One of the things I love about a cruise is the excitement of getting off the ship, with a day on shore and no fixed plan about how to spend it. Admittedly, I do a little bit of research, but sometimes it’s good to chat to a local shopkeeper or bar-tender and get their recommendation on the best places to see.
That’s what Larry Lamb, star of Eastenders did when he teamed up with Thomson Cruises on their newest ship TUI Discovery 2, for a Mediterranean cruise that stopped at the Spanish ports of Barcelona, Palma and Ibiza. Larry managed to get plenty of local recommendations once he stepped ashore from the new friends he called his ‘Cruise Mates’ as you can see from his travel videos below.
Research shows that the happiness of UK travellers can be increased by 10% when they meet and interact with new people from other cultures on holiday, even if it’s just a brief chat in shop or café. I’ve certainly found it’s fun to try out a few words of the local language and get a friendly smile in return, or use small local businesses for a food or cycling tour, tapping to the knowledge of their expert guides.
As Larry says “ there is a wealth of amazing people from different cultures and backgrounds that cruise-goers can meet when they step ashore at a new destination. Hopefully the films we have created will inspire holidaymakers to try cruising and meet their very own Cruise Mates.”
Watch Larry Lamb as he finds things to do in Palma – or view it on YouTube here
I was last in Palma de Mallorca at the end of a hiking holiday and realised that although many people come for the beaches and seaside, there are plenty of ways to get active around the island. Larry is directed to a local bike shop, Palma on Bike, where he hires a bike and is guided around Palma by Thelonious, a Mallorcan born cycling expert. There are lots of different cycle trails around Palma – not only can you explore the city and old town but you can head along the beach road or up into the hills for spectacular sea views. If you go for the mountainous routes, you may want to consider hiring an e-bike for all the pleasure without so much pain!
My Palma Recommendations
The cathedral of Palma de Mallorca is a huge and inspiring structure, which although medieval in origin has gorgeous Modernista influences that were added by Antonio Gaudi in the 19th century. I especially loved the more recent side chapel by contemporary Spanish artist, Miquel Barceló where the ceramic surface was covered with fish and other wriggling, writhing creatures. Nearby you can see two well-known Modernista houses of Can Rei and L’Aquilla in the old streets close to the cathedral.
If you enjoy the combination of modern art and old buildings, visit the Museo Fundacion Juan March in an elegant 18th century mansion which is not only free but houses a world class exhibition of modern painting and sculpture that included Picasso, Dali and Miro. Read more about what I enjoyed in Mallorca.
Watch Larry Lamb as he finds things to do in Barcelona – or view it on YouTube here
In this video Larry heads to the Boqueria, the covered food market in Barcelona. I love to visit food markets when I travel – the colourful fruit and veg always look so appetising and they are a great place for local foodie souvenirs. If you’re looking for a reasonably priced lunch, check out the cafes and bars inside and around the market which are supplied with the freshest of produce, so the quality is always high. Larry chats with Junaito, the owner of Bar Pinotxo, trying a tasty lunch of beans and octopus and getting his local’s knowledge on the arts and culture scene in Barcelona. Armed with his recommendations Larry heads to Palau Dalmases, a beautiful baroque palace to see some authentic flamenco dancing and gets roped in as the percussion player.
My Barcelona recommendations
You can’t visit Barcelona without seeing some of the Modernist masterpieces of Antoni Gaudí such as Parc Guell, La Pedrera and the ongoing construction of Le Sacrada Familia cathedral. However the queues can be long to get tickets on the day, so I’d recommend that you go online and book your ticket in advance to beat the crowds. Get there as early in the morning when they open and then spend the rest of your day just relaxing and wandering around in other areas, soaking up the atmosphere of old streets and café terraces.
Last time I was in Barcelona with the family we had a great day at Montjuïc, the hill where you can get a cable car up to the top or watch the play of light and water in the fountains at the bottom. We especially enjoyed the Fundació Miró and my kids, who were a lot younger then were captivated by the audio-guide and the bright colours and shapes of the paintings. We also enjoyed wandering around El Poble Espanyol a kind of microcosm of Spain with buildings in different styles from all over the country.
Watch Larry Lamb as he finds things to do in Ibiza – or view it on YouTube here
Arriving in Ibiza, Larry asks around to get a recommendation for somewhere to find a great lunch and hitches a ride with local fisherman, Miguel who grew up in a traditional fishing family and supplies fish for local restaurants. Across the bay Larry arrives at El Chiringuito de Dona Maria on Talamanca beach, run by Samar and his family. I love the Chiringuito restaurants that you find on the coast in Spain where the decor is normally simple and it’s all about the freshest of fish, served simply with a view of the sea and the sand between your toes.
So next time you’re on holiday, take a tips from Larry Lamb and Thomson Cruises and say hello to someone new, ask for recommendations in a friendly shop or bar, polish up a few local phrases, support small local businesses and perhaps you’ll find some Cruise Mates of your own. Find out more on the Thomson Cruises Cruise Mates Website.