An Autumn Moorish Odyssey
"We're not a 5-star hotel", said a Louis Cruises' Coral ship staff member, "but we hope you enjoyed our service and the destinations you visited on this vacation."
The staff member couldn't have described more accurately the Spanish coastal cruise experience we had on board Coral this past October.
Friendly, warm, hospitable service dominated throughout the cruise commencing with the officers to the contract workers; from the hotel manager to our cabin stewardess; from the dining room manager and maitre'd to the waiters and bartenders; from the pursers to the reception desk staff and tour specialists.
Our spacious, luminous outside cabin had comfortable beds and padded chairs to relax in at the end of a busy day, albeit the lack of luxurious amenities. Best of all, our stewardess kept the room clean and tidy all week long and well-supplied with toiletries, linens and beverages.
Compared to the breakfast and lunch buffets, the dining room menus offered multinational variety, motivating clients to look forward to the next evening's culinary choices. Some of the more memorable selections included moussaka, pasta, goulash, steaks, fish and jumbo shrimps served by attentive, efficient and friendly waiters. The maitre'd's omnipresent smile, gentle ways and ready-to-please countenance reflected the management's ultimate dining pleasure wish for its guests.
Gala night was an event to remember where Capt. Dimitrios Giotsopoulos introduced the executive staff. Highlighting the evening were the trimmings for an elegant dining atmosphere and experience comprised by colorful table settings and a gourmet menu with fine wines.
From the entertainment side, the cruise director and his assistant readily introduced their cast nightly with infectious warmth, humor and enthusiasm. Drawing crowds were the Ukrainian and Russian entertainers comprised by a marvelous band, spectacular dancers whose beauty, grace, energy and lavish costumes brilliantly colored their Italian, French, Spanish, Las Vegas, Nostalgia and International theme shows. Repeatedly, the cast left us and many clients with utter awe and admiration for the cast that consequently superseded our plans to see other shows beyond the ship.
Coral's Odyssey itinerary was exciting as it offered ports of call we've wanted to explore. A key factor in our decision to join the cruise were the visits to both Palma de Mallorca and Ibiza in the same week, which other ships sailing in the same period only offered one or the other.
The ports of call were lovely and exciting. Despite frigid temperatures when Coral dropped anchor in Marseilles, fond memories of the city's scintillating harbor views from the marina and the hilltop Mary of the Guard Cathedral linger in our hearts whereas Palma's combined sunny weather, blue seas, tropical gardens, cathedral and Moorish castle remain as refreshing as our first encounter of the city. Compared to Palma, Malaga evoked a grand dame guarded by a fortress perched on a hill with a cityscape dotted by a Roman theater, a former Moorish castle, and a bullring. Tangier intrigued with its alleys leading to the Kasbah, the Moorish castle, the souks and the American Legation symbolizing the close historical relationship between Morocco and the U.S. Gibraltar offered pleasant glimpses of its modern-day streets and squares bound by sweeping vistas of the Straits. While petite Ibiza caters to the young at heart with its trendy boutiques, funky clubs and vibrating nightlife, Barcelona offers a whole range of entertainment to everyone with its rich tapestry of attractions and people filling the Rambla or pedestrian promenade. Gaudi's undulating architecture, Picasso and Miro museums, fountain-centered squares, aquarium, boqueria (food market), boutiques, beaches, marina and shopping mall are "must see" sites for a complete experience of the Catalonian capital.
Reminding everyone that autumn sailing could bring unpredictable weather conditions as the one Coral endured between Ibiza and Barcelona, clients found respite by turning in early and bearing the bumpy ride until the ship passed the Gulf of Lion. Henceforth, fair winds and blue skies joined forces to passengers' delight as the ship sailed the next day on its last stretch to Genoa, passing French coastal scenery in the horizon.
Given MTS Coral's 30-year existence, our Odyssey cruise experience proved that the ship's commitment to rendering time-tested customer-oriented service, along with quality dining and entertainment to its passengers far outweighed its size and age.