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Setting sail from Barcelona
Barcelona, the cosmopolitan capital of Catalonia, is one of our favourite ports of call. From the warren-like medieval streets of the Barri Gòtic to the fantastical modernist architecture of Antoni Gaudí, from the dizzy heights of Mount Tibidabo to the golden sands of Barceloneta, there's never a dull moment in this most beguiling of cities. Take a stroll along the Ramblas, soak up the wonderful art of Picasso and Miró, or watch Lionel Messi work his mesmerising magic at the Camp Nou. Barcelona is truly a city with something for everyone.
For the ultimate boozy lunch head to Can Paixano, also known as La Xampanyeria, where local residents, office workers and the odd adventurous tourist crowd around the bar and tuck into sandwiches washed down with Cava.
The down-to-earth port of Sète, sandwiched between the Mediterranean and the Etang de Thau lagoon, is a working town rather than a tourist hotspot, though the canals and colourful buildings have a certain charm. It’s also a great spot for a seafood lunch, and a visit to the nearby citadel of Carcassonne is a popular excursion.
The busy port of Tarragona, situated on the Catalan coast to the south of Barcelona, is a city full of history. This was the base from which the Romans launched their conquest of the Iberian peninsula, and there are plenty of reminders of this period, including an impressive seafront amphitheatre.
Málaga boasts plenty of chic restaurants and bars where you can ease into the rhythms of life in southern Spain, before exploring sights including the intriguing, unfinished Gothic cathedral, and a museum devoted to the city's most famous son, Pablo Picasso.
Sovereignty of ‘The Rock’ has been a thorny issue ever since Gibraltar was ceded to Britain in 1713, though on the ground it’s clear where most locals’ sympathies lie. Gibraltar is often described as ‘more British than Britain’, a curious enclave of red postboxes, double decker buses and chip shops.
Bustling and modern, fizzing with industry and commerce, Casablanca is often overlooked in favour of Morocco’s better known tourist draws. But then this is part of its appeal: it’s an authentic and unvarnished city, and it’s also home to the spectacular modernist architecture of the Hassan II Mosque.
After years of neglect, Tangier is finally being restored to its former glory as a cosmopolitan crossroads between Europe and Africa. The Moroccan government has invested heavily in modern infrastructure, while the spruced up medina shines with a new-found cultural dynamism.
Seville is a wonderful destination, a sophisticated and sun-kissed city on the banks of the Guadalquivir river. It’s a treat for all the senses, from the smell of orange blossom to the heart-tugging sounds of flamenco, and the highlight of the calendar is undoubtedly Semana Santa, when a spectacular Easter parade fills the streets.
Portimão is a bustling fishing port and gateway to the Algarve, with a pleasant riverside promenade where the smell of sizzling sardines fills the air. The most popular attraction is Praia da Rocha just to the south, one of the Algarve’s loveliest beaches.
Spread across steep hillsides that overlook the Rio Tejo, Lisbon’s colourful cityscape includes Gothic cathedrals, majestic monasteries and quaint museums. But for many the best times will be had wandering the narrow lanes of Lisbon’s lovely backstreets, with their great local food, wine and music.
Gijón is the largest city in the Asturias region of northern Spain, an important industrial port but also a lively and youthful place, ideally positioned for exploring the Costa Verde. The most interesting area is the historic fishing village of Cimadevilla, which sits on a peninsula that divides the bay in two.
It’s not so long ago that Bilbao was a grim and unappealing place, scarred by heavy industry, but the Basque Country’s biggest city has reinvented itself as a cultural hub since the opening of the shimmering Guggenheim Museum in 1997.
31 May - 1 June
Bordeaux sits at the centre of the world's most famous wine region, and is home to a beguiling blend of beautiful buildings, sophisticated gastronomy and high culture. It's a marvellous place to spend some time, whether it's a day sampling wines, an evening at the opera or a night on the tiles.
France: La Rochelle
La Rochelle is an attractive seaside town of elegant limestone facades and agreeable weather, known as La Ville Blanche (the ‘White City’). The heart of the city is the atmospheric Vieux Port, guarded by three imposing towers which offer excellent views of the harbour and nearby islands.
United Kingdom: St. Mary's (Isles of Scilly)
United Kingdom: Dartmouth
The picturesque and historic town of Dartmouth is situated at the mouth of the river Dart, on the south coast of Devon. The town has a proud maritime heritage, home to the Royal Naval College, and the streets are lined with attractive 17th and 18th century buildings leaning at rakish angles.
Belgium: Zeebrugge (Bruges)
Zeebrugge’s main attraction is its proximity to Bruges. This beautifully preserved old town is a magical maze of winding cobbled lanes, narrow canals and gorgeous gabled houses, and it’s no wonder so many visitors throng the streets in summer.
Arriving in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is one of our very favourite cities to visit, as well as also being a perfect base to explore the nearby landscape of windmills and dikes. The Amsterdam canal belt is now officially recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and from them there are so many neighbourhoods to explore, such as the Jordaan with its higgledy-piggledy streets and its famed garden courtyards (hofjes). There are also a wealth of famous museums and galleries to choose from, such as the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum and the Anne Frank House, not to mention some more, shall we say, quirky options.
Explore by water, or by bicycle to get a feel for the city – a hop on hop off canal boat, or rented bike or pedalo will do the trick.
Your home from home
Once again Seabourn leaps ahead, expanding the most modern luxury fleet with the innovative Seabourn Encore and Ovation.
What we love
When Seabourn introduced the three sisters, they changed the face of luxury cruising. Seabourn Encore (and her sister Seabourn Ovation, due to be completed in 2018), with 604 guests on board, will take things a step further, with lots of new thinking and special additions, continuing Seabourn's magical ability to surprise and delight.
The contemporary décor appeals to a sophisticated and cosmopolitan crowd. With lots of outside space, you can enjoy an al fresco experience if you choose.
|Year launched||2016 (Seabourn Encore) / 2018 (Seabourn Ovation)|
Tailor-make your trip
Where to stay in Barcelona
The lovely Hotel Arts on the sea front is perfectly located for a pre- or post-cruise stay, and has great restaurants too.
Take a day trip to the attractive city of Girona, with its fascinating mix of Gothic, Moorish and Modernist architecture, as well as an exceptionally well preserved Jewish Quarter.
Two nights in Amsterdam
There is a fantastic range of canal front hotels to choose from, but we love the new Waldorf Astoria.
Visit windmills in Zaanse Schans, the flowers at Keukenhof, or the cheese market in Alkmaar.