After Covid curtailed her family holiday in 2022, Karen, her husband Charlie and daughter Beth were more than ready for their 14-night Iberian Peninsula cruise in April. She kindly provided me with some feedback...
With the cancellation of our milestone birthday celebration trip due to the pandemic, we enlisted Ruth’s expertise to help book a replacement luxury holiday suitable to include both a nine-year-old and as much as possible within the price, to reduce stress and additional expenses.
Having previously been on a cruise, the two-week Iberian Peninsula journey via Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar and France with Princess Cruises appeared enticing.
Stops included Vigo in the northwest of Spain, Lisbon, Seville, Malaga, Cartegena, Gibraltar, Bilbao and La Rochelle, before heading back to our departing port, Southampton.
The places that I had previously visited Charlie hadn’t and vice versa so between us each port of call was new to at least one of us.
The night before departure, we travelled down by train from Cumbria and stayed with relatives in Hampshire, who kindly took us to and from the cruise terminal.
The ship was top-drawer with wonderful food and faultless service. All staff, even in the busiest areas, never appeared harassed and worked quickly to ensure guests were served promptly.
There were plenty of facilities available, including excellent entertainment, with The Rock Opera and watching movies at sea under the stars being highlights.
We also enjoyed each of the passenger enrichment offerings including performances by Tom Ball, The Trawlermen, and an incredibly motivational and emotive speech by Andy Reid MBE that I will remember forever and with whom we also managed to grab a few one-to-one chats.
Our onshore excursions included three pre-booked tours - the Lisbon city tour; the Roman amphitheatre, excavations and bath house in Cartagena; and the Top of the Rock, St Michael's Caves, and historical defences in Gibraltar. The guides were informative and engaging on each, with Gibraltar and its Barbary Apes captivating my daughter.
We tended to stay with the cruise passengers for the guided tours to try and minimalize disruption. The locals were helpful wherever we visited, as well as staff going considerably out of their way to assist us during a couple of shopping experiences.
It was easy enough to also do our own thing in some places and we loved just wandering the streets of Cadiz and venturing into the crypts of the cathedral and the new Roman excavation site in Cartagena.
On a couple of the shore days, we opted to stay on board, the allure of being able to relax and having a quiet ship virtually to ourselves was way too tempting not to take advantage of.
Seeing dolphins during each transit through the Straits of Gibraltar was mesmerising and I am certain that I briefly saw a whale breaching whilst we were heading back up the coast of western Portugal.
Any concerns about the suitability of a two-week cruise for our daughter Beth were quickly alleviated. She had "the best holiday ever", loving the trips, making several friends, and being well looked after by the kids’ club, although she was happy to leave them on the evening that we discovered the World Fresh Marketplace was doing a chocolate fountain!
We had a brilliant holiday, and I would highly recommend it, even to those who are well-travelled around Europe. The whole experience exceeded expectations and put the disappointment and stress of our previously cancelled trip well behind us - even the April weather was unexpectedly amazing.
Ruth was outstanding. She was so patient and understanding of my requests and concerns, looking after every detail, and making sure everything we needed for the trip was taken care of. We are very appreciative.