Day 1: Lisbon, Portugal
Embarkation days are usually a mixed bag. Sometimes they run smoothly, or sometimes things just seem to go to hell. Unfortunately, my experience happened to be the later, due to mismanaged endless lines. What didn’t help was one of the people managing the lines blaming the weather, it was a rainy day, for being unable to organize and get people through in a timely fashion. The logic was people didn’t want to explore outside of the port and just get on the ship.
In terms of accessibility, the port itself can easily be reached via public transportation. The Lisboa Santa Apolónia metro stop is right across the street from the main entrance. You will also within steps of the Alfama district.
Day 3: Gibraltar, United Kingdom
After a relaxing sea day, Gibraltar was the first port of call of the cruise.
Gibraltar’s cruise port was easy to navigate and maneuver. The cruise terminal offered a duty free shop and one or two other small stores. WiFi was easily accessible in the terminal. The port was relatively close to the town. You could easily walk the 15-20 minutes to downtown shops and restaurants. Shuttle buses and taxis were also available for a fee that could be paid in Pounds or Euros. Though expect to pay more in Euros due to the conversion rate.
With limited time in port and wanting to maximize time and use ship credit, an Upper Walking Tour excursion was booked through the ship. This ~4.5 hour tour touched on number of the key attraction when visiting Gibraltar.
Starting off on one of the first tours of the day allowed for the small group to start the journey up to the Rock via a brief and smooth cable car ride. Once you’ve arrived, you will find yourself at a observation area that allows you to walk around and admire the city from above. There is also a restaurant, small gift shop, and restrooms. You will also most likely encounter one of the 300+ Barbary Apes (which are actually monkeys, they were incorrectly classified when named).
The tour continued down and into the Gibraltar Nature Reserve via foot. Along the way, you will encounter many more monkeys. While making your way down, you will still need to watch out for your belongings; however, the biggest issue you will encounter is all of the taxis coming up the road. In some spots, it can get tight on space, and you may find yourself very close to the end of the road avoiding getting hit by an oncoming vehicle.
- When riding the cable car, when facing forward when going up, to your left will be the city of Gilbraltar and Spain. To your right will be Africa.
- The Barbary Apes are wild and should be respected. They also really are not afraid of humans. If they think you have food, they will come after you and take it. Don’t struggle with them, they will quickly figure out it isn’t food and become disinterested in whatever they have taken pretty quickly.
Day 4: Malaga, Spain
Málaga’s cruise port was very easy to maneuver and navigate. Inside had a handful of shops and an area to sit while connecting to the free WiFi. Once again, the port was within walking distance to the town. You could leisurely stroll 15- 20 minutes to get to the city center. There is a beach within close walking distance if you wished to spend the day lounging on the sand in the sun. A shuttle bus is also offered if you prefer to or are not up to the walk.
- There is a stop for the Hop-On Hop-Off bus near the port terminal. The line of people looked longer than the number of seats availbable on the bus at times, so there is a high chance that you will have to wait for another bus if you chose to explore the city this way.
Once again, wanting to maximize the limit in port, a small group highlights and walking tour was booked through the ship. The ~4.5 hour tour was a mixture of a quick visit to Mount Gibralfaro to take in the views overlooking the city and the port and walking tour of part of the city. The walking tour started with a quick visit to Plaza de la Merced to sit and take touristy pictures of a Picasso statue, and then continue on to wind our way to the Cathedral of Malaga (La Manquita).
A majority of the time was spent exploring the cathedral and given a pretty detailed lecture on the architecture and features. The cathedral itself offers a glimpse of how the design and architecture changed overtime as it was being built. Initially, the cathedral was to be in the Gothic style. As time went on heavy Renaissance influence took over before a Baroque style introduced about 254 years later. To this day, the cathedral remains unfinished. The South tower was never completed.
The end of the walking tour concluded at Calle Marqués de Larios (Calle Larios) because every tour seems to have some sort of shopping element thrown into the mix somewhere. This pedestrian street seemed to be many a shopper’s paradise to pick up last minute gifts to take home.
Day 5: Cartagena, Spain
Cartagena’s cruise port is very minimal. There was no direct connection to a terminal. A short walk down the ramp from deck two and out the gate, you were on about a 5 minute walk to the old town and many of the shops. WiFi was available around the port; however, you either had to connect via Facebook or provide a valid email address where a code was sent and needed to activate your connection while in the port area.
No excursion was booked for this port. With the port being so close to town and a majority of the sights within walking distance, it was decided to just wander around leisurely. One of the more touristy options, was to take a “train” that circled around the city that lasted about 30 minutes and followed along most of the Hop-On Hop-Off bus. The main difference was that it was 7€ and didn’t make any stops. The downside to this was that we had to wait a bit for the vehicle to fill up for it to take off. Apparently, we were a bit early, it was past 10 AM , and the city didn’t seem to start to wake up until 10:30 AM.
Ascensor Panoramico was another stop during our day. For 2€, you can take a quick ride up the elevator and find yourself in Parque Torres. There are benches available to rest or to take in the view throughout. Castillo de la Concepcion can be found up a few more stairs or up a hill if you cannot take them. If you plan to visit the castle, it is an additional 2.25€ when purchaising your lift ticket.
- If you plan to visit the Ascenor Panoramico, I would recommend going early in the morning, when the tour groups have yet to arrive, as they get priority when entering the lift. Also, I would recommend taking the lift up, and walking back down. The reverse will take additional energy and time. Restrooms (free) can be found towards the bottom of the park.
- Wandering down Calle Mayor and other streets you can explore the many shops, cafes, and different building architectures. This area is easily accessible and about a 5-8 minute walk from the port. Along the way, you can enjoy looking at the boats in the harbor or stop by a cafe, Terraza del Sol is directly across from it, and enjoy a drink, including a local coffee and liquor drink, the Asiatico.
Day 6: Valencia, Spain
Valencia’s cruise port is relatively easy to navigate. Larger ships dock in one of the berths that are separated, so when are both occupied, you don’t feel crowded. There is a bus stop directly outside of the terminal that offers the cheapest form of transportation. For 1.50€ , you can take lines 4 or 19 into the city. Taxis were readily available and shuttles to the front of the port where available.
Once again, a shore excursion was booked through the cruise ship. A 4 hour highlight/ walking tour, ‘A City of Flowers’, offered an introduction to the city. Highlights from the tour included:
A brief photo stop at Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias. I honestly could have spent more than a day exploring the architecture and museums in the area. Come early in the morning if you wish to enjoy the area without the swarms of tourists
- Mercat Central de Valencia. This market is really better experienced than reading or viewing photos of. It was sensory overload in terms of the smell of the goods and noise of the crowds. Wandering the aisles is not for the faint of heart, especially on the weekends when the tourists come to sight-see and the locals are shopping for fresh goods.
- The bathroom is in the basement of the market, and using the facilities there is an experience all on its own. Expect a crowd and to pay. It will cost you .50€ in exact change. There was a cashier who was able to provide change if needed.
- A stroll through Plaza del Ayuntamiento
- A visit to the Museo Fallero to view the Ninots that were saved from the festival fires.
- If you are looking for fun in the sun on a sandy beach, about 3 km from the ship’s berth, you can find a stretch of beaches, i.e Playa de la Malvarrosa or Platja Del Cabanval.
Day 7: Ibiza, Spain
While this Balearic Island is known more for its wild nightlife, Ibiza is breath taking and worth a visit during the day as well.
There is very little in terms of facilities when docking in Ibiza on a larger cruise ship. Once you disembark, you will either take a shuttle (for a fee) , a taxi, or the City Boat into the city. You can also walk, however, it is much faster to take transportation in.
Due to arriving during the off season on a Catholic holiday that also happened to be a Sunday, a ~3 hour walking excursion with the cruise ship to Dalt Vila was how time spent while in Ibiza.
Starting from Castell de Eivissa, a leisurely stroll, winding through the streets , with brief photo stops was the itinerary of the tour. The final stop was at a restaurant that offered a baked good item with a choice of soda or a milk type drink. At the end of the tour, there was the option to stay in town or go directly back to the ship.
- Take a taxi up into Dalt Vila and walk down into town. It is on par for the cost of a taxi into the city. Plus, you will be avoiding walking up many of the hills.
- Arriving on an off seasoned Sunday on All Saints Day, will almostguarantee most of the shops will be closed.
- If you are unable to make it off of the ship, you can still enjoy the view of Dalt Vila from a distance.
- Make sure to wear comfortable and sturdy shoes when venturing to Dalt Vila. The cobblestone streets can be painful if explored in a pair of cheap flip flops.
Day 9: Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona is one of the largest cruise ports in Europe, and as such, can be very hectic during disembarkation/embarkation.
Getting through disembarkation was relatively easy, thanks in part to opting to walk off the ship with luggage in hand. There are a variety of transportation options available from the port, including taxis that had set fees. There is a small area to meet once outside of the terminal doors if you have pre-arranged transportation/ tours; however, it can get a bit chaotic with all of the different people waiting and their drivers with tiny signs.
- Pre-arrange transportation prior disembarkation. It will be less stressful
- There are benches off to the side to sit at while waiting for your ride
- Use the bathroom facilities prior to exiting the ship or go prior to exiting the luggage collection area, as once your outside you won’t be allowed back into that area. There are facilities accessible on the outside; however, they were closed due to issues