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CroisiEurope’s Andalusia: Tradition, gastronomy and flamenco

Once conquistadores sailed from Seville along the Guadalquivir River out into the Atlantic and onto the New World. Latin American silver flowed back, upstream, to bring a wealth of art, culture and architecture to Andalusia. For seven nights and eight days CroisiEurope’s 176-berth La Belle de Cadiz is the base for an exploration of Andalusia.

It is the only river cruiser to sail through the Guadalquivir’s rich legacy of empires: Roman, Moor and Hapsburg. Sailing south there are views of the marshes, shifting sand dunes and the migratory birds of the Doñana National Park. Unusually, for a river cruiser, even though it is four times longer than Columbus’ flagship that sailed to the New World, La Belle de Cadix briefly sails the Atlantic too: emerging from the river to moor at Cadiz.

For all its significance in Spanish history, there is more to Andalusia then can merely be seen from the Guadalquivir. As the stretch of river from Seville to Cordoba is no longer navigable, coaches are used for further exploration.

The welcome

Smiling crew greet coaches and taxis at the quayside whisking luggage to cabins. Guests are welcomed aboard with a chilled drink, names quickly ticked off and key cards issued. Then guests are guided to their cabins. Later, separate welcomes, accompanied by the cocktail of the day, are given in English, French and Spanish.

The cabin

Our upper deck cabin has a large panoramic window. Our first entertainment is the kayakers, paddle boarders and rowers gliding by as the sun sets beyond the Guadalquivir. Every cabin has its own discrete air-conditioning system, even in spring and autumn the nights are warm. Furniture is light wood coloured.

Two adjoining single beds, each with their own bedding, are at the centre of the cream cabin. Beneath the bed there is room to slide luggage out of sight. A wall-mounted screen broadcasts cruise information and a small selection of television channels. CroisiEurope toiletries are provided for the en-suite bathroom with shower.

The facilities

As a hot sun often roasts the top deck a partial canopy provides much needed shade. Nearby, there is a small pool for a cooling dip and plenty of sun-loungers for relaxation. It is always possible to find a quiet spot to relax on La Belle de Cadix.


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As well as the large main bar, at the rear of the Upper Deck, the more intimate Panorama Bar has a small library and spectacular views back down the Guadalquivir.


It is an early start for the coach trip to Cordoba, with a motorway services stop along the way. Walking the 8th century bridge across the Guadalquivir, then passing through the grand arched gate created by the Romans, is the way to enter Cordoba. In the 10th century, the Caliphate of Cordoba grew to become a city of 500,000 people.

The Mesquita, thrice extended so that over 40,000 Moslems could prey on their knees, became the world’s largest mosque with it forest of red brick and cream stone pillars. Exhibiting practical tolerance after the reconquest of 1236, instead of reducing the mosque to rubble, the Christians colonised the Mesquita, creating over 50 chapels and a Latin-crossed cathedral at its heart.

A morning walking tour of Seville begins by passing the country pavilions of the 1929 expo, appropriately the Argentinian pavilion has been transformed into a dance academy.

With the cathedral closed for the day we visit the Alcazar instead. From within the castle’s thick walls, the grandees had directed naval expeditions. Columbus’s coat of arms, distinguished by a lion and a ship, decorates the walls of a Renaissance palace. Although Seville had been won back from the Moors in the 13th century, Moorish architecture left a legacy of orange planted courtyards, intricate geometric carvings and summer rooms close to cooling fountains. Bitter oranges are picked from the palm-tree-shaded gardens for the royal marmalade at Buckingham Palace.

Heading towards the Atlantic, the ship moors up at Isla Minima for a visit to a Latin American look hacienda. Dressage meets flamenco when a horse and dancer combine for a remarkably precise equestrian ballet. It is merely a taster for a performance at Carmelo’s equestrian school the next morning in Sanlucar.

After a walking tour around Cadiz and tasting a trio of Osborne’s sherries at El Puerta de Santa Maria, La Belle de Cadix returns to Seville for a big day out to Granada.

The city is home to the Alhambra, the Moslem’s hill-top red fort that is now one of Spain’s most romantically alluring destinations. Finally, guests have a day to further explore the grand imperial city of Seville.

Other nice touches

Flamenco comes onboard with an evening of foot-stomping, handclapping, red-dress swirling dance and guitar music. Once Flamenco was frowned upon by the higher echelons of Spanish society as a pastime of the lower classes. Now, with over 50 varieties of dance, Flamenco has become a proud symbol of Spanish artistic identity.

After an excursion, guests are always welcomed back on deck with a cool drink. For early birds there is a selection of coffee, tea and bakery available before the restaurant opens for breakfast. It is evident that the crew are a happy family. As they present the Spanish themed evening and the final theatrical gala dinner, real joie de vivre is displayed.

The cost

The seven-night Andalusia: Tradition, Gastronomy and Flamenco cruise costs from £1,329 per person based on departures on 2nd and 9th March 2023.

Price includes all meals and drinks onboard, excursions, onboard entertainment, port fees and travel assistance and repatriation insurance.

The best bit

This is a gastronomy cruise where lunch and dinner are served by the smart waiting crew. Even lunch is a three-course extravaganza served with house wines.

At breakfast a chef cooks eggs to order and waiters zip around with coffee and milk.

Although dinner sometimes runs to four courses, occasionally slotting in cheese before pud in true Gallic style, portion sizes are sensible. Three times a week a Cadiz supplier delivers fresh produce. Even for experienced cruisers, the cooking and presentation are beyond superlatives.

On a Spanish themed day, when sangria is the cocktail, lunch features the regional speciality of bull stew. A seafood paella stars at dinner.

The final verdict

La Belle de Cadix is the only river cruiser to sail on the Guadalquivir, introducing guests to a sun-baked region that tells the dramatic and turbulent of so much of Spain’s history. Sailing in spring and autumn, avoiding hot summer when the province becomes Spain’s frying pan, CroisiEurope introduces Andalusia. Experts guide guests through the history of Romans, Moors, Hapsburgs and Spain’s restored royalty.

Disclosure: Our stay was sponsored by CroisiEurope.

Michael Edwards

Michael Edwards is a travel writer from Oxfordshire, UK. Although Michael had his first travel pieces published nearly four decades ago, he is still finding new luxury destinations to visit and write on.

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  1. When I think of Spain I don’t normally think of rivers. I’m really surprised that you can do a river cruise. When we went to Cordoba a few years ago there was hardly enough water about to float a rowing boat on the river. I can see that they’d need to use buses to take in so many different places.

  2. That’s my sort of evening entertainment, where the musicians and dancers come on board and you can stumble back to your cabin.

  3. I like the idea of sitting down to a meal with waiter service and the waiters keeping an eye open to see if my wine glass needs topping up. One thing that worries me is that this cruise obviously includes some full day excursions away from the boat. What happens about lunch then?

    1. It is still 3 courses and wine in a restaurant when you’re off the boat on a trip.

  4. We did a 12 night drive around Andalusia a few years ago and didn’t do half of this stuff. I’m beginning to think that river cruising is the way to discover a country. The boat delivers you to the river at the heart of towns and cities.

    A lot of the problems with our fly-drive was finding somewhere to park the car. We often had to park a long way from the centre of towns.

  5. I bet that pool gets a lot of use. Last time I was in the south of Spain it was only mid May and the temperature was already soaring towards 30 C.

  6. We’ve often been tempted to try a river cruise but have been put off by the possible weather for some of the French and German cruises. We’re always looking for some early spring or late autumn sunshine. This cruise through Spain or Portugal’s Douro region could suit us very nicely.

  7. We absolutely love river cruises. We’re great travellers, especially in Europe.

    About 7 years ago we did our 1st river cruise and have been hooked ever since as it’s all so effortless. You arrive in a city, have a look around, and come back on board to dinner. Then whilst we’re sleeping, the boat cruises on to the next place.

    No driving, no traffic congestion, no parking problems. It’s a stress free way to see the world. This is a nice piece which reminds me that we’re yet to do a Spanish river cruise.

  8. How far does flamenco come from the days of when the Moors occupied Spain? You can imagine all the passion coming out on the dance floor when Moors and Spaniards were not able to love the people they wanted to or do the job they wanted because of racial reasons. I get the impression that there’s a lot of history to be discovered beyond the dancing.

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