A Trio of Spanish Ports

Saturday 6th October – Barcelona

We both had another good night’s sleep, and although some of the early docking noises disturbed me, it was 7:30 when I finally got up to make the tea.

It was a dry morning with a bit of cloud, but also a lot of blue sky around, and it promised to be another fine day.

At breakfast up in the buffet we decided that we had seen enough of Barcelona on our many visits here, so Deb and I will enjoy a peaceful ship for the day.

It began with a swim, although the initial dip into the favoured pool brought a shriek from me as it was freezing cold. Fortunately, the other large pool was warm enough for me to breathe. I struggled once again with my shoulder making it difficult to swim front crawl, but breast-stroke was better and I managed a decent few minutes of swimming up and down. When I got out I sat in the morning sunshine watching Deb continue in the water.

Once dry and changed we actually went ashore in the hopes of there being something in the terminal to look at, but there was nothing. We couldn’t even come straight back because the boarding security desks and scanners weren’t open yet. Instead we sat in the sunshine watching the queue of people boarding the shuttle bus. As soon as the gates opened, we returned to Azura.

It was coffee and cake time, before spending half an hour reading our books in the Blue Room. Then we went up on deck and sat in the sunshine until lunchtime.

The buffet beckoned for lunch with just a bowl of soup and a bread roll. We may eat a lot in the evenings, but we are doing quite well as keeping the intake down during the daytime. After our snack we put on our sun worship clothes and spent an hour seriously soaking up the golden rays. It was occasionally a bit cloudy but still perfectly enjoyable.

The harbour is a busy and noisy place, and back in the cabin we were thrilled by the view from our balcony of yellow cranes stacking containers on a ship. As well as the roar of the cranes there was a constant ringing of alarms as vehicles moved back and forth. You can guess that our cabin is not on the interesting side today.

Late in the afternoon, the MSC ship that had been parked behind us left the port. They sailed by us with horns blaring, and hundreds of passengers waving goodbye to us as they passed by very closely. This MSC block of flats is very new and appeared of a similar height to Azura, but it was seriously shorter than our block of flats.

After a basic evening meal in the buffet, Deb and I found a good central spot to sit in Manhattans for the comedy show from Rudy West. We had a long wait but it was worth it. Rudy West is a comic that is on the adult side. He describes his act as topical, and observational. This means he tells stories and jokes about cruising. A lot of it covers toilet flushing, or cabin stewards being quick to pounce on an empty cabin, but he did move on to a more topical theme of everyone getting lost on Azura, and the mysteries of the lifts.

After a few minutes of cruise related stories, he moved towards far more adult material, talking about getting drunk and coming home late to a domineering wife.

He got a lot of laughs, although the material was probably a little extreme for the children in the room, but he never swore, and kept it innuendo descriptions, when grown up topics were included.

We enjoyed it.

When that show ended we went to the other end of the ship for the Headliners performing their new show called ‘Astonishing’.
Before we went into the theatre we took a few minutes to watch sail-away out on Promenade deck. It is so different leaving in the dark.

The theatre doors were not opened until 10:00 for the 10:30 performance and the queue was good humoured. The venue was virtually full by the start time, and I think almost everybody enjoyed it, and were amazed by the magic tricks.

This new show is going to be very special, but I wonder if it can be performed on all the ships, and I suspect that repeatedly seeing it will quickly make it become boring as it will be the same each time.
If I had any say on the matter, I would suggest this moves between different cruise fleets to allow a wider audience to see it, rather than becoming ‘just one more repeated show’ for P&O passengers.

When we came out of the theatre, we went up to the buffet once more to have a late-night cup of hot chocolate to round off the evening. Then it was time for bed as Azura sailed slowly southwards to tomorrow’s stop on the island of Ibiza.

Sunday 7th October – Ibiza

I was awake and ready to get up at 7:15 to make the tea. It was not as good a night’s sleep as the last two nights.

The weather appeared OK but there were some black clouds overhead as we docked.

After breakfast we enquired at the Future Cruises desk about a possible cruise in 2020 going to the USA and Canada.
I also needed to go to reception to see if anyone has found my reading glasses which I believe I forgot to pick up in the restaurant. Sadly the lost property box proved unsuccessful.

Being Sunday we realised that Ibiza will not be very active, so we waited until 10:00 before catching the shuttle bus. Our docking position is the furthest possible point from the Old Town area, so walking was not even considered today. I know this is a major holiday resort, but I was shocked at just how many of the buildings we passed were hotels and apartment blocks. When we got into the commercial area of the port it then changed to cafes, bars, and tourist shops as well as the ferry tickets offices and water-sport businesses.

I am sorry but Ibiza does not appeal.

We strolled on from the shuttle drop off point to the Old Town area which was s a pleasant break from the tourist shops. We climbed the narrow steep road up quite a way to get some wonderful views and photo opportunities. Sadly my knee began to complain before we reached the top, so we started the return journey. On the way back along the harbour front we looked at a lot of shops that were now opening but although we were looking for a few things, the only money we spent was on a fridge magnet.

Deb noticed that one outlet was called the Submarine Shop, which sounds like a business with a very narrow field of customers, but when we returned to the ship we actually saw a real submarine leaving the harbour. Obviously they had a good morning for sales….

… or perhaps it was just on a test drive

For lunch Deb and I had a slice (two actually) of pizza from the deck side outlet and then prepared ourselves for a few minutes in the sunshine. Sadly, it had become quite windy as the morning progressed and it was difficult to find a quiet sheltered spot. We gave up after half an hour and went indoors.

The entertainment choices tonight are a Bruno Mars tribute act by Jeff Dingle in the Manhattan Lounge, or Jimmy James in the theatre.
I think we will pass on these.

Having tired of Freedom Dining, and not been impressed with the evening buffet food, our plans were to eat in the Beach house again. At least we get good food, and good service there.

Well, the Beach House was as good as always, but on this ship, the restaurant is fully inside, and when someone has a ‘Sizzler’ or ‘Lava Rock Steak’, everyone has to savour the smoky smell of their food. The waiters appear from the cooking area with the sizzling smoky trays, and their faces are screwed up as they try and avoid breathing in the cooking smoke.

After our meal we had three quarters of an hour up in the Planet’s Bar. Our wine was savoured as we chatted and watched the video wall show various amazing places throughout Europe. It is very pleasant to see so many places we have visited, during our travels.
Our only other activity of the evening was the late-night Syndicate Quiz. I think this will be the last one of this cruise. There are only four or five teams each night, and although we have won it twice, there is one team who have won all the rest. Deb and I thoroughly enjoy the challenge, but perhaps we are becoming uncomfortable with some of the people we sit with.

Azura is now gently and slowly making her way southwards and westwards to our final Spanish stop in the port of Cartagena tomorrow morning.

Monday 8th October – Cartagena

It was only just becoming light as Azura completed her docking manoeuvres. It was dry and about 20°C and as the light improved we could see a cloudy sky, but with lots of clear bits.

Our breakfast was a short visit to the buffet. I had a fruit salad and a piece of toast, and Deb had a bowl of porridge followed by a croissant. This is typical of our start to the days during the cruise.
Back in the cabin we enjoyed the view of the city for a while. From the balcony we have a clear view of the terminal area below us, with hundreds of yachts on either side of a wide boulevard style pedestrian walkway. The terminal buildings are a series of obscure shaped blocks with roofs of different shades of blue and white tiles. One of these blocks is the security gatehouse, while the others are simply shelters for passengers to get some shade from the sun, or from rain.

Further to the right is a large building which is the local Yacht Club.
Immediately outside of the terminal gate is a tourist information booth for maps and advice.

The tree lined boulevard is about 25 metres wide and makes a pleasant change from some of the walkways we have encountered around the world. It is probably nearly 150 metres long before it meets the main walkway going along the waterfront, and this is again about 25 metre wide, and vehicle free.

Across a quite busy road from there is the city itself with the majority of the frontages a creamy grey colour. Apart from the odd one or two, nothing appears to be higher than eight to ten stories. Behind these buildings we can see a tree lined hill that is the old fortress and parkland area. To one side is the new amphitheatre and we know from our map, that just to the side of this is the old Roman Amphitheatre that we intended to go and look at.

We were on our way before 10:00, and began with a walk to the shopping area a couple of hundred metres to the left down the harbour-side boulevard. We spotted possible shops for souvenirs later, and cafes for a rest after our walk up the hill. Sadly, museums are closed on Mondays so our choices were limited, but after some 20 minutes of steep hills and steps we got our view of the old Roman amphitheatre. It was worth the uphill struggle. From there we continued up to the old fort area that gave us lovely views over Cartagena and the enormous Azura dominating the waterfront. From this viewpoint we could also look down on the modern amphitheatre with backs on the seats, and a more modern stage for concerts.

We didn’t go any higher up the hill as my arthritic legs suggested it was time to get down to the shops. Our shopping list consisted of coke, chocolate and Gaviscon.

… interesting mix

Then it was coffee and more Churros. For those unfamiliar with these Spanish snacks, they are made from a doughnut mix that is squeezed out of a machine in lengths about 2cm in diameter and fried. Most people shake or dip them in sugar before eating, but the café we sat at also offered a hot chocolate dip for the fearless.

We sat and chatted to three lady passengers from Azura who went for the full chocolate dip treat. They asked me to take a photo of them, but just as I was about to take the shot, one of the ladies threw a cup of coffee all over her dress.

There was chaos for a few minutes.

Eventually with her dress partially dried enough to continue, the photographs were taken and we left them to their day ashore. We returned (via a fridge magnet shop) to the ship.

Lunch was just a bowl of soup, and then Deb and I relaxed on the balcony watching the passengers come and go while we listened to someone playing Spanish music on a guitar. We had no idea where the musician was, but the music was very enjoyable.

After looking at the dinner menus, we decided to eat up in the buffet this evening. The Freedom dining option is not for us. We will go there on the last formal night, but will probably avoid the main dining room on the other nights.

It was time for the individual quiz and we had already dressed for the evening as we had the Loyalty cocktail party at 6:00.

Three people scored 17/20 in the quiz including Deb…..and ME! In the tie-break two people got the same answer, and one of them was me again. We were both award a prize. Finally, I have managed to beat Deb and added a gold sticker to her card.

After that we went and queued to get into the Loyalty party in Manhattans. By accident we were waiting at the door where the captain was having photographs, so we now have two photos that we won’t buy. The first was the Loyalty lunch, and now this one with Captain Paul Brown. Sadly, we didn’t win the raffle for the photo album.

Actually we were quite happy with not winning something we would never use.

Deb and I chatted to a young officer, and drank a few glasses of fizz before the party came to an end.

The buffet beckoned for an Indian themed evening meal which Deb enjoyed while I took the boring choice of a gammon steak, although I did have Mulligatawny soup and a samosa.

… I know how to live dangerously

Our dinner was shared with another couple who we chatted with for quite a while about World Cruises and sizes of ships.

The next stop was the Playhouse Theatre for the Headliners show called ‘Electric Avenue’. It featured music from the 80’s and was yet another truly spectacular show from this group of performers. They really are very good.

To round off the evening we went to the Planet’s Bar for a last drink while listening to the ‘High Tides’ duo performing a Rock and Roll set. The background video walls were showing tourist hot spots in India. Planets is always full at this time of the evening, proving to be a popular venue whoever is playing the music.

There was also a Deck Party tonight, but an announcement came on the PA to say that it was raining, so the party was being moved to Manhattans.

Typical really, this is the first time it has rained for the cruise.
We glanced in Manhattans on the way to bed and is was quite popular in there, but we had done enough for the day, and our books and pillows were waiting for us.