At the end of last month I received one of those emails that makes your heart leap a little, and your stomach churn, and then you let out a little “whoop” and wake up your husband to tell him. Then of course you say “no, no, it’s madness! I couldn’t possibly… oh go on then!” Thomson Cruises had contacted me as part of their #NotForMe campaign, and offered me and my family a seven day cruise around the Aegean Sea on board the Thomson Spirit. The locations looked amazing – deep blue skies, clear blue seas, sandy beaches, blue doors and windows on whitewashed houses… need I go on! All the reasons I could think of why we shouldn’t go were eventually outweighed by the reasons we should.
The biggest drawback was that my husband wasn’t able to come with us due to work commitments, so of course it was with trepidation that I took the decision to go it alone with the kids. Travelling with children is hard going at the very best of times, and I was nervous to say the least about getting myself and the children, plus our luggage, hand luggage and camera equipment safely to Gatwick airport (which is the far side of London from where we live, and we had to be there at 5am!!) to embark on a four and a half hour flight to Cyprus. We made it and the journey went as smoothly as possible. When we arrived at the port in Limassol, Cyprus we were a little bleary but wide eyed with excitement. It felt rather surreal as we walked down the dock in the shadow of our ship and boarded what was to be our home for the next seven nights!
We set sail that evening and spent the second day of the trip at sea, making our way to the next destination of Heraklion, Crete. The best way to see the locations we arrived at was to book excursions to make the most of our time in port and see as much as possible. Our first stop on Crete was the beautiful mountain village of Kritsa. This was actually one of my favourite places of the whole trip, peaceful winding cobbled streets, traditional whitewashed houses with weathered doors, pots filled with vibrant geraniums, little boutiques selling handmade crafts and art. It felt like around every corner there was another delight.
I took so many photos in Kritsa that I love! These are just a handful of my favourites.
Our next stop was the town of Aghios Nikolous, dubbed as “Crete’s answer to St. Tropez”. We had less time here and the children were tired, so we wandered down to the seafront and got an ice cream and paddled, before making our way back to the boat on the coach.
The coach journeys were actually a part of the day that I really enjoyed. The scenery in Crete was sublime, we drove through lush mountains which were shrouded in mist, beautiful olive groves, past ancient churches and monuments perched precariously on hill tops. Many times I would have liked to have shouted “stop the coach” and climbed out to take photos. Crete is definitely somewhere I would love to visit again with my family, to hire a car and explore at leisure.
The next day we arrived in the port of Piraeus, near Athens. We actually took a taxi this day and headed straight to the old part of the city, Plaka. I decided that the hundreds of steps up to the Acropolis was unfortunately going to be too much for two small children, so we had to make do with viewing this incredible monument from a distance. Plaka is nestled at the foot of the Acropolis, and is a bustling, vibrant part of the city. Cobbled alleyways, street cafes, colourful shops and markets. I would definitely recommend a visit here.
We actually got incredibly lucky with our taxi driver that day, a very kind lady who gave us a fabulous commentary as she drove us through Athens. She took us past the Olympic Stadium which is sadly now disused and run down, but I also saw beautiful, leafy residential streets, and a proud city with so much history and life.
The next day we arrived at the island of Mykonos. This was one location I was incredibly excited about having seen images online, and it did not disappoint. I had originally planned a beach transfer here, but as it was so early in the season in Greece (many places don’t open at all until after the Orthodox Easter at the end of April) the beach facilities weren’t open. Instead we explored the beautiful town with the ancient windmills lining the hilltop, and the steep cobbled lanes with whitewashed houses and colourful windows and doors. We were very lucky and it was very quiet, we really could explore uninterrupted.
By the time we wandered back down the steep lanes from the windmills and arrived in the harbour, it was lunch time and the town was bustling. We sat with a sandwich, watching the boats in the harbour and then the boys paddled and threw stones into the water. Truly a lovely day and a great place to visit.
The next day we stopped in Kusadasi, Turkey, but we actually opted to stay on board this day and have a rest day. The children were tired and we were all feeling little under the weather, so we spent the day pottering about on the boat instead.
Our final stop was Rhodes Island, and we took a coach tour across the island to Lindos. As we arrived at the town we were treated to the most spectacular view of the town nestled into a steep cliff side, with the nearby Acropolis towering above and the sandy beaches below. Quite possibly the most beautiful view I’ve ever seen, and again I wanted to shout “stop the coach”! Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of this view, so that one will just have to stay in my memory.
Lindos was such a fun town. Donkeys and Mopeds ruled the roads here, and in contrast to the other places we’d been it was really busy with tourists. I can imagine it would be heaving in high season. We strolled through the streets admiring the characterful houses and brightly coloured flowers, and squeezing into the side to let mopeds and donkeys meander by! We walked down lots of steep steps through a sea of daisies to the sea. My kids were thrilled to get a bit of beach time and immediately got stuck in to digging and exploring the fine, warm sands and paddling in the crystal clear water. We stayed at the beach as long as we could before setting off back up the steep climb to the coach.
We set sail from Rhodes shortly after lunch that day, and made our way back across the sea back to Limassol. I’m so glad I took that leap of faith and decided to go on this trip. There is something quite magical about setting sail each evening and slowly watching the land disappear as the sun sets, and arriving in port in the morning, drawing the cabin curtains and thinking “where are we today?”. We saw some truly stunning locations, some of which I would love to visit again some day. I think as far as the children are concerned they would have preferred more beach time. They are never happier than when playing in the sand and this makes life as the parent much easier. Having said that they loved the boat, the huge variety and availability of food, the friends they made and the times they went to the kids’ club on board. When people ask them if they liked the boat, they correct them and tell them “it was a cruise ship” (hahaha) and then tell them how much fun they had.
All in all this was an amazing opportunity which I’m very grateful to Thomson Cruises for, and we made some fabulous memories!
Thank you for reading as always,
Our travel was a gift from Thomson Cruises, all opinions are my own. You can see our itinerary and future sailing dates here