Our excursion to Sarande, Albania was fun and interesting for us, but I wonder how much it cost Cunard in fuel alone. Departing Athens, we circumnavigated the Peloponnesian peninsula to Sarande, a trip of some 400 miles, then retraced our course and sailed another 400 miles back to Heraklion, Crete, the same island we had visited a week ago.
I can only surmise that Albania made some deal to lure Cunard to its shores to promote its tourism industry. I do know we loaded fuel onboard for several smelly hours directly below our cabin before leaving Athens. However, we thoroughly enjoyed discovering Sarande, so I suppose it’s worth whatever someone paid for an 800-mile excursion.
By our standards, our last full day and night at sea was pretty active. We awoke to a gorgeous dawn looking over the Ionian Sea. Lynn went to the gym, and I walked the ship first thing so I could ping my GPS to the paper chart mounted near the bow of the 9th deck. Then it was off to breakfast so we could make a 10 a.m. lecture in the Royal Court Theatre, a short musical history of Roy Orbison by a longtime BBC Radio exec, Johnny Beerling.
We enjoyed listening to the music, and we learned about Orbison’s life, ending in his untimely death at 52 from a massive heart attack. Orbison was immensely popular in the UK, and we also learned that he was the first American for 18 months to top the UK charts in the early 60s during the height of the Beatles’ popularity.
After Johnny’s address, we walked the ship to catch the scene at sea. The outdoor pool decks were absolutely packed with sunbathers, mostly from the UK. Lynn’s analysis was that the Brits seem to have no regard for the danger of skin cancer, as they roast out in the Mediterranean sun without the first hint of sun screen. The decks were also filled with Germans and Australians, the former a country that gets little sun, and the latter a continent just coming out of winter. None seemed to be slathering with SPF 30 either.
Before lunch, Lynn and I engaged in a spirited game of paddle tennis, which she won pretty easily, since I don’t play tennis and she does. But I consoled my embarrassing loss by remembering that I had placed second in the putting contest the week before.
We ordered lunch on the pool deck at the Pavilion, which offers hamburgers and hot dogs that I just had to try. The cheeseburger was acceptable, but the hot dog was miserable. The dog consisted of more filling than meat and tasted as bland as the hard roll bun that held it. And no chili.
After a brief afternoon nap, it was off to the Yacht Club bar, where morning speaker Johnny was scheduled to appear at a meet and greet to take questions about his earlier address on Roy Orbison. We walked in and ordered a couple of glasses of wine in eager expectation of our speaker’s entrance and a few words of introduction before the Q & A session would begin. Alas, not so much.
He simply walked into the bar and sat down in one of the overstuffed chairs to chat with a British patrons who sat down with him. One or two other fellow cruisers—all Brits—ambled over to his chair for a chat, but there was no public interaction or action at all, for that matter. Sensing the futility of our mission, we picked up our glasses of wine and discreetly walked out to the open deck to relax in the sun, feeling very conspicuous as the only passengers out there wearing long pants.
Tonight was a formal evening, despite what our original voyage planner had said. We didn’t have a problem with the formality of the evening, but it meant we had to eat in the Britannia Club for the third consecutive night. That is not at all what we had planned. The Britannia Club offers attentive service, elaborate food presentation but less choice and lower absolute quality of food than the more casual Lido Buffet. And we are forced to eat at 8:30 p.m., which ends our dining about 10 p.m., late for us Americans.
After eating meat of all species for nearly two weeks on the ship, I just had to try it—I ordered the grilled fish. What a pathetic failure. It was predictably lacking in texture, spice or flavor. It had obviously been frozen at some indefinable time past, and its days swimming in water were long before that. This may well be the last time we dine in the Britannia Club.