This was our third attempt at a cruise in the last 5 months. The first was cancelled after I was admitted to hospital for a month long residency owing to a blood infection. The second was cancelled after discovering that my passport only had 3 months left on it. And then we almost missed the flight for this one.
Buying some trendy new Raybans at the airport we thought we had plenty of time when the announcement came for ‘last call for gate number 2.’ In panic we ran for the gate thinking it would be just around the corner, only to find gate 17. Ours was the furthest one away! We ran across rooms and through tunnels, down stairs and more rooms. At one point Jill gave up and told me to run on in the hope of holding the terminal kiosk open. I reached it to find 4 or 5 passengers still waiting to board the plane. Jill caught me up looking as though she was about to have a cardiac arrest. We boarded the plane coughing and wheezing; only to find that take off was delayed. It was another 45 minutes before we took to the air.
Tuesday 10th – Tenerife
At Tenerife we were not pleased to be penned in while being forced to watch a 6 minute safety video before being allowed to board the ship; the same video that we later found to be running on our cabin TV.
Once on board the Marella Explorer, we made our way up to deck 8 and along a seemingly never ending corridor from one end of the ship to the other. The instructions on our boarding slip told us that the key would be hanging outside the cabin door. It wasn’t. A staff member advised us to go to reception on deck 5; they told us to collect the key from the muster station on deck 6.
Tired and irritable, once we’d gained access to the cabin we headed for a well-earned beer and some food which was almost inedible. It had not been a great start to the holiday!
Thankfully things improved with a lovely restaurant meal in the evening, washed down with plenty of all inclusive wine.
Wednesday 11th – Arrecife, Lanzarote
First port of call was Lanzarote. We’d booked an excursion to Timenfaya national park. We were treated to demonstrations of still active volcanic power; shrubbery bursting into flames when dropped into a hole where the temperature was still 220°, a bucket of water poured into a pipe which was driven into the ground, turned into a powerful jet of steam only seconds later, and stones which were too hot to hold even though taken from only a metre below the surface. There was even a volcano powered BBQ!
Following this we had a winding and sometimes scary coach drive through an other-worldly landscape of old lava flows and rugged windswept rocks. A truly ‘out of this world’ experience.
The tour included a very brief visit to ‘El Golfo’, a lurid green lake formed in the mouth of an extinct volcano. We would have liked to have spent more time here and to have had some lunch; but we were rushed on to one of the bodegas in the hope that we would buy some of the local plonk after being given the smallest of tasters.
Thursday 12th – Funchal, Madeira
Next day we were free to roam the narrow cobbled streets of Funchal on Madeira. We loved roaming around this city on our own and the weather was superb. We browsed colourful markets, drank local beer bearing my sister’s name and wandered through an old castle.
Later on we dined at a tiny back street restaurant on the local specialities of scabbard fish and espatada – big chunks of barbecued beef served with lovely mixed rice, potatoes and a couple of large glasses of white wine.
As we started to make our way back we popped into a shop in search of some Madeira miniatures to try. An eager assistant gave us samples of 5 different varieties before we opted to buy a full bottle of the 10 year old. We were starting to feel a bit squiffy!
Instead of catching the return coach we opted to enjoy a stroll along the attractive promenade. It was a really enjoyable day out and Funchal is a place to be recommended. Just be wary of the little crossroads where cars and bikes fly across the pedestrian areas with little regard for safety!
Friday 13th – Somewhere in the Atlantic
The next day was all at sea as we made our way across to Morocco. Unfortunately Jill succumbed to a bout of sea-sickness. She went to lie down in the room while I settled on the pool deck and began to write.
I wasn’t feeling at my best the next day either. I’d been bitten by mosquitoes in Funchal and had a nasty allergic reaction. That and the fairly rough crossing added up to a sleepless night.
Saturday 14th – Agadir, Morocco
We’d booked a tour which took us firstly to the Kasbah. There wasn’t a lot to see here. The city had been completely destroyed in an earthquake and all there is now are white painted walls which are slowly being rebuilt.
This was the first opportunity for the locals to attack. As soon as we got off the coach we were surrounded by camel owners, sellers of rocks and jewellery, and a man carrying a small goat! It was impossible to enjoy the experience as we constantly had to fend them off and turn away from where we were heading.
The ‘Fantasia’ show was the main part of this trip. Parts of it were very entertaining, with some acrobatic dancing from a group of cymbal clashing guys. Other bits were really quite tedious however. Two appearances from a pair of women who didn’t really do much apart from wiggle their shoulders, accompanied by some pretty tuneless music. Each performance was punctuated by a group of horsemen charging towards us before firing their rifles which was quite impressive. The show concluded with a snake charmer, I did enjoy this but was only too pleased not to have been sat at the front!
Last stop was the souk, a sprawling market where you could easily get lost. We did our best to avoid being sold anything but Jill ended up buying some tea at what seemed an exorbitant price.
Morocco was certainly an experience, but not one I’m sure I’d rush to repeat.
Sunday 15th – Puerto Del Rosario, Fuerteventura
Sunday should have been the ‘taste of Fuerteventura’ tour, but Jill misread the time on the ticket and we missed the coach. The worst part of that was that the area surrounding the port didn’t really have much to offer and most places were closed. Part of me wasn’t too disappointed at missing the trip as I was still not really feeling very well.
We had a wander around the streets, doing a bit of window shopping, and finally found a bar to sit at and watch the world go by (what there was of it) for an hour or so. Then it was back to the ship where I struggled through the rest of the day before having an early night.
Monday 16th – Las Palmas, Gran Canaria
Last port of call and plenty of time to relax and explore the town. To start with we had no plan and just ambled around aimlessly, but eventually made our way to the beachfront. The temperature had reached a scorching 29° and we actually got our shoes off and went for a paddle.
It was too hot to walk far so we settled for a seat at one of the many busy restaurants and bars. After a beer we also got some food at a lovely restaurant, pretty expensive but great quality and really enjoyable.
Later on back at the ship we made the most of our last night on board with an enjoyable meal, plenty of wine, and we finally made it to the theatre to catch the musical show. The cast did a great medley of songs including the entire version of Bohemian Rhapsody, very impressive!
Tuesday 17th – Tenerife Airport & Home
The return flight had been delayed and by the time we got back to a freezing cold England we really couldn’t face the four hour drive home. I tried to find somewhere for an overnight stay but for some reason everywhere was booked up. Jill drove for as long as she could and I took over for the final leg. We got home late without having a proper meal, both shattered and ready for bed.
We’d both enjoyed the cruise on the whole, but with reservations. Jill’s sea-sickness was a concern should we ever board a ship again, and at times the whole thing was just a bit too tiring. We’re still thinking about the cruise to the States and Canada though!