On a quest for some serious pampering, Rhian Colley sets sail on a luxurious SeaDream cruise around some of the prettiest destinations in southern Spain.
It’s the first day of of my SeaDream Spain cruise, and as the sun streams through the gaps of the tall stone buildings and onto the cobbled streets of Málaga, the city’s soaring Renaissance cathedral casts playful shadows over the visitors milling around the square.
This is the birthplace of Pablo Ruiz Picasso, and there’s a museum housing 285 of his works of art. While browsing the gallery sounds tempting, the wafts of garlic and fresh seafood have given us a craving for some genuine Andalusian cuisine, and we dive into a tapas restaurant to munch on Iberian ham, homemade croquettes, fresh gazpacho and lightly fried fish, washed down with chilled local beer.
On board SeaDream I
Less than an hour later we are boarding SeaDream I, sipping Champagne and being plied with seemingly endless canapés, which is when we realise we’ve made a rookie mistake: when you’re sailing on a luxury all-inclusive cruise, you never need to eat anything in port.
Our floating home for the next few nights is a boutique yacht with polished teak decks and an enticing hot tub and pool. We’re welcomed on board by the smiling crew; with 95 staff on board and, when it’s fully booked, just 112 guests. At all times the service is personal and precise without being obtrusive. Club director Matt is on hand to advise us about health and safety on board, while introducing us to each crew member and their areas of expertise.
As we’re shown around our spacious ocean view stateroom, it soon becomes apparent that SeaDream Yacht Club has all the finer details covered. No need to pack mini versions of my favourite beauty products and squeeze them into a teeny customs-approved transparent bag, because we’re about to embark on five days of sheer opulence, with Bulgari products in the bathroom, slippers and robes, and, best of all, complimentary super-soft navy pyjamas, with our Christian names embroidered.
Stellar SeaDream service
That evening we meet in the salon for more Champagne and canapés while Matt relays information about some of the activities and on-shore excursions available to us. The disco ball is shimmering overhead and it’s obvious that the salon, with its dance floor, stage and piano, is where the evenings come to life.
As it’s our first evening on board, we are keen to eat al fresco at the Topside Restaurant under the stars; our waiter proffers menu suggestions helpfully advising to select more than one starter. We order three between the two of us: salmon tartare with caviar crème, cream of broccoli soup with almond flakes, and homemade potato gnocchi with pesto sauce.
Pleasantly full after devouring quite a large selection of the menu, the waiter encourages us to try the chef’s special dessert: Grand Marnier soufflé with vanilla sauce. The sponge was as light as a feather, and when I dipped my spoon into the centre, out oozed a warm, silky sauce with a hint of zesty liqueur – exquisite; all paired with excellent wines, which are included.
Rolling back to our stateroom after a night of decadence, we find our beds turned down with pristine white crisp sheets and fluffy duvets. Lulled to sleep by the gentle rocking of the ship, slightly too much wine and the comfort of my pyjamas, I have one of the best night’s sleep in my life.
Serene Sundays in Puerto Banus
The next morning the curtains are drawn to reveal ocean as far as the eye can see. I’m told Puerto Banus is only a short tender journey away, and there’s a long coastal path towards Marbella. Just what we need to walk off our scrambled-eggs-with-truffle breakfast.
One of the wonders of this kind of cruising experience is that you can do as little or a much as you choose; the itinerary is full of optional activities from early-morning yoga, water sports and cycling with SeaDream bikes, through to relaxing in the tranquil surrounds with a glass of fizz.
My motto has always been to keep active and explore the destinations when docked, but aim to be back on board just in time for pre-dinner drinks and dinner. I’ve got it all planned. Tonight, it’s the Captain’s Welcome Cocktails – so it’s not to be missed, and another opportunity to meet guests and crew as SeaDream I is just the right size for getting to know fellow passengers, if you’re feeling sociable.
Walking along Puerto Banus harbour on a sleepy Sunday morning is the most serene feeling; the water is calm and clear, and all the fish are whizzing around each other. There are dark clouds brewing in the distance and it feels a little risky to wander too far from the eye line of SeaDream I.
A few hours later, the sky starts to turn black, so we pace back to the tender. We arrive just in time to miss the refreshing rain. Fortunately, by this point, we are safely on board sipping gin and tonics with a Saloon-bar view of the Mediterranean Sea. It’s now turned choppy but still beautiful to look out on.
The crashing waves add an adventurous aspect to our SeaDream Spain cruise, and I quite enjoy the sensation of feeling as though we’re getting close to nature: the waves start to roll and we try to keep our sea legs.
Climbing the Rock of Gibraltar
I’m one of the few guests to make it to the following day’s early yoga session, in the library. It’s a perfect way to kick-start the day and prepare me for our next expedition…
By the time we start our ascent up the Rock of Gibraltar, the blue skies are back and the sun is beaming down as we begin the climb (there is a cable car should you be feeling less energetic).
St Michael’s Cave, a network of limestone caves situated at over 300 metres above sea level, is phenomenal. If you manage to avoid the attentions of the Barbary macaque monkeys on the way in (no mean feat), you’re halfway there. Once inside, I found myself surrounded by amazing stalactites, illuminated by a rainbow of coloured lights, with the occasional monkey meandering in.
We return to SeaDream I for a mouthwatering buffet lunch laid out with chilled crab claws, salads, devilled eggs and just-baked bread and a selection of cookies, too.
Indulgent SeaDream facilities
This is the kind of cruise where it’s easy to lose track of time, you’re so relaxed and indulged with a seemingly never-ending array of treats. Before we know it, we’re sipping Champagne in the piano bar with the other guests, playing Guess That Tune with onboard entertainers Fred and Ruel.
SeaDream offers the wonderful opportunity to sleep al fresco under the stars on its beautiful Balinese beds. In the heat of summer this is one of the signature experiences not to be missed. Tonight, though, the weather proves a little too wild for sleeping outdoors, but I appreciate the crew’s valiant attempt. To make up for the slight disappointment, I book myself a treatment at the Wellness Spa for the next day; a very calming and relaxing Aromatic Thai massage.
The following morning the skies have cleared in preparation for our trip to Cadiz. It’s a quaint, sleepy ancient town, full of charm with a romantic air about it. People are drinking beers stood around tall tables in the outdoor market, where small, cheerful bars and cafés are open for business. We find a sunny spot overlooking the square and watch the world go by over a latte.
This will be our last port of call in on our SeaDream Spain cruise, but I am excited to sail on to one of my favourite cities, Lisbon, and go in search of pastel de nata for the journey home.
A five day all-inclusive SeaDream voyage, departing on 15 July 2019, from Lisbon to Malaga, starts from £2,927 per person, excluding flights, transfers and land adventures. For further details, call 0800 783 1373 or visit seadream.com
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