Tuesday, November 16, 2010

2010 Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise on the Seabourn Odyssey - Oy, Such Problems!

We arrived in Athens to pouring rain. Flooded streets and a traffic nightmare. Sounds terrible, right? Well, it wasn’t.

Everyone arrived at the St. George Lycabettus Hotel and soaked in the fantastic views of the Acropolis from our rooms. We even had all of our luggage!

After a bit of a rest, we met in the lounge with that same great view and had some drinks and made our introductions. One couple went for an evening tour of Athens, another to an early night and six of us out for dinner at a local restaurant which we dined at a couple of years ago. We never made it there.

No, it wasn’t a bad thing. We wound up at a taverna I had had lunch at during a prior trip and it was great. Me being me…and this being a Food & Wine cruise…I had to order the fresh anchovies and the “Grilled Goat Entrails”. Yes, as one person said, “You are doing an Andrew Zimmern on us!” Honestly, they were really good. I mean I would definitely order them again. And the anchovies were also great. (Now selecting a wine that goes with both might seem to be a challenge, but I figure a pitcher of the local Greek house red would work. It did.)

The next morning, after a very nice breakfast and watching the sun rise over the Acropolis in spite of the weather forecast to the contrary, we were off to Corinth to see the Canal and the wonderful museum and ruins. It was interesting – and initially quite stressful – working with a blind couple, because you need to figure out how much guidance is correct and, of course, what the heck kind of guidance you need to give. This became a joke between us as it quickly became apparent that nothing in Greece is in a straight line or on an even surface.

The Corinth Canal is quite a site and standing over it on a small bridge really gives the feeling of its depth…and the feat it was to build such a thing without modern equipment. Then off to the museum and ancient town. I really enjoy the relics in the museum, including the courtyard and rooms filled with statues. Then a walk around the ruins…where you can really get a feeling of an ancient Roman city, but one without the grandeur that Ephesus exudes.

We then strolled to a taverna with a nice view of the Ionian Sea. By that time we had split up into a few groups, but eventually we all came together…almost. One of the group was missing! I ran out of the taverna, checked all the shops, went back through the museum, raced across the ancient city and…nothing. He was nowhere to be founds. Now, about 10 years older, I said to myself, “Let me check the van” and, low and behold, there he was…sound asleep. The joke was that if we hadn’t noticed him missing at the restaurant, we never would have noticed at all; because we were just about to leave the restaurant and head back to the van.

Anyway, we arrived at Piraeus, checked in an about 2 minutes (seriously) and were aboard the Seabourn Odyssey. Everyone was thrilled with their suites and some, to be sure, a bit overwhelmed at the beauty and diversity of the ship. One of my clients has sailed many times on the triplets in an Owner’s Suite and found the Wintergarden Suite to be perfect. His wife loved it so much that it took her until the next day to even care about discovering the rest of the ship!

Another of my clients (who booked the other Wintergarden Suite) walked on the ship wearing a SeaDream Yacht Club polo shirt and within hours was in the shop buying Seabourn polo! They would later say that now that they see all that the Seabourn Odyssey has to offer they really appreciate the limitations of SeaDream Yacht Club. Oh, they still like SeaDream, but also believe it cannot hold a candle to Seabourn.

My other clients were all in V6 Veranda Suites on Deck 7 and love the location. Note: It now Day 4 (sorry, I know this article is a bit late!) and, even with the sunny weather, there has not been a single comment about noise from the pool deck or excessive vibration. (I am also in a Deck 7 suite and have the same observations.

Speaking of my suite, I am in Suite 745 which is a V2 Suite, rather than a V6, because of its unique layout and its tiny balcony. I actually like the suite layout better…but more on that later.

Now settled in we had a wonderful dinner in The Restaurant (no “Grilled Goat Entrails” on the menu, however) an after dinner whisky in the Observation Bar and a great night’s sleep.

Day Two started with…well, not much. We were at the island of Patmos, where it is said St. John wrote the Book of Revelations. Having been to the island before, we opted for a lazy morning then a stroll around town and a stop at a surprisingly good wine shop. (I do have to stock up for the Food & Wine Tasting later in the cruise!) The same old lady was sitting at the register and she, once again, claimed her credit card machine was broken so I would have to pay with cash.

Back on board I met with Marcel, the Hotel Manager, and Fritz, the head chef, in order to arrange some of our special events: A private bridge tour; a private galley tour; the Ensemble Cocktail Party; invitations to the three cooking demonstrations during this cruise; Shopping with the Chef and, of course, the Food & Wine Tasting.

Then it was off to the forward hot tub for a soak and champagne. And, once again, a Seabourn Experience happened: One the triplets we have a bottle of champagne and four glasses available at all times when we are onboard. However, on the Seabourn Odyssey we were told that was not possible. So, instead, Annie brought four glasses of champagne and then, as if she knew the rate of our drinking, appeared with another four glasses of champagne. Then, just when I thought she wouldn’t return, there was Annie with another four glasses. Problem solved…Seabourn Style!

It was then off to clean up for dinner with my friend, Captain Geir Arne. He and his wife are so charming. And, believe it or not, the two of us wound up talking about Einstein’s Theory of Relativity! We had a lot of fun, though I am not so sure the rest of the table did.

I do have to say that there was one couple at the table that insisted they needed to complain about a single problem they had on the Legend years earlier. The Captain was charming as ever, but they just kept harping on this single incident (and I felt like I was trapped in Cruise Critic hell). Eventually I opened my mouth – can you believe that? – and asked, “So how many cruises have you been on?” Four was the reply. “And of those four, how many have been on Seabourn?” He replied that all of their cruises were on Seabourn and they would never cruise another line. So I said, “So overall, over four cruises, that was your only problem and you are here tonight. I guess you do like Seabourn.” End of complaints and problem solved. (Did I mention I felt like I was in Cruise Critic hell?)

Not to worry, though. Our dinner was charming and fun. The captain and I even had a bit of a competition testing our respective pocket cameras. While I think I won that competition, I dare not even raise the subject of a challenge when it comes to the “real deal”. Captain Geir Arne is a photographer par excellence and I simply drool over his equipment and photographs. BTW, you can check them out on his website: http://www.captain-ga.com/ .

Tomorrow: Crete and a few other topics.