Shale's Cross Atlantic Cruise - April 2015

Discussion in 'Postcards from Planet Earth' started by Shale, Jul 6, 2015.

  1. Shale

    Shale ~

    Shale's Cross Atlantic Cruise
    to Barcelona, Spain
    April 19, 2015

    Preparation
    April 6, 2015

    My Atlantic cruise to Spain is happening. On April 2nd, after my last day at work on retiring, I went to a travel agent to get a cheap repositioning cruise to Europe. I will be at sea for 10 days on this 11-day cruise for $665. Since my last few Caribbean cruises have been mainly to get out to sea instead of the tourist destinations, (I usually stayed onboard at Cozumel, enjoying the empty pool deck for the day) this would be a new experience crossing the Atlantic. I have no idea what to expect. Will the weather be too cool for the pool deck? Too ruf to enjoy? (I've enjoyed a ruf day at sea before - exciting ride). This was an impulsive trip, just to get away for a couple weeks because I can.

    I ran around today getting things together. Found out you have to let your bank know when you are dealing with European hotels or else your card freezes up and you can't complete the transaction. So, today the bank told my card to let the Euro systems make charges on it.

    Finally, got confirmation that the cruise on Norwegian Epic, hotel in Barcelona and the airplane trip back are all set up. Also today I biked 10 miles to downtown Miami to get some Euros. Last time I was in Europe there were no Euros and U.S. Greenbacks were accepted in every country we went to (England, France, Italy, Greece). Now not so much I hear.

    Shale with Euros & Passport Apr 6
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    This would be my second trip to Europe, my first was 40 years ago in 1975 when Jim and I started our trek overland to India from Luxembourg. This trip was more planned than that one but I still knew very little about the destinations of Madeira, Portugal or Barcelona, Spain. Got some info from Wikipedia and discovered that Barcelona is where Antoni Gaudi´s church of Sagrada Familia which has been under construction since 1888. I saw a program about that on PBS once and now I will actually see the church.

    I printed a map of the Atlantic Ocean showing Miami to Barcelona to get an idea of the trip (and later track somewhat from the navigational info available).

    I had everything lined up, packed my one carry-on bag and backpack and was ready to go.

    Map of Cruise in Atlantic Ocean
    [​IMG]


    Apr 19, 2015 - Depart Miami
    Got off to a shaky start. Caught the bus at 10 a.m. and shoulda been early into the port by 10:40 a.m. but something was going on downtown and the bus was not going down Biscayne or even stopping at Biscayne but was going to take the expressway and exit downtown. So I got off at the last stop on the MacArthur at Parrot Jungle.

    Had to walk over that long tall bridge on the MacArthur, then down Biscayne Blvd to the Port and over that long bridge as well. Of course my ship was the last one in the port. What would have been a 1.75 mile walk turned into a 3.25 mile walk with my luggage. Good thing I am young and spritely - hate to think how some old guy woulda done in that long hike in the heat.

    Shale on Port of Miami Bridge
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    The Ship took off a couple hours late but I suppose in 11 days we can make that up. It was a perfect day, beautiful leaving port with a cool breeze and setting sun as we passed South Point on Miami Beach and were in the Atlantic Ocean.

    [SIZE=12pt]I had already been doing my usual first day exploration of the ship. Found the fitness center, buffet dining, pool, hot tub and the internet. There are lots of white-bearded men on this cruise - not too many kids. Struck up conversations with a couple already, [/SIZE]
     
  2. Shale

    Shale ~

    Apr 20, 2015 - At Sea
    I am a decade above the average age of the passengers on this cruise, which is 59 years. There are so many white beards and hair it could be a polar bear convention. On the plus side I can relate to most passengers, one guy and I literally compared "war" stories. Had breakfast with a German woman and found out that married Germans wear their wedding bands on the third finger RIGHT hand. Today's international trivia.

    Shale Standing on Deck in Shorts Apr 20
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    It is so easy to just start talking to 'strangers' while on a cruise. If I was 40 years younger I'd be hitting on that 51-year-old woman who experienced the free-luv era and already has two lovers in their 30s. (I can see the attraction). Shared a table at lunch one day with a couple and we were talking about the old west and muzzle loader pistols. Guess it helps to have a wealth of interests and knowledge.

    The weather was perfect most of the cruise but the air was nicely cool. I had to ration how long I stayed on the sundeck & pool. BTW, on past Caribbean cruises I was usually one of the half-dozen guys wearing a Bikini style swim suit. This one was more European in style and many ppl were wearing them, young and old.

    Shale Sundeck Bikini Apr 20 hands on head
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    At 10:30 the sea had reached that deep Navy Blue color and that is all there is to the horizon in all directions, which is a fine line separating the dark blue sea from the pale blue sky. This is why I am here.

    From the top deck, 15 stories up the sea looks calm but when looking out the window on deck 5, near the surface you can see the deception of perspective as the waves are quite large and on one day we hit some large swells that made the ship roll a little and the pools were shut down as the water was spilling out of both sides on the rolls. . Sometimes I think of those brave sailors in small sailing craft doing these very waters where the waves would be significant.

    There is a section in the aft of the ship called Spice H2O exclusively for adults (which must mean 50+). They are all sitting around in the lounge chairs reading books. Srsly, paper books - no tablets. I am not the only one using outdated tech, writing my journal on paper with pen.

    Each evening I take my journal notes and send a report from sea in an e-mail group and facebook post. It is my expensive shipboard luxury at 50¢ a minute and I got it down to quick typing and pasting from one to another. I love that I can be connected to the world while out here in the middle of the ocean.

    Shale at Computer Apr 20
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    While I filled up my composition book with a daily journal of minutia, this essay will be edited down. For 10 days I mostly followed the same routine, reflecting on life, writing, eating, exercising, watching and interacting with other passengers and just sitting on deck enjoying the expanse of blue and good cool weather. I also took time to write in another section of my composition book of my First Trip to Europe with Jim in 1975 - something I had neglected to do for the past 40 years.

    Shale on Deck Writing in Journal Apr 25
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  3. Shale

    Shale ~

    My German friend informed me that there was a nude sundeck on the 17th deck of the ship. It was not advertised and there were no signs indicating this but I did explore and found a small area where some others were sunning nude. Mostly gay men but one het couple were there. I think the ship may be trying to play it down but with all the Europeans on these trans-Atlantic cruises, they really should have that option.

    Shale Nude on Deck (Censored) Apr 22
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    There are lots of openly gay couples aboard. Nice to see such open candor. I attended a few meetings of "Friends of Dorothy" and talked with a few couples.

    Among my other daily activities was my exercise routine of Cycling and Running at sea and some upper body workouts with free weights and machines. For a ship full of old ppl the gym was always packed. I suppose 70 is the new 50.

    Shale Exercycle Apr 22
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    Shale Treadmill Apr 24
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    There were movies shown in the evening on the aft deck, which was usually quite cool when the sun went down. I put on all my cool weather gear and luckily they brot us little blankets as well. And hot popcorn.

    Shale Winter Clothes Apr 23
    [​IMG]
     
  4. Shale

    Shale ~

    But, during the days it was warm enuf to wear beach attire and I got out my Del Sol shorts that I only wear on cruises. I love the cut of these shorts and the color changing gimmick but Del Sol quit making them - so I hope they last a while.

    Shale's Del Sol Shorts artificial light Apr 20
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    Shale's Del Sol Shorts Sun light Apr 20
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    BTW, this ship had someone like me who did a list in the ship's newsletter. The average age on this cruise is 59. The top 5 countries are US (2,319) Canada (491), Germany (280) UK (214) and China (54).
     
  5. Shale

    Shale ~

    April 27, 2015 - Madeira

    Today, for the first time in 8 days we see land as we come into Funchal, Madeira a Portuguese island off Africa. And, I discovered you can smell land as I walked off the ship.

    Madeira Port Funchal from Ship Apr 27
    [​IMG]

    Smells are very acute today, like when we went into a winery to taste Madeira wines, there was a sweet musty smell and when we went to a lookout cliff (Cabo Girao) over the sea and island I was taken by the smell of eucalyptus trees growing in the area.

    View from Cabo Girao Madeira Apr 27
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    Shale at Cabo Girao Madeira Apr 27
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    This is a very beautiful island. The small houses are all over the hillsides with terraced gardens full of banana, grape vines, sugar cane and other veggies. Oh, and flowers, they are everywhere! Cultivars and wild growing in every bit of the rich soil that this island holds. You can tell it has been farmed for centuries.

    Terraces & Houses from Mountain View Apr 27
    [​IMG]
     
  6. Shale

    Shale ~

    Can't say enuf how beautiful Madeira is, the way the hills are terraced for farming, the many small private houses on the small plots of land with crops of bananas, grape vines or sugar cane and other crops. The plots were hand tilled and well tended. No weeds were growing between the banana plants and you could see the nice reddish brown earth under them.

    Many of the terraces themselves were architecturally appealing, made from black volcanic rock, many without mortar that seemed to have stood for a long time. Altho there were stores in Funchal selling all the modern appliances and young ppl in the downtown area appeared as urban as any city, there is an overall quaintness about the place. From seeing ppl's laundry drying on balconies to the wooden fishing boats at the landing. I saw solar panels and water collection barrels on rooftops and I suspect the organic gardening is being practiced. It looks like a place where I could live. It brought back half-century old memories of Buyukada, the romantic island of my first love.

    Madeira Fishing Boat Green Apr 27
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    Madeira Fishing Village from Above Mtn Apr 27


    We left Madeira that evening and were at sea again for the next day.

    Leaving Madeira RC Explorer of Seas in back Apr 27
    [​IMG]

    Apr 28, 2015
    At about 11 PM we went thru the Straits of Gibralter. On the Starboard side of the ship I could see Africa (Morocco) and on the Port side Europe (Spain). Even tho it was dark, I could see the Rock of Gibralter against the glow of shore lights. (They really should throw some spotlites on it for night voyagers.) Anyhow, it was quite an ecstatic moment, a first on several points.

    We are now in the Mediterranean Sea for our last day - Barcelona tomorrow morning.
     
    1 person likes this.
  7. Shale

    Shale ~

    Barcelona
    April 30, 2015 - Thursday

    Our ship arrived at the Port of Barcelona on time and going thru Immigration was pleasant. They scanned my passport and actually stamped it - the first stamp ever on this passport. I was out by 8:45 a.m. to begin my new adventures in Europe for the first time in 40 years.

    Barcelona Port Bldg Apr 30
    [​IMG]

    I found the public bus OK and they actually gave me change for a 20€ bill for the 2€ fare. Like that would ever happen in the States. Also, the driver was quite helpful in explaining where I was and directions of where I would be heading when he dropped me off on the main downtown hub along the port.

    I followed his directions and the printout map I brot and found the Hotel Nuevo Triunfo with no problem, passing a 14th Century fort along the way. The age of European cities is quite striking to someone from a city that just celebrated its 100th anniversary this year.

    Barcelona 14th Cent Castle downtown Apr 30
    [​IMG]

    When I got to my hotel, they let me access my room in the morning instead of waiting until 2 p.m. This is home for the next three days.

    Bed Hotel Nuevo Triunfo Barcelona Apr 30
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    The room is small and sufficient but the bathroom was a bit cramped even for a thin person like me. Also, the toilets here have a flush button on top of the tank, which took me a while to find after I threw my toiletry bag over it.

    Bathroom Hotel Nuevo Triunfo Barcelona Apr 30
    [​IMG]
     
  8. Shale

    Shale ~

    After getting situated in the room, finding the English channels on TV and logging on to the hotel computers in the lobby, I took off walking again, back to the waterfront where I started. There I found one of those all day bus tours for 22 € and started my very long and busy day at 11:30 a.m.

    Shale on Bus Turistic Apr 30
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    My first departure from the bus was at Antoni Gaudi´s famous church of Sagrada Familia which has been under construction since 1888 and still not finished.

    Shale Selfie Sagrada Familia Church Apr 30
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    This is also where I had lunch at Subway across the street. Surprisingly, all the U.S. fast food places are in this city (Starbucks, KFC, McDonald's, Burger King)

    Shale outside Sagrad Familia SubWay Apr 30
    [​IMG]

    BTW, I have learned that Barcelona is Catalan and there are ppl here who want to make an independent Catalunya. They have their own flag which was flying from balconies all over the city.

    Catalunya Flag on Balcony - Barcelona May 2
    [​IMG]
     
  9. Shale

    Shale ~

    Got back on the bus and my next stop was the Telefèric de Montjuic cable car on a mountain that gives a grand view of the city.

    Cable Car Barcelona Apr 30
    [​IMG]

    Barcelona from Cable Car Apr 30
    [​IMG]

    After the cable car ride, I got another bus heading back to the waterfront where I started, arriving by 4:30 p.m.

    I then wandered around a while getting fotos of interesting big, old buildings.

    Downtown Greek Bldg Barcelona Apr 30
    [​IMG]

    Downtown Baroque Bldg ADUANA Barcelona Apr 30
    [​IMG]
     
  10. Shale

    Shale ~

    Heading back to my hotel I was walking along La Rambla, which is a gathering place of ppl (Similar to our Lincoln Road Mall in SoBe). While enjoying that stroll I took a wrong turn trying to get to the main street near my hotel and ended up in the old city completely lost.

    Ciutat Vella "Street" Barcelona May 1
    [​IMG]

    I think someone said you should get lost in Barri Gotic for the experience in Barcelona. Well, I later found that I was actually lost in Ciutat Vella (Old City) but the experience was the same, trying to figure out which of these diagonal, winding alleyways would lead me to a wide thorofare where I could figure where I was. Eventually, I did get out. It was not a frightening experience; all the ppl seemed quite normal and friendly and there were shops tucked into these narrow streets. It was just a little claustrofobic and at the moment felt like a never-ending maze.

    Laundry on Balcony Apr 30
    [​IMG]

    I found that ppl here do laundry in their apartments and hang it outside to dry. When I was a kid in the 1950s this was common in St. Louis but by the late '50s most everyone had a dryer. Europeans seem so much more practical and energy conserving.

    Back at my hotel, I discovered that my bedside table was actually a refrigerator so I went to the convenience store across the street and got some snacks.

    Refrigerator Hotel Nuevo Triunfo Barcelona Apr 30
    [​IMG]

    Snacks Hotel Nuevo Triunfo Barcelona Apr 30
    [​IMG]

    I love ppl watching and Barcelona is a very cosmopolitan place. Young ppl with crazy hairstyles that can only look cute on young ppl. The usual skateboarders and teens hanging out with caps on backward. I am aware that more ppl here smoke cigarettes. Didn´t Europe get the memo that smoking is deadly? Anyhow, I am also struck by how many beautiful ppl are here. This place has been mixing genes for 2K years, starting with the Romans and there are just some strikingly beautiful features.
     
  11. Shale

    Shale ~

    Barcelona
    May 1, 2015 - Friday

    I slept in until 8:30 a.m., worn out from my very active day ayer. This morning is overcast, good for fotos and just as I have done in other cities, I take pix of interesting buildings, which this city has hundreds of years worth.

    I noticed the sycamore trees are everywhere here. Whole streets have canopies of sycamore.

    Sycamores Barcelona Apr 30
    [​IMG]

    My destination today is Parc de la Ciutadella, which I found on the map and appears to be 1.5 miles away (not factoring my wandering within that distance). It is a city park, like St. Louis and others, left over from a World's Fair - this one in 1888.

    Barcelona Rail Station May 1
    [​IMG]

    On the way I came across the rail station, which was quite old and grand. I got to the park, which has a zoo that had a crowd so I didn't even bother. Actually, I wanted to find a particular large fountain where one of my facebook friends took a pic.

    Found it and got my fotos at the fountain and also other fotos in and around the park.

    Shale at Parc de la Ciutadella Fountain May 1
    [​IMG]

    Castell Dels Tres Dragons May 1 Top
    [​IMG]
     
  12. Shale

    Shale ~

    Brick Arc Barcelona May 1
    [​IMG]

    Greek Bldg Parc de la Ciutadella May 1
    [​IMG]

    Downtown Ornate Bldgs Barcelona May 1
    [​IMG]

    In the park they had a couple of mounted police but the horse started taking a dump when I tried to get the pic.

    [​IMG]

    The cop actually dismounted got his big plastic bag and cleaned up the mess. (Do cops in the U.S. do that?)

    [​IMG]
     

    Attached Files:

  13. Shale

    Shale ~

    On the way I also got some pix of the street fair / flea market that was going on at the waterfront, where such antiques as a Pentax K1000 35 mm film SLR was for sale (Like the two that I had in the 1980s & '90s.

    Friday Flea Mkt Barcelona May 1
    [​IMG]

    Cameras Friday Flea Mkt Barcelona May 1
    [​IMG]

    There were also some real antiques and natural fossils and such, very much like flea markets everywhere. I suppose the thing one learns in traveling is how similar ppl are all over the world.

    One of my missions in Barcelona was to get a tattoo commemorating my crossing the Atlantic on a ship. I drew a crude sketch of what I wanted and last nite in my walks found a modern looking tattoo shop. Ochi, the tattoo artist cleaned up my sketch really well and I got the tat.

    Shale's Atlantic Ocean Voyage Tat Barcelona May 1
    [​IMG]


    I saw this Stop sign from a bus in Barcelona, Spain and wondered why the English version of this international sign, instead of Pare or Alto.

    [​IMG]


    In July I noticed the same English Stop signs in Milano, Italy. Has "STOP" become an international word?
     
  14. Shale

    Shale ~

    Barcelona
    May 2, 2015 - Saturday

    This morning I found a restaurant near the hotel to have a breakfast of fried eggs, potatoes, cafe Americano and "verduras." I had no idea what verduras were, other than greens - turns out it was a grilled pepper and quite good.

    Shale's Desayuno May 2
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    I walked around the neighborhood near my hotel and found some interesting graffiti, which seems to be an art form everywhere.

    Grafiti Wall Art May 1
    [​IMG]

    Grafiti Wall Art Toke May 2
    [​IMG]

    Also, I noticed these huge industrial smokestacks in what is otherwise a residential neighborhood. On closer look, they are just remnants of a factory - preserved as beautiful brickwork.

    Industrial Art Brick Smokestacks Barcelona May 2
    [​IMG]
     
  15. Shale

    Shale ~

    Today I took a city bus to the Airport to try to check on my flight tomorrow since I could not get a boarding pass online. It was a long walk to the bus stop, up to Plaza D'Espanya and the trip convinced me to get a shuttle to pick me up at my hotel tomorrow.

    Plaza D'Espanya Barcelona May 2
    [​IMG]

    I am kinda sad having to leave this place tomorrow. The weather has been perfect for walking around and enjoying the new sights and actually meeting friendly ppl.

    After supper of a bocadillo & cerveza I did my final walk downtown by the water and back up La Rambla. Being Sabado noche there is more activity this evening.

    Shale at La Rambla on Anchor May 2
    [​IMG]

    This mime dressed as Alien drew a crowd, looking like a statue until he moved.

    La Rambla Barcelona Alien May 2
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    This artist was about to get married and having an evening out with her girlfriends selling bawdy drawings of hapless penises, which apparently she would be giving up except for one.

    La Rambla Barcelona Franca Art May 2
    [​IMG]

    Went back to my hotel room, got things in order to pack, logged on for a while sending my last e-mail messages then settled in for some TV news and sleep.
     
  16. Shale

    Shale ~

    Leave Barcelona
    May 3, 2015 - Sunday

    When I went down to the lobby, Carles, the young clerk whom I talked with the most was there. He arranged for the shuttle to come pick me up and I left for the Airport.

    Flying to Copenhagen, we went over the Pyrenees, a first sight for me. In fact this would be my first time being in Spain.

    The Pyrenees from Plane May 3
    [​IMG]

    Copenhagen Airport May 3
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    At Copenhagen I figured I should eat something for the 10-hour flight, so found this OVERPRICED meal of veggies & a beer. Denmark is not on Euro but still Kroner, so I had to use my plastic and did not know exactly how much this meal cost until my bank statement came in - $27.
    But, ya gotta eat.

    Shale's Lunch Copenhagen Airport May 3
    [​IMG]

    This ends my first trip to Europe since 1977 when I flew back from my second trip to India. I have added a couple more countries that I have visited in my lifetime.

    Shale World Travels Map 14%
    [​IMG]
     
  17. Wizardofodd

    Wizardofodd Senior Member

    Another great thread, Shale! These threads almost make me feel like I know you....and I actually do read them in their entirety. Great pics and descriptions. If there are any other travel threads that you posted that I haven't posted in....it's probably because I haven't seen them....so PM me links if you want.
     
    1 person likes this.
  18. soulcompromise

    soulcompromise Member HipForums Supporter

    I like the picture of food at the airport! That reminds me of the last time I flew anywhere which was Hawaii. Cool!
     

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