Life on the Ocean Waves

Life & Living

It’s such a civilised way to travel, isn’t it – and reminiscent of a bygone age when we were not in such a hurry and life could be enjoyed at a more leisurely pace.

Seemingly, more and more of us are discovering the joy of cruising, with 30 million people taking to the seas in pre pandemic 2019, and, having returned from a recent trip, it’s easy to see why. You simply hop on board (your luggage is taken care of the minute you arrive port side), make yourself at home in your ensuite cabin and then relax. There’s nothing to stress about – you just chill out and enjoy yourself, with the most difficult decision being where to have lunch! 

One local company, Ipswich-based Fred Olsen Cruise Lines is known as the friendly company in the cruising world. Sure, as they are the first to admit, they don’t have the biggest and flashiest ships. Rather they have smaller ships which can make it into smaller ports, and very smiley staff. Last year they introduced two new vessels to their fleet, The Borealis, our ship, and its twin, The Bolette, which take 1400 passengers each and boast facilities from gyms to swimming pools, spas, fully-equipped theatres, sun decks, bars, libraries and more.

Mention must go to the food, a huge part of any cruising experience. There are the more formal restaurants where we tended to eat each evening, enjoying the silver service and a three course meal plus coffee, and a self service buffet restaurant that was our choice for breakfast and most lunches. You can expect a comprehensive selection of dishes, including a daily roast, soups, stir fries, salads, a ‘build your own’ sandwiches bar and a great dessert choice! There’s also a poolside bar which I always enjoy for its lighter, al fresco style of dining and again, it’s waiter service, plus two specialty restaurants (with a £5 a head surcharge) which allow for plenty of variety.

Afternoon tea and a midnight buffet are available in the self service restaurant for those with good appetites and, if you add in room service options, you are certainly never going to starve!

We had selected a two-week cruise from Liverpool to The Canaries, aptly named Winter Warmth, which, at the end of February, was exactly what was required!

We left Liverpool in bright sunshine, with the Liver Building and those two iconic statues looking very fine, and the captain simply pointed our ship south for three days.

Sea days are spent perhaps enjoying a leisurely breakfast, a line dancing class, a craft workshop or enjoying a talk from one of the onboard lecturers. I very much enjoyed listening to Ian Gunn, a former prison governor, who gave good insights into life behind barriers, discussing the merits of rehabilitation of offenders and his favourite TV show – Porridge, of course!

Many people simply relax in one of the lounges, perhaps listening to a live band, reading or taking part in a quiz. I enjoyed walking on the promenade deck, getting in a few laps to counterbalance afternoon tea. If you’re lucky you might spot the odd seabird or dolphin – we did on the return leg of our voyage.

I added in a visit to the Atlantis Spa which has a good range of treatments. My hour-long Swedish massage certainly ironed out a few knots in my shoulders and I also liked the exercise classes – the South African Pilates instructor put us through our paces very well indeed!


Then, before you know it, you’re getting ready for trips ashore. The ship tends to dock in the islands’ various capitals and you get the best part of a day to explore. We visited Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Tenerife, La Gomera and Madeira. Fuerteventura was a scheduled stop but high winds prevented our docking so we had more time in Tenerife which most people I spoke to had no problem with at all.

The company arranges a very good range of trips ashore which obviously take away any hassle and you have the added advantage of knowledgeable local guides who, to my mind, add a certain something. There are obvious trips, say to Mount Teide on Tenerife or Timanfaya (fire mountain) on Lanzarote, but also more off beat options, perhaps exploring the vineyards and wineries of an island, an aloe vera workshop or speedy catamaran trip.

We did a mixture of both independent and organised excursions. In Gran Canaria, it was an easy walk from the ship into the city, Las Palmas, and we soaked up the coffee culture and the sun drenched beach – who could want more?

In Lanzarote, we again walked into the capital, Arrecife, guarded by two fortresses on either side of the harbour, for browsing and exploring. A trip to the Museum of International and Contemporary Art, housed in one of these fortresses, is recommended – especially as there’s a great basement restaurant with views over the coastline and good cake!

In Tenerife, we explored the capital, Santa Cruz, with its fabulous market, Mercado Nuestra Senora de Africa, which overflows with flower stalls, cheese stalls, fish counters and more – it is a real foodie’s paradise.  And, as we stayed for two nights, we took a day trip to historic La Laguna, high in the hills, from where we drove to the Mirador Cruz del Carmen to enjoy waymarked hikes in laurel forests, and outstanding panoramic views.

La Gomera was a highlight for me. It’s an unspoilt little gem, close to Tenerife in distance but miles apart in atmosphere. It’s still heavily wooded, is very mountainous and sparsely populated, with little tourism. We took an organised excursion into the interior where we hiked through the ancient forests, crammed with laurels, hollies, heathers, and ferns, and, where there were little openings, fabulous views to La Palma, the island recently hit by a devastating earthquake, and Mount Teide.

Finally, it was Madeira’s turn. It’s not a Canary island but belongs to Portugal and is the birthplace of ace footballer Cristiano Ronaldo. There’s a well known and frankly amusing statue of him outside a museum in his honour near where the cruise ships dock. It’s become a bit notorious for the wrong reasons as people fail to see much of a resemblance to him!

But Funchal is a delight – perfect for shopping, mooching and much sitting in bars watching the world go by. We took an organised trip to the sub tropical gardens of Monte Palace, high above the city and reached by cable car which gives terrific views over Funchal and the Atlantic Ocean. The gardens, created around a beautiful manor house, are stunning, with careful planting of both native and imported plants to create Madeira’s very own Garden of Eden.

It was a gentle and satisfying final stop before our somewhat choppy sail back to Liverpool – the Bay of Biscay likes to be noticed, too!

Borealis’ 14-night S2302
‘Winter Warmth in the Canaries’ cruise departing from Liverpool on 20 Jan 2023 Prices start from £1,899 per person

Liverpool-Funchal, Madeira-Santa Cruz,
La Palma-San Sebastian, La Gomera-Santa Cruz, Tenerife-Las Palmas,
Gran Canaria-Arrecife, Lanzarote-Lisbon, Portugal – Liverpool

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