Cruising enters a whole new world when it reaches amazing cruise ports, which is why my friends and I chose a cruise years ago to explore some European destinations. We boarded the Grand Princess for a seven day Iberian Interlude Cruise sailing from Southampton, England with ports of call in Vigo, Spain; Lisbon, Portugal; plus Brest and LaRochelle, France.
The Iberian Interlude Cruise around Portugal, Spain, and France
This was our first time on the Grand Princess and as usual, Princess Cruise Lines delivered a solid performance and even upgraded us to outside cabins that allowed us a window. Princess ships have a plethora of fun activities to keep you busy while sailing the high seas and the best offering, daily afternoon tea complete with white gloved tea service, scones and jam, and enjoyable live musicians. I am partial to the spa onboard the ship as well, which uses quality Elemis skin care products.
During our travels, there were language barriers in most locations. Shop workers and restaurant staff did not speak English and we were often left with winging it; but we managed to get by. That is one of the things I love about traveling, that we can be with totally different people and be unable to technically communicate, but we manage the best we can.
Outside of Lisbon, our cruise ports were small and rarely visited by cruise ships. This particular itinerary was only offered once a year during the time we sailed. It seems a shame that Portugal does not get more visitors because this is a metropolitan city with a perfect balance of cultural activities, charm, and history. Some of the most famous explorers in the world claimed Portugal as their home.
Our Ports on the Iberian Interlude Cruise:
Vigo, Spain– We arrived to the religious pilgrimage site of St. James Cathedral in very rainy conditions, but the architecture was splendid! St. James is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, important to world travelers to check off their bucket list. After touring the cathedral, we walked across the street to the inn and enjoyed tea and pastries.
La Rochelle, France– La Rochelle is home to the gorgeous La Roche-Courbon castle. It was in ruins until 1920 when it was restored to its grandeur. The tour did not allow photography inside but for me, it was not a very desirable castle as far as contents and beauty. But the outside, that was another story! La Roche-Courbon stands opulently amidst immaculate grounds with a huge pool, cute shaped topiary trees, and lovely gardens.
Brest, France– My friend and I did an excursion with Princess and took a tour around the Brittany region of France, which took us to the quaint fishing port of Concarneau, known for its medieval walled town. The houses and businesses lining the port were adorable and we saw a crepe shop claiming to be the first one. We also stumbled upon a fresh farmers market with plump berries, amazing flowers, clothing and meats.
Pont Aven, France– This was my favorite port on the trip. Pont Aven is a fairytale town that was home to world renowned artist Paul Gauguin. Gauguin, famous for “Yellow Jesus” and many other art works, cofounded an art school there using bright colors and interesting textures. The inspiration was mostly drawn from the eye popping landscape. This town had a welcoming feeling and I felt like I was literally in a Hans Christian Andersen tale. Fat blooming flowers were abundant in gardens and around the town as well as stone buildings and an old mill that would certainly be a place to relax and meditate. Pont Aven also had cool art galleries in which my friend and I bought souvenir posters to bring home and frame.