A Mediterranean Medley; Kirsty and Mike Mandeville Discover a Mediterranean Cruise Is Ideal for a First Holiday without Their Teenage Children

Article excerpt

When Charlotte, 17, and Luke, 15, announced they weren't coming on holiday with us last year, Mike and I realised our annual travel plans would have to evolve. While friends are mourning the passing of family trips, we saw it as an opportunity to tick some European cities off our destination wish list.

Our first thought was to travel by train, but Mum suggested a couple of Princess Cruises itineraries she thought we'd like: I never thought I'd say it, but what a stroke of genius!

So it was that we took a leisurely drive through the New Forest down to Southampton, and boarded the imposing Grand Princess. Wow! It was everything I dreamed of in my fantasy hotel - only at sea - so a celebratory glass of champagne for our first 'empty nester' holiday was in order.

Our first full day on board began with a self-indulgent, lazy breakfast in our fabulous balcony stateroom, before heading off to explore the 'resort' facilities on board. Together, we made a must-do list for the fortnight ahead: pampering in the Lotus Spa for me, and the Princess Links, a nine-hole putting course for Mike (he can't stay away from golf!); we were both keen, too, to sample cookery demonstrations, wine tastings and Movies Under the Stars.

After a couple of decadent days on board, our first port of call was Cadiz, where we'd booked an excursion to a sherry bodega in Jerez (sherry's very trendy now, you know!) followed by a tapas tasting. Our trip was already turning into an epicurean journey, and that was before we ate in the Sterling Steakhouse - just one of the array of amazing eateries on the ship - that evening. Brie and papaya quesadilla anyone? I can highly recommend it! And their signature 'Princess Cut' filet mignon was the most succulent steak I've ever had the pleasure of eating. The desserts were mouthwatering, but we decided to head to a Broadway-style cabaret for afters - equally satisfying but without the calories! …