When you hear the word ‘cruise’ a few thoughts pop into your head.
These probably include: your dad’s upcoming retirement; the Titanic; or the effervescent talent of the one and only Jane McDonald.
What you probably don’t think is: ‘That’s my next holiday sorted.’
But you should.
I recently went on my first ever cruise – a three-day jaunt around the Greek islands (with a quick stop-off in Turkey).
Much to my parents’ horror, I’ve been banging on about fancying a cruise for a couple of years now.
While they like to go off gallivanting around India for weeks on end like a couple of teenagers, I just want to collapse on a sunbed somewhere hot and quietly consume double my recommended daily allowance of food and booze.
Unsurprisingly, I took to cruising like a duck to water.
In fact, it turns out I took to cruising a bit too well, as I suffered from land sickness on my return.
Who even knew land sickness was a thing?
I’ve obviously missed my true calling as a sailor.
We boarded our ship, the Celestyal Olympia, in Athens.
I’d never been there before and immediately realised this was a travesty.
The city is buzzy and vibrant and sophisticated and cosmopolitan and, most importantly, awash with affordable taxis (one of my absolute fave attributes in a new place).
Like Barcelona, it gives you both city and beach, and I will definitely be heading back for some weekend break action in the near future.
From Athens, we took to the Aegean Sea, sailing until we reached Mykonos – which we did just in time for a light, evening stroll up to its iconic windmills and round its shop-lined back streets.
There we had a sunset Aperol Spritz, and an utterly delicious port-side dinner at Vegera Mykonos – you absolutely have to order the dakos salad (a twist on a Greek salad, with tomatoes, capers, feta and giant rusk croutons), and tiropita (a traditional Greek cheese pie that’ll make you embarrassed you’ve ever done anything else with cheese or pastry).
By 11pm we were all safely back aboard the Olympia, and sailing towards our next destination – Kusadasi, in Turkey.
Our stop-off in Turkey was one of my highlights of the trip.
This is because, shamefully, I’d never been to Turkey before (I have, however, eaten more than my fair share of Adana kebabs), and because we went to the ancient ruins of Ephesus.
I often shy away from excursions like this; when I go on holiday, I just want to switch off and, well, slob out.
But I absolutely loved our visit to Ephesus.
Our guide was great, the sun was beaming down and the ruins really are pretty mind-blowing.
On the way back to the bus I bought a trouser suit (harem pants and short-sleeved shirt) emblazoned with the ancient symbol for a brothel for 20 Euros.
It was a highly successful excursion.
Just after midday, we were back on the open sea, cruising towards Patmos.
Ah, Patmos – what a dream.
There are a few different excursion options when you get to Patmos, but I implore you to ignore all the worthy cultural stuff, and head straight to Agriolivado beach.
On this cruise this is your only chance to get some beach action (unless you’re extending your trip in some way), and Agriolivado – with its scenic views and clean, clear waters – is pretty bloody perfect.
That night, we had dinner on the ship.
The Celestyal Olympia has five dining options – ranging from an a la carte restaurant to a poolside buffet.
The food served in each was more or less the same, but my favourite was the Leda Buffet – a relaxed restaurant on the pool deck, with a bright and breezy feel.
I didn’t think the food on the ship wasn’t super-duper out-of-this-world amazing.
There is, however, a huge variety on offer, so you have to be picky to not find anything you like.
If you have any dietary requirements you will be diligently catered for.
One of my group was gluten intolerant, one was veggie and I don’t eat pork or shellfish.
The kitchen went out of their way to make sure we were all well fed.
The ship docks at least once a day, so, if you really want, you can always treat yourself to something more to your liking when you reach dry land.
The next morning we awoke in Crete.
I’m going to admit something which I never ever in a million years thought I’d say, but… I didn’t get off the ship.
I know, I’m that person.
Let me explain.
I’ve been to Crete before (shut up, I haven’t finished yet), and the group excursion was to the ruins of the Minoan Palace of Knossos – where I’ve also been before.
And, well, I really wanted to work on my tan.
Yes, I probably should have got off and at least had a little wander around the port area.
But there were sun loungers, swimming pools, and an endless supply of complimentary frappes on board, so on board is where I stayed.
By 11.30am we’d set sail again, and this time we were headed for Santorini, where I actually bothered to disembark.
I was really looking forward to visiting Santorini.
My Instagram feed seems to be constantly flooded with pictures of its colour-pop cliff-side villages.
During our four hours on the island, we visited Santorini’s two main towns – Oia, where all the jaw-dropping pictures are taken, and Fira, the island’s capital, from where you take a cable car back to the ship.
Expectations were high, but the general consensus from my group was that Santorini was a bit of a let-down.
The main problem was that it was busier than rush hour on the Northern line.
There were tourists everywhere.
You could hardly see the Instagram-famous views for the selfie sticks, SLRs and smugly sunburned honeymooners.
We sought refuge in Thalami, a cliff-side restaurant where I treated my tastebuds to two local delicacies: Santorini tomato fritters, which are one of the top five things anyone’s ever done with a tomato in the history of tomatoes); and fava dip, which is basically the love-child of hummus and daal, and is deliciously moreish.
Then I headed back to the cruise and ate a second dinner, because holidays.
As it was our last evening on board, we decided to take the plunge and do something we’d been putting off for the past two nights – go and see the show.
The Olympia may be a small ship, at least compared to some of the super liners, but in true cruise-ship tradition, there’s a nightly performance by their in-house company
Despite our initial reluctance, the show was just the right side of camp, and made a change to my usual nightly Netflix binge back home.
There’s also a disco, karaoke, a casino, and all sorts of other activities day and night.
Then next morning we were back in Athens, where we enjoyed one last frappe under the Greek sun, before reluctantly heading home.
So here’s the thing; I think cruises are great.
They’re the pick ‘n’ mix of holidays.
I loved being on the ship, waking up in my little cabin, and stopping off for a little taste of lots of different destinations without having to pack and unpack my case a million times.
Oh, and the access to unlimited free cocktails wasn’t bad either.
How to get there
Prices are from £397 pp (full board basis, including unlimited drinks package and two shore excursions).
Return flights from Heathrow to Athens are from £239.69 with Aegean Airways.