The moment of realisation came on day six, a few hours out of Piraeus, the port of Athens and several more from arrival in the beautiful city of Dubrovnik.

Yes, I could do this.

In my job, I'm used to talking to anyone about anything at just about anytime.

But my family and colleagues know, I'm prone to irritability, bouts of solitude and generally being comfortable with my own company quite a lot of the time.

Children and animals I am pretty good with. Grown ups not so much.

So here was a challenge.

How would I manage with 2,000 other people on a seven day cruise around the Med? How much of car crash would this be for me?

Although that has always been my idea of hell of water, there was only one way to find out.

And I had long wanted to revisit Venice and Athens after 20 years and see Dubrovnik for the first time.

So it was that I found myself looking down from a height of 200 feet, on the beautiful St Mark's Square, aboard the MSC Magnifica as she sailed out of Venice and out towards the Adriatic.

The Magnifica is a gleaming 96,000 tons of a ship operated by the Italian line MSC which specialises in cruises across the Mediterranean, the Adriatic and the Greek Islands.

She has 16 decks, 1,259 cabins, is 59m high and 293 metres in length.

Big enough to get lost in a few times.

My outside cabin on Deck 9 was spacious and comfortable.

My fellow passengers (around 2,500 as it happened) were mainly Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese with a few Australians and Americans.

The first stop was Bari, which I found a little underwhelming given the knockout factor of other Italian cities like Pisa, Florence, Milan and Verona.

My cruise package covered all food in my nominated restaurant, the Quattro Ventri, where I shared a table each night with the delightful George and Janet from Guildford and Tom and Alex from Cardiff.

You can dine at other restaurants on board and the huge international buffet on deck 13 was open 20 hours day.

At peak times it was like the M25. Think carvery x 500 for the scale of carnage.

My package also offered an unlimited drinks supply at the bars and restaurants, so a fair few Mojitos, Margeritas and even a couple of Vodka Martinis were consumed.

And generally I'm not a drinker, but it would have been rude not to.

Entertainment on board was nightly, extensive and varied, though I'm not much of one for deck aerobics, the sounds of the hits through the decades, fashion shows or having my photo taken.

A book on the balcony on a warm Mediterranean evening is perfect for me.

Excursions on these cruises are not cheap ranging from 40 euros to 200.

By and large I found my own way round, using local buses and water taxis to explore and avoiding the long snaking trail tourist trail.

This worked well in Mykonos, Katakolon, Bari and Dubrovnik.

In Athens I took the excursion option to reacquaint myself with the Acropolis, Parthenon and Plaka.

If you do go under your own steam, make sure you get back in time. The ship won't wait.

On board there are numerous ways to ensure you have peace and quiet.

Sitting on your balcony is one.

Walking around the decks at sunrise is very peaceful and I saw virtually no-one else, apart from crew members washing the decks, polishing the railings and putting out the sun beds.

The solo excursion option means negotiating public transport and using initiative but it beats getting on and off a tour bus and following a guide holding up a sign.

Crew members on Magnifica were faultlessly courteous and helpful.

Most were from the Far East and numerous wanting to talk football with one of the few England passengers and one who was a Leicester city supporter. They are big in the Far East as well as the East Midlands.

And you can put away the myth that the cruise is only for older people. Not this one.

Yes there were fair few (including me I guess) but we were more than counterbalanced by families with young children and teenagers and couples of all ages.

Anyway, that moment of realisation came as I sat drinking an early morning coffee and Michael Connolly book at the stern on Deck 13.

The sun was rising over Greece slightly behind and to the east.

The sky was cloudless and blue and the Mediterranean azure and flat.

The only on movement in the water was the gentle churn of the ship's propeller, leaving a dead straight white highway in its wake stretching back miles.

I'm travelling with 2,500 other people and yet there was not a soul to be seen.


Andy Martin travelled to Venice with British Airways to join the MSC Magnifica for the seven day cruise to Bari, Katakolon, Cruises around the Mediterranean start from £399.