As it was the end of the “summer” season in the Mediterranean - mid-November 2017 - I thought I would try and go on a Pullmantur cruise aboard one their smaller ships: Horizon. Pullmantur is part of the Spanish side of the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line family, so you know you are in safe hands. Branded as an all-inclusive, I decided to venture and try it out with this unusual point to point voyage (Alicante - Gran Canaria).
Starting in Alicante, I jumped at the chance to stay in this beautiful city prior to our sailing and relive my previous holidays. With its iconic Santa Barbara castle perched upon the top of mountain, the scene was set.
The voyage itinerary was: Alicante, Malaga, the two Moroccan cities of Casablanca and Agadir, followed by a day at sea - where some dolphins/whales made an appearance - and, finally, the Canary Islands, where the ship will be stationed for her Christmas season. In the Canary Islands, Horizon’s first stop was Lanzarote, followed by Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria – which was our point of disembarkation.
The embarkation, although slow, was generally unproblematic and after the usual tourist photograph, we headed in. One point I have to raise is that, although it was all inclusive, they were a bit heavy on trying to sign you up to their “premium all-inclusive package”. Even though it was only an extra five euros per day, the general standard of their complimentary drinks package was sufficient. Pina Colada and Mojito were amongst our choice of drinks, so no upgrade required!
The demographic of the passengers was predominately Spanish, with quite a few Brits as well as other European nationalities. Our “neighbours” at dinner were a lovely couple from Japan who told us of their previous cruises. The story that struck up more of a conversation focussed around their time on board the ill-fated Costa Concordia, when the cruise ship struck a rock just of the Italian coast as its Captain was doing other “things”.
They were quite relaxed about the whole thing and said in their polite Japanese accent how many other cruises they had been on, despite the fact on that night in Italy they were hoisted up just as the seawater was splashing at their ankles - consequently losing all their possessions. Something fitting to talk over dinner and well done to them for trusting the cruise industry for all their vacations since then and the ones that they are planning. As you do, I handed my business card for reference.
Our ship - originally part of Celebrity Cruises - was built in 1990 and, although a bit small and a rough on the edges, was adequate and ticked all the boxes for this kind of voyage and price. The food was good as well as the service, which included most of the other crew that we met during our seven night cruise. The inside cabin that we had was passable and comfortable, although the TV choices were somewhat limited. But, as one other fellow passenger from Manchester, said “At least you can move in these bathrooms, unlike on the ship that we went on only a couple of months ago.” They were talking about a new ship which normally departs from Southampton…
With 1440 passengers and 620 crew, the concierge/excursions desks were a bit on the small side, but we were always seen to within 15 minutes or less. Whether or not it was down to luck, it is always worth going early and not leave things to the last minute.
The other common areas were adequate and were easily accessible including the theatre, which is located on decks seven and eight. The performers, mostly from Brazil, were from a cabaret background. They were witty and engaged well with the guests, especially in the Bingo, Pool area, and in the main drinking/entertaining area known as “Rendezvous Café”. This is where you can have an enjoyable drink and, if you’re up to it, a dance to live music.
The casino was also just the right size, with a bar and small stage at the end for those late night evenings to wind down whilst relaxing to some easy-listening cover songs. For a good coffee, head to the “Le Café Moka”, which also serves other refreshments including speciality teas.
The deck life was spacious, no early bird towel-hoggers here. The swimming pool was an average size, with two Jacuzzis on either side and a stage for their themed evenings. A walking track was also on view, circumnavigating the swimming pool area (end-to-end, two and a half minutes’ walk). It was good to see many folks timing themselves and exchanging data with other walkers. Then again, you can always just lay on the sun lounge, like me, sipping on your cocktail whilst all this walking unfolds in front of you.
Entering a port is always a scene that no land-tour holidays can match. This is where you make sure your phone battery has enough juice and your selfie stick is ready. Out of all the port entries, I have to say Casablanca was the best, with Malaga a close second.
For a family who wants a standard 7-night cruise added onto their land summer holiday - a Pullmantur cruise fits in there. They may not be the biggest or have the newest ships, but for a good time and value for money, they are recommended. Albeit, their bigger ship, Sovereign, will undoubtedly be better suited for children.
As we headed towards our last stop, we reflected on the excursions that we booked. As we have never been to Africa, we opted for a city tour of both Casablanca and Agadir. The latter was far better as we ended up in a real Moroccan Market. The vendors, all men, were pleasant but, like in any similar location of this kind, the stall holders will not let you go if you show an inch of interest on their goods (take local currency and small amounts). Gratuities are a must and these are added onto your on-board account.
After my last tequila sunrise, I promised myself to go on a Pullmantur cruise again but, next time, on their larger ship Sovereign.
As we disembarked, we were helped by the concierge as our flight was brought forward. No qualms here. It was a bit chaotic at first, but we eventually got through despite the odd guest pushing in.