Confessions of a first-time cruiser

Hot tubs with personal butlers, bottomless strawberry daiquiris, a balmy afternoon spent exploring Alicante… cruises can make for an ideal getaway

Sunday, January 28, 2018,
By Farida Zeynalova
Pool deck at sunrise
Pool deck at sunrise
Photograph by Azamara Journey

"You're new here, aren't cha?" a Canadian cruise veteran roars at me in a voice as loud as his pink Bermuda shorts. I stop prancing my way over to the all-inclusive bar and nod sheepishly. "You'll love it here," he says, his grin almost reaching the brim of his maple leaf baseball cap.

My fish-out-of-water experience on the Azamara Journey begins the second I step on board. Fearful of spending the next three days bobbing along the Mediterranean with 700 people from an entirely different age group, I have no idea what to expect, and figured I simply wasn't the cruising type. But, as I aimlessly roam the boat, the sight of bottomless strawberry daiquiris eases my doubts.

It isn't too long before we dock at Alicante, where I make a beeline for the nearest glass of tinto de verano, Spain's beloved red wine and lemonade tipple. Emboldened by booze, I decide to make the most of the city's rich Moorish history and delicious tapas. 

After a punishing morning climbing the stairs of Santa Barbara Castle, I wander aimlessly and find myself in Calle Munoz, a street with pastel-coloured houses and higgledy-piggledy alleyways. I clock Livanti, a buzzy ice cream shop swarming with upbeat Spaniards — it must be good. I head in and ask for two scoops of coconut ice cream, but I'm given three. Oh no. It's going to topple. It's toppling. Thwack! It hits the floor, and I make a quick exit. I order another glass of tinto from a nearby café, flump onto the curb, and devour my surviving scoops. For all my clowning, it feels like the perfect way to while away a balmy Spanish afternoon.

Back on the ship, I spend an hour before dinner in the private hot tub — my new favourite haunt — being tended to by a personal butler. There's something slightly disconcerting about being served cocktails by a man in a suit as I soak my prune-like feet, but I soon get used to it.

The ship's casino is like a piece of Monte Carlo at sea. The wealthy-looking and the dapper lounge on plush chairs, sipping single-malt whiskies to the soundtrack of jingling coins and tinkling piano. The vibe is somewhere between a beach bar and a country club, with not a single shrieking child in sight. Having observed, but decided against placing a bet, I slip to the Discovery Bar. It's a Michael Jackson themed night, although this doesn't stop me inundating the DJ with requests, and I gulp down my Martini (another first) while shouting for a switch to Ricky Martin.

Would I go on another cruise? Possibly. Would I recommend it to others? Absolutely. When I first told friends — all also in their twenties — that I was going on a Mediterranean cruise, their reactions were as dubious as mine. But I got on board, discovered new cities, and, contrary to my usual travel habits, whiled away entire mornings without putting on hiking boots or getting out a map. And I'm happy with that.

azamaraclubcruises.co.uk

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