Over the Water and Back Again-Part 7

Over The Water And Back Again—A Transatlantic Trip
By Snookums, edited by Filbert, photos by Filbert

Part 7

May 10 (Saturday, Day 14, Barcelona, Spain) –

We went to the restaurant for a leisurely sit-down breakfast but the only thing that looked appealing to Snookums was Raisin Bran.  That kind of summed up our experience on this ship.  The food on Royal Caribbean really was uninspired and by this time, we couldn’t wait to get off the ship.  Disembarkation in Spain, was (surprisingly) easy.  We got our luggage off of an airport-style baggage carousel (very convenient) and got in line for a taxi to our hotel.  It was raining but we were under an awning most of the time so it was okay.  There was NO sign of any Spanish customs or immigration officials anywhere.  In fact, we saw two Royal Caribbean folks and that was it as far as people in any kind of uniform.  There weren’t even any police or security for the 3,000 people getting off the ship!  Getting into Europe is obviously easier than getting into the good ol’ U.S.A.  It was the easiest disembarkation we had ever had on any cruise, and by far the best thing that happened to us on this cruise.

We got to our hotel, the Le Méridien Barcelona on La Rambla (THE street in Barcelona) around 9 AM and they had a room ready for us.  We unpacked a little bit for our two-night stay and then decided to head out in the rain and see Barcelona.  We used the good hotel umbrellas.  Except for the Rain in Spain, it wasn’t too bad.  The temperature was probably in the mid-60s F. and we had proper outerwear so we were fine.  We went to one of the open-air food markets and saw the rest of Barcelona buying their food for the week.  There were meat stalls, cheese stalls, produce stalls and lots of fish stalls.  Snookums LOVES food markets.  We also saw one stall that had three chairs at the counter and three guys were sitting there drinking red wine and eating olives at 10 AM.  Ah, Europe.  There were also a couple of restaurant stalls and we saw people eating fried eggs served on sautéed/boiled calamari.  (It was breakfast time after all.)

Around 12:30 PM we got hungry and decided to find a restaurant.  We found a hole in the wall place a few blocks off the beaten path and we ordered two combination plates.  The special was paella and a ½ liter of sangria but we didn’t order that.  Snookums had stewed chicken, French fries, salad and bottled water and Filbert had fried white fish, fried calamari, French fries and salad and a beer.  We were the only people in the restaurant at the beginning but when we left there were two others there.  We ate earlier than the Spanish siesta time of 2 PM which was why the restaurant was empty.  On our way back to the hotel we got a little lost, but that just meant more wandering so it didn’t really matter.

While lost we found this market

We ventured down to the hotel restaurant around 7 PM and were told that that they were fully booked.  So, we went out in the rain again and found a great little bistro two blocks away.  We decided to each have the set meal.  We got various tapas (two sautéed sardines; gazpacho soup; bread topped with roasted eggplant, peppers, and onion; green salad with some kind of pureed meat on the top of it; goose liver pate; fried calamari; black olives that were slightly marinated) followed by Snookums’s four cheese pizza and Filbert’s steak with Roquefort sauce.  Dessert was Crème Catalan for Snookums which was like a runny version of crème brûlée and a dry curd white cheese with honey on the top for Filbert.  Filbert liked Crème Catalan and Snookums liked the slice of white cottage cheese with honey.  Needless to say we didn’t go hungry at all and really enjoyed this family-run establishment.  We both agreed that the pizza was the best choice (although Filbert was really impressed with the Roquefort sauce) and noticed that more than 50% of the diners were eating pizza.  After we left we realized that the restaurant’s business card had a picture of a pizza oven on it so we figured it specialized in pizzas.   (Yeah, Filbert’s low-carb diet usually goes to heck in foreign countries.  Darn it.-Ed.)

May 11 (Sunday, Day 15, Barcelona, Spain) –

We rolled out of bed and caught the hop on/hop off tourist bus around 11.  We rode around Barcelona on the top open-air deck of the bus and enjoyed the sights.  An architect named Gaudi designed a bunch of parks, buildings and metal objects in Barcelona in the early 1900s.  Snookums thinks the word “gaudy” came from his designs, but this was never verified by the tourist tape we listened to on the bus routes.  (We later did in fact verify the Gaudi-gaudy connection—Ed.)

On the bus

We hopped off and had lunch on La Rambla about ½ a block from our hotel at some kind of chain “diner”.  Filbert had pizza (and beer) and Snookums had spinach cannelloni.  We were starving and didn’t really care where we ate.  We got back on the bus and did another route to see other parts of Barcelona.  As we walked the four blocks from the bus stop to the hotel, we stopped in a little coffee shop and Snookums had hot chocolate and Filbert had espresso.  We had seen on the Travel Channel that hot chocolate in Spain was something special so Snookums knew she had to have some.  Snookums was in heaven since the hot chocolate was like the kind we had in Paris – thick, creamy and very chocolaty.

The Christopher Columbus column
Catalan dancing in the square

The Sagrada Familia cathedral:

Under construction
Our happy couple on the bus
Barcelona football club headquarters
La Rambla

We got back to the hotel and took naps before heading out for dinner.  We asked the concierge for a recommendation similar to the restaurant we went to on Saturday night and he directed us to one that opened at 8:30 PM.  We got to it around 8:15 and there was already a couple waiting in line.  By the time it opened, there were probably 20 people behind us in line.  It featured Catalan foods and Filbert had escargot as the main dish.  They were served in a skillet that contained 45 (?) snails in their shells in some butter.  He was given two very long wooden picks to get the snails out of the shells.  He was in heaven!  Snookums had upscale macaroni and cheese with ham and spinach.  We both enjoyed it and then ordered the two chocolate desserts on the menu and split them.  Filbert thought it was the best meal he had in Barcelona although Snookums thought Saturday’s dinner at the corner bistro was better.  In any event, it was a great way to end our Barcelona trip.

Over the Water and Back Again-Part 6

Over The Water And Back Again—A Transatlantic Trip
By Snookums, edited by Filbert, photos by Filbert

Part 6

May 9 (Friday, Day 13, Cartagena, Spain) –

We got off the ship and walked around Cartagena.  It is a nice city, still partially surrounded by its original city wall.  We found an ATM to get our Euros.  Since it was around 9 AM none of the stores were open.   Eventually we found an open grocery store.  We bought two cans of soda and a plain looking sugar topped roll (for Snookums) for 1 euro (about $1.50).  She only ate half of it since it had a bunch of anise in it. By the time we walked back to the ship around noon the stores were open but since we didn’t need clothes or electronics or drugstore items, we didn’t go shopping.

Welcome to Cartagena

Tonight was when the tips were handed out.  We charged our tips to our shipboard account and then Royal Caribbean gave out specifically printed vouchers that the passengers were to give to their various servers.  At dinner Filbert was already saying that he didn’t want to give the tip to the assistant waiter (and Filbert knew we already paid for it)–and that was before the assistant waiter spilled wine on the table—again.  This is the same assistant waiter that had spilled wine every night at least once.  This time, the waiter managed to get wine on Filbert’s camera.  Once again, Filbert’s normally tolerant amusement of service screwups finally tipped over into the red zone of extreme irritation, and Filbert told the now-quivering guy to find the maitre d’.  Filbert explained the sloppy wine service to the matre d’.  Anyway, the camera wasn’t hurt at all (it’s an underwater camera, after all) and the assistant waiter did in fact get his tip.  However, we never saw the assistant waiter or the waiter at the end of the meal to hand them their tips so the people at the table just left the envelopes on the tables.  Other tables were hugging their waiters but not our table!

The “gala” parade

Over the Water and Back Again-Part 5

Over The Water And Back Again—A Transatlantic Trip
By Snookums, edited by Filbert, photos by Filbert

Part 5

May 8 (Thursday, Day 12, At sea) –

Our phone rang around 10:30 AM and it was the Guest Services Manager just checking on us and making sure we were happy which, for the moment, we were.  We guessed that we will receive a call tomorrow morning from her, too.

Filbert at sea

Filbert showered and Snookums didn’t since she was going to conquer the rock climbing wall.  She climbed to the top and rang the bell and Filbert got some pictures.  Her whole body was shaking for about 30 minutes due to the hard work.

Dead bird

Snookums climbs the rock wall:

Snookums, going up
Ringing the bell

While Snookums was waiting to climb the wall, Filbert watched a dove fly and he saw it go full speed into the Plexiglas window/wall at the edge of the ship.  Snookums saw it out of the corner of her eye and heard the “thunk.”. It fell to the deck and was bloody and everything.  Dead bird.  We told a rock wall worker and she got someone to pick it up and then she cleaned the blood from the deck.  Filbert got a picture of it.

Today was our last day to move our watches forward one hour.  Yippee!!!  We were supposed to go through the Straight of Gibraltar around 6 PM today and Spain was to be 5 miles off our port side and Africa  2 miles off our starboard side.

Passing a SeaDream yacht just off Gibraltar

Snookums finally remembered to look in the ship’s cookbook that is for sale for the flourless chocolate cake recipe to see if it had alcohol in it.  Sure enough, it had two tablespoons of dark rum per 10-inch cake.  She KNEW that she tasted alcohol in it and that’s why she didn’t like it.  So that mystery was resolved.

While we were eating lunch an ethnically Asian-Indian woman from Texas and her parents asked to join us and then she proceeded to tell us about her awful experiences on this ship.  That was even before we told her about ours.  It seemed like everyone we met on  board was having a less-than-expected experience on this particular cruise.  We told her to meet with Carly Ackerman and she said she definitely would since all of her visits to the front desk have ended poorly.  (Really, really, we don’t go out of our way to make trouble.  Really, we don’t -Ed.)

Dolphins off Gibraltar
The Grand Marketplace

After dinner all of our table met in the ice rink theater for the game “Quest”.  This was an adults-only audience participation game that RCI must play on all of its cruises.  The audience was divided into 6 teams based on where you are sitting and then the announcer asks for things like “two women’s bras” or “three men with their pants off” or “one bald man” and the first team that came down to the front with the “answer” got the most points.  Our team had a bunch of energetic youngsters on it and we won without any problem at all.  Filbert did run down on two occasions (once with a $20 bill–”a picture of the White house” and once with his Manhattan–”a drink with fruit in it”) but since we were sitting in the very back row he didn’t get to the front before one of our teammates did.  The teams also got points for cheering the loudest and our team won most of those bonus rounds.  Filbert was sweating and hoarse when it was all over.  Anja, one of the women from Denmark, was on one side of Filbert and she couldn’t believe he could yell that loud, but then, she’s never seen him at a basketball game.   We all had a lot of fun, that’s for sure.

The Quest