What could be better than a trip to Spain? Visiting aboard one of the world’s premier sailing vessels.
When “Gig” Gwin, my longtime friend, media colleague and frequent traveling companion, and I received invitations from Windstar Cruises for an eight-night, port-intensive sailing of the line’s flagship Wind Surf from Barcelona, Spain, to Lisbon, Portugal, last October, we were pleased to accept without delay. Having both had the earlier opportunity to cruise aboard one of the company’s three smaller “motor yachts,” Star Legend, we were already aware of the exceptional product that Windstar offers upscale travelers, so this additional chance to experience a voyage on the largest of its three hybrid diesel-and-sail-powered vessels was an obvious choice.
Our trip took us down Spain’s Mediterranean coastline, from Barcelona in the north to destinations including Tarragona, Ibiza, Cartagena and Malaga on Spain’s southern Mediterranean coast. We then sailed through the Strait of Gibraltar to the Atlantic Ocean and a call in Tangier, Morocco, before heading north along the Gulf of Cadiz and ending in Lisbon.
Beauty in Barcelona
Barcelona has now become the western Mediterranean’s cruising hub; the city’s excellent port facilities now serve as the embarkation or disembarkation point for virtually every line that visits the region. That Barcelona also happens to be one of Europe’s most beautiful and interesting cities is a plus for travelers, who will regret not planning a multinight stay to explore this capital and largest city of Catalonia.
The myriad attractions to be found here include the narrow streets of the charming Gothic Quarter, the bustling La Rambla pedestrian shopping street, the huge Barcelona Cathedral, Antoni Gaudi’s world-famous Sagrada Familia Basilica and Park Güell. Here also are the Plaza de Catalunya, Montjuïc Park and Cable Car, Olympic Harbor, the National Museum of Art of Catalonia, museums dedicated to Picasso and Joan Miró, and even a spectacular shopping mall built within the shell of the city’s former bullfight ring.
The next stop was Tarragona, a nearby town known for the ancient Roman ruins of Tarraco, as well as the Tarragona Cathedral, dating from the 12th century. However, we opted for the ship’s Medieval Tour, which featured walking tours of two outstanding historic sites in the Prades Mountains within easy driving distance of the city. First was the magnificent walled city of Montblanc, home to the old Gothic Church of Santa Maria. This was followed by the sprawling Monastery of Santa Maria de Poblet, founded in 1151 by French Cistercian monks on land taken from the Moors that is today surrounded by lush green vineyards.