Sailing into a port city, even one you may have visited before, gives the ideal introduction to your destination. Chose a cruise a line with smaller ships and you will be able to get to the heart of the city by just stepping off the vessel rather than enduring grim airport queues, lugging luggage on a train or bus, searching for the accommodation.
I always describe cruising as being on a comfortable hotel that does the travelling, so you don’t have to.
Our Fred Olsen ship, the Bolette, one of the new vessels in the small, family-owned fleet, started the cruise from Dover and having handed over our luggage at the simple check in we sauntered aboard. Our luggage was at our cabin and, enjoying a balcony suite, we immediately opened the doors to let the sea air in. Then we headed on deck to watch the departure and then explored the ship, the range of bars from pub like to intimate cocktail lounges, the ship’s quite grand theatre, the main dining rooms, speciality restaurants and café, swimming pools and jacuzzies, and the gym.
After first port of call La Corunna, with its Atlantic-facing promenade, and opportunity to take the tour to Santiago, we sailed into the sunshine Malaga. Malaga has great charm. However good the food on the ship, a day wandering the markets followed by the lunch of the freshest of seafood and a beer shaded from the blazing sun in a bustling side street is a great treat.
Off then to Italy! Sardinia’s capital Caligari rises straight out of the port and climbing through the shopping and cafe streets, through the city walls and the university to the cathedral on the top. With no funicular, it can be quite a schlep but is worth every second for the sculptures in the cathedral best shown in four monumental lions savaging various prey. It is one of the most charming cities you could hope to visit.
Naples has a real, living city feel, and some of our travellers found it a little too real. I loved it! Having been to the city before we searched out new sites including the Baptistery of San Giovanni in Fonte at the back of the cathedral. The mosaics are damaged, but the biblical scenes depicted against an inky blue background are stunning.
After such a welter of churches and darkness (and a superb pizza in its disputed home), we set off to explore the funicular trains to the airy hills above to enjoy the fresh breezes and fine views of the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius beyond.
We have visited Rome so often that we look advantage of the offer of a speedy entrance into the Vatican Museum. This was proceeded by an enjoyable tour even for a frequent visitor. I last saw the Sistine chapel before it was cleaned and had wanted to revisit the Vatican for many years to see the results but could never quite face the daunting queues – this was not an opportunity to miss.
The next day brought Livorno and a coach trip to enjoy the glorious Renaissance sights of Florence and some snacks and drinks in this glorious living museum.
Our last destination after two days at sea, with lots of games of bridge, guest lectures, evening entertainment and, yes, lots of eating, was Lisbon. The highlight of our day was riding the quaint yellow Remodelado trams screech up the narrow streets. The carriages are so small it is difficult not to engage your fellow passengers in a brief ‘where are you from’ conversation. The day we arrived in Lisbon coincided with the annual marathon but mercifully we did not get trapped in a carriage with an elated but sweaty runner. A stop for a pastel de nata and a coffee was called for after all those hills.
Talking of the food on the ship, the Bolette has two specialty restaurants. Colours features dishes that are quite unexpected or at least take a familiar dish to a new place. Each plate is a little artwork, even a humble shredded salad like a mini witch broom. The other restaurant is Vasco, and the menu features dishes from Goa and Kerala and each one has a story.
On the last day spent at sea we opted for some luxurious massage treatments at the elegant Atlantis Spa and then afternoon tea in the Observatory Lounge, with musical accompaniment the on-board pianist. I suspect that this may have been the waiter’s first afternoon tea that he had served solo (discretely overseen), and he was determined that it would be special for us – and he succeeded. The high point for me was a miniature iced bun with pink peppercorns. He was delighted to oblige and, if it was his first time serving, he passed with flying colours.
A similar cruise on the Bolette’s sister ship, is the Borealis’ 16-night S2320 ‘Discovering the Amalfi Coast’ cruise, departing from Liverpool on the 17th September 2023. Prices start from £2,599 per person.
Itinerary: Liverpool, England – Málaga, Spain – Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy – Sorrento Italy – Salerno, Italy (overnight stay) – Amalfi, Italy – Cruising Amalfi Coast and Capri, Italy – Civitavecchia (for Rome), Italy – Cartagena, Spain – Liverpool, England
For more details: Visit Borealis‘ S2320 ‘Discovering the Scenic Amalfi Coast’