Sunday, April 18, 2010

East Atlantic cruise

Early the 8th of April we drove down to Barcelona for a 9-day cruise. We sailed down to Morocco, over to the Canary Islands (Spain), up to Madeira Island (Portugal), and finally back up the south Spanish coast to Barcelona. Twice we sailed through the Strait of Gibraltar. Unfortunately each time was after dark and we couldn't see the Rock, but we did see the lights on it. The Rock at night has nothing on El Paso's Mountain Star! Spain needs to have El Paso Electric over for a consultation.

We opted for an upgraded suite on this cruise; for both practical and luxury reasons. We were not disappointed on either point. With the boys getting bigger we needed more space. The boys had their own room and bath as did Kathleen and I. Though we didn't know at the time of booking, the room came with some special things that tickled us pink. One was an espresso machine in our room so that we could have coffee any time we wanted. It was way better than a coffee pot.

We set sail at 7 PM on Friday and were at sea all day Saturday. Our time was spent around the pool, eating, seeing a show - just relaxing. As with our last cruise, most of Payton's ship time was spent in Kid's Club. He would join us for a little swim time and meals.
Day 3 landed us in Casablanca, Morocco. Our excursion didn't shed a good light on the city. Well maybe it did, but I am giving the place the benefit of the doubt. We toured the fairly new and very large Hassan II Mosque. It is the third largest in the world, but its minaret is the world's tallest at 689 ft. It architecture is really different than a Christian church. It wasn't quite ornate as the old European churches, but still it was very handsome. It can accommodate over 100,000 worshipers at a time; 25,000 inside and 80,000 outside. It was big. The rest of the excursion wasn't memorable save for Rick's Cafe. The movie Casablanca and Rick's Cafe were the creation of Hollywood, but in 2002 someone opened a Rick's Cafe in Casablanca. As with many things we have seen in Europe, outside doesn't fairly represent what is inside. Rick's Cafe was a nice restaurant serving a very nice lunch. I drank the best cup of coffee I have ever had. It was very smooth with no bitter taste at all. Hmmm it was good.Day 4 found us in Agadir, Morocco. I didn't get off the boat and instead stayed aboard the boat with Parker. Kathleen and Payton went ashore and saw a horse race, belly dancer, Payton rode a camel, a snake charmer, and Payton held a baby goat. Agadir seemed much nicer than Morocco. It is a mostly new city since much of it was destroyed in a 60's earthquake.We woke up on day 5 docked in Las Palmas, Spain; part of the Canary Islands. We hadn't planned an excursion for this day and opted for going to the beach. This turned out to be an excellent port for this. The boat moored right next to the city. It was just a short walk from the boat and through the city to the west side and an wonderful beach. We rented some chairs and an umbrella for the day and bought colas from vendors trolling the beach. Payton and Parker played in the Atlantic ocean. Later we strolled the 'boardwalk' and had lunch followed by ice cream.Port of call on day 6 was Funchal, Portugal on Madeira Island. The little we saw was beautiful. We have no doubt that all of the island is this way. We envision ourselves coming back to this island someday.

Funchal was another city easily accessed by foot. We took a little foot tour along the shoreline streets. We were looking for the cable car that would take us high above the city. We took in the view from the mountainside and sipped a few colas. Something fun we could have done, and many others did, was to sled back down through the streets. You would sit in a two person wooden sled and two drivers would pull you and ride with you down the streets. It looked really fun.

Back down by the shore we had lunch. Earlier Kathleen had pointed out a Pizza Hut - something she later regretted. This is where we had lunch. We ordered a Pepperoni Lovers pizza that was a little short on pepperoni by American standards. It was all good though. After lunch we headed back to the boat and along the way Payton played in the ocean spray along the sea wall.

Later Payton went to Kid's Club again and got a tiger painted on his face.

Day 7 was spent at sea sailing towards mainland Europe and the Strait of Gibraltar (at night - again). We went ashore to see Malaga, Spain on day 8. This is the only day we got rained on, but not very much. Picasso was born here and we toured his birth home. Walked around some castle walls. The usual stuff. The city seemed nice. It was just good to get off the ship and walk around.
Our last day was spent at sea heading back to Barcelona. We docked around 5 AM. From experience we got off the ship as fast as possible. Once again, having a suite allowed us some perks exiting the ship. We got off the ship, got a taxi and were back at our car in no time. By 7:30 we were on the road back home.

We have one more cruise to go. May 29th we sail the eastern Mediterranean. I am looking forward to a couple of stops; Athens, Greece and Izmir, Turkey. Athens should be cool and Izmir will be the fourth continent I will walk upon.

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