Transatlantic

While we haven’t yet finished our month at the lake testing the waters (no pun intended) for this becoming our home base, Mike got an email with too good a deal to pass up. So we are booked for a transatlantic cruise at the end of March. It is the same cruise we did last year to begin our retirement year. We will be sailing aboard Viking Sea from San Juan to Barcelona. We were on Sky last time but all of Viking’s ships are almost replicas of each other so we should know our way around.

Lois (Mike’s Mom) will be joining us for the cruise and for a few days post cruise in Europe. Our plan is to fly into San Juan the day prior to the cruise so Lois can see our 51st state. We hope to spend 4 nights post cruise in Barcelona followed by 4 nights in Rome before flying back home as she has been wanting to see the sights in both cities we have talked so much about.

We will have to buy the flights to Rome but otherwise the flights are all included in our cruise fare which with all our loyalty and referral discounts is $2,650 per person. Not bad for 14 nights, three meals a day (including beer, wine & soda). Pavlus, the travel agent we have used recently is providing each of us with $300 of onboard credit which will cover our daily service charges (tips) and the few drinks we will buy. We are currently waiting to see if Viking will allow us to fly home from Rome in their dime or if we will have to fly ourselves back to Barcelona. We are both excited about sailing on Viking again and showing Lois two of Europe’s great cities.

Upon our return, we believe we will be staying close to home and will probably do some road trips…maybe even out west as neither of us have visited the Grand Canyon.

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Last Night.

It’s 10:07 somewhere off the coast of Spain between Valencia and Barcelona on the last night of our cruise and the puzzle still isn’t done! We have our bags and backpacks packed (there is a little bit of room yet we don’t think we have gotten rid of anything so we are a bit concerned) and unfortunately they still all weigh a ton! But that awful part of the last night in a cruise is done. We aren’t setting our our bags as is usual since we can roll ours and so we are hoping to make an early getaway to catch our train back to Valencia.

Had a fun day there in Valencia. In the morning we visited Oceangrafic which is a great aquarium in the cultural and science complex designed by Calatrava. Longtime followers will remember a bridge in Buenos Aires and the new transit station in New York also designed by this Spanish architect. The entrance building below even has a shimmer wall like Raleigh’s Convention Center.

Then we went to the center of the City in time for today’s Mascleta-the shooting of daytime firework and cannons or something that made the loudest sounds I’ve ever heard. Today was the big one. Reminded both of us of Times Square in New Year’s Eve. Between the crowds in the streets and lining the balconies I suspect there had to be 100,000 folks. Frankly I don’t understand the point of fireworks you can’t see but both the Valencian’s loved it.

From what I understand, this was the real start of the party they will be having through Sunday-amazing how having a blog makes whole towns throw festivals to welcome you! Anyway, below are some of Las Fallas we saw-there are hundreds (and most are huge) around the city. And all will be burned on Sunday at midnight!

After the Mascleta, we stopped for a sangria and some olives (never imagined we get that many for 1.5 euros) before heading back to the ship on the last shuttle from town about 4:40.

A quick soak in the spa for me (Mike got to spend more time) and it was off to get my feets massaged. Remember that onboard credit we had to spend? Mike got a haircut, I got my dogs rubbed. Omg. If I could have that happen everyday life would be even better than it already is!

We then put a load of wash in and headed up for final night of cocktails and sushi. So tasty. Then Mike moved the clothes to the dryer while I got us a table in the restaurant. Dinner was fine but nothing worth wasting data on pictures for.

Did see fellow cruisers and crew all day and saying goodbye is hard. Even though you barely have met, connections have been made with some-acquaintances with others. But we have all shared an experience- generally a good one and in then case of almost everyone we would love to sail with them again. In a few cases, we may actually see each other on land-got a lovely invitation to Scotland from a lovely lass and her hubby if 40 years today!

Anyway after lots of hugs, some awkward, most not and “safe travels” we are ready to move on the next step in Mike’s & Clay’s adventure!

Despair.

One of the things I hate about cruising (just about the only one I guess) is that in order to empty the ship and have it ready for those who are going to be sleeping in my bed soon is to start getting you ready to leave well in advance. They gave us luggage tags two days ago, told us about our onboard account status yesterday, tonight was the ” final show”. What I don’t get live entertainment on my last night???? Anyway it all makes sense so that you have time to deal with any baggage or financial issues but it does put a damper on the last few days. This is especially true of this trip since we have a port day tomorrow and then they are throwing us off on Saturday morning.

Anyway, after a late start (I was up until well after 1 ya know) and two lattes and the delicious pistachio sticky bun we started to get ready by packing all our clean clothes this morning and filling up one suitcase. We have tried to load some of the heavier items from the backpacks (electronics mostly) to make them easier to deal with. Since we aren’t going to be flying, we have also expanded the rollaboards so that they hold a bit more…you could almost hear the zippers thanking us!

After lunch of burgers from the grill, we did a load of wash and packed up that stuff too, so hopefully tomorrow when we reboard in Valencia we will do a small load of the clothes we wear and basically have all clean clothes when we arrive at our first AirBnB. While it has a washer, the drying situation is unknown so the less we have to wash the better!

The Virginia Gentlemen (the UVA group) did a final performance this afternoon (standing room only) and frankly blew away all the other performers on board. In addition to being talented, they all seem to be fine guys and as Mike, Scott, Robert and I were once referred to while visiting San Francisco have been a breath of fresh air!

After their show, we went to tea, mostly for a scone! Then because we had leftover onboard credit from our agent, Mike got a haircut! It was the most expensive one he has even had at $39! But it looks great.

We then ate in the buffet since it got late after chatting over cocktails (and crab claws) with folks. We had Prime Rib which was tasty as was some finished to order mushroom risotto.

The final show was an ABBA Tribute.

Big Rock

Too dark to get a picture (damn clouds) so the picture above is from my friend google. But if you change the sunset colors to grays from the surrounding towns, add some clouds covering just the very top, add the sounds of waves and a hundred of your fellow passengers standing on a small deck after drinking too much, you will be able to imagine what passing by the Rock of Gibraltar looks like aboard Viking Sky at a little after midnight.

Here’s hoping that when we pass it again in November it will be in the daylight.

Goodnight!

Rhymes with Gladys.

Turns out Cadiz isn’t Ka-deez but instead is pronounced Kadyz. Who knew? Lots of flamingo here thought we didn’t get to see a show.

Had a pleasant (albeit tiring day). We went on the included in our cruise fare walking tour ( can you say 4.3 miles so far today and I hope to make one more trip to the bar before the night is done?) which included the high spots: Market, Squares, Cathedral.

Cadiz had hundreds of these towers where merchants could watch for ships returning from the Americas and through a systems of flags offer to buy their goods.

Cathedral

Cadiz is a great little city, easy to walk around the historic part. We stopped after the tour and got a screen protector for my phone since I dropped my phone yesterday and it landed right on the corner and spider veined the upper half of the phone. Our first experience with our pigeon Spanish, google translate and sign language… but $11 later I have a phone that I don’t have to worry will slice my fingers. Success in my book!

We also stopped and had a coffee and the traditional pastry which looked like Texas cinnamon toast but was the consistency of tres leches cake. The “juice” was made with honey. Very tasty! Mike had a tuna (the main catch at this seaport) empanada-also tasty.

Mike and I then wandered for another hour or so through the town ending up on the old walls of the city-there are forts along the walls-you can see one in the background or our selfie:

We returned to the ship just in time to have a quick salad before the World Cafe closed. We then headed to the spa where we spent several hours. Unlike other lines, Viking’s Spa is complimentary and includes sauna, stream room, thalloscopy pool, snow room, hot tub and a cold bucket shower so you can experience the Nordic Bathing Ritual. Very relaxing.

We are at The Restaurant this evening. It was enjoyable although a wine confusion was just that.

Last bite (sorry we forgot to take picture) of the Jamon (ham) and artichoke salad

When we ordered our entrees, our waiter suggested that due to their small sizes that we might want to order a third-so we did! All were tasty especially the stir fried beef and the pesto risotto.

Pad Thai:

Beef Stir Fry

Shrimp with Pesto Risotto

Had a first today! Rugs pulled us away from the pier and turned us before we headed back out into the Atlantic. Typically ships use their bow thrusters and can rotate pretty much in place. The wind was high and the channel narrow so I guess that’s why we had tugs. Made me feel like Barbra!

We are now trying to stay awake until 12:30-1 am when we are scheduled to go through the Straits of Gibraltar. Not sure how much we will see in the dark as it has turned a bit stormy. We lucked out that the predicted rain today never materialized.

Looking forward to our last sea day tomorrow. Hard to believe that this cruise is approaching its end…makes us think one of the World cruises might be in our future!

Lazy Day redux.

Slept in, coffee and blogging, lunch (salad), watched part 2 of a documentary on Spanish Art, napped, dressed (if jeans and a previously worn to dinner shirt counts as dressing), cocktails while UVA boys gave their 15 minute show, buffet for Greek night, and a less than spectacular sunset, writing this while Mike updates his journal (photo above) and now probably headed to the room to watch the final part of the documentary and go to bed.

Sorry for the lack of excitement today. There was a reported sighting of a humpback whale a little while ago from the front of the ship. We saw a big splash a little while ago off the stern while eating dinner…can I say I saw a whale?

Tomorrow-Cadiz, Spain