As I sit in the cool, air-conditioned room of the Hotel EME in Seville, situated right by the cathedral, I reflect on the last few days and a fantastic, if not indulgent, cruise aboard Insignia.
It was an early start for the journey from Northampton to London Stansted, as I arrived at 4 AM for fast track security and my forward seat on the plane. We were all seated and ready to depart for Alicante, when the announcement came to tell us we would have to stay on the plane and wait for Julie. An audible sigh resounded around the aircraft as everyone realised that instead of leaving at 6:35am we were now due to leave at 8:15am. However, thanks to the very funny and entertaining hot tub salesman sitting next to me regaling stories of his trade, the time seemed to fly by.
At last, it was time literally started to fly, as we took off and landed in Alicante airport just over two hours later. I made my way to a taxi transfer and joined the queue of around 40 Brits, which included mostly men who were off to enjoy the sights of Benidorm as part of a bank holiday stag weekend.
My taxi transferred me to the very pleasant looking dock and I finally got a glimpse of my home from home for the next four days. There she was in all her glory - Oceania Insignia.
I was taken through security and embarked. As a stepped aboard this floating luxury hotel, I was greeted by smiling faces and a wonderful receptionist who gave me my key and directed me to my cabin.
I flung open the door, eager to see what delights would await me, and I wasn’t’ disappointed. The cabin was very spacious with a balcony, lots of storage space and a reasonably sized bathroom. Well, I suppose you would have to call it a shower room, as there wasn’t a bath. The shower was a touch on the small side, but I wasn’t in there for very long, so wasn't a problem. I did, however, make the most of the luxury Bulgari products for hair and body, and shower cap with a hair toggle, both of which I thought were thoughtful additions.
The prestige bed and pillows was so comfortable and meant I felt like I was sleeping on a cloud for the duration of the trip.
I made my way to the Waves bistro by the pool, to join my colleague Sharon. Sharon had arrived earlier and so had already found an enviable spot by the pool. She sat enjoying the sun and the alcohol free cocktails that this all-inclusive ship had to offer.
There was so much great food on offer including tasty salads, premium Angus steak beef burgers and even surf ‘n’ turf - plenty of choice and everything was so tasty.
After lunch, and a quick power nap to set me up for the rest of the evening, we met for happy hour in Horizons. This bar has a great view of the front of the ship and the cocktails were definitely flowing. We then met with Louise and Clive, who were hosting our group, and joined the rest of the group to dine in Polo Grill. This speciality dining restaurant is inclusive in your price when you sail with Oceania cruises. And what an experience it was. In fact, the entire trip was an endless array of gastronomic delights.
We arrived in Almeria, Spain and took a tour around the city. During our explorations, we came across a small festival which brought the streets alive with music and colour. A religious procession followed by lots as the music, laughter and dancing continued. This was authentic Spain at its best and so we decided to sit in a local street bar with a cold beer, soaking up the atmosphere.
That evening, lobster was on the menu for me as we enjoyed another delicious diner – this time in Toscana.
On the third day, we docked in Gibraltar and, of course, we took a tour to the rock and saw the monkeys. They were fascinating to watch. I was not keen on the centre of Gibraltar, so I sat down to have a coffee in a bar.
I paid the bill and left the coffee. Needless to say, I found it as unpalatable as the square in which I was drinking it.
And besides, what was the point in sitting in such awful surroundings when we had a beautiful luxury ship with good coffee and good food waiting for us. In all honesty, there was no contest. So, I headed back on board to make the most of what was on offer.
In the evening, I enjoyed an excellent show in which a great violinist couple, Lazlo and Irene, delighted the audience with their exciting and vibrant performance. Their energy on stage was infectious and a fabulous evening was had by all.
The ship sailed up the river to dock in the centre of Seville. It was an interesting approach as we sailed through the draw bridge.
Disembarkation came all too soon, though, and I was very sad to leave the ship. Sharon and I took a taxi to our hotel in Seville, the EME Cathedral Hotel, where I currently sit writing this.
We were blessed to receive an upgrade and were escorted to our wonderful room with its private terrace and hot tub, something which immediately gave me flash backs to the salesman who provided me with an entertaining start to my trip.
It was absolutely necessary to go to the rooftop terrace bar overlooking the magnificent Seville Cathedral and have a Cava to toast the last few days. We recalled the friends that we had made on this wonderful journey – a journey during which we all fell in love with Oceania Cruises.
It was a splendid end to a wonderful time on board Insignia and the lovely welcoming team at the EME hotel in Seville helped us finish in style.