we feel, however.

All these things may change, of course, especially after we both retire and have more time on our hands – we may come to relish the opportunity to be busy. But not yet…..

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