The Mediterranean diet has had a lot of positive press recently so we were keen to do more research on our recent Mediterranean cruise on Island Princess.
We had a very early flight from Heathrow to join the ship in Athens on its first outing since the refit. Fortunately we had booked a meet and greet parking service through Holiday Extras so our journey to Terminal 5 was effortless despite the early departure.
Island Princess is a mid-sized ship, holding just over 2,000 passengers on double occupancy, although there are plenty of cabins with third and fourth beds for families. She has all the usual cruise ship facilities such as a large theatre, gym, spa, duty free shops, bars, lounges and a choice of eateries. A more unusual feature is ‘Movies under the Stars’ where guests can relax on sun loungers after dark, watch a movie, help themselves to popcorn and, should it get a little chilly, snuggle under cosy tartan blankets.
Our first day on board was a sea day and an opportunity to relax in the Sanctuary, another Princess speciality. This exclusive section of one of the upper decks focuses on wellbeing. Offering comfortable loungers, cabanas, spa treatment rooms, relaxing sounds, tasty smoothies and menus, guests can book this area for $20 a half day. After an early start the previous morning we were happy to make the most of the tranquil setting.
Italy was the main focus of our trip with ports of call covering Naples, Livorno (Pisa and Florence) and Civitavecchia (Rome). Gragnano, a town just outside Naples, is considered the home of pasta and manufactures around 10% of all that is consumed in Italy. We also had ample opportunity to visit dairies and vineyards to see how local cheeses and wines were made, and to savour the fresh produce – delicious, and tasting so much better when cooked locally and washed down with regional wines under a Mediterranean sky.
Island Princess added to the experience with themed food nights in the main restaurant. One evening we dined in Sabatini’s, the ship’s speciality Italian restaurant. After an amuse bouche I chose a salad of marinated shrimp, shaved fennel and white beans with white truffle oil, then spaghetti with langostino, diver scallops, tiger shrimp, vongole and black mussels in cherry tomato sauce. For mains I picked baked striped bass in zucchini crust over tomato-orange melt with toasted polenta, followed by Tiramisu. Oh dear, more time needed in the gym!
Following three days of wonderful Italian food and wine we headed off to Toulon in the South of France where the Mediterranean theme continued. The countryside is dotted with wine domaines, all strictly controlled under the DOC scheme, but we went one better and visited the Chateau Vannieres where grapes for the famous Bandol wines are grown. We had to sample the range of white, rose and red wines of course! On our way back to the ship we visited Castellet, one of the many hilltop villages that, having been deserted for many years, are now being re-populated. They provide peaceful village atmospheres and stunning vistas from their lofty viewpoints.
Our final port of call was Barcelona, the home of Freixenet and the world’s largest producer of ’bubbly’; it seemed a shame not to drop by. After a brief introduction we headed down flights of stairs to the old cellars, full of dusty bottles of wine which, we were told, were too old to drink. Still, I wouldn’t have minded trying. Then we were off to the new cellars, so vast that we had to take a little train to get us there and show us round.
After all this exertion we were glad to sample a generous glass of their famous Cordon Negro before heading to the airport and home, a great end to a memorable trip.
For more details on Princess Cruises go to www.princess.com or call 0843 374 2403;
Holiday Extras offers a choice of parking, including Meet and Greet parking at UK airports and ports. Go to www.holidayextras.co.uk or call 0800 316 0616
Your Holiday TV
Copyright Your Holiday TV, all rights reserved
Cruise the Mediterranean to sample the best food and wine
Movies under the stars
Movies under the stars
Please share this feature