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