Got up at 8.00am after an excellent night’s sleep, and had a look out on our balcony and the busy street below on the build-up to rush hour. The sky was a cloudless deep blue and the air was already warm, with only a slight breeze.
We went down to breakfast and enjoyed bacon and eggs washed down with coffee and orange juice. Our transport to take us to the port of Piraeus was not due for another couple of hours, so we pondered what we were going to do. Looking over at the Acropolis, we decided we didn’t really have enough time to go and explore it, which was a pity when we were here in Athens.
We therefore returned to our room and sat out on our balcony for a while, before packing our stuff up and going back downstairs to have a wander outside and explore the immediate vicinity. We walked along, passing mainly shops and office buildings before going back to our hotel for another cup of coffee while we awaited our car.
Another yellow Mercedes (all the taxis appear to be yellow here) arrived to collect us, and off we went through the busy, sunlit streets to Piraeus. The traffic was chaotic, with no respect for the rules of the road or parking, and we saw lots of cars double-parked or where a vehicle had been hemmed in. The traffic wardens were having a field day, and we saw several cars having their number plates removed to be taken to the police station. Our driver told us that the vehicle owners would have to pay a fine to get the number plates back! 😊
After about 30 minutes, we could see the gleaming white hulls and colourful funnels looming, letting us know we were close to Piraeus and the cruise terminal. We spotted a Tui Mein Schiff vessel and then, next to that, we cast our eyes upon the Azamara Pursuit for the first time, and we felt a fresh surge of excitement and anticipation. Alighting from the taxi, we collected our bags from the boot and approached one of the nearby staff. Before handing over our luggage, we removed some Covid testing kits from one of the cases so we could provide a (hopefully) negative antigen test before boarding. The guy told us that check-in would commence at 1.00pm – not for another couple of hours.
We therefore had four hours to kill before our allocated boarding time of 3.00pm, but we were advised that there were plenty of cafés, restaurants and bars nearby, where we could sit and relax and pass the time.
We set off along the busy, sunlit streets in search of a café and somewhere we could get a cold drink (and discreetly carry out our Covid tests). We spotted a non-alcoholic bar called “De-Tox” and decided to sit at one of their outside tables with a tall glass of ice-cold Diet Coke each. Before drinking anything, we quickly did a lateral flow test and then sat at the table with the little white sticks in front of us, hoping we would only see one red line appear. 😊
We enjoyed our drinks and did a spot of people-watching as we sat there in a happy pre-boarding glow. How great it was to be back in a warm country and looking forward to a Mediterranean cruise again. It seemed ages ago since our wonderful Norway cruise in February (the gap between cruises always seems so long!) Glancing at our LFT results, we saw that we had indeed tested negative for Covid, so we registered the results with the NHS app, received the notifications we would need to show them at the terminal, finished off our drinks, then paid the bill and looked around for somewhere else to go.
Google Maps told us that there was an Irish bar called O’Connell’s just a few yards up the street, so we decided to go in there. It was a proper authentic Irish pub (I think the girl who served us was Irish) and we each ordered a freezing cold pint of Guinness and a bag of cheddar and chives crisps. They only sold the massive 150g bags of crisps, which is equivalent to six bags from the multi-packs, so we had to be careful not too eat too much of them, addictive though crisps are. 😊
We enjoyed it in the pub. There were few other customers and a pleasant selection of background music was playing. After our Guinness we decided to have a long drink of Jameson’s with ginger ale, a slice of lime and lots of ice – it was a really refreshing drink.
By this time it was about 2.00pm, so we decided to take a slow stroll back to the cruise terminal. The Azamara Pursuit is only a small ship that carries a maximum of 694 passengers, so we weren’t met with those horrendous long queues; in fact, as soon as we arrived a member of staff met us and ticked our names off the list, before we showed her proof of our vaccinations and the negative Covid test results we’d taken earlier on. 😊
We were given a purple ticket and shown to a seat to await our colour-coded call to board. It only took about 20 minutes, then some cruise staff waved us through and we happily went along a short corridor, outside onto the dockside, then up the gangplank of the Azamara Pursuit. 😊
We showed our cruise tickets and a helpful bellhop took my carry-on bag; Trevor opted to carry his own rucksack. We were then shown to a room where we were handed a chilled glass of Prosecco and asked to take a seat to watch the short safety demonstration. This was a novel idea because the “lifeboat drill” was only shown to small groups at a time, so there was none of the usual putting on your lifejacket and scrambling for seats for the roll call. Drinking cold prosecco during lifeboat drill was certainly something different as well! 🙂
We were then taken to our stateroom on Deck 6, and we wondered how and when we were going to be issued with our cruise card, which also acts as your room key. We needn’t have worried, however, because they were in an envelope in the small ‘letter rack’ outside our cabin, number 6062. Our cases were already waiting for us, so we brought them inside and started to unpack, folding our clothes into drawers and hanging everything up, and lining up our shoes neatly in the bottom of the wardrobe.
Cabin 6062 was really pleasant; a standard balcony cabin with a queen sized double bed with crisp cotton sheets and pillowcases, a dressing table with a chair and large mirror, a table containing a vase of fresh flowers and a two-seater comfortable settee. The balcony was spacious and contained a table and two chairs. The bathroom was small but adequate and contained small bottles of shower gel, shampoo, conditioner and large while fluffy towels. We knew we would have a comfortable nine nights on board.
While we were unpacking, my phone rang; the number displayed was a Durham number so I answered to find it was Hays Travel. We had asked them to book us onto a Caribbean cruise for the maiden season of the new Cunard ship Queen Anne; as the cruises only went on sale today we knew we’d be away, so we left the booking in Hay’s capable hands and they were calling to let us know they were working on it. 😊
Once all our unpacking was done and the suitcases stowed under the bed, we decided to do what we always do a the start of a cruise – go up to the pool deck in the sunshine and grab ourselves a cold beer each. 😊
It was fabulous sitting up there in the sun, looking around at the gleaming white paintwork of the Azamara Pursuit. She was very familiar to us and so she should be – we had been on this ship twice before, but not as the Pursuit. She used to be the P&O ship Adonia, on which we’d had two fabulous cruises – one around the British Isles in 2013, and one to the Caribbean in 2016. We were interested to see how the ship had changed (and how she hadn’t changed).
We enjoyed our drinks and were not in any hurry – there are no set dining times on Azamara ships, nor any dress codes other than smart casual (unless it is a themed night) so there wasn’t the usual looking at the clock and “we’ll have to go and get ready for dinner”; we could just do what we wanted. Around 5.45pm the bar staff started coming round and handing out free margheritas and the resident band, Lucky Charm, set themselves up on stage and started playing some lively music ready for the sailaway party at six o’clock. As well as lots of British people, American accents were very much in evidence; we later heard that there are 13 nationalities on board.
Just after 6.00pm, the ropes were cast off, the engines gained momentum and three loud blasts from the Azamara Pursuit’s foghorn heralded the start of our cruise. At this point we decided we’d better return to 6062 and get washed and changed and ready for our dinner.
We made our way to the Discoveries Restaurant where we were shown to a table near the window. Our waiter and busboy came over and introduced themselves, and shortly afterwards we were joined by a very pleasant American mother and daughter.
I enjoyed a delicious chicken Caesar salad washed down with water and chilled white wine. It was followed by a cheeseboard accompanied by a glass of ruby port and finished with coffee. Our first scrumptious dinner in excellent company.
Afterwards we made our way to the Cabaret show lounge and, with a strange sense of déjà vu, took our places in our “usual” seats; when I say “usual” I mean in the seats where we used to sit when it was the Adonia. The show started a few minutes later; it was mainly an introduction of the main singers and dancers who would be performing some wonderful shows for us later on.
Afterwards, we thought we would be tired after our long day, but we were still too excited, so we finished off the evening by going up to the Living Room which is the topmost entertainment lounge with big glass wraparound windows overlooking the bow. The band Lucky Charm were performing some dance music as we took a stool at the bar, and soon the Living Room filled up with eager dancers. We got talking to a pleasant American guy called Mark who was on the cruise with his partner Alfredo; they were both a really good laugh and we enjoyed their company as the hours winged by. Each time we thought we’d have one last drink and return to our stateroom, another drink magically appeared on the bar. We were having such a great time watching some of the dancers showing off on the packed dance floor, but there’s only so much you can drink and we didn’t want to wake up worse for wear tomorrow, so we said goodnight to our new friends and proceeded back to 6062, where we settled down for the night, after first opening our balcony door a few inches to let in the wonderful sea air and sounds.
The sea was calm and the Azamara Pursuit glided placidly along, onwards to our next destination. We had a sea day to look forward to tomorrow, and we slept well.