Having always been one for the more traditional style of cruising (I do enjoy dressing up for the formal nights), I finally decided it was time to try out some free style, less traditional cruising. With this in mind I booked my wife and I on a seven night Mediterranean cruise on Ocean Village Two out of Palma Majorca.
We were flying out of London Gatwick with Thomson, and with the flight departing at 08:00 it meant an early start, leaving home at about 01:30. We had booked car parking through Purple Parking on the Internet and drove to the APH car park which is located about 10 to 15 minutes drive from the airport. We arrived at 03:20 and quickly checked in and got the transfer coach to the airport.
Check in at the airport was very quick, it helped with us getting there in good time so we were already there when check in opened. Once we had checked in we could relax a little and look around the shops and treat ourselves to a good breakfast from one of the many restaurants. The flight itself took just over two hours and the transfer from the airport to the ship took less than an hour, check in at the port was quick and straight forward and we were on board by 12:30.
As the cabin would not be ready for us until 15:00 we decided to go for some lunch and explore the ship. Ocean Village have two ships, with Ocean Village Two being the newest and, at 70,310 tons, the largest of the fleet. Built in 1990 and originally Crown Princess it became Ocean Village Two in 2007. The ship has eleven passenger decks and holds 1,708 passengers with a maximum 2,053 passengers, the passenger to crew ratio is about 3 to 1.
Facilities on board include a casino with both slot machines and gaming tables, two outdoor swimming pools, four whirlpools, a self service launderette, a gym and, in my opinion, one of the best spas on the open seas. Accommodation is in any one of 832 cabins of which 628 have an outside view and 198 have private balconies, there are 10 cabins with wheelchair access. We had booked an inside cabin on a guaranteed basis which means that the least we would get would be an inside cabin but it was possible that we would be upgraded to a higher grade of cabin depending on demand. We were very fortunate to be upgraded to an outside cabin on deck five which was on the same deck as the Reception, Cyber Zone (Internet access area) and the Village Square where a lot of the entertainment and art auctions take place.
After the mandatory safety drill and a shower we rested in our cabin which was comfortable and, at 187 square feet, a reasonable size. The cabin had a large picture window, a double bed, tea and coffee making facilities, television, direct dial telephone, safe, refridgerator, easy chair and stool, dressing table, hairdryer and ample wardrobe space.
Dinner on the first night was in the Plantation Restaurant which has 24 hour buffet dining, the restaurant was pleasant and the food was reasonable (similar to what you would expect on a packaged holiday in an average 3 star hotel).
After dinner we watched the circus type acts in the Village Square, very talented youngsters, that was followed by a singer. After our very long day we were ready to retire by 23:30.
We spent the next day at sea so plenty of time to get to know the ship and make use of it’s facilities, after breakfast in the Waterfront Restaurant (self service) we went to a presentation on the spa facilities where we were lucky enough to win free passes for the week (usual cost £70), we also booked ourselves a Hot Stone Massage. We also went to a presentation on the Ships excursions. Lunch was in La Luna Restaurant which is one of the speciality restaurants on board, we had one of their pizzas which did not carry an additional charge but certain dishes do.
We attended an art auction in the Village Square, these are getting very common on certain cruises and can be interesting to attend and if you are looking to purchase some discounted artwork maybe a way to do it. However on this cruise I did find that it was a little too much as there was an art auction almost everyday of the cruise. We then spent some time in the Spa which we found to be excellent with its good sized Sauna with floor to ceiling windows affording some wonderful views when you are in port as well as its steam rooms and relaxation areas. We then went to one of the many treatment rooms for what would be a most enjoyable Hot Stone Massage.
Dinner that night was in the Waterfront Restaurant which proved to be very similar to the standard of the Plantation Restaurant.
Day Two and we were in Tunis which was a new experience for us as we had never been to North Africa before, we had booked a ships excursion which left at 08:00 and took us by coach to Carthage an ancient area dating back to Roman times with evidence of their water systems and salt works. We also had a tour of the Souks, very interesting and very easy to get lost if you don’t have a guide, we saw where they made carpets also a perfumery and finished off with some local drink and food in a restaurant whilst being entertained by belly dancers and musicians.
Back on board the ship and it was more time in the Spa as well as another art auction and dinner in the Waterfront Restaurant before finishing off the evening with a little flutter in the Casino.
Day Three and we were docked in Civitavecchia, again we had booked a ships excursion, this time to take us to Rome with a tour of the Vatican. The tour left at 08:00 and the coach took about 90 minutes to get to Rome, as George Bush had chosen this morning to visit the Vatican our tour had to be changed with us now visiting the Vatican in the afternoon. The driver gave us a tour of the city before depositing us close to the Trevi Fountain we proceeded to a local Restaurant for lunch before our tour culminated in the visit to the Vatican.
As we were missing the style of dining that we were used to on cruises, tonight we booked ourselves into James Martins Bistro which is a speciality Restaurant for which you have to pay a supplement (around £12 per person). It was well worth the extra charge as the food was excellent and the atmosphere very good, much more civilised to have waiter service when having dinner.
Other ports of call during this cruise were Genoa which was easily accessible from the port by either walking or using the courtesy water taxi, Cannes where we had a ships excursion into Monte Carlo and our final port of call which was Barcelona which was again easily accessible by taking the courtesy coach and then walking into the city centre.
The ship is a good looking vessel and as I have previously stated the Spa one of the best I have been in, however, the standard of the food could have been higher as could the entertainment. Ocean Village advertise themselves as being the cruise for people who don’t do cruises, if you do happen to be a person who does cruises and enjoys being waited on and all the indulgence of the formal ships then Ocean Village may not be for you.
Robert Lidster, January 2009