Monday Sept 29, 2014

If you’re meticulously following our progress and have spotted what seems to be a two-day gap, give yourself a pat on the back and let me explain.

  1. We were supposed to spend Friday on the island of Sicily – which hangs off the toe of Italy’s boot, and is separated from the mainland by sea and by centuries of history. And arrive in Sicily we did … but from that point on our best-laid plans got hijacked. The sun was shining and the sky was blueing, but strong winds and rough seas conspired against us, making dropping anchor and tendering ashore too risky. Eventually, the captain called off the scheduled Sicily visit, and (with much apologising) announced that we would sail on slowly towards our next port-of-call.
  2. We were supposed to be at sea on Saturday – and that’s exactly what we did! For the second day in a row, we kicked back and blobbed-out, enjoying shipboard-life to the max, while the Nieuw Amsterdam cruised gracefully on, around the bottom of Italy, and then across the open waters of the Adriatic towards the west coast of mainland Greece.

We woke this morning to find our ship navigating its way through the stunning Ionian Islands, in waters claimed by Greece. Popular Corfu, or Kérkyra in Greek, is where we finally docked (check the map) – a green and mountainous isle, much loved by the likes of Homer, Odysseus, Shakespeare and Milton.

We got to spend a full day in this gorgeous place, enjoying a scenic drive into the countryside for a nose-around the 100-year-old Achillion Palace, built by Empress Elizabeth (‘Sisi’) of Austria (who adorned the place with fabulous statues and mementos). Later, on our way to lunch, we passed through Corfu Town, eyeballing the Old Fortress and the elegant Palace of St George and St Michael – before stopping at a beautifully situated private villa – where we sat down to a generous Greek feast (including ouzo and wine) and some live toe-tapping music and folklore dancing. Yeehaa!

PEOPLE NEWS: Yes, another ever-popular, hotly sought-after Quacky Yellow Duck has found a new home:

  • Vic picked up his second win, our ‘Can’t Find My Speedos Award’ – for creating mayhem on deck after a soak in the outdoor spa. En route back to their cabin, Vic discovered he had lost his togs – and, suspecting he had dropped them by mistake in the wet-towel bin, he returned and (almost climbing inside the thing) he emptied the large bin, scattering wet towels all over the entire ship. Well okay, slight exaggeration – but his wife did admit he made a mess – which she then made him tidy up. Oh, Vic found his missing togs, by the way – so he hasn’t had to carry out his threat to swim au-naturale!

TOMORROW: A sight-for-sore-eyes awaits us – the magnificently-walled medieval town of Dubrovnik, a Mediterranean favourite with me and Mrs Cooney …

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

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Saturday 13 October, 2012

The ‘Midlife Madness’ label is responsible for lots of laughs on the part of our ship’s crew and tour guides – and more than a little confusion. In the past we’ve been mistaken for the ‘Midnight Madness’ group … the ‘Midlife Crazies’ … and (by the Hungarian Cruise Director we had a couple of years ago on the Rhine and Danube) the ‘Midlife Crisis’ group. But yesterday, our lovely Greek guide misread the sign on our coach as ‘MIDWIFE Madness’, and assumed (I kid you not) that she was about to take a group of childbirth-experts sightseeing!

Imagine her relief when we fun-loving Kiwis turned up instead, responding to her question: “Is everybody happy?” with a thunderous “You bet your life we are!”

You’ll recall we started this grand adventure in Greece – right? Well, we’ve been back in Greece these past two days, catching up on stuff we missed the first time around. Yesterday, for example, while the rising sun turned the sky orange-red, they parked the Prinsendam in the small Greek fishing village of Katakolon (pronounced ‘kaTAKolon’) … and drove us 40km to mystical Olympia, ancient site of the very first Olympic Games. We wandered the vast ruins, picturing the temples, porticoes and statues as they were 2700 years ago … the area crowded with athletes, orators, merchants and philosophers surrounding the Temple of Zeus (with its 12-metre-high statue of the god). We could almost hear the roar of 40,000 spectators as (naked) athletes took their marks on the marble starting blocks … we stood on the very spot where, every four years, the modern-day Olympic flame is lit … and we even got to do a lap or two (jogging, walking or hobbling!) in the famous excavated stadium!

Somewhat exhausted after such strenuous exercise, we dropped in on the magnificent Mercouri Estate Vineyard (owned and operated by the same family for five generations)to taste its famous, locally-produced wines. Sounds good? Yep, it sure was … and a short-but-drenching downpour only added to the fun.

Then overnight, while we snored in our beds, the Prinsendam sailed north into the Adriatic Sea and the beautiful Ionian Islands. Corfu was where we docked, and dramatic seascapes surrounded us on our scenic drive through the Old Town, past a fortress, a palace, and lots of elegant arcade buildings. We then drove out of town to the 100-year-old Achillion Palace, built by Empress Elizabeth (Sisi) of Austria, and adorned with fabulous statues and mementos.

Later, to quieten our rumbling tummies, we rendezvoused at a beautifully renovated private villa – where warm hospitality and a traditional Greek luncheon (with ouzo, wine, and more food than you could shake a stick at) awaited us. Oh, plus some live Greek music and costumed-dancing … followed up by a stand-out rendition of Pokarekare Ana by our Mad Midlife Kiwi Choir.


Another quacky yellow duck has been hung around another Mad Midlife neck:

  • On quite a number of shore excursions, we’ve all been kitted out with ‘whisper’ headsets to make it easier to hear the guides. But, after visiting the loo during sightseeing the other day, Brian ‘lost’ his ear-piece, eventually discovering it tucked down into his undies along with his shirt … and earning himself our ‘Down-Under Hard-Of-Hearing Award’.


Leaving Greece in our wake we cruise further north through the blue-green Adriatic to Croatia and the sun-drenched island of Korcula (one-time home of Marco Polo). The show’s not over yet, not by a long shot, so don’t go away …

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

P.S. If you want to leave a message for someone in our group, just click on the little speech bubble at the top of this page, and add your ‘COMMENTS’! Make sure you say who it’s for and who it’s from – and keep it brief.