CroisiEurope’s unique Spanish itinerary ticks all the boxes for a land and water-based trip for your group, says Jeannine Williamson.

CroisiEurope’s unique Spanish itinerary

As the herons and cormorants stand like sentries on the bank watching our progress, we pass a fisherman in a small wooden boat with distinctive wide nets to catch eels and it’s hard to believe we’re only around 100 miles away from the busy Spanish resorts of the Costa del Sol.

Rice and cotton fields stretch into the distance and later we stop close to a beautiful sprawling hacienda that was originally built as a home for an estate owner. A rider on a magnificent Andalusian horse greets us at the entrance for a private display of breath-taking dressage performance to music with a fiery flamenco dancer executing her own steps just inches in front of the horse.

Our unusual part-city break, part-river and part-ocean trip had begun earlier in the week in Seville (pictured below) - and it’s a fascinating itinerary that is an ideal solution for any GTOs wavering between taking members on a land or water-based tour. It’s also unique as CroisiEurope is the only river line to offer sailings along the Guadalquivir.

Travelling on CroisiEurope’s La Belle de Cadix

Its comfy 176-passenger ship La Belle de Cadix is also one-of-a-kind as the dual-purpose vessel is designed to sail on both the river and sea. On the seven-night journey it enters the Atlantic at Cadiz and sails for 18 miles along the coast to take in a stretch of Guadiana, the narrow river that separates Spain and Portugal, before returning to Seville.

The 408-mile Guadalquivir, which rises in the Cazorla Mountains, is Spain’s second longest waterway and during the golden age of seafaring it saw great mariners such as Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan respectively set sail for the Americas and the first circumnavigation of the world. Today, due to silt and narrow channels, only a 50-mile stretch between Seville and Cadiz is navigable.

Sleeping on board the ship close to the city centre, there is plenty of time to explore Seville - birthplace of the flamenco - at the beginning and end of the trip. Unlike many lines that offer fixed included excursions, CroisiEurope has flexible shore tour programme with some included and optional trips, such as a day in Cordoba. In addition to group discounts and all drinks included in the fare this makes its sailings very cost effective.

Seville (pictured above) is a great place to take your group to a tapas bar and share jugs of the wine and fruit drink sangria and small plates of hot snacks, such as plump olives, Spanish omelette, fried anchovies and spicy potatoes.

Setting sail each day brings very diverse experiences, from sipping sherry at a winery, strolling around the Cadiz - one of Europe’s oldest cities - and the exciting 18-mile sailing along the Atlantic coast. A breath-taking natural highlight is UNESCO-listed Donana National Park, one of few undeveloped stretches of the Spanish coastline, which is home to a wealth of birdlife including migratory white storks that perch on huge saucer-shaped nests.

We might have been on the Guadalquivir more than half a century after Columbus and Magellan, but at the end of the week in this stunning and lesser-known region we felt as if we had competed our very own voyage of discovery.

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Main Image: CroisiEurope’s La Belle de Cadix