Day 11 - Travel Home
Our alarm woke us early right before our room service arrived. The breakfast was so great last week we ordered the same thing. Joe and Ammie appeared at our door at the same time as well to say goodbye. Their flight was in the morning but ours was not until two. It was sad saying goodbye but I know we will travel together again! Travel buddies for life!
Chris and I enjoyed our coffee and breakfast. We spent a leisurely morning in the room. I wrote some of the blog as I needed to catch up. The suitcases and carryons were also repacked to make our backpacks lighter.
We arrived at the airport with plenty of time. The airport is very organized and easy to navigate. I wanted to walk the terminal before heading to the gate to get some exercise before the flight.
Unfortunately, we did not have business class for the flight home but did have premium economy. It is not bad though for this flight as I wanted to stay awake. The seats are the same size as domestic first class and the food options are better than coach. We both preordered our meals which was chicken with lentils. They came around with ice cream mid flight that I passed on. Before landing, we were served a very tasty salad, fruit and chocolate pudding. My only complaint is the amount of dairy in all the meals but I know people love dairy.
This trip was fantastic and we went to some great places. I really loved this itinerary and our days in port. We will not be home for long as we will be on an NCL cruise to Canada at the end of the month. Remember that Chris and I are now travel advisors so please visit our website, www.AlpacaMyBagsCruises.com so we can help you plan the vacation of your dreams.
Day 10 - October 27th, 2022
We met Joe and Ammie in the Top Sail before heading up to the restaurant for breakfast. I tried the French toast which was nice but had to ask for syrup which I would think be served with it but maybe that is an American thing. The breakfast was nicer though than the typical disembarkation breakfast which is because not everyone was disembarking today.
Leaving the ship was just as easy as embarkation was a week ago. We were escorted off by a butler to an area where our bags were waiting. It was much faster than waiting for bags on an airport type carousel. There were lots of cabs waiting so we shared one to our hotel, Le Meridien, which was the same one we stayed in before the cruise.
Our rooms were not ready early like before so we both checked our luggage so we could do some sightseeing. We had not decided on a plan so we took a few moments to discuss our options. One was Montserrat and the other was to see Park Guell via the Hop on/Hop off bus. Montserrat would take up most of our day and the cable car to the top seems pretty daunting so we took the easier option. Chris and I had previously visited Park Guell but it was very crowded then and we did not get to see the famous bench up close, just from afar.
We passed a few sights like Sagrada Familia on the way to Park Guell. It is a bit of an uphill walk from the stop but it wasn’t too bad. Chris did lead us around the park and maybe took more stairs then needed but we did get nice photos as well as exercise. The bench was pretty crowded but we did get some very cool photos.
It did not take long for the bus to arrive at the stop. We initially thought to switch routes to see the whole city but we were getting hungry. The new plan was to take it back to Las Ramblas and go to the same marketplace for lunch. The ride back passed Camp Nou which is the largest stadium in Europe.
The marketplace was hopping as it was Saturday and prime lunch hours. All the tapas bars were packed but a restaurant on the side waved us in. This place was busy too but we were seated upstairs right away. A pitcher of sangria was the beverage of choice for us to go with our selection of tapas. Today’s selection included Padron peppers, olives, patatas bravas, mushrooms, scallops, gambas al ajillo, and razor clams. Everything was excellent.
I wanted to go for a walk after our lunch and suggested to visit the Barcelona Cathedral. This is another stunning Gothic masterpiece. We purchased tickets for the Church and the rooftop. After touring the Church, we found the queue for the roof. Ammie was not sure about this and Joe headed up before us. Chris and I waited in line and Ammie joined us. Joe texted her it is an elevator to the top. We met Joe up there and found great views of Barcelona. The Grandiosa could be seen in the distance once again. The experience of walking on the roofs was definitely unlike anything I have done before.
Ammie had the idea to get some more vermouth so Chris lead the way to another bar to try. Along the way, we passed a very cool looking magic shop which of course Chris wanted to visit. I told him to get something for his anniversary and he purchased two tricks. He later learned it is the oldest magic store in Europe, and potentially in the world.
We hit two bars to try some more vermouth. The first stop was Bar Brutal. It had a very cool atmosphere and the vermouth was good. Next was Bodega La Puntual for more vermouth and a snack since we saw a video that they have the spiciest patatas bravas. Upon seeing the Atomic “Bombas de la Barceloneta,” Chris ordered those as well. The bravas were definitely the most spicy we had and the bombas were a spicy pork croquette.
Our room was ready at the hotel as we waited to get a suite. We walked back stopping to buy some souvenirs and to try a rather gimmicky dessert. On one corner of Las Ramblas, there is a waffle stand that sells anatomical shaped confections. It smelled really great when we passed it so we decided to give it a try. Upon entering, we were told to go upstairs and they would bring us our order. Upstairs was a little bar and our order was taken quickly. We just ordered one to share and it was actually quite tasty. I think this place would be a big hit in Las Vegas.
The suite this time was not as big as before but still very nice. The hotel had a bottle of cava on ice as a thank you for waiting for the room. Joe and Ammie brought uDog and we played while drinking cava. We brought the bottle of Prosecco from the ship and they had the bottle of red from their cabin. It was a fun night sharing wine and playing cards. We were so stuffed from a late lunch and snacks, no one wanted more food. It was a great last day of our trip and I have loved spending time with our friends.
Day 9 - Palma De Mallorca
I was up with the moon and the sunrise once again. It was another great view from our balcony as we headed to Mallorca for our final port of the cruise. The weather was looking great. We headed up to the Yacht Club sundeck to meet our friends for coffee and breakfast.
As we sat on the couches, Giada, the Yacht Club Director came over to ask about our cruise. I had told her it was really great except for some of the items in the Yacht Club Restaurant. She seemed truly disappointed to hear this and offered us a specialty dining but we told her that we had booked the dining package and still had one meal left. Then she offered us tickets for the shuttle to the city center. We had planned to get a cab but since she offered these we used the bus. It was very sweet of her to give us this and we thanked her. She told us to meet in the lounge to be escorted to the shuttles.
The ride was pretty quick to the city center and you can see the stunning cathedral as soon as you step off the bus. We bought tickets for the cathedral and the terraces. This Gothic cathedral is one of the most stunning I have visited. It has one of the tallest naves in Europe at 44 meters tall. The Rose Window is a masterpiece that casts the most amazing colors upon the pillars. We found the entrance for the terraces, this time it was not an elevator, but a spiral staircase. I led the way for our group up the winding staircase that seemed never ending. I noticed a small number on the column (it was a number in the sixties) and realized it must be the number of steps. The official number is 215 but we made it and it was worth it! Chris noticed an AED at the top and thankfully no one needed that. It was not an easy climb and I was so proud of Ammie. Remember this was her anniversary trip for being done chemotherapy after all and I had been pushing her all week! The reward of the climb is an amazing view of Mallorca and being up close to the flying buttresses and Rose Window. We all took many pictures and soaked in the views before climbing back down the staircase which was definitely much easier.
A reward was definitely earned after that so our next stop was Mercat de l’Olivar. This is another spot I learned about from iFit. One of my favorite trainers, Tommy Rivs walked this market in his latest series. It was busy but we found a great place to get some drinks and tapas. We ordered a nice selection that included olives, tortilla, gambas al ajillo, pan con tomate, patatas bravas, calamari, and ham and cheese. It was so delicious and my cava was incredibly refreshing. For dessert, I really wanted to try ensaimada which is a pastry from Mallorca. I wasn’t sure which to try so I let them pick the one they thought best. It was a cream filled one that tasted out of this world. It reminded me of the pastel de nata from Portugal with its caramelized cream flavor. The dough was so light and fluffy and ridiculously fresh. The walk back to the shuttle was nice after filling up our bellies with all the deliciousness.
The rest of the day was our usual routine which meant back to the cabins to freshen up for dinner. The view from our balconies was the stunning cathedral. We met back up in the lounge to enjoy the views of Mallorca together with a cocktail. I snapped a photo of one of the tea time treats as “dry cake” made us laugh when we saw it. I can’t say that sounds too appetizing. Out of the window, a nod to the original trip was spotted, the Silver Endeavor which is the former Crystal Endeavor. Our original plans were to be on the Crystal Symphony this week until bankruptcy happened for them. I would love to try a luxury expedition so maybe I will get to try her out someday. We enjoyed our cocktails until it was time to head to our last dinner of the cruise.
For the last specialty meal, we decided on Teppanyaki as the French bistro menu did not really excite us. We were the first guests inside but others did eventually join us. After a little confusion, we learned that all the options, including the vegetarian, cost more than the price we had already paid. The specialty is a bit confusing compared with NCL and it did not seem to be very popular with guests. Chris and I ordered the vegetarian and Joe and Ammie the Samurai. We all started with a glass of sake. The first course was sushi and vegetable tempura. The vegetable sushi was very plain but the tempura was tasty. Next, was a salad with goma dressing and miso soup. Both the salad and soup were very good. The main for us was an egg wash roll and sesame tofu steak. The tofu was fantastic and the chef described how to get such a delicious crunch to it. He told me he trained with some of the finest vegetarian chefs in Israel and Lebanon. Our chef was very entertaining and sang lots of songs. The Samurai had salmon, prawns and sirloin for the main course. Both also included fried rice and vegetables. This was one of my favorite meals on the ship. I was craving some vegetables and this hit the spot.
Dessert was caramelized pineapple with ginger ice cream which was very refreshing. It was a great meal with lots of entertainment.
Of course, we ended our night in our little corner of the Top Sail lounge. Alberto was playing guitar which alternated with Olga on piano. We had a few dances and drinks until we decided to call it a night. Tomorrow, we disembark in Barcelona but will be spending one more night there before returning home.
Day 8 - Sea Day
I was up early to see the sun as well as the moon from our balcony. We both really liked the forward facing balcony. It was very well protected making it useable in port as well as at sea. It is a unique view to see the bow of the ship from your cabin.
We went up to the Yacht Club sundeck for coffee and a light breakfast. The pastries and breads have all been superb. I’m a tough judge of bread after baking my way though a bread cookbook in 2020. We had some mimosas and planned our day.
Ammie had the suggestion to go for a walk to get our exercise rings closed on our watch. She must know me well because this is one of my favorite activities on a ship. I love walking laps while seeing the sea and breathing the salt air. Just remember to use indoor walk unless you want to feel like a superhero. You will easily get a four minute mile without any effort if you select "outdoor walk!"
We wanted to try out the XD cinema and the F1 Simulator today as well. It was a little confusing purchasing the tickets as they tried to sell us more than we needed. The XD cinema was fun as it was the same movie that was on the NCL Joy. I love shooting the zombies even though I came in last place. Chris and Joe both drove the race car while we watched. They both thought it was fun.
Next on the agenda was to check out the stores. Grandiosa has quite a few shops and boutiques. As the stores are not permitted to be open in port, this was the first time we did any shopping. There was a nice selection of items for purchase and people were definitely spending some Euro.
We were invited to two parties very close together though. The Yacht Club was hosting a cocktail party at 11:30 while the repeat cruiser cocktail was a 11:45. Although it was our first MSC cruise, our status on NCL was matched for all of us making us gold on MSC. We opted to just attend the YC one. It was very nice. The had some bubbly, spritzes and a special martini passed about as well as snacks. The martini was a sweeter one but tasty for the time of day. The cruise director announced some officers, butlers and the captain. They gave a toast and the party was basically over.
I wanted to play some more UDog so we met up on the pool deck. It was pretty windy to play cards so we played at our usual table in the lounge. The game went pretty long so afterwards we went upstairs to the pool deck for lunch. I had spotted some shrimp earlier and thought it would be good on a salad but they were all gone. I wasn’t a fan of the other choices as I was really craving vegetables. We went down one deck to the restaurant and ordered a king crab appetizer and lobster ravioli. The appetizer was good but the ravioli were not edible. They were super salty as well as strangely fishy tasting. Chris suggested the regular buffet as I enjoyed it yesterday but it was a madhouse. I just wanted food now at this point and decided to order room service. I also wanted to play more UDog as I was addicted. We grabbed some drinks from and lounge and was off to our cabin where we ordered chips and salsa, and pizza. The order came quickly and the butler who brought it saw the decorations in the room and said, “Oh it’s a party!” The chips and salsa were not what I expected as the salsa was sweet chili sauce but the pizza was on point. Our butler showed up while we were still enjoying the food and our game with our daily treat. He asked if we wanted more drinks and he brought another round for us. This is one very nice perk because on NCL the butlers will only bring drinks for a charge. It turned out to be a fun time in the cabin even if Joe and I lost to Ammie and Chris!
Tonight was the Gala Night dinner so we dressed up for the evening. We met at the bar in the Yacht Club tonight as we had not sat there much at all. We watched the sunset and I could not help but think the sun was setting on this cruise as well with only one more day ahead of us. We went upstairs to the Yacht Club restaurant for dinner after we finished our drinks.
The Gala Night menu was not quite what I expected as I assumed there would be lobster offered. It was not the fanciest of menus for a “gala.” Most of us tried the shrimp cocktail and once again the shrimp were not the best. Ammie wanted horseradish and our server returned with a giant jar. We all tried the shellfish bisque which was not very flavorful and very difficult to find any shellfish. For our mains, Ammie went with the salmon again. Chris had the potato gnocchi and Joe had the fillet of beef Rossini. I was really scared to order the beef so I went with the shrimps on lime-flavored rice cream. The waiter tried to make me switch and that was worrisome and I probably should have ordered the vegetarian strudel instead. No one really raved about their entrees and I hated mine. The shrimp were once again this mushy texture. It must be the quality of the shrimp they are using which is surprising since the shrimp in Barcelona were amazing! We had the same waiter as our anniversary night as he wanted to bring me another dish but everyone else was almost done. He did bring some grilled vegetables for me but they were pretty bad especially the eggplant which was spongy and tasteless. We ordered a truffle risotto for the table but it was very rich tasting with lots of truffle oil flavor. I am not sure who could eat a whole portion of that. Dessert was better as Chris had the ice cream pyramid which was like Baked Alaska and I had the After Eight Sensation. Ammie had some ice cream and Joe skipped dessert becuase he wanted to try the gelato. I cannot really say today was a very “gala” day for food in the Yacht Club and when it is billed as such its all the more disappointing.
We spent the rest of the evening in our usual corner of the Yacht Club lounge. Chris and I danced some rumba, cha cha and even one hustle. It seems as if Alberto learned a few new songs to play. He even played Ammie’s request of Bella Ciao made popular by Money Heist. He did a fantastic rendition of the song. While not everything was outstanding today, it was still a great day. I shared lots of laughs with three of my favorite people, my travel buddies who I adore. We have made so many memories so far and I know tomorrow we will make even more in Palma de Mallorca.
Day 7 - Civitavecchia
Our ship arrived early into Civitavecchia and upon opening the curtains, I was face to face with our nemesis, the NCL Escape. I could not wait to hear what Joe would say. If you have read previously blogs, you know the history of our cancelled NCL Escape cruise and our replacement trip on Carnival Mardi Gras. The Escape was fresh out of dry dock after having to do more significant repairs from the incident in the Dominican Republic.
We met outside on the Yacht Club sundeck for breakfast. It is really nice having this outdoor option in addition to the restaurant. Ammie ordered a Bloody Mary and everyone else had a mimosa to start the day. Ammie had another great idea to go for a walk around the ship after breakfast. We explored the Aurea sundeck as no one was out there but the attendant. He let us look around. It seems like a very nice option as well.
Next on the agenda was the ropes course. Ammie and I decided to give it a shot since it was not crowded and the course is not as intense as the ones on NCL. It was the perfect level for me. I felt nervous on a few parts but Chris was an excellent coach and cheerleader. We both did really well and I was proud of all of us for completing the course. Afterwards, we walked around the arcade area. Chris and Joe played a game of air hockey and a couple little games.
After all the fun, we decided to get a drink at the inside pool bar. We walked outside and Name that Tune was happening so we played. The host had us play against each other and I ended up winning first place and Chris was second! It was time for lunch after and we decided to try out the buffet today to sample the different pizzas. I had a charcoal pizza with mushrooms as well as a regular. They had a great antipasto station and nice salad bar. I really enjoyed lunch today.
Joe had the idea to teach us the board game they had brought with them, UDog. We met him outside on the sundeck to learn the game. Ammie decided to hit the spa for some relaxation in the salt room. It was a really fun game and Ammie showed up after our practice game. We played a real game and she was a great partner. It was time to head back to the cabins to get ready for the evening. We both watched the Escape leave from our balcony before meeting up in the lounge for a pre-dinner drink.
Since we had such a disappointing meal last night, we made reservations at Butcher’s Cut for dinner. With the dining package you can pick one appetizer, an entree, and a dessert from a select part of the menu. I wanted the filet but noticed that the 8 ounce filet did not say it was dry aged like the others that require an additional cost. I asked the waiter if the quality was different, as I would have preferred the smaller size, and I wanted a good steak . He said the larger was a better quality and was amongst the steaks that are imported from America. I was afraid to try the lesser quality one after last night so I ordered the upcharge one and a shrimp cocktail. Joe had the bone marrow and shared the tomahawk steak with Ammie. This was his first time trying bone marrow and he enjoyed it. Chris ordered the Kobe sliders. The sliders were quite large. He thought they were ok and I tasted one and was not a fan. The shrimp cocktail was not great but edible. The shrimp were slightly mushy. The steak, however, was excellent. It was served with four different sauces and I really liked the mushroom one. The quality of the steaks were so much better than the Yacht Club. For dessert, Joe ordered cheesecake, Ammie had ice cream, and Chris and I had the banana date cake. I ordered a Chimay to have with dessert. We all enjoyed the Butcher’s Cut much more than last night’s meal for sure!
After dinner, we went to Masters of the Sea, the British style pub. We listened to some music and played a game I invented. Joe’s phone on IMDB was in German for some reason. It was on a list of the best movies so I had the idea to read the description and everyone guesses the name. None of us speak German, so if anyone heard us reading this I apologize for butchering the language. We worked our way through the list and had a few laughs. When we ran out of movies to guess, we played some Heads Up using my phone. We decided to back to the Yacht Club but stopped to watch the Flower Glory Party in the Galleria. It was a 60s and 70s dance party. We enjoyed a few songs from the upper level before deciding to return to our cabins and retire for the evening.
We love to travel and experience new places and cultures.