Friday, November 19, 2010

2010 Goldring Travel Food & Wine Cruise on the Seabourn Odyssey - Doing So Much and Doing Nothing

So where the heck have I been? I mean I have been on the Seabourn Odyssey for about a week and you have heard pretty much nothing. Well…

All is fine; actually better than fine…It is fantastic. However, the mix of people and the timing of events have taken a lot of time that I had not anticipated. It is not that it has been bad, or even disappointing in any way, but rather I have been working very hard to be sure that every single client of mine is having the best experience possible.

Now back to the business of blogging!

I was looking forward to visiting Crete, but came away a bit disappointed with Heraklion as it could have been most any Mediterranean port with a non-descript pier and an old city center focused on a pedestrian walkway/mall crammed with shops. It was really no more than a couple of hours off the Seabourn Odyssey and then back to the ship. Fortunately the clouds thinned into a sunny day. Only after we returned to the ship was there a shower…and then it cleared yet again.

However, once back on board my group was treated to a Private Bridge Tour with Captain Geir-Arne Thue-Nilsen personally providing the tour and letting us observe the sail-away (with one of my guests blowing the ship’s horn three times as we departed!). I especially enjoyed his giant hand waving goodbye to the pilot.

The next day, Pylos, Greece was on tap. It is a very small town (not actually an island, but on the point of a peninsula) which I believe is normally used for a marina day. Being November, even though the temperatures were in the high 60s with the sun shining, it really wasn’t an option. So we took a walk not into town, but up the hillside into the residential area. What struck me, even with so many people obviously gone now that the winter was almost here, is that the flowers growing wild were absolutely gorgeous and in a wide variety. Some were similar to those seen in the U.S., but were nonetheless different. Striking blues, reds and yellows all with different scents.

After a stroll through the town and not seeing any tavernas or restaurants that seems anything other than ordinary, we head back to the ship. Enjoying the Seabourn Odyssey is not difficult; especially when the service is as good as it has been. Just a mention to the bar staff that we were going to the forward whirlpool sent the perfectly timed glasses of champagne flowing.

But, of course, there was more to do! Executive Chef, Friedrich Mayer, (a/k/a “Chef Fritz”) gave our group a Private Galley Tour – complete with champagne and caviar. What was of the greatest interest to me was the new way the Main Galley is operating which is different from how it was designed…with two identical operations working on the port and starboard similar in size and flow of the smaller triplets; just in duplicate. Now the galley works as a single unit. As I have not seen any issues with the pace of service, it must be working!

What did become apparent is that traveling as blind couple has many challenges and it really requires a good bit of advanced planning; especially when visiting smaller places that are nowhere near ADA compliant. It quickly became apparent that my assistance was not optional and that blind traveling in Greece (for example) without guide dogs or a private guide is more of an effort in frustration than in enjoyable travel. Far beyond issues with uneven pathways are the lack of straight pathways, many drivers and pedestrian disregard for blind people and simple things like plazas really being more set up as obstacle courses (chairs, railings, bollards, tables, etc.) than open spaces where one can “feel” the openness. Fortunately, however, I have two wonderful guests who have trained me well (I think) and we have had more than our fair share of travel experiences…and laughs.