Canary Islands Cruise with CroisiEurope

Gillian and her husband John in La Gomera

Gillian Thornton explores six islands in six days on board La Belle des Océans

I’ve always been rubbish at whistling, so the very thought of a conversation conducted by blowing is enough to turn my mouth dry. No wonder then that I’m hugely impressed by a demonstration of El Silbo on a sunny hillside in La Gomera.

With scant mobile phone signal amongst the steep, forested slopes of this volcanic island, the art of El Silbo is still widely practised and even taught in schools. A phonetic system rather like an audio version of shorthand, this unusual local tradition is a vital communication tool for rural dwellers, created by hooking a finger inside the mouth and – well – just blowing.

Remember the 1970s animated children’s series The Clangers? The high-pitched sound of El Silbo strongly resembles the noise made by those cute space mice. ‘Have you lost a goat?’ ‘Yes, a white one!’ ‘Sorry, I’ve found a black one!’ You get the idea! There’s intonation in every syllable and once someone has mastered the technique, they can translate any language into Silbo.

Our morning in the mountain forests of La Gomera was just one fascinating excursion on a 7-night winter sun cruise on board La Belle des Océans. Owned by CroisiEurope, this traditional boutique ship has a capacity of just 130 passengers. We travelled in early December but this delightful vessel shuttles between the main Canary Islands between November and April, so passengers can start their week in Tenerife or Lanzarote.

And whilst the idea of winter sun was obviously a big draw for us, so too was the chance to visit six islands in six days – the perfect way to sample each island and perhaps pick a destination for our next land-based holiday. We set off from Tenerife, then headed west to La Palma before turning east and stopping in La Gomera, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and finally Lanzarote.

The ship

In every harbour, La Belle des Océans made a dramatic contrast to the floating skyscrapers moored across the harbour. The atmosphere was more river cruise than ocean cruise with just 65 cabins and some 70 crew to look after us.

This was our fourth trip with CroisiEurope and our first on the open sea after holidays on the rivers and canals of Portugal, Italy and the Netherlands, plus a hotel barge in Southern France. The company is French and French nationals make up the majority of guests, but there is always a contingent of English-speakers and we have previously encountered passengers from Australian, New Zealand, and the US.

All staff are bilingual and we really liked the multi-national atmosphere on board. The Front of House team hailed from France, the restaurant and housekeeping staff from the Philippines, and the captain and his team from Croatia where CroisiEurope operate another seagoing vessel. Announcements are in two languages and we were spoilt with an Anglophone guide in every port.

Meals

La Belle des Océans has just one dining room plus seats for 15 at lunch time on the pool deck which are allocated by rota, weather permitting. Guests are served a set menu on arrival night but from then onwards, expect a choice of meat, fish, or vegetarian main courses. All drinks are included in the cruise price. 

Guests can choose to join a group table or – our preference – a cosy table for two. But it’s easy to be sociable and we enjoyed pooling our language skills with a friendly Swiss couple on one side, a French group on the other.

Excursions

With such a small number of passengers, there is just one optional excursion in every port, all of which we enjoyed. Prices were very competitive against some other cruise lines with prices ranging from 35-75 euros for a half-day trip, inclusive of any entry fees to tourist attractions or national parks. Three destinations offered both morning and afternoon trips, but there were also three afternoons at sea. Alternatively you can do your own thing and either relax on board or walk or taxi into town.

Excursions are mostly scenic based with short stops at panoramic viewpoints and places of interest – a church here, a botanic garden there – so physical activity is less than we might have chosen on larger ships with a wider selection of trips. But what scenery! The volcanic craters of Teide National Park in Tenerife and Timanfaya National Park in Lanzarote; the lush forests of La Palma and La Gomera; and Fuerteventura’s ‘desert’ landscape. We had no ideas that the islands in this volcanic archipelago were so different and even saw Europe’s newest volcano in La Palma, formed by a three-month eruption in 2021.

We loved discovering the culture and traditions of the islands too. Not just the art of El Silbo, but the stunning cathedral in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the nearby Christopher Columbus House; the extraordinary black-rock vineyards of Lanzarote; the aloe vera and goat’s cheese industries on Fuerteventura; and the environmental legacy of Lanzarote artist, César Manrique.

Is this for you?

If you want a choice of restaurants, evening entertainment and a wide range of on board activities, probably not. But if you like the idea of the relaxed intimacy offered by a very small ship along with quality cuisine and optional excursions with excellent local guides, La Belle des Océans could be just your thing.

The ship has a small fitness room for those who like to boost the step count during sailing hours and a treatment room where you can enjoy a massage for around 70 euros, considerably less than you would pay on a larger ship with swanky spa. The perfect way to relax and plan your return trip to this beautiful archipelago! 

Next steps

The seven-night cruise operates between November and April with prices from £1,975 per person (based on the 24th February 2024 sailing) and from £2,118 per person based on November 2024 departures. The price includes all meals and drinks on board, port fees and emergency repatriation. CroisiEurope can also arrange flights and overseas transfers on request.

Call CroisiEurope on 01756 691 269 or visit www.croisieurope.co.uk.

94016

Share Article:

Gillian Thornton

Travel writer

Leave a comment

*

Sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest travel tips on top destinations.

Join the club

Become a member to receive exclusive benefits

Our community is the heart of Silver Travel Advisor, we love nothing more than sharing ideas, inspiration, hints and tips between us.

Most Recent Articles

Mark Nicholls visits Austria’s snowiest ski resort and stumbles across a chapter of pop history….

Come feel the love on a Princess cruise. You’ll enjoy the MedallionClass experience others simply can’t, and it’s exclusively for everyone. Visit incredible destinations and be involved in the best experiences around each one of them.

Experience more with Princess and connect effortlessly with the world around you, spend time away with loved ones, take a moment for yourself, and fall in love with your holiday of a lifetime, every time.

With over 20 years of experience, Wendy Wu Tours has mastered the art of creating exceptional, fully inclusive tours which showcase the very best of each destination.

Each tour is led by a world-class guide, who will highlight the very best of their homeland, and includes authentic cultural experiences so you are not just seeing the sights, but truly immersing yourself in local life.

Say hello to ease at sea. Ambassador’s purpose is simple: they want to inspire every guest to experience authentic cruising, effortlessly and sustainably. Passionate about protecting our oceans and destinations, their ships comply with the highest industry emission standards and there is no single-use plastic on board.

On your voyage, you will receive the warmest of welcomes from the Ambassador community as you sail upon the friendliest ships afloat.

This is a global co-operative co-owned by local partners using real local experts and guides, which supports local communities, environments and wildlife. It offers travellers quirky places to stay, activity holidays and learning experiences. Not In The Guidebooks gets travellers off the beaten track into local culture with day experiences and longer, immersive adventures.

From wild wellness breaks in Wales to painting in Portugal, sustainable adventures in Mauritius to food safaris in Brazil, this is immersive, exciting travel.

Seabourn’s five intimate ships carry guests to the heart of great cities, exclusive yacht harbours and secluded coves around the world, while two new purpose-built expedition ships will combine exhilarating adventures in remote destinations with the sophisticated amenities of the world’s finest resorts at sea.

From the luxury of all suite accommodations to complimentary fine wines and spirits, and a no tipping policy, Seabourn exemplifies the definition of travelling well.