A report of the school trip on a Mediterranean cruise, printed in the 1967-68 Chronicle magazine.
Our first view of the Nevasa was impressive. She was huge, and shining white and looked as if she had been scrubbed from bows to stern. We were led along what seemed endless corridors and numerous flights of steps until we reached our dormitory, and I felt sure that I would never be able to find my way about. After and excellent meal, however, the feeling of strangeness began to wear off. I went to bed that night very tired, but excited as I imagined all that the next few days would have in store for me.
By Wednesday evening the coast of Portugal was clearly visible – our first sight of land for two days. On the afternoon of Thursday we crossed the bay of Cadiz and neared Gibraltar, and the decks were thronged with people as we cruised right round the Rock in brilliant sunshine. Later that evening we dropped anchor in Ceuta, with its whitewashed Moroccan houses, swaying palm trees, and Gibraltar hazy in the distance.
The next day we had the morning free for buying souvenirs in Ceuta. Almost as soon as we had disembarked we were collared by Arab street sellers, who all spoke English, and tried to sell us leather goods at exorbitant prices. We had been told that we would have to haggle over the prices, and we did, though I suspect they made a hefty profit despite the drastic reduction in prices that we obtained. Everywhere we went we were smiled at, and we often turned around to find that we were being followed by a flock of handsome Spanish boys.
IN the afternoon we travelled by coach to Tetuan, an Arab town some twenty-five miles south in the Rif mountains. The road we followed took us past some of the most beautiful beaches I have seen. The terrain was very dry, even in March, and the vegetation was mostly cacti, prickly pear, palm trees and small shrubs.
We were escorted by our guide to the Royal Palace. We found ourselves in a cool shady hall with a large domed roof and a fountain in the centre. Both the Palace and the School of Art were fine examples of tiled mosaic work and the beautifully carved plaster that is unique to Morocco. After this, we were taken round the “casbah”, the native quarter, an experience I will never forget. We were led through narrow, dark, dirty streets, thronged with people and milling with sheep and goats. Our ears were ringing with the sounds of the animals and the shouts of the street sellers as we gingerly picked our way through the crowd, anxious lest we trip over any goats. You can imagine how glad I was to get back to the haven of peace in the Nevasa!
The next day, the Nevasa followed the Algerian coast in quite rough weather, but by Sunday we were out of sight of land. WE then spent our time swimming, sunbathing, playing deck-hockey and attending various lectures about Heraklion, our next port of call. We arrived there about breakfast time, and after a three mile journey, reached the Palace at Knossos, which was surrounded by hills covered with vines and olive trees. The palace was very interesting, and whole rooms and staircases remained intact, ans also many tapering pillars and Minoan paintings and friezes still were in good condition. Later, we were shown round Heraklion Museum, which contained all the pottery, jewellery, ornaments, mosaics and paintings which had been found at the Minoan Palace at Knossos.
After lunch we prepared for the coach excursion across Crete to the Minoan palace at Phaestos. We crossed the mountain range which runs down the length of Crete, at about two thousand feet, with Mount Ida, famous in legend as the birthplace of Zeus, towering above us, covered in cloud. We crawled round hairpin bends that hugged the mountainside, a precipice on one side. On the way, we stopped at some particularly well-preserved Roman ruins – the site of a former Roman town. The open air theatre and auditorium was still intact, and we looked around with interest. We continued on to Phaestos, where we were shown round the ruins, which incidentally had not been restored like those at Knossos, and we were informed that a team of Italian archaeologists were at present excavating some newly discovered Neolithic buildings. After exploring by ourselves for half an hour, we returned to the Nevasa. Later that night we waved goodbye to Heraklion, our heads full of palaces, dates and pottery.
I woke up on Thursday morning to find that the Nevasa was just about to dock at Istanbul, gateway tot he East, It was extremely cold, as there had been a snowstorm a few days before, and in some places snow was still on the ground.
In the morning we travelled up the Bosphorus by coach, until we came to the castle of Rumeli Hisari, which was situated at one of the narrowest points in the Bosphorus. We looked round this castle, and then continued up the Bosphorus to a cafe on the shores of the Black Sea. Here, we sampled some Turkish tea, which we absolutely foul, and then hastily gulped some Coke to wash away the taste. We then returned to the Nevasa for lunch, and prepared for our tour of the city itself.
The first thing that we were shown was St Sophia. This is a huge church, built in the Byzantine era and had a dome and minarets. Despite its paintings and decorations, I felt I did not understand or appreciate it. We were then shown the famous Blue Mosque, after removing our shoes as is the Moslem custom. After that, we were taken to the Topkapi museum, which contained all the treasures of Turkey, teacups made of gold and encrusted with rubies, emeralds the size of a man’s fist, a couch made of solid gold inlaid with rubies and emeralds, and many more articles of which the richness was almost unbelievable. We returned to the Nevasa that night loaded up with Turkish delight (genuine!) and Turkish slippers.
We arrived at Piraeus, the port of Athens, in time for breakfast, and later that morning we departed for our tour of Athens. We called at the Royal Palace to see the famous guards, and then proceeded to the hill of Philapoppos where you can get an extremely good view of the Acropolis. The coach drove to the Acropolis, and after we had had a brief talk from the guide, we were left more or less on our own. I was prepared for a wonderful sight, but the Acropolis more than lived up to my expectations. There was an atmosphere of mythical gods and goddesses, and yet when you looked down, you saw the modern bustling city of Athens. Those magnificent monuments seemed to me to sum up the honour, beauty, splendour and glory of the Greek Civilization.
In the afternoon we travelled forty miles east to Cape Sounion, the most southerly point in Attica. The road followed a most beautiful coastline, dotted with small islands surrounded by turquoise blue water. We reached our destination, a temple of Poseidon, perched on the top of a steep-sided promontory with waves lapping at its feet, and islands hazy in the distance. I looked around with enjoyment, and was sorry to leave.
The following day, bound for Venice, we stopped at Navarino bay for the ship’s Regatta. This was our last glimpse of Greece, for the next day we were well up the Adriatic and out of sight of land. On Tuesday we arrived in Venice, and hurried off early, as we only had a few hours there. Most of us went to St Mark’s Square where we enjoyed ourselves buying Venetian glass and feeding the famous pigeons. All too soon we had to return to the Nevasa, say our goodbyes, and board a water-bus to go to the airport. We travelled up the Grand Canal, had a fleeting glimpse of the Rialto Bridge and saw quite a few gondolas. In no time at all we were whisked from Venice to Gatwick, leaving the enchanting and exotic behind us.
Frances Capstick, U.V.A.
In 1965, the former troop ship Nevasa was converted to an educational cruise ship, carrying up to 1,000 passengers. A brief history of the ship can be found here.