Cruis­ing Cre­ative Fact File

The People's Friend Special - - COOKERY -

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 last­ 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.

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