Quays to

Irish Sunday Mirror - - TRAVEL - BY MARK EL­LIS

Seville ap­peared in glis­ten­ing glory as the dawn mist cleared. Mud from the river bed swirled around the ship – we had reached the limit of nav­i­ga­tion, but it was not sur­pris­ing as we were some 50 miles from the sea.

Any fur­ther and our cruise ship Brae­mar would have run aground. We were in the heart of Seville, Spain’s only in­land port, and within easy walk­ing dis­tance of the city cen­tre.

We had cruised up one of Spain’s great rivers, the Guadalquivir, and the size of Brae­mar was ideal for this sort of trip. One of four ships in the Fred Olsen fleet, Brae­mar has just 485 cab­ins and car­ries just over 900 pas­sen­gers, a min­now com­pared to some newer ships car­ry­ing 5,000-plus.

But the cruise line prom­ises to take guests closer to the ac­tion, and it cer­tainly did that on our 14-night Au­then­tic An­dalu­sia voy­age from Southamp­ton.

Big ships have to dock miles away and some­times shut­tles are needed, but Brae­mar gets close enough to make port cities an easy stroll from the quay­side.

The ship pro­vides help­ful maps for pas­sen­gers to dis­cover places by them­selves, but also has a wide range of tours to see the high­lights by coach, boat or walk­ing, with ad­vice for peo­ple with lim­ited mo­bil­ity.

We set off by foot and within min­utes reached the Plaza de Es­paña, cre­ated for the Ibero-amer­i­can Exposition of 1929, with im­pres­sive tiled fea­tures rep­re­sent­ing the dif­fer­ent Span­ish prov­inces.

The city’s crown­ing glory is the mighty Al­cazar palace, a stun­ning Ara­bian trea­sure trove and the old­est royal palace still in use in Europe. Even with pre-paid tick­ets long queues form, but it’s worth it.

This is also the home of fla­menco, a dance said to date back to the ar­rival of gyp­sies from In­dia, and colour­ful shows are per­formed. After the first two days at sea, we were glad to stretch our legs in the Fred Ol­son’s Brae­mar

first port of call, Lis­bon, the largest city in Por­tu­gal.

A great way to see the city, which is spread over seven hills, is by wooden trams from the 1930s, but with mod­ern en­gines, which rat­tle around the nar­row streets. Our trip in­cluded a lo­cal del­i­cacy pas­tel de nata (cus­tard tarts), washed down by a glass of the na­tion’s fa­mous port.

Not that you need any­thing ex­tra to eat or drink after be­ing on the ship. From break­fast to mid­night sup­pers, you can en­joy as much as you want in two res­tau­rants or a self-ser­vice buf­fet.

Un­der ex­ec­u­tive chef Derek Wil­son, a small army turns out ev­ery­thing from clas­sics such as beef Welling­ton, to su­perb af­ter­noon teas and de­li­cious cur­ries.

Mark on board

SMALL AND MIGHTY

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