Everyone needs a holiday and as my friend and I sat down to decide where to go this year we decided to embrace cruising. My friend had once worked on one for a week and it is the only way another friend holidays! We wanted relaxation, sun and an all-inclusive bar so, even if the prevailing stereotype of a cruiser is of a pensioner, we felt there was nothing to lose….
We signed up for the ‘Spirit of Iberia’ cruise leaving from Malaga and had the perfect afternoon flight from London allowing time for a glass (or two) of champagne at the airport to really get the holiday started. Our cabin was bigger than I had imagined (sometimes low expectations do wonders) and with a porthole to see each morning where we had reached. With the compulsory fire safety drill complete we headed to the dangerously entitled all-you-can-eat-buffet which flowed straight onto a deck party, disco and plenty of cocktails.
Our first full day was at sea allowing plenty of time for sunbathing, swimming, reading…and more cocktails. (I did hit the gym in the morning to ensure I could partake in the very all-inclusive nature of the cruise with slightly less guilt). We had afternoon tea with a cabaret and found Raffles, a bar modelled on the famous Singaporean hotel, which very much became my favourite, the barmen knowing us by name along with our drink choices. That night we had our Captain’s Gala Dinner and despite an overflowing of 80’s cheese about the whole affair we had a lovely time and met some lovely people.
As fun as the ship was though, I was glad to get off the ship at our first port of call the next day – Porto. The Ribiero, a Douro river cruise, St Francis Church and Catacombs and drinking Port in the Porto sunshine all fabulous. All-in-all a great day rounded off with another great night on board.
Wednesday and time for another gym session before Lisbon. I have visited before but was keen to return and was not disappointed. We found our way to the Contemporary Art Gallery in the morning before taking guidebook advice and wandering the streets of Alfama, the city’s oldest district. After plenty of photo opportunities we found ourselves at a nice little bar serving some top notch Vinho Verde before getting back on the boat to be entertained that night by a comedian and a hilarious crew talent show.
A late start on Thursday before gym, sunbathing, swimming, hot tub and reading. There was an afternoon barbecue on board and then (getting fully into the pensioner swing) we played some bingo with afternoon tea and headed to the Compass Rose restaurant for some fine dining and an after dinner show.
Friday and time for an organised tour to Seville where we saw the Cathedral and the impressive Plaza d’Espanya before some very traditional tapas and sangria. Saturday was Gibraltar but it wasn’t the most interesting of places and with the thermometer having reached 37c an ice cream some sunbathing and some swimming was about as such as we could muster. Perhaps the all-inclusive food and drink was taking its toll but we managed to recoup for our final dinner on board and our final show.
Last stop – Malaga. Returning to our initial port we had all day to explore what was a surprisingly lovely city. Picasso museum, Malaga museum and a guidebook recommended restaurant for wine and a cheeseboard were the perfect end to our trip.
But the trip wasn’t just about sun and sangria. There was time for moments of reflection of how far I’ve come, moments of realisation of where I want to be and moments of serenity of memories to capture. I realised how amazing my life really is and I need to take more time to be grateful for that. I feel revitalised and ready to keep moving my life forward and for things to just keep getting better and better.