Family Cruise 2016!!

The cruise just couldn’t come sooner after a crazy tiring first year of university. As a keen traveller cruises never fail to make the ultimate holiday by visiting different countries and various destinations in the space of 2 weeks!! Its a great alternative to interailing and I beleive I get to see more crusing with my family.

Introduction

I went on holiday with my family (parents and my brother) during the 5th and 19th of July, where we flew to Palma, Mallorca and embarked on the MS Thomson Majesty. Throughout the two weeks the Thomson Majesty visited a number of ports of call, around Spain, Italy and France where we undertook a number of activities during the days. Each port of call gave a new exciting day to explore ashore. Generally, activities such as walking, sightseeing and going to the beaches were some of the most popular activities which were done at each of the destinations. A number of these activities depended on the specific port of call. A mixture of the activities made the holiday more enjoyable and memorable. I will discuss each of the weeks and activities which we visited on the cruise, and then evaluating these will highlight my most enjoyable parts of the holiday and how holidays in the future could be made better.

Week One – Treasures of the Mediterranean

Day at Sea

The first full day on the holiday after the sail away party from Palma was sailing all day to arrive tomorrow in Sicily. This allowed a day to fully amerce ourselves into the holiday spirit and relax for the upcoming two weeks. Unlike the majority of cruises which I have been on before this two-week cruise only has one day as sea. We spent the majority of the morning and some of the later afternoon laying on the sunbeds on the top deck of the ship listening to music and enjoying the entertainment provided on-board during the day. Just after lunch we decided that we would have a break of sun bathing to play table tennis. Today was the weekly captain’s gala night on-board which meant dressing for the evening meal in a dinner suit which is always a nice event during the cruise. The day at sea is a nice day for relaxing, although having this day as the first day of the cruise was not really exciting and would have preferred this day to have either been latter in the week or during the second week.

Trapani, Sicily

Trapani was our first full day in port and from planning ahead we decided to walk to the cable car, which goes up to Mount Erice. There were excursions to the cable car but to walk was only an and one of the main goals of the holiday is to do a lot of walking. At the start of walking to the cable car we took a detour to the coast and to look at the beaches present at this port. To reach the cable car was a simple route by walking on a straight line street. Once arriving to the top of Mount Erice there is a historical town with a castle and shops to visit. We only looked around the castle to take photos. At the shops we bought Sicilian chocolate and gelatos. While walking around there were incredible backdrops where the town of Trapani can be viewed on one side and the other shows other mountain ranges around Sicily. After the end of this day we had reached the largest amount of steps that we have ever recorded (28,000). This port of call was nice to visit as it was the first time in Trapani, Sicily and would like to discover the other side of Sicily to visit Mount Etna for the future.

Sorrento, Italy

I visited Sorrento in 2014 when getting a boat to the Island of Capri, but for the rest of my family this was their first time. Today was a tender port which meant that the ship was not able to dock into the port and there were smaller boats used to transfer us to and from the ship to Sorrento. This port is east to pick another boat to go to Capri and to visit Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius. Sorrento provided a great place to take photographs of the Thomson Majesty and Mount Vesuvius in the background. It was not until the last day of the cruise that Thomson Cruises asked if they could use one of my photographs which I took on their social media. As we have done these before our initial plan was to visit Amalfi, however this was too far away and cost too much money for a taxi here. Instead of this we decided to have a look at the historical aspects of Sorrento and the shops. When walking up to the town of Sorrento there was a lot of memories coming back when I was in Sorrento 2 years ago. This port of call provided nice backdrops and a nice relaxing walk through the town of Sorrento. It would be nice to revisit Capri again if we came back to Sorrento.

Civitavecchia for Rome, Italy

Rome which is one of the main highlights of the cruise was an exciting day. This is my fourth trip to Rome after being with sixth form two years ago. This was one of two of the planned excursions we booked up for the two weeks. After the two-hour bus trip from the port to Rome we took photos outside the Vatican City, as we have been inside before on another cruise. We decided to visit Castel Sant’Angelo which was interesting and was able to provide to incredible views of the Vatican City and the sights of Rome. After this we walked to Pantheon, passing the Piazza Navona on the way. We had lunch in the same restaurant as we did last time as a family. We then headed to view Fontana di Trevi, then Altar of the Fatherland and finally seeing the wonders of Colosseum. After walking from one end of Rome to the other side it was time to head back to the ship. Rome was definitely one of the most favorite days of the cruise and would like to revisit Rome again. I would like to visit the landmarks of Rome on a bike for an alternative view of Rome.

Ajaccio, Corsica

After a number of days heavily orientated around walking today was the first day to go on to the beach. The last time we were docked here was on our first cruise and were unable to reach the beach the first time as we were unsure where the beach was located.

Once arriving in Ajaccio we wondered through the main square which had a Sunday market and went past the house where Napoleon was born. The beach was one of the best beaches that we had been on as it was calm and clear waters. There was a large amount of passengers from the Thomson Majesty and another cruise ship present on the beach including our cruise director. As found on the morning we visited Napoleon’s birth house on the afternoon which was interesting but a lot of the original furniture and decoration had been changed. Ajaccio would be a nice place to visit again for the beach and is a nice small town to visit.  Also it would be an idea to visit more of what Ajaccio and Corsica has to offer. This could be done by renting a car for the day or cycle tours.

Mahon, Menorca

This was one of three ports which the Thomson fleet have never visited before. Unlike our initial thoughts of Mahon there was no beach in walking distance which meant that we went exploring around the shore and the town of Mahon. When walking we came across a supermarket and an entertainment complex which we stopped to get drinks from. We were going to play bowling but unfortunately the entertainment complex was closed which we then decided to keep exploring the town of Mahon. Some of the views of Mahon were impressive when walking but just was not one of the most exciting ports. We walked through the main shopping areas, as well as a market and then on the portside. We returned, on the afternoon, to the ship to relax on the deck loungers and pool facilities for the remainder of our time in Mahon. Some of the impressive views could be seen back on board the ship and when sailing back to Palma to start the second week.

Week Two – Catalan Promise

Palma, Mallorca

Our last full day in Palma was when on the Thomson Dream in 2012, where just like on this cruise is where the itinerates start and finish.

Today marked the 7th visit to Palma and decided to follow a similar day as we did in 2012. We started by walking to the impressive Santa María cathedral, built in the 13th century, which can be seen on the bay of Palma. Unlike last time we went inside the cathedral and followed the audio guide. The cathedral was inspired greatly by Antoni Gaudi. Personally, the architecture inside the cathedral is not appealing unlike the aesthetics on the outside. We then went to the beach in Palma and saw the TUI busses transporting passengers back to the airport and new passengers arriving onto the Thomson Majesty. The beach was not as nice as the on in Ajaccio with rubbish and the seas were rougher than those in Corsica. Unlike last time in 2012 we were able to walk back to the ship and on the night able to enjoy the sail away party. Palma is a nice place to visit and pick up the ship. For the next time we could miss the beach and visit sites such as the Moorish-style Arab fortress and the hilltop Bellver Castle.

Ibiza Town, Ibiza

Due to the seas being too rough to use the tender for Alcudia, there was a switch of itinerary to visit Ibiza first.

To go ashore we had to get a shuttle to the town and then from there we headed for the citadel first which provided some great opportunities to take photographs of Ibiza, Thomson Majesty and the TUI ship. We were fortunate that the weather was overcast and was able to climb the citadel much easier than it would have been when being sunny. Once leaving the citadel we bought Hard Rock Café Ibiza tee shirts and headed to the beach which was only 15 minutes’ walk. We spent most of the afternoon on the beach and while on the beach we were getting asked by promotes to join particular events going on. Although we had to decline these as we were on a cruise. Finally, we returned back to the ship and was able to chill out before dinner and the evening’s entertainment. The beach was nice to swim in, however the citadel was not impressive and a lot of the historical aspects can be seen to be lost. It would be an idea to see how Ibiza town changes from the day atmosphere to the night.

The rough seas were apparent when sailing to Palamós and some of the worst ever experienced on sailing on Cruises.

Palamós, Spain

This was our 3rd time visiting Palamós and our original idea was to revisit the beach which was located very close to the ship. Also I and my dad wanted to go cycling one day during the cruise as we enjoyed the cycle ride in Korčula, Croatia last year. The bike tour guide suggested the route of Palamós so we I and my dad decided to go cycling on this day.

The overall cycling distance was 20 kilometres and went as a group. Unlike last year many of the people riding were amateurs which made the bike ride slower than last year but not as tired as last year. Our first stage of the trip was from Palamós to a town called Palafrugell (9.4km). To reach here we followed the cycle paths. Once arrived here we stopped off for a tea break and water replenishment. This stop also gave us a chance to talk to some of the people also riding on the trip. Our second stage of the cycle route was from Palafrugell to Plata Del Castell (7.7km). Here we were able to have 45 minutes to enjoy the remote scenery and the glorious beach. This in my opinion was the best beach of the holiday. It would be nice to revisit this beach as a family. After this stop we headed back to the ship (7.8km) for the captains gala evening.

Toulon, France

The cloudy weather experienced over the last two days had finally gone and today we set out to go on the cable car up to Mont Faron. We decided to take the bus to the cable car. We took the bus on the wrong side meaning we were delayed reaching the cable car. Once arrived on top of Mont Faron we were able to experience the scenic views of Toulon and the Thomson Majesty. When walking around the top of Mont Faron we were also able to get views of the mountain ranges and small towns around. At the top we walked to the zoo which was featured on top of the mountain, although we did not visit inside the zoo. Before heading down we stopped at one of the cafes located on the mountain for drinks. After getting the cable car back down to Toulon we walked back to the ship.

We were not able to make it to the beach so if we were to come back this could be a possible option. Also the marine museum which suggested takes 2 hours could be an option to visit.

Sète, France

This was the first time Thomson Cruises have docked into the port of Sète and when leaving the ship, we had to get a shuttle bus out of the port.

We decided to walk up to the mountain. To do this we walked through the canals of Sète and the town. Just before the steps to get up to the top of the mountain there was a park with an amazing water feature creating a rainbow in the water which created some great photography options. After getting a bit lost we didn’t walk up the main steps to reach the summit of the mountain but was able to get up part of the steps which still gave some great photo opportunities. We were all very tired after walking up the stairs so we descended to walk to the beach, which was half an hours walk. The water was really cold but was a nice place to relax for the afternoon before returning to the ship. Sète did not provide the most interesting sights but still was a pleasant day and if we were to return we would do the Chapelle de la Salette on top of the mountain.

Barcelona, Spain

This was my second time in Barcelona after visiting in 2008, although this is the first time with the whole family.

On the morning we had a guided tour which was to visit inside la sagrada familia. We decided that by going with a tour will be able to cut the waiting times to visit inside. Once inside la sagrada familia it was incredible and was very interesting how the progress is coming along. It is supposed to be finished in 2026, marking 100 years of Antoni Gaudi’s death. During our free time we visited la sagrada familia museum. After this we then got back onto the bus to visit the Museo Nacional d’Art de Catalonia and then the Barcelona Olympic Stadium of 1992.

After the tour we went back onboard the ship to have some lunch then going back into Barcelona on our own. We headed up Las Ramblas and took in the views. Such places like Basílica de Santa Maria del Pi which we came up across. It would have been nice to make it all the way to the end of Las Ramblas to see the Plaça de Catalunya. I will be coming back to Barcelona in 2017 as part of my University degree for a week.

Alcudia, Mallorca

This was our last full day before going home and this port was the port we should have visited on the first day of this week. Once arriving by tender there was a massive beach to relax and have a good swim in the water. Me and my dad did have a look at hiring some equipment but did not in the end. Possibly if we were to come back it would be an idea to hire out some equipment to do some water sports. We decided for the afternoon we would explore the old town in Alcudia. While walking to the old town we came across a restaurant where we all decided to share a Spanish Tapas which was a really nice touch to being in Spain. Once arriving at the old town it was a nice walk around the place and good photo opportunities. After we went back to the ship by tender and was the last night on-board before leaving the ship in Palma to go back home to Newcastle.

Conclusion

There was a general consensus in the family that the Thomson Majesty holiday this year was the best cruise mostly due to the exciting range of ports and destinations that the ship visited. We also prefer that in the second week there was no day as sea to make the most of the holiday and exploring new places.

We enjoyed Rome the most as we not only were able to revisit areas which we had visited before but new places such as the Castel Sant’Angelo, which provided incredible views of the Vatican City. Even after my fourth time to Rome it is an incredible city with interests always to do and for a change it would be really nice to visit Rome by bike to spend longer at the attractions Rome has to offer. Although ports such as Barcelona and Ajaccio were incredible places to visit.

Even though at Mahon it was a nice walk and could have enjoyed the area more if the leisure complex was open it was decided by the whole family this was the worst port of call of the holiday as there was limited to see and do when exploring ashore.

I have uploaded a snapshot of images frm the holiday on my Art blog at: https://benjaminlawsonart.wordpress.com/2017/06/10/summer-2016/

Here’s to cruise 2017!!

 

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