We have been back on the Costa Geriatrica, finding there were considerably less geriatrics on board compared with last year. There was also considerably less breathing space!
When we did our 99-day world trip on the Costa Luminosa in 2016 we ran into some bad weather and engine trouble that caused us to lose some port-time in both New Zealand and Australia. As a very nice gesture the company let all passengers who wanted to do so, have a free Mediterranean week on the same ship in the summer of 2017. We decided to take them up on the offer and signed up for a round trip from Venice to Greece and Croatia in September.
An excellent little break from the routines of everyday life, even though we now live an everyday life where there are not so many routines left. We set aside a few days in Venice before the cruise started, a Venice that ES loves to go to and that DHH had not seen since August 1974. He was in town the week Richard «Tricky Dick The Prick» Nixon resigned as US President, at a point in time when the Italian economy was so run down that the Lido camp site he stayed at had to issue their own plastic coins in order to make it possible for their customers to pay in the kiosk!
With refugees floating in from the south and with Berlusconi still threatening to run for public office Italy is not in the best shape these day either, but at least Venice does look the same. The gondoliers in their hooped shirts look exactly like they did when Donald Duck and James Bond first visited the town. All the stairs over all the bridges, all the narrow streets where DHH gets lost and ES always finds her way, all the small and gorgeous pizzerias and all the stupid tourists. They were all there still!
The stupid tourists, however, can actually be avoided. Being smart tourists, like ourselves, it is amazingly easy to walk a block or two off the beaten track and be more or less alone. You can find such places only a five minute walk from a San Marco Square, a place so crowded that you end up kicking old ladies and stepping on their little dogs if you want to fight your way from one end of the plaza to another!
After three days in Venice we headed for the harbour and our old friend the Luminosa. The ship can take close to 3000 passengers, relatively small for a Costa cruiser believe it or not. On the world cruise we were 1800, aged mostly from 60 upwards. Now there were 2800, aged mainly from 50 downwards. The reason is obvious: Most young people cannot take three months of work in late fall, but they very much can take one week off in late summer! They can even bring their kids!
The surroundings made us feel at home, we had a cabin in the same corridor and we had a balcony overlooking the harbours and the ocean. The 1000 extra people however, made a difference. The restaurants were totally crowded, as were the bars and the pool areas. There were some familiar faces among the crew, but not many and nobody we had known well. Our dinner companions were nice people, but our close friends from last year were not around and our window table at the very back was taken by somebody else. We had to eat our dinners in the middle of the big lower hall, without as much as a trace of sea view! If nothing else, it dawned on us how extremely lucky we had been getting the window seats for a full three months around the world!
We left Venice on a Saturday. Our stops were four hours in Trieste on the Sunday, five hours in Corfu on the Monday, six hours in Olympia on the Tuesday and a full 14 hour day in Mykonos on the Wednesday. On the Thursday we had four hours in Dubrovnik, the Friday was spent at sea and on Saturday we were back in Venice.
The program was hectic, to say the least. As seasoned cruise passengers, which we now are even though this is only our second such trip, we had no illusions that we could go on a trip like this to «discover Greece». We decided to stay on board during most of the stops. We skipped Trieste, Corfu and Olympia all together, we can always go to these places later at our own speed. We came for the ship anyway. We very much enjoyed staying on the Luminosa during our three months, and when everybody else were ashore sightsprinting in and out of the buses on shore we had the bars, the restaurants, the bubble baths, the gym and the sun deck more or less to ourselves.
We did enjoy Mykonos however, the only full day stop on the entire trip. We also went to revisit Dubrovnik, a town ES has visited multiple times and has felt closely connected to during most of her life. Four hours in the morning is not a lot, but we got to walk the streets and have an ice cream in the harbour. Her favourite lunch restaurant was closed however, they did not open till 12 and that was the time when we had to start heading back on board.
We left the Luminosa for the second and possibly last time in a bit of two minds. On one hand we had enjoyed the week, and most of all the time on board. On the other hand, we knew that if we had paid the full price for a cruise like this we would have been very much disappointed. Running to the bus for a three hour trip and then back on board, pretending to have seen the great sites of the Mediterranean, is not for us. We would have felt cheated.
We have friends who have done similar journeys and loved it, families we know well who have travelled as groups in order to spend time with each other as well as doing sightseeing. That is a very different exercise and something we also would have loved to do, should our kids ever want to join. But doing a snapshot week pretending to enjoy new places? Forget it! A three month world cruise is so much more relaxing, so much more slow travel, so much more space and time!
Most of all we spent the week watching the ocean, which is something we love to do and something we very much intend to do again. Sitting on our balcony with a beer enjoying the sunset is as good as it gets, weather we are on a cruise ship or a container ship or on DHH’s fathers 25-footer. Let everybody else run for the bus to get to Olympia, we are in no hurry to join!
The biggest disappointment of the trip however, was something we could not blame on the cruise company. This time, the criminally insane US President did not resign while we visited Venice. We live in a world where miracles sometimes do happen, but they do not always happen just because you make a wish!