Cruising The British Isles With Voyages To Antiquity – Part One

I recently returned from a cruise aboard Voyages to Antiquity’s ‘Aegean Odyssey’ and what a cruise it was. I was last onboard this little ship in 2016, and although it had been a while, as soon as I planted my feet on the deck, I knew I was back in friendly and familiar territory. I joined her in London on her British Isles sailing and spent 11-nights onboard.

One of the biggest highlights of the cruise was boarding at Tower Bridge. I watched her sail into port early in the morning and I was raring to go. Guests were ferried across the Thames on local tenders and we then boarded Aegean Odyssey via HMS Belfast. I can only describe it as being very cool, one of the best embarkation ports I’ve ever experienced. I stepped onto HMS Belfast – a town-class light cruiser that was built for the Royal Navy but is now permanently moored in the Thames and operates as a museum – and then crossed a short gangway onto Aegean Odyssey. Very few cruise ships have the privilege of being able to sail along the Thames and under Tower Bridge, a huge appeal for small-ship cruising, and I was in my element.

Once onboard, I refreshed my memory with a quick walk around and then I went in search of my cabin. I had a Deluxe Outside cabin on Deck 7 which was spacious, comfortable and offered a shower over bath. Two windows in the cabin allowed ample natural light to fill the space and the opportunity to spot dolphins. I made my first sighting as we were dropping anchor in Guernsey. I’ll also note the towels in the bathroom, they were very soft! Possibly the softest towels I’ve ever had on a cruise ship. I like my cabin to be ‘chilled’, so I adjusted the air-con and within 20 minutes I had transformed my space into a fridge. I was quite content with my new digs.

Aegean Odyssey began revving up her engines shortly before 9PM and as we watched Tower Bridge lift, the onboard party began. It was incredible. Everyone was out on the open decks, hundreds of people lined the banks of the Thames and we sailed to the tones of Rule, Britannia! I felt very proud and quite emotional. It was probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I soaked up every bit of the iconic moment. I snapped many pictures during our sailaway, but for me, this one sums it up perfectly.

We spent the first day at sea and it was pure bliss. A sea mist rolled in during the mid-morning, but come afternoon, it was bright and sunny once again. I played the afternoon quiz and failed miserably, then I enjoyed Richard Sykes (Cruise Director) and his musical tribute to Victoria Wood. It was hilarious! The evening brought the Captain’s Cocktail Party and then dinner beneath the warm air at the Terrace Café. As the day came to an end, I had the most beautiful sunset to admire before enjoying a cocktail in the Charleston Lounge. In all, it was a perfect day at sea.

Guernsey was our first port of call and we were at anchor from around 8AM. I’ve been to Guernsey many times and I was desperate to start telling you all about the beginning of the cruise, so I stayed onboard and enjoyed taking pictures, chatting with other passengers and then sharing it with you all on social media. I also started writing this blog. I quite like staying onboard in some anchor ports because the scenery is always changing as the ship slowly moves around. One minute I could see another cruise ship, but the next time I looked up from my laptop there was land.

I’ll also admit that during the afternoon, when I took a break from writing, I found myself unintentionally lurking outside The Terrace Cafe, just in time for afternoon tea. I had no intentions of eating anything, but there I was, face to face with the most delicious looking chocolate and hazelnut brownies I had ever seen. I could almost taste them. I turned and made my way back towards the exit. Sadly, I didn’t make it. I was lured back and the rest is history. It didn’t end there. I went back before the end of service and asked if I could take a few more as there were still some left. Absolutely no will power. Zero.

Falmouth in Cornwall was on the horizon on July 25th and I was very much looking forward to this port. I booked myself on the included tour to St Michael’s Mount and I was raring to get going. It was another hot and sunny day, but our air-conditioned coach kept us cool on the 45-minute drive from the port. It’s quite a long walk along the beach and across the causeway to get to the island, but once there, you can cool off with a cold drink or ice cream before making the trek to the top.

The site is managed by the National Trust and the castle and chapel have been home to the St Aubyn family since roughly 1650 – the earliest buildings there date back to the 12th century. It was originally a counterpart of Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, France, but in 1424, it was given to the Abbess and Convent of Syon at Isleworth, Middlesex.

I was tired by the time I reached the top and I’d been hand in hand with another passenger the entire way, but the views were stunning. Sadly, I had no time to go inside. There were thousands of people there and a huge queue to enter, but even the exterior alone is still worth making the climb for. I walked back along the causeway before the tide came in and it was closed, and across the beach to a small cafe where I enjoyed a cold drink before re-joining my group.

As Aegean Odyssey sailed from Falmouth, I dined al-fresco at The Terrace Cafe. I ordered Asian spiced chicken which was served with rice, fried shallots and sugar snap peas. It was delicious. I’d missed lunch and I was ready for a good meal. The scenery as we left finished the moment off perfectly.

I opened my curtains on July 26th to the sight of the Scilly Isles. I never knew England was so beautiful. For a moment, I thought we were in the Caribbean! Voyages to Antiquity offered and included tour to Tresco in this port, but there were also independent tender options to Tresco and St Mary’s. I spent the morning on St Mary’s with friends I’d met on a previous cruise. They took me all over the island. There are only 7 miles of roads, so I got to see just about everything. I admired stunning views from the Star Castle, which is now a hotel, but you can access the grounds. It’s part of The Garrison and just around the corner is an old gunpowder magazine store that has info boards detailing some of the history, it’s free to enter, and you’ll find it behind the Detention Cell! We also drove to some of the islands stunning beaches and other view-points, through the main town, up to the airport and then back across the island towards Prince Charles and Camilla’s house. You can’t see much, just a window.

There are several islands that make up Scilly, including St Mary’s, Tresco, St Martin’s, St Agnes and Bryher. Some of the small islands are uninhabited, but you can take boats across and spend the day there. Can you imagine that? Having an island and beach ALL to yourself for the day! That’s the stuff of dreams. I boarded the noon tender to come back to the ship, had lunch and then sat admiring the view. I was lucky enough to also spot a massive seal – something I’d really hoped I’d see during my time there and at the very last moment, I did.

Our next stop would be Dublin and we’d spend longer there than originally planned. Cruising the British Isles with Voyages to Antiquity, part two coming soon…

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