Wellness comes in many forms. It maybe the calming waters of a floating cruise liner, a relaxing treatment in a spa or a cultural experience to revitalise the mind. A change is as good as a rest so add to these experiences a gigantic rock as a backdrop on British territory and luxury accommodation aboard a yacht hotel. Welcome to Gibraltar and to the Sunborn Yacht Hotel.
Gibraltar is often described as the Cradle of History with numerous statues and memorials to salute its past. There are 30 miles of World War tunnels snaking within the rock, a spectacular cave underneath, dolphins circling, Barbary apes prying, playing and monkeying around and a cable car ascending its side.
The Rock, Gibraltar’s signature feature, is mostly formed from Jurassic limestone dating over 200 million years. Steep, narrow roads, originally built for donkeys and carts, twist to the upper rock allowing only registered taxis and mini-buses to transport visitors, although weather permitting, the cable car is another option. The journey, whatever form of transport used, is rewarded with enviable scenery.
Clad in hard hats, the series of guided Tunnel tours are fascinating and factual and should be on the must-do list. They include The Great Siege Tunnels and can take up to 3 hours. The Mediterranean Steps walk is not for the faint-hearted but avoid carrying food – the monkeys will find it and will throw in free entertainment along the way. The Skywalk, opened by Mark Hamill from Star Wars fame in March 2018, is another look-out spot to take in stunning vistas.
There are various organised tours which include the fishing village of Catalin Bay, Europa Point, the Mosque, the Moorish Castle and St Michael’s cave with a secret underground lake. As for wildlife, Gibraltar’s position between Europe and Africa, the Atlantic and Mediterranean make it an important crossing point for migrating birds, whales and dolphins.
The old fortress walls surround the city with gate archways into Casemates Square which is dotted with restaurants and bars leading to Main Street the artery for shopping where familiar signs for M&S, Shepherds Pie and Morrisons are giveaway clues to its Britishness. Sean Connery and John Lennon were married here and today, it’s the place to choose if you are in a hurry!
But if you don’t want to travel around the Rock, then you can get a better view watching the opening sequence of James Bond’s Living Daylights, part of which was filmed here or better still you can gaze up at its imposing height and stature from your own private cabin balcony.
The 5* Sunborn Hotel certainly has the novelty factor and is an attraction in itself, floating aside Ocean Village, the harbour district of Gibraltar and can easily be spotted as your plane comes into land. Built in the design of an ocean cruiser, complete with engines and a bridge, it was the first of its kind and has a permanent residency here.
Although constructed 5 years ago, it still looks and feels new, providing a convenient place to explore Gibraltar with views over the sea to Spain and Morocco. It’s easy to find and very convenient – just turn left out of the airport, cross the runway, (along with the other 6,000 Spanish and expats), then turn right to a gleaming white yacht hotel.
The entrance is like walking into Swarovski headquarters with a glittering backdrop headlining the reception desk populated with staff wearing welcoming smiles, keen to show off the floating services.
The corridors are wide, fitted with carpets that foot a jazzy design leading to rooms and suites, not cabins. All tastefully designed with quality furnishings, marble modern bathrooms and laced with technology that command a lesson to operate the drapes, lights and sound. And although there are several room types, surprisingly, the most popular are those with views over the runway!
The Sunborn is also an entertainment hub, offering performances from tribute bands, comedy shows and a Fawlty Towers act which take place in its La Sala Restaurant & Bar. Here there’s a good choice on the menu, ranging from a Full Rack of BBQ Jack Daniel Pork Ribs, Crispy Won Toon Lasagne to Lamb with Cocoa, Chilli and Watermelon Pico de Gallo while there is a dedicated list of British classics such as Beer Battered Fish and Chips and Surf & Turf for those wanting to feel more at home. Service is excellent, dishes generous and attractively presented.
Breakfast, buffet style, is served on the top deck in the Barbary Restaurant which it shares with a small outdoor pool and the Aqua Bar all with outlooks over the marina, the Med and the 1400-ft high Rock.
After climbing the Rock, exploring tunnels, VAT-free shopping, dodging monkeys and with a brain overload of historical facts, R&R awaits in the Infinity Spa onboard with a range of Elemis coated treatments, a sauna to sooth tired muscles, a fitness area to tone and strengthen the body and the Admiral Casino to try your luck.
There’s more to Gibraltar than the Rock and more to an ocean cruiser than sailing.