First I want to tell you how we came to be on this cruise.
My wife and I have been regular cruisers on Holland America Line since 1998 when we took our first cruise to see a total solar eclipse off of the island of Curacao in the Caribbean. We enjoy the old world flavor of the ships’ decor and we love the itineraries available for their smaller size ships. We also enjoy playing black jack in the ships casino each evening. We play on the low stakes tables and play with a fixed amount each evening. If we lose it, we stop. If we win, we use the winnings the next evening.
Anyway, Holland sent us an offer for a free cruise with an inside cabin as a comp for our participation in their Club21 casino program. Well, a free cruise is hard to pass up when it is one of your favorite holiday venues. So we called and booked the cruise on just under two weeks notice and had to make sure we ended our siblings weekend (see that blog post) in a timely fashion so that we had enough time to pack for our vacation.
Getting to Barcelona involved three flights. We left Greensboro, NC about 2:00 PM on Saturday, April 16th and flew the short hop to Charlotte, NC. From there we boarded a plane to Philadelphia, PA and then transferred to a direct flight from Philadelphia to Barcelona, Spain. The only long leg of the journey was the hop over the Atlantic, and believe me when I tell you that this was a cake walk compared to the flights between San Francisco and Sydney last November and December.
We arrived in Barcelona around nine in the morning, went through Spanish immigration, and then got our shuttle bus to the ship. The boarding process was the easiest that we have ever experienced in all of our years of cruising and we were on the ship by noon local time. Of course, our bodies knew that it wasn’t really noon. To them, it was just six in the morning back in North Carolina and, of course, they had not really had enough sleep on the plane to feel refreshed. So we had lunch, unpacked and then took a short nap before the boat drill at 3:00 pm local time. After the drill, it was back to the stateroom (we had upgraded to a verandah suite for a minimal amount) for a second nap before dinner.
When we woke up to get showered and dressed for dinner, we noticed the beautiful sunset off of our balcony, so I had to get my camera out and snap a few pictures, The result of which I have posted as the feature image. Here it is again:
We were traveling southwest along the coast of Spain and headed for our first port of Valencia. Unfortunately, we did not spend any time in Barcelona other than the short bus ride from the airport to the ship. I’m sure there is much to see and do in this beautiful city, but alas, we were not going to find out. We were just passing through. This was not the first time. Back in May of 2001 we did a Mediterranean cruise that ended in Barcelona and all we saw of the city was on the bus ride from the ship to the airport. Maybe we can spend some time there on a future European vacation. Time will tell.
We had a quiet evening at dinner as the only occupants at a table for six. There were supposed to be four other people at our table, but they never showed up. We hoped that they would be there the following evening, because we like to meet new people and share experiences over dinner. More about that in a future post.
We spent our usual evening in the casino, and then went to bed early to try to adjust our bodies to this new time zone. It was an uneventful start to our cruise and this was a blessing. Sometimes eventful starts involve complications and we didn’t want any of those.