Iberia and Atlantic islands with Oceania

By Philip Shart
This item appears on page 24 of the October 2019 issue.

After flying from Miami, Florida, to Barcelona, Spain, I headed for the cruise terminal to board the SS Marina, which would be my home for the next two weeks, Nov. 16-28, 2018.

I would travel to Iberia and nearby islands in the Atlantic with Oceania Cruises (855/623-2642, www.oceaniacruises.com). For the cruise, airfare, insurance and transfers, I paid $7,891 as a single.

Following the mandatory boat drill, we sailed that evening for Valencia, Spain, sometimes called the City of Arts and Sciences. While it is a modern city, it has grandiose Gothic buildings dating back to the 14th century.

Our next port was Almería. An early-morning arrival gave me time to go inland and see the Alpujarras mountains, where the destination was Alboloduy, a village with whitewashed houses.

Along the way, we stopped at Aguadulce, a town famous for its healing baths. We had a great view of the lovely beach as we walked along a promenade lined with pines.

During the night, we sailed to Málaga. Most passengers took the 8-hour tour to Granada to see the beautiful Moorish palace, the Alhambra. Having been there three times, I decided to enjoy Málaga, itself, which was settled about 3,000 years ago and bears the architectural influence of numerous conquerors.

The cathedral was begun in 1528. Originally, the building was to have two towers, but the second tower was never built, so now it’s affectionately called La Manquita, or The One Armed Lady.

We got a great view of the city from Gibralfaro Castle.

That evening, the Marina sailed through the Strait of Gibraltar and entered the Atlantic Ocean. About 70 miles west of Morocco are the Canary Islands, and about 250 miles north of the Canaries is lush Madeira.

Madeira has a beautiful botanical garden housing flora from all over the world, and at a marketplace were wicker goods, beautiful linens, fabulous embroideries and delicious Madeira wines.

I took a trip to the top of Monte for a great view of the island, then rode about a mile back down in a wicker toboggan. The toboggans can travel up to 30 mph, and the men steering them, wearing straw hats and rubber-soled shoes, are known as carreiros. They control the sleds by pushing, braking with their shoes and steering with ropes.

The day ended in Funchal with tea at the Belmond Reid’s Palace, overlooking the bay that Winston Churchill was inspired to capture on canvas. They served us scones, pastries and finger sandwiches. (We had been warned not to wear jeans, shorts or tennis shoes. This was old-world charm!)

Gran Canaria, in the Canary Islands, has beautiful beaches. The air was filled with the fragrance of small flowers that tumbled over garden walls like colorful rainbows.

The island’s gigantic Maspalomas Dunes are unbelievable, but the highlight on Gran Canaria was a trip around the Bandama Caldera — seeing the view from there and looking down into the crater.

Our final stop on the island, in Las Palmas, was Poema del Mar, an aquarium with one of the largest tanks in the world.

On neighboring Tenerife, after taking the cable car to the top of Mount Teide (over 12,000 feet), I found myself out of breath.

On Lanzarote, also in the Canary Islands, Timanfaya National Park has beautifully desolate and bizarre landscapes. The first time I visited this park, I took a camel ride. This time I rode in a tour bus, which is far better and you can see more of the park.

One stop on the island was an area known for its 500-year-old tradition of weaving silk, a home industry.

After cruising to Cádiz, Spain, we visited Cádiz Cathedral. Construction on the golden-tiled, domed cathedral began in 1722 and took more than 100 years to complete.

We continued on to Lisbon, from which I flew back to Miami, again nonstop.

This was my third voyage on the Marina. The crew and staff were helpful and friendly, the service was perfect, and the food was fabulous. The ship had several specialty restaurants where we were not charged extra; reservations needed to be made as soon as possible, though.

When booking with Oceania, check for special packages. Some include free shore excursions or beverages or shipboard credit.

I highly recommend both the ship and the cruise line. When friends ask me to recommend a cruise, I don’t hesitate to tell them they can’t go wrong with Oceania Cruises.


Tamarac, FL