How to sea Spain in 13 days

Going cruising.

By Kylie Mitchell-Smith www.travellingsenorita.com

As the borders reopen, we begin to plan a European trip to reacquaint ourselves with countries like France, Portugal and Spain and as luck would have it a ’13-day intensive Spain’ cruise by Azamara Voyages land on our lap.

As the tourism industry bounces back so do the costs of flights, with staffing issues and an increasing demand, they are fast becoming out of our reach. Alas we engage our trusty Travel Agent who finds us affordable options from Singapore to Paris on a reputable airline, with connecting flights from Brisbane.

A layover in Singapore for 24 hours suited us down to the ground as we checked into the Novotel that adjoins Mercure on Stevens Road, an urban precinct on the fringe of the city. An ideal location that is close enough to the action but far enough away to relax in the comfort of the hotel’s gardens, cascading pools and global eateries.

Refreshed and ready to go we board our flight to Paris to spend a couple of days basking in the beauty of the city of love. We discover areas we hadn’t visited before like Batignolles and Le Marais-as colourful as they are authentically French.

A fast train to Bordeaux where we explore the old and new parts of the city, from the magnificent wine museum La Ciudad del Vino to the fresh food markets Les Halles Bacalan a showcase of the region’s providores.

We board Azamara Pursuit and set sail to Northern Spain, dipping our ‘virgin’ cruise toes in on a boutique ship with 550 guests and a similar ratio of staff, is the ideal choice. Azamara have four smaller ships in their fleet and by all accounts are a trusted brand with a large portion of return guests.

Greeted with friendly staff where nothing seems too much trouble, we get a quick safety check with Lifestyle Manager Nelson (also the ships resident DJ and dancer) and are introduced to our Stateroom Attendant Anwar, who is as tentative as he is fun.

The deck cabins are spacious in design with all the fine trimmings, including a luxurious bed, bathroom to suit and balcony that opens onto the sea. As we wander the ships array of bars, eateries and entertainment areas, we slowly but surely find our sea legs.

First stop Bilbao, we glide in as the sun rises over this stunning Basque city. Exploring the Guggenheim cultural precinct, we feel the vibe of this contemporary yet old-world destination.

Sailing overnight and touring towns during the day, we embark on destinations off the big ship track- like the stunning coastal towns of La Coruna and Vigo in the Galicia region. The spirits of the pilgrims are felt through the cobble stone streets that lead to the Santiago de Compostela.

Destination Portugal, we have time at sea to immerse in the culture on board the ship where we discover most of the guests are avid cruisers, choosing Azamara to see the world by water.

On-board there is a decked-out gym, decadent spa and treatments, steam room and yoga studio. A luxurious lounge takes pride of place at the bow of the ship with expansive views across the ocean. Fresh food is served from breakfast through to dinner exuding the flavours of Spain and food from across the globe.

The chef’s source local produce where they can like Basque oysters, fish from Galicia and cheese from France. Azamara have built strong relations with suppliers at each port to ensure the freshest of food is served on-board.

Embarking on the port of Lisbon we hire a car to explore the beachside town of Nazare, said to be the home of the largest wave in the world. Azamara are all about destination immersion and quite literally drop you off for a day of adventure, just be back 30 minutes prior to departure and all is well. There is also an array of curated shore excursions to book if guided tours are more your thing.

A two day lay over in Seville, we are Greeted by hordes of Spaniards as we pass the narrow bridges, singing ‘Viva Espana’. Seville is rich in culture, pretty as a picture with a plethora of authentic tapas bars and live flamenco that ignites the streets.

A day trip to Gibraltar then onto Costa Del Sol to take in Mediterranean towns like Malaga and Cartagena along the way. The mountains of Gibraltar are home to one of the last surviving monkey colonies, perched high above the island they keep a watchful eye over the city. Malaga beach is as dreamy as it is refreshing, we stay awhile and indulge on chargrilled fish cooked by the sea.

We take a tour of the ancient ruins of Cartagena, a town where historical architecture is fused with contemporary design, as we head to our final destination Barcelona. We pull into the colourful port of Valencia to visit the ‘Coves de Sant Josep’ a remarkable underground cave and water passage just outside of the picturesque city.

Sailing up the Balearic Sea on our intensive journey around Spain we’ve crossed the Atlantic and Mediterranean and have taken in parts of four countries Spain, Portugal, Great Britain and France.

Crusing into the harbour as the sun rises over Barceloneta Beach, The W Barcelona shines bright through our cabin windows, as we bid farewell to the Azamara Pursuit team and vow to return one day.

W Barcelona is where all our hotel dreams come true, it’s a lifestyle hotel and to our delight we are upgraded to a ‘fabulous suite’. Complete with cocktail bar, supersized bath, plush lounge and floor to ceiling glass, capturing the water and city beyond.

Day tripping around Barcelona is always a good idea, from bar hopping in the El Born district to dinner at the multi layered El Nationale to sunset on top of Tibidabo aka Magic Mountain.

To complete the full circle of Spain we hire a car and drive to San Sebastian stopping off at Petritegi a traditional Basque cider house along the way. We stay at the stylish and convenient Silken Amara Hotel a short stroll to the old city of San Sebastian where we take a guided pintxos bar tour with a friendly local Amaia.

Exploring the world by sea has captured our hearts, with a healthy dose of trains, planes and automobiles thrown in for good measure. Azamara offers affordable packages with all the inclusions, smaller ships and destination immersion itineraries- there’s a lot to like about a floating hotel on the sea.

For all the sea faring information and offers visit https://www.azamara.com/en-au/

The writer was a guest on the Azamara Pursuit Voyage.

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