Cruising Creative Fact File
Neil McAllister sets sail for Spain, Portugal and Gibraltar.
On-board spending on the is in pounds, charged on the card which also acts as your on-shore ID.
Even though you may depart from the
UK, passengers require a passport and travel insurance. A number of passengers on this cruise suffered accidents whilst ashore, in one case requiring a flight to rejoin the ship.
To ensure a specific cabin, early booking of UK-departing cruises is often needed. However, there are many online sites such as cruisedeals and lastminute.com specialising in lastminute cruise bargains, which can offer substantial savings to fill empty cabins.
MY younger brother hadn’t had a holiday for quite a while. He lives independently, but problems with his sight and mobility mean that venturing beyond familiar territory is difficult.
A family cruise to sunnier climes from a UK port fitted the bill. We could relax and discover new places without the hassle of air travel.
One of the world’s oldest-serving cruise liners, MV Marco Polo, leaves from different UK ports. A trip with calls in Spain, Portugal and Gibraltar seemed perfect, and when my father decided to come, our party became four.
Hazel and I have clocked up 50 countries over the years, but all the ship’s ports of call were new to us. One reason we chose the Marco Polo was that it is a smaller, more traditional vessel with under 800 passengers.
Time at sea passes quickly wherever your interests lie: sun-seekers bagged the upper decks’ loungers to turn themselves lobster-coloured; more health-conscious passengers enjoyed indoor quizzes, talks, craft activities and games.
Those wishing to leave the ship the same weight as they arrived walked the decks or used the gym.
Portugal’s capital, Lisbon, was our first port of call. An advantage of being a smaller ship became clear as our berth lay below the dome of Campo St Clara, in one of the city’s most picturesque districts.
My plan to visit the famous Jerònimos Monastery, perhaps enjoying coffee and a delicious Portuguese Pasteis de Nata at a nearby café, was scuppered by the immense queues which suggested an hourlong wait for either.
My father suggested we walk to see the waterfront Age of Discovery monument, celebrating seafarers like Vasco da Gama who made the country such a maritime power many centuries ago.
A walk along the shore brought us to Belem Tower, constructed to spy ships returning to one of the world’s richest ports.
One thing to consider when cruising is that the itinerary is not set in stone.
We were due to call next at Portimão, but the transfer from ship to shore by tender was impossible due to a swell, so the ship made an impromptu call in Tangier, Morocco.
By coincidence, Hazel and I had been in the country three weeks before, photographing fascinating towns like Chefchaouen,
Fes and Casablanca for the “Friend”, so we had the guidebook with us, allowing us to make the most of our time in this unexpected stop’s exotic, ancient medina. It even allowed a delightfully shady break for mint tea.
“I admit I didn’t expect to be drinking this when we set off,” Hazel said.
Gibraltar’s mooring, beside a floating apartment block, was only a
20-minute walk into town, but to make the most of our time we bought £2 shuttle bus tickets to Grand Casemates Square.
Most beer here is Spanish, which is also the predominant local language, but all locals speak English and your pound is as welcome in the cafés here as in Aberdeen or Bromsgrove. If you want to shop in Marks and Sparks or Holland and Barrett, or use a red phone
lovely with its waterfront buildings and marina. Porto’s Ribeira World Heritage Site district with sightseeing tour tram.
sits at Gibraltar Cruise Terminal.