We hear how the eruption of the Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajökull in April 2010 helped one of our readers become a cruise convert…
BY VICTORIA RICHARDSON
Who remembers the massive plume of ash that hung above the UK in April 2010 and grounded all the flights in and out
of the UK? Ah yes…the ash cloud…the ash cloud that threatened to affect European flights for weeks and at some points it was thought months is now a forbidden phrase in our house hold.
The reason for this being that we spent many minutes, hours, days whittling and worrying about how we were going to get home from our family holiday in Portugal. Sounds idyllic doesn’t it, being stuck in Portugal, however under those circumstances it was highly stressful. That was until Celebrity Cruises sailed in to save the day and offered us, and several hundred other people a lift home.
Having been a cruise sceptic I had never stepped foot on a cruise ship before and up until this point had had no real desire to. I have always loved the sea and the sight and sound of the ocean waves; however I was always hesitant about actually going on a cruise. I used to sail when I was younger, just dinghy’s and toppers and I was lucky enough to have a Grandfather who shared my passion for the sea and built me a small catamaran.
Despite this background, however, I could never work up any enthusiasm for going on a cruise. I suppose my fear was the same as many peoples and that was that I would be ‘stuck’ on a ship with a load of people I didn’t want to be with and couldn’t escape. My fears were soon dispelled.
In response to the UK airspace shut down, the newly completed Celebrity Eclipse was sent by its owners, as “an act of goodwill”, to Bilbao to rescue 2,000 British holidaymakers, of which I was one. As we pulled up at the port of Bilbao the brand new Eclipse looked majestic. The Celebrity Eclipse, part of the Solstice Class of cruise ships operated by Celebrity Cruises, was filled almost to its capacity of 2,852. This was going to be a test of my fears. We stepped on board very tired and weary after a 12 hour drive across mainland Europe and from the moment we stepped on the staff could not have been more attentive, helpful or cheerful, they were truly a joy after our stressful trip. We had reached a place where nothing seemed too much trouble, a far cry from the exclusive 5 star hotel we had just left!
The ease of embarkation and the fact that all our needs were catered for as soon as we stepped on board, meant our ‘holiday’ on board the Eclipse began immediately, which was a fact that remained in my head and became just one of the many key reasons for booking subsequent cruises. As a family of four that had travelled through the night, my husband and I hadn’t slept whereas the kids were raring to go, as they had slept throughout the schlep across Portugal and Spain.
Our initial needs, therefore, were very different, the kids were excited and wanted to play, whereas Mum and Dad wanted a hot shower and comfy bed. These were all catered for outstandingly well. Celebrity are not always thought of as a family choice however the ‘Fun Factory’ gained the highest recommendation from our boys, who loved it, and when it came to collection time were diffi cult to remove.
They couldn’t wait to go back again! This was a first for us and children’s clubs and, yes, another swaying factor in booking another cruise. It’s true that if the kids are happy the parents normally are too.
Having rested whilst the kids were safely playing, we were then all ready to explore the ship and it’s many luxurious facilities, including – the pools, the casino, the Eclipse Theatre, the cinema, gift shops, the library and we even checked out the Martini bar, well we had too it would have been rude not to! This was when I realised just how large and uncrowded these ships felt and how well catered for you were on board. As for dining there was no shortage of restaurants to choose from including the Moonlight Sonata, Cafe el Bacio, the Oceanview Cafe, the Mast Grill and continental and European inspired Murano.
The defining moment of realisation that I was loving this experience, and had to do it again, came the following day when I was sitting in the peace and tranquillity of the Aquaspa reading a book and watching the glistening blue waters drift by. It was the ultimate in relaxation and I could literally feel all my stresses melt away. This was when I knew I had to repeat this experience and that I had become a cruise convert.
We have since all been away again on a family cruise on The Independence of the Seas, which is a very large ship where travellers of many different stripes coexist comfortably, and also an ultra luxurious adult only cruise on board the Oceania’s Marina ship. Both of which I would highly recommend for entirely different reasons. The Independence was wonderful for families and the children had a whale of a time with endless activities. Whereas the Marina provided a haven of luxury, elegance and style that only adults would appreciate. The food on board the Marina was quite simply sumptuous, again a treat that should be left for the adults.
So as I write this we are busily trying to decide on our next ‘ports of call’, quite literally, for our next trip because, as Mae West once said, “Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.”