In the second of his series of articles, John Carter, long-time presenter of the Wish You Were Here programme and avid globe-trotter looks at the best of both worlds combining life on the ocean wave with fascinating guided walks on terra firma.
On the face of it, there couldn’t be a more unlikely holiday combination than cruising and rambling. It’s Romeo and Ethel,Laureland Ernie, Marks and Macy. It simply doesn’t fit.
Or does it?
Having known the team at Ramblers Worldwide for a good many years, I’m inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt. But even more so on this occasion because I have sampled this combination – albeit on a small scale – and can report that it does, indeed, work very well.
Think about it. On the one hand the sybaritic style of shipboard life, with its cocktail parties, hearty meals and the very occasional stroll around the promenade deck. On the other, a world of solid footwear, rucksacks and healthy exercise. What’s not to like about putting them together? It’s Yin and Yang, not Romeo and Ethel.
So RWH has done exactly that, organising a programme of cruise and walk holidays in association with Fred Olsen – who, like Ramblers, have been around for long enough to know what they are doing.
My experience was on Balmoral, the largest of the fleet, when I joined her for a weekend which took me toAmsterdam,AntwerpandDunkirk. It was a one-off “taster”, with well-organised walks in urban and rural locations, and served to shape the pattern of future trips.
These are ambitious. Back then, I assumed they would be confined to the familiar waters of the Mediterranean, Baltic andAtlantic, and their equally familiar ports of call. Such a choice is included in the brand-new brochure – a selection of 10, 11 and 12 night holidays departing from Southampton, Harwich andNewcastle.
For example, Iceland, Greenland, Norway and the Faroe Islands are included in the “Atlantic Contrasts” itineraries in June and July, 2014 which use Balmoral, Black Watch and Boudicca. These destinations are ideal for serious ramblers, but the terrain is not so harsh as to deter others. Prices start from £1,580, depending on the holiday you choose, and the type of cabin.
There is, also, a 12 night holiday from Harwich on Braemar which calls at Oporto,La Coruna, Aviles, Santander and Getxo in Spain, and Bordeaux. Departing on May 20th.
But Ramblers Worldwide Holidays have cast the net wider. A series of 14 and 15 night cruises “Magic of the Canaries” will take you to those popular islands from late December with prices from £1,245, again depending on the itinerary, date and cabin of your choice. As will a series of 7, 10 and 11 night fly-cruises between Gatwick orManchesterandTenerife.
Braemar is the ship used for these holidays, between the end of November this year and the end of February, 2014.
But when it comes to real ambition, I take my hat off to Ramblers and Fred Olsen for offering a cruise and walk combination to theJavaSeaandJapan, and to the East andSouthChinaSeas.
Seriously mouth-watering itineraries are on offer, with Balmoral as your floating hotel. I haven’t the space to do full justice to these spectacular offers, and would urge you to get a copy of the brochure in order to appreciate what is in store.
These cruises are an excellent development in Ramblers’ policy of linking different activities to the core appeal of walking in terrific locations. And if you are still unconvinced, I did spot a “taster” cruise, similar to the one I experienced. Four nights on Boudicca toAmsterdamandAntwerp, sailing from and back toSouthamptonon November 14th this year at prices from £499.