With horror stories of missing suitcases, huge queues and cancelled flights the thought of taking a cruise from the island is attractive. SARAH COYNE finds her sea legs
With flights being cancelled across Europe and bags going missing, there has never been a better time to consider a flight-free cruise from Limassol port. So, when the opportunity arose to go on a three-day cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas, we jumped at the chance. As total cruise virgins, this was our first opportunity to sail on something more luxurious than a ferry.
The obvious benefit of cruising from Limassol is that there are no flights to worry about. We had only been in the car for 35 minutes when we entered the impressive cruise terminal. This has changed radically since the last time I dropped friends off for their cruise. We parked the car and walked 50 metres to the entrance. Once inside, staff were efficient and friendly through the easy boarding process.
It was time to board. We were shown to our stateroom. I know that stateroom is part of the cruising vocabulary, but it is a word I usually associate with palaces, and I think it slightly over raises your expectations. But ours was on the seventh floor with a balcony. It was spacious and spotlessly clean. The design was a little dated but we were thrilled to have a settee and lots of space within the room and on the balcony. We ditched our cases (remember that travelling from our home country means we can take as much luggage as we like) and headed out to explore the ship.
Royal Caribbean includes Limassol on their August and September itinerary for 2022 and perhaps one of the few positives of the pandemic is that the Rhapsody of the Seas will be calling in at Limassol. It is actually an excellent opportunity to try a short cruise to see if it is a fit.
Rhapsody of the Seas is a large ship but not giant variety. You are given a map, and it is relatively easy to navigate your way around. Everything you can think of is on board, including a shopping arcade, theatre, casino, swimming pool both inside and out, spa, rock climbing wall and numerous bars and restaurants. We immediately found a specialist coffee bar Café Latte-Tudes, which quickly became our regular haunt for the next few days as we love our caffeine.
At this point, we realised the cruise line’s considerable effort in protecting their passengers from Covid. Sanitising stations were everywhere, including at the entrance to every lift. We frequently observed staff constantly cleaning all touchpoints throughout the ship. You also felt secure knowing that every one of our fellow travellers had to have a negative test to board. As a result, we felt safer on the ship than if we were at our local restaurant in Paphos.
It isn’t easy to choose to select where to eat on board as there is so much variety. Our first meal was in the Windjammer Café, adjacent to the swimming pool area on the top deck. This was a buffet with a huge food selection, including a “cook to order” fresh pasta bar. All the dishes you can think of are available as part of the buffet. Everything was included, and you just went up and down to refill your soft drinks.
Over the three nights, we enjoyed dining at some of the speciality restaurants on board. There is an additional supplement to eat at these, but we found them all excellent. We ate at the signature Italian, Giovanni’s Table, on the first night, on the second at Chops Grill, and on the last night at the Izumi, which offers Asian-inspired dishes. All the meals were superb and comparable to some of the better restaurants in Cyprus. The stand-out meal for us was at Chops Grill, where we enjoyed a superb steak for our main course, accompanied by the best selection of sides we have ever had.
Our first drink on the ship was at the pool bar, which was nice when you wanted to catch some sun. For more formal drinks before dining, I would recommend the Schooner Bar, which often had a pianist tinkling away in the background. Across the whole ship, there are a variety of bars and lounges for drinking and relaxing, and all have their own character and style.
All too quickly and after a pleasant day in Rhodes, our cruise was over, and we found ourselves back in Limassol. For us, it took all of ten minutes to disembark and put the luggage back in the car for the quick journey home. After this cruise, we are converts to this type of holiday, especially when you hear the horror stories of flying.
Royal Caribbean has a small selection of dates from Limassol with limited availability for August and September this year. The cruises are for six to eight nights and include destinations such as Rhodes, Athens, Santorini, Mykonos and Haifa. With prices starting from €630 for an inside cabin, this is undoubtedly a unique opportunity to take advantage of a quality cruise sailing directly from Cyprus.
Next April, the ship will also be returning to Cyprus with the opportunity of cruising from Barbados to Limassol. For further information from Cyprus’ Cruising Experts, Century Travel, call 70000970.