Tag: Spain

Transatlantic Cruise

December 2011 – Click Here for Pictures (do not watch in full screen if you want to see captions)

We flew to Barcelona, Spain on November 18th on Luftansa.  It was a non-eventful and uncomfortable 8 hour flight to Frankfurt where we changed planes and flew onto Barcelona.  We left Friday at 3:30pm from our home and arrived Saturday about 3:30pm at the Hotel Arts Barcelona (5 star Ritz Carlton, thanks to George’s Marriott Points!)  What a gorgeous hotel!  The hotel is on the waterfront in the center of the downtown area that was built up for the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics.  When we checked in I told them that George and I were celebrating our birthdays and they upgraded us to an “Executive Suite.”  Wow! One entire side of the large suite was glass overlooking Barcelona and one entire side of the bedroom was glass overlooking the waterfront, restaurants and marina.  The suite included 2 bathrooms, foyer, living room, office, large walk in bath with tub, walk in toilet/bidet area and large walk in shower.  We were exhausted, so decided to have a nice dinner at the hotel and go to bed early.  We had a big day of sightseeing ahead of us!  We were up early, had an awesome brunch at the hotel and were wafting for our tour guide Ivo to pick us up at 8:00am.  We had 6 hours to see Barcelona.

We booked Ivo thru Barcelona Day Tours.  Ivo is a wonderful tour guide that really knows his city.  He showed us many sites in the comfort of his Mercedes.  There is no way we would have been able to see as much if George and I tried to do it on our own.  He guided us around the crowds, expedited our entry to the La Sagrada Familia and got us to the Cruise Terminal at exactly 2:00pm.  Thank you Ivo!

Barcelona Sites:

We loved Barcelona!  What an amazing city!  I can imagine living here for a few months and spending every day exploring what the city has to offer.  Maybe winter over while on Stormy? J

Time to board the ship!

There was a gastrointestinal “ick” that had run thru the ship prior to arriving in Barcelona, so it took hours before we could get onboard, due to the sanitizing process.  But I was pleased to wait while they made the ship “ship shape” for us!

The ship, Celebrity Cruises Constellation was large and held ~2,000 people and ~1,000 crew.  Our cabin was nice, roomy and had a balcony.  Overall it was a very nice ship, but a bit crowded.  The food was sometimes very good and sometimes not so great, so somewhat inconsistent.

Our first stop was Alicante which is a large Mediterranean port.  We took a shore excursion to Guadalest which is a small village in the mountains.  The drive was beautiful from the coast thru the countryside and up through the mountains.  The town is built into the mountain and includes a castle, church, shops, etc.  The village was a strategic military stronghold with fortifications dating back to 715AD and the period of Moorish occupation of Spain.  The castle can only be entered by one small tunnel cut through the rock at the San Jose gate and the village could not be seen from the valley, so they were very protected.

Our second stop was Malaga.  We skipped the tours in Malaga and took a excursion to the Alhambra Palaces.   The Alhambra’s Moorish palaces were built for the last Muslim Emirs in Spain and its court, of the Nasrid dynasty. After the Reconquista (reconquest) by the Reyes Católicos (“Catholic Monarchs”) in 1492, some portions were used by the Christian rulers. The Palace of Charles V, built by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor in 1527, was inserted in the Alhambra within the Nasrid fortifications. After being allowed to fall into disrepair for centuries, the Alhambra was “discovered” in the 19th century by European scholars and travelers, with restorations commencing. It is now one of Spain’s major tourist attractions, exhibiting the country’s most significant and well known Islamic architecture, together with 16th-century and later Christian building and garden interventions.  It took us several hours to walk thru the gardens and palaces, and it is not like anything we have ever seen!  It was interesting as well as beautiful.  While it was a cold, rainy day, we enjoyed out tour immensely.

Our next stop was supposed to be Madeira, Portugal; but due to union strikes on the island we instead went to Gibraltar.  Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of 6.843 square kilometres (2.642 sq mi), it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region. At its foot is the densely populated city area, home to almost 30,000 Gibraltarians and other nationalities.  We share a private guide, Adrian and his van, with 2 other ladies from our cruise ship.  Adrian was a wonderful guide, who took us up on the “Rock” which is a nature preserve.  One of the most fascinating aspects of the “Rock” is the Barbary apes that reside in packs on the “Rock.”  The Barbary Macaque population in Gibraltar is the only one in the whole of the European continent, and, unlike that of North Africa, it is thriving. At present there are some 300 animals in five troupes occupying the area of the Upper Rock, though occasional forays into the town may result in damages to personal property.  As they are a tailless species, they are also known locally as Barbary Apes or Rock Apes, despite the fact that they are monkeys (Macaca sylvanus). The local people simply refer to them as monos (meaning monkeys) when conversing in Spanish or Llanito (the local vernacular).  The Gibraltar Barbary Macaque is considered Gibraltar’s unofficial national animal.  And they are a hoot!  All the want is a nut out of your hand!  And they are not afraid to go for it, or go for you camera, or whatever else suits them!  Also on the “Rock” were over 100 caves.  There is some evidence that Neaderthals may have used them as far back as 30,000 years ago!  They were also used during many wars (World War II, etc.) for protection and firing canons.  Most recently, the most prominent cave, St. Michaels is used for choir concerts.   A very curious aspect of Gibraltar is that the only road in/out (from Spain) goes right thru the airport runway!  All traffic must be stopped for a plane to land or take off… and this airport is considered to be one of the most dangerous to land/take off from in the world.  We had lunch at Roy’s Fish and Chips were we tried mashed peas for the first time, if you like mashed potatoes and peas, you would love them!  Gibraltar, we will be back on Stormy!

Our final stop before crossing the Atlantic was Tenerife on the Canary Islands.  Tenerife is the largest and most populous island of the seven Canary Islands.  It is also the most populated island of Spain, with a land area of 2,034.38 km² (785.47 mi2) and 906,854 inhabitants, 43% of the total population of the Canary Islands.  We took a shore excursion to Taganana.  Taganana is a village in the municipality of Santa Cruz de Tenerife , located in the valley of the same name, in the northeast of the island of Tenerife ( Canary Islands , Spain ). It has 589 inhabitants.  This trip required climbing the high mountains (highest elevation in Spain) on very narrow roads!  I had to change seats with George so I wasn’t sitting by the window looking straight down into the valley!  The village was small and quaint and we had a nice lunch here and visited their church.  Very isolated, we couldn’t even mail a postcard from Taganana.  After lunch we drove to La Laguna.  San Cristóbal de La Laguna is a city and municipality in the northern part of the island of Tenerife in the Province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, on the Canary Islands (Spain). The city is third-most populous city of the archipelago and second-most populous city of the island. It is a suburban area of the city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife.   We walked thru the streets and enjoyed the architecture of the buildings and all of the shops.

Time to cross the Atlantic to Fort Lauderdale!  We settled into a routine on the boat.  Generally we would have breakfast in the dining room, the I would work out in the gym followed by a sauna; George would generally walk around and take pictures and/or go to one of the many lectures on board (i.e. Old War Planes, How the Ship is Propelled, How the Captain did the Navigation for this Trip, etc.).  Then we would meet up and have lunch.  Lunch was usually in the dining room also.  Then the afternoon was spent relaxing or going to one of the many “doings” going on the boat.  For dinner we usually would go to the buffet; sitting on the fan tail watching the ships huge gorgeous blue/white wake and listen to guitar music.

George kept a log of the weather for future reference:

November 27th: The weather started out a bit raining with winds about 15k or so.  After a front went by winds are down under 10 and seas are about 2’ to 3’ swells.  Temps are in the mid 70°s.

November 28th: Nice sunrise, very light winds, under 5k, ocean swell still about 2-3 feet.

November 29th: Over cast and scattered rain was on tap for this morning.  Winds are up to about 15k and seas are still about 3-4 feet.  The humidity is increasing as we head west.  The swell is now from the east.

November 30th: Skies are very overcast and raining.  Winds are up to 15-20k with seas about 4-5 feet.  The captain said the winds were 30-35k.  The boat started protesting the weather early this morning and pretty much rolled all day. The boat had barf bags set out around the stairs and elevators.  Susan started turning a bit green, so I went to the Emporium to y some seasick pills.  They had been cleaned out.  The ship’s dispensary provided some pills that worked well and free.

We are going through a time zone every one to two days.

December 1st: The seas this morning look like it would be a great day sailing.  No waves, mild swells around 3 feet, and winds under 10k.  There are a couple of storms cells around us for good measure.

December 2nd: This morning the weather turned again.  Winds are at 20K+, waves are only 3-5 feet and the sun is out.  The boat is about 300 miles from the Bahamas.   Too bad we can’t get off in Nassau and take a ferry to the Abacos. Susan had another queasy day due to the weather. The ship sighted Eluthera in the Bahamas about 3:00 PM.  We spotted the Abacos about 4:00.

December 3rd:  We arrived in Fort Lauderdale very early and due to signing up for the express checkout, we were in our rental car leaving Fort Lauderdale by 8am!

It was an amazing trip and one I would highly recommend.  Are we ready to try this on Stormy?  How about let’s get some good experience under our belts in the Bahamas first