John Carter, long time presenter of TV’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ programme and seasoned globetrotter enjoys the best of both worlds – luxury cruising combined with the pleasures of terra firma.
“Much have I travelled in the realms of gold. And many goodly states and kingdoms seen. Round many western islands have I been. Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.”
Those lines of John Keats came to mind a few minutes ago when I thought about the theme of this article. For “… many western islands …” more or less sums it up.
There are the islands of the far west, located in the glittering Caribbean Sea – and a cluster closer to home – the Canaries and Madeira. They are on the itineraries of new holidays from Ramblers Worldwide which continue to offer the successful combination of cruising and walking.
Let’s get down to details …
The first point to make is that, when Ramblers Walking Holidays came up with the concept of cruising and rambling holidays, there were plenty of people who said it would never catch on.
After all, most folk who go on cruises are lured by the prospect of lying around the sun deck all day, stirring only to visit the restaurants and bars on board. Shuffling around the dance floor after dinner is about as energetic as it gets!
Ramblers, on the other hand, are by nature early risers, keen to be on the move – stout hearts, stout boots, rucksacks and restlessness all packed into eager frames. How could such a combination possibly work?
It did, and it does. And that success has brought a wider choice. Take, for instance, the ‘Magic of the Canaries’ programme of 14, 15 and 16 night holidays which sailed from Liverpool, Southampton or Tilbury on Fred Olsen’s ‘Braemar’, ‘Boudicca’, ‘Balmoral’ or ‘Black Watch’.
It combined traditional days at sea (brisk daily walks around the Promenade Deck are likely to be popular) with organised walks at ports of call – Madeira, La Palma, Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, etc. All those islands are known to me, and I have walked extensively around them. I particularly recall trekking along the ‘levadas’ on Madeira – a network of irrigation canals, threading through magnificent scenery in the island’s hinterland.
At each of these ports of call, RWH clients can join tailored excursions which will take them to some fine walking areas. The more sedentary passengers will most likely tease them about their energy (while secretly envying it) but that, I think, is all part of the holiday fun.
The range of itineraries, dates and the different duration of the holidays, as well as varied types of cabin makes it impossible to give precise costs, but you can get up-to-date information on Fred. Olsen Cruise Line’s website. If you book more than six months ahead on this and other holidays, you get a complimentary cabin upgrade.
I mentioned the Caribbean islands. They, too, are available on similar Cruise & Walk holidays of 14 or 15 nights, all on ‘Braemar’. On these holidays you fly mainly to Barbados, though two of the holidays involve flights to Tenerife or Jamaica.
The destinations are tempting. Barbados I have mentioned, but the itineraries also include St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Cuba, Turks and Caicos, St. Lucia, Grenada, Curaçao, Aruba, St. Maarten, St. Kitts and Antigua.
I have been lucky enough to visit most of these islands and enjoyed their laid-back atmosphere. But they offer tremendous scope for walkers, as a modest effort is rewarded by spectacular views.
When you consider that the price includes return flights between the U.K. and Barbados, an extra night in Barbados at the beginning of the cruise, excursions with the services of a group leader and local guides as well as the meals and entertainment provided on board ‘Braemar’, a cruise with Fred. Olsen represents tremendous value for money.
As an example of an itinerary, a previous Cruise & Walk holiday ran for 25 nights on ‘Black Watch’, which included several days at sea, with ports of call to Gibraltar, Cartagena in Spain, Catania in Sicily, Corfu, Kotor in Montenegro, the Croatian island of Hvar, Venice, Split and Dubrovnik in mainland Croatia, Malta, Algiers and Cadiz.
All in all, I like the look of these Cruise & Walk deals. RWH took something of a gamble when they introduced the concept, but have certainly confounded their critics.
NB. Itineraries and programmes are subject to change since the article was written, but we’re sure you’ll be able to find something fascinating to your taste!
For more information call 01707 386767 or visit Ramblers Cruise & Walk Holidays.
Silver Travel recommends: ‘Ramblers Walking Holidays’