Valletta & Malta

I awake before the alarms sound this morning. It’s a little before 7am and it’s already light out. I peer through the curtains and can see we are already entering the Grand Harbour of Valletta. I dress and step out onto the balcony to watch as Reflection spins 180 degrees so that she can moor just in front of another cruise ship. Mein Schiff 2, a German cruise liner (formerly celebrity galaxy or one of that class). We are followed in by Oceana’s Riviera which moors on the opposite side of the harbour in Vittorriosa.

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Grand Harbour

We quickly shower and head up to oceanview for breakfast. Our tour today is at 9am but we need to meet outside the port gates 15mins prior to this. Ever punctual we are waiting 30mins before. We needn’t have rushed. The last of our group don’t turn up till nearly 9.30am. Our guide today is called Josephine a portly, friendly looking lady. She speaks excellent English which is not always the case even on ‘English speaking’ tours. Out first stop is in the centre of Malta at a place called Mosta. It is home to a grand looking cathedral with a very large unsupported dome 3rd biggest after St Peter’s in Rome and St Paul’s in London. As it’s a Sunday there is service on. We soon learn that Malta is a deeply pious island with a festival for every saint it would seem.

From Mosta we head to the ancient walled city of Mdina, the former capital of Malta. We don’t enter the city but we stop to take some pictures of it from a distance. From there we head to Dingli. A strange name for an area on the coast that has some impressive cliffs where we stop for photos. The Blue Grotto is our next stop. Some people in the group were under the impression we would be getting a small boat to go inside the grotto but I knew this was just a panoramic tour and we stop at a viewing point above the grotto where we can see a flotilla of small boats down below. Perhaps if we revisit Malta we will take the boat trip. Next stop is Marsaxlokk, a very busy fishing port on the south coast. It’s market day today so it’s even busier than usual as the market is a favourite with locals. We have an hour to walk about and take photos and buy souvenirs if we wish.

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Blue Grotto

Finally we head back to Valletta itself. It’s a little after 1.30pm but rather than head back to the ship we take the very tall elevator ride up to the Upper Barraca Gardens and old city of Valletta so that we can wander around. We decide to lunch here rather than on the ship. Valletta itself is beautiful, filled with charming little streets, gorgeous palaces and grand churches. The Main Street is festooned with colourful banners and garlands. There is far more to see here than we can fit into a few hours but what we do see is impressive.

We head black to the ship where Peter disappears off to the gym. I remain on the balcony writing this very blog. All the while small fishing boats, small ferries and sleek yachts plough across the grand harbour all set against the back drop of this ancient walled city. We decided to head up to the top deck for sail away. The Sunset Bar has the DJ banging out music again so we go down one level to the oceanview where we can still here the music but it’s not as loud…must be getting old. We have one last minute runner who makes the ship just in time and then we have slipped our moorings and manoeuvre out of the port. We have quite a few spectators as people throng the city’s walls as we drift past. We make quite a sharp turn to get out of the harbour and then into open sea. It’s a bit choppy but nothing to trouble a ship this size. We walk out through the buffet which is just opening up and all the newly laid out food looks so amazing. Definitely the best we have experienced on the high seas.

We relax in our cabin but as we a heading eastward I realise the tail of the ship is facing westward which means it is in prime position for a sunset. A glance at Celebrity Today (the daily planner) tells me sunset is at 20.05 and so we head up to the Sunset Bar at 19.30. There’s quite a breeze up there and so we head indoors before the sun reaches the horizon. From fellow dinner guest we hears it was a pretty sunset. Drat. Maybe next time.

We are Back in the main dining room for dinner. We are sat near a pleasant older couple from Worcester who we chat to through dinner. The 2 seat tables are positioned quite close to each other so it’s almost like sharing a table. Food once again is excellent. Peter and I start with Caprese (always a firm fave). I then have Caesar and Peter has a shrimp cocktail. I have a turkey Parmesan for main and Peter has Branzino (fish) we finish with tiramisu and apple pie al la mode and double espressos.

After dinner we head to the Sky Observation lounge for the silent disco. So much fun. We have done them before on other cruise lines but on this one there are three channels. Whichever channel you are listening to makes the headphones glow either red, green or blue. Blue is mostly popular dance tunes, green is classic pop hits and red is mainly 60’s or 70’s music. We join in with the myriad of different colours dancing madly. Everyone letting this hair down and having fun.

After an hour an a half we are tired. I can see that some people will carry on into the early hours but we find ourselves down on deck 3 in the quiet Passport Bar for a drink before retiring. On the return to our room we find that clocks have moved on an hour as we travel eastwards towards the Greek islands. I sit out on the balcony for a while. A myriad of stars festoon the night sky and although it’s not cold there is a sharp wind whipping about the balcony and so I head inside. Tomorrow we are at sea all day.

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Patrick O'Halloran

Cruisers, Bloggers, Cocktail Drinkers.

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