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Copyright © 1995-2001 
Linda Coffman


European Stars
April 2002
Barcelona to Barcelona ~ Maiden Voyage

by Suzy

This was our first trip to Europe.  We've been on a number of cruises on
large American ships. We flew coach class on Delta. The flights attendants were all very nice, the food leaving the US was really good (dinner, snack, and light breakfast); however, the same  dinner menu coming home was pretty bad - overcooked, etc.  By the way, Delta, unlike some other airlines, gives no onboard amenities to coach passengers - no toothbrush, eyeshades or socks.

Part of the cruise package was two nights in Barcelona. From the airport, we took a cab (25 Euros) to Hotel Conde Barcelona. It's a small, older hotel, but nice and clean and in a convenient location and very close to the subway. Our room was the smallest hotel room I had ever been in, though the bathroom was renovated and nice, even had a bidet. Buffet breakfast, which was a bit boring and basic, was included. We loved Barcelona and really enjoyed our time there. Las Ramblas was only two quick metro stops away and we visited there on both days. We loved the parade of people - locals and tourists - street mimes, musicians, etc. 

Across from our hotel was a museum with a Gaudi exhibit on their roof. We
had a perfect view from the roof of our hotel and so avoided having to wait
in line and pay musuem fees! Also right near our hotel was a beautiful park with thousands of birds, just waiting for us tourists to feed them. I'm a real bird lover and after all the last minute arrangements, sinus worries, the long flight and jet lag, a few hours in the park with my husband on a lovely day feeding the birds was just perfect. One of the difficult things for me to deal with in Barcelona was the lack of ice cubes and soft drinks are served at room temperature.

The morning we were to board our ship we took a cab from our hotel to the
pier. Our cab driver decided to rip us off and took us the long way and made a 5 minute cab ride into a 20 Euro tour of Barcelona. We didn't want to argue so we paid him exactly what was on the meter and no tip.

The cruise ship is brand new and only started her voyages today. Our travel agent booked it and told us that there would be a lot of Americans on the cruise and that there would be excursions conducted in English. We had a superior outside cabin and the ship has two dining rooms - standard and
first class, the latter is reserved for those in the suites. The ship is pretty though a lot less "glitzy" than the new American ships. There are some nice open spaces, and the ship holds about 1800 passengers. There is a nice showroom and a casino, which hardly ever had anyone in it gambling. 

The ship has a few public places where smoking is allowed and ashtrays are provided, but the passengers simply used the floor as one big ashtray in the nonsmoking rooms. When I complained about the smoke in one of the public areas, the desk person asked me if I would like a cup of coffee!

Only about 200 of us boarded in Barcelona and then the ship picked up new passengers in every port. This meant that we had to step over luggage in the hallways everyday. We had big problems with this cruise. First European, lied to our travel agent about being suitable for Americans. This line is really for Europeans. There were only seven Americans onboard - my husband and I, a travel agent and two of her friends and two others that we didn't interact with very much. Most passengers were French and then the rest were  mostly Spanish or Italian (and a handful of Dutch and Scandinavians).

Our cabin was pleasant looking and comfortable with a nice big window. The BIG problem with the cabin was that it was located right over the disco! (I know how to read a deck plan and this wasn't indicated.) The music, a very loud 5-piece Spanish band, blasted away until 2:30AM every night and I swear the speaker was right over our bed. I begged for another cabin, but was told that there were none other available. We were sarcastically offered ear plugs and then as a "pleasantry" we were upgraded to the first class dining room, where we were seated with the American travel agent and her two friends who were in a suite. We decided not to let the music ruin our trip, so we just stayed out of our cabin until after 2:30AM every night.

We saw some of the shows  in the showroom, some dancers who danced to taped music. The other nights the shows were all conducted in Spanish and  French - not a word of English. We went anyway, stayed for part of it, and tried to make the best of it.

The tours: We were told that there would be tours available in English. For the most part, that was untrue. For the tour in Marseilles, they sent along an interpreter for us. That was a nice gesture, however, it was the young man's first time there and he was so enthralled with all the new information that he forgot to translate it to us. So, we got a few bits and pieces of information when we reminded him. It became annoying and we got almost no information on what we were seeing. We saw lots of things, but still don't know what we were looking at! 

In Messina we took a bus to town and walked around on our own. I had a difficult time using my calling card to call home, but one of the locals, helped us with our call. The people in town were warm and friendly.

The tour of Naples was the only tour conducted in two languages - French and English. The French passengers were very angry about this. When they got back to the ship, they complained to the tour desk that having the tour also in English wasted their time and after that day, they were extremely rude to all of us who spoke English. They would walk past us shoving our shoulders, and then say things in French and laugh. By the time we got to Tunisa, a group of Norwegians had boarded and they too were told that tours would be conducted in English. Well there's power in numbers and we finally got an English speaking guide for Tunisa. We loved Tunisa - so rich and colorful. We got a tour of the village, had time to shop in the bazaar, and we visited a typical Tunisian home.

The food: This was a big disappointment and the food in the first class dining room wasn't any better than in the regular dining room. It was basic and boring with the emphasis on meat, beefsteak, pork shops, and lamb chops. No pasta or chicken dishes offered. The quality of the meat was very good, but repetitive. They did serve nice salads. The vegetables were basic and the same variety was served nightly. They had "spa" cuisine where fish was offered. My husband had this, and he was served a bland piece of fish, the same preparation every night. When he asked for some lemon he was told that there was no lemon on the ship. Like in Barcelona, ice was very scarce and there was no iced tea. When we were in the standard dining room, our waiter created an iced tea for me, but our waitress in first class, said she couldn't do that.

We spoke to the travel agent yesterday and she was in shock. She told me to contact my credit card company for some kind of refund.

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