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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Barcelona

We arrived in Barcelona around 6, picked up our bags, and caught the A1 bus into town. For 5 euro, this is a heck of a deal. It drives the 45 minutes to Plaza de Catalunya. From there we caught a taxi to the Hotel Banys Oriental. Our choice of hotel came from online recommendations for boutique hotels and it turned out to be a fantastic choice. Located in the Gothic Barrio, we checked in, and headed back downstairs for a walk and to find some dinner. It was around 7:45 local time on Friday and everyone was out and about for the hot summer evening. We looped through the alleys around the neighborhood, and narrowed down our dinner options to two choices - one an inexpensive prix fixe of paella and an appetizer, and another tapas restaurant called Origins. Though the cheaper prix fixe was tempting, especially for its 3 euro mojitos, the "one night in Barcelona" part of my brain voted for Origins, which not only offered an extended array of tapas, but the menu included a description of the history and geography of each dish. We had a half-liter of sangria, stuffed aubergine, duck with peaches, coco with cheese and local sausage, nettle soup, and a meatball dish. After dinner the waiter asked after dessert. We pleaded that we were too full, though really, the gelato outside beckoned. He said, "Ah, only one thing for it" and produced two digestifs - a moscatel in a shot glass, on the house. Sweet and delightful, we enjoyed this, paid the check, and headed back into the streets. Street sellers had LED flying toys that enchanted Erik. He couldn't resist and bought one. Then we found a gelateria and had limon and strawberry sorbetto.

Back to the room at 10:30, we settled in to use the free wi-fi as it was our last chance for cheap access for a long time. I fell asleep first, waking only briefly in the night for the usual 3 a.m. toilet break. Waking again at 8:30, I felt rested and hopeful that we'd beat jet lag utterly with such a perfect schedule.

We headed out in the morning to see how far it was to the port. Grabbing a ham and cheese croissant and a coffee, then walking down to the waterfront. It was farther to Terminal C that was prudent for walking with several bags, so we headed back to the rest of the city to see things on the must-do list. La Sagrada Familia is the one thing we were told repeatedly just had to be seen, so we hpped the Metro out to that neighborhood. Unfortunately, we underestimated the line to get in, which wrapped around the church on two sides. After looping the outside, we headed back to check out to the hotel with plans to return after checking into the boat.

This didn't go quite as we'd expected. The check in was a little more confusing at first, made worse by our not having the book that Disney Cruise Line had sent us. We weren't sure what had happened to it, but it wasn't where I thought it was, and I didn't remember packing it. The last time we'd seen it was a week earlier.

But, we refilled some basic paperwork, handed off our bags to a porter who knew no English, and checked in. They handed us our Key-to-the-World cards and we were off. We figured we should walk up, see our state room, see what the requirements for getting back were, and then head back out to Barcelona.

We got to our state room and it was perfect. Somehow we were upgraded to Deck 6, which was a huge blessing. Even better, we were in an interior stateroom that was turned 90 degrees from the normal stateroom, leaving hallways on the two long sides of our room, a linen closet on one end, and one other guest room attached near our bathroom. Honeymoon suite indeed!

It turned out, all hands were required to be present for the evacuation drill at 4 p.m. This put a big crimp in our original plan. We figured we'd take the ship's tour at 2 p.m., unpack and wait for the drill, then head off the ship for dinner in Barcelona. We went and toured the spa on Deck 9. It smelled like relaxation. We also toured the gym. We entered a raffle for some spa stuff and had to return there at 3:15 to see if we'd won. (We didn't, but it still smelled fantastic in there.) We headed to Deck 10 Forward for the ship's tour. (Yes, really, 10 Forward. We have pictures.)

Ashlee from Kentucky and Dave from Australia led us around the ship in two rather large groups. They were part of the crew staff, the staff whose entire job is to ensure the rest of the guests have fun via various activities. Dave had that sort of infectious love for his job that made him instantly charming. He took us all over, told us the basics and a few tidbits, and promoted his later tour: The Art of the Theme Ship. Released, we had a little while before the drill, so we started unpacking. Unfortunately, all but one of our bags had turned up. From some miscommunication earlier, I thought they didn't want us carrying any bags aboard ship on our own, so I'd handed everything off, including my bag of necessities containing books, my liquids bag, and my computer. Losing this would be bad.

We unpacked everything else, then went on the drill. We stood dutifully with our life jackets on and waited to be counted off. Released a few minutes later, we headed back to the room. Still no bag. Hmm.

We checked with Guest Services and they said to wait until 5. If it still hadn't turned up, they'd put a note in our file.

We waited til 5.

They put a note in our file.

I got increasingly worried.

Around 5:45, they called our room and said they had a bag which might be mine, and to please come by the Guest Services desk on Deck 3. We headed down, and sure enough, there was my little Sierra Club backpack, safe and sound. Whew!

But this had thoroughly fubar'd our plan to go back into Barcelona. It was now less than 2 hours before the ship set sail. Bummer.

So, we made the best of things and decided to stay on the ship. We explored and settled on cocktails and Fluxx in Diversions, the piano bar on Deck 3. This is when we learned that cocktails aboard ship were very reasonably priced, usually $5.60 or $6.60, plus 15% tip. I had a pomegranate cosmopolitan and Erik had a gin martini and cards were played.

It was a perfectly relaxing way to start the trip, and we figured we'd just have to see more of Barcelona the morning we returned.

Now, I'll admit, we had a moment of nervousness. We were supposed to have dinner with total strangers every night for the next 11 nights. What if they seated us with the guy in the Bible quotes t-shirt that said we could believe or burn in hell? But we hoped for the best. Turns out, they seated us with three other couples, all in their thirties, all without kids. Kevin and Carrie were from Virginia. Claude-Eric and Josee were from Quebec, and Lee and Mitzu were from Columbus, Ohio. Over our first meal, we all hit it off right away. This was the biggest relief of the trip. We also met Orlen, our server, and Erwin, his assistant, and Godwin, their boss. We then had the first of many very leisurely meals in the Animator's Palate, a room mostly in black and white animation sketches with a few screens displaying finished artwork.

Meanwhile, the ship had set sail. It rocked a bit under us at dinner. Those more susceptible to motion sickness were feeling it. At bedtime, I wondered what we'd gotten into. I wasn't terribly motion sick... yet... but I didn't want to spend 11 days feeling woozy. Hopefully I'd feel better in the morning.

1 Comments:

  • Barcelona the city or the planet? :)

    Paella vs tapas is a tough choice.

    By Blogger Chrisfs, at 11:58 PM  

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