2017 Travels travel blog

Barcelona Harbor

Cabin Crew (Larry & Felix)

Daily Schedule - Page 1

Daily Schedule - Page 2

Daily Schedule - Page 3

Daily Schedule - Page 4

Kitchen Crew - Granddaughter

Malta Map













Prison of Palermo

Streets of Palermo

Streets of Palermo

Buildings of Palermo

Paintings & Statues of Churches 1

Paintings & Statues of Churches 2

Paintings & Statues of Churches 3

Paintings & Statues of Churches 4

Palermo (small ship) harbor

Arab Gravesite

Port of Monte Carlo

Streets of Monte Carlo 1

Streets of Monte Carlo 2

Streets of Monte Carlo 3

Streets of Monte Carlo 4

Streets of Monte Carlo 5

Monte Carlo Casino 1

Monte Carlo Casino 2

Monte Carlo Casino 3

Monte Carlo Casino 4

Monte Carlo Casino 5

Princess Grace

Port of Monte Carlo

Sights of Marseille 1

Sights of Marseille 2

Sights of Marseille 3

Sights of Marseille 4

Sights of Marseille 5

Sights of Marseille 6

Sights of Marseille 7

Sights of Marseille 8

Sights of Mallorca 1

Sights of Mallorca 2

Sights of Mallorca 3

Sights of Mallorca 4

Sights of Mallorca 5

Sights of Mallorca 6

Sights of Mallorca 7

Sights of Mallorca 8

Valencia 1

Valencia 2

Valencia 3

Valencia 4

Valencia 5

Valencia 6

Valencia 7

Valencia 8

Valencia 9

Valencia 10

Valencia 11

Valencia 12

Barcelona 1

Barcelona 2

Barcelona 3

Barcelona 4

This Cruise

Been There, Done That

Based on the questions I have received and am receiving about the “boat”, I will answer all (I hope) this time. First off, some asked “what’s to do on a ship”. Oh, where do I start?

NOTE: THE FOLLOWING IS MY VERY OWN PERSONAL OPINION BASED ON EIGHT OCEAN CRUISES AND SIX RIVER CRUISES. You may or may not agree with me, but that’s O.K. I have been called “parsimonious” for many years which means “frugal to the point of being stingy” and that is probably why I have enough money to take these extra trips. In any case, please feel free to ask around to others for their opinions.

Let’s start at the beginning. When you book a cabin on a cruise you should probably work through a Travel Agent the first time. (NOTE: The more you use a particular agent or cruise company, the more “bennies” and extras you can get) The agent will ask you about your cabin preference such as do you want (1) an inside cabin (interior of the ship with no windows and feels, to me, like a closet, but definitely the least expensive), (2) a cabin with an ocean view (which may be just a porthole) (3) a cabin with a balcony (my preference) or (4) a “Penthouse” cabin which is usually one that is located at the very front, very rear or very top of the ship. (NOTE: You can usually find the layout of any ship by going to the company’s web page and get a fair idea of the room size and location). The prices also tell you that you are going up in preferences as the prices go up (of course; It’s cheaper because not many folks want it). Once the type of cabin is settled on, next you’ll need to decide the size of the cabin. Usually the majority of balcony cabins start from just past the beginning of the ship to just about to the end of the ship and they are usually all the same size. The cabins at the beginning and end are the largest and most expensive. I booked one of these ONCE and probably will not do it again. I could have paid $6,000 for that cruise using my standard selection of a balcony cabin, but because I wanted to see what the rich folks have I upgraded to a suite. Yes, it was a larger cabin, had a sitting room and my alcohol and laundry were included, but I didn’t feel the package was worth the $10,000 I paid so now I stick with the “normal” balcony rooms.

Now how about the location of the cabin? We’ve been in pretty much all the locations from the front to the rear, from the top deck to the bottom and location does make a difference, especially if you are prone to motion sickness. We have found the best location for us is “mid ships”; that’s in the middle of the ship going from the front to the rear and the middle of the ship going from the top to the bottom. For example, if the ship has 13 decks and the top two will probably have most of the restaurants, pools, games, bars, etc., we shoot for decks 9-11 with the cabin as close to the middle of the ship as possible. This seems to be a good location to get to the shows, parties, restaurants quickly and at the same time avoid the midnight partiers and their noise. And as always, the better location of the cabin the higher the price will be. It may only be a few hundred dollars difference so you’ll need to decide what it’s worth to you.

What can I do on the ship? Of course everyone knows that you will most definitely NOT starve since food is available somewhere on the ship 24 hours a day. Most of the ships have their standard dining room(s) that are usually only open for dinner where you order from a menu, are served by very polite servers and the food is at least a step up from the buffet (a little fancy). Also, one of the standard restaurants will also be open for a short time for Breakfast. One thing I really like is if you don’t care for the dish or its preparation, just send it back and order something else; they don’t seem to care. These restaurants expect you to wear specific clothing (collared shirt, no shorts, wear shoes, etc). On some ships you are assigned a specific time to eat and others, like Norwegian, is “Open Seating” AND reservations are accepted. This means that if you plan on eating at a busy time or have a large group you want to keep together, you had better get a reservation. But, if you are open to meeting different travelers, just “show up” for dinner and take your chances on where and with whom you sit. I met this one large guy (pushing 400 pounds) who joined us for dinner on a Pacific cruise a few years ago and learned a new phrase that I still use today. When he finally sat down, got organized and got his breath back he said, “How ya’ll liking your Ski Trip?” I said “Huh?” He repeated his question. I said “Well, Sir, we’re in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and it’s September so I’m curious as to where you are skiing?” He gave a huge smile, winked and said “I’m Spending my Kid’s Inheritance.” ;)

Next in the food chain is the Buffet Line that will be open for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner and also at various times throughout the day for lighter foods and snacks. The atmosphere, along with dress requirements, is very casual and the food is pretty much “comfort food”; nothing fancy, but plenty of it. They will also have numerous places to eat all around the ship where you can wear just about anything you want. These will usually be the Snack-type places that serve pizza, burgers, dogs, etc. and will usually be located near the pools, on the edge of or outside the main ship.

The final category is the Specialty restaurants that most ships have now in another attempt to get some more money out of us (again, MY opinion). These are restaurants that are only open for dinner and specialize in Japanese, French, Italian, Steakhouse, Susi, etc. where you will either pay an additional cover charge or pay for each item ordered off the menu or both. The high rollers and folks who are or like to pretend they’re rich usually opt for these restaurants so they don’t have to associate themselves with us lowlifes, but that’s OK. They got the money, go ahead and spend it. Personally I haven’t found a reason to eat at one of those places, even after I did eat at the “fancy” steakhouse. I didn’t think the steak at the steakhouse that cost me $25.00 extra ($50.00 for two people) was any better or worse than the steak I was getting (free/already paid for) from the standard restaurant. So, that’s another place you can throw your money away in if you so desire.

While in port you will be offered a number of various tours you can take at that particular stop. Of course, you will PAY for these just like everything else on the ship and a tour will probably run from $75.00 to $100.00 on average, for EACH person. Some of the tours are worth it, depending on your interest, but lately we have been leaning towards the many international and local tour buses such as the Hop On Hop Off buses for between $7.00 and $40.00 per person which can usually be found in the larger or more tourist-friendly towns. These buses will usually take you around the city for about 90-120 minutes and hit most of the highlights of the city. We usually take the whole tour, start to finish, making note of what we want to return to visit, and then continue the tour to the end and then catch the bus going to the attraction we were interested in. Also while in port, all the Duty Free shops and the Casino on the ship will be closed, but the SPA will be open. Also remember, most ships will not allow you to keep any alcohol you purchase on shore (they will confiscate it, but give it back to you at the end of the cruise. That is also true with any on-board duty free alcohol you purchase; you get it at the end of the cruise.)

Once back on water, all the shops are open for business. They usually have some pretty good sales towards the end of the cruise, but for the most part my tastes do not run as high as the Rolex or diamonds or ….. well, you get my meaning. The T-shirt sale is usually pretty good where you will spend $10.00 for a T-shirt that was being sold on land for $20.00 (unless you shop on land with Julieann and then you’ll get TWO T-shirts for $10.00). Alcohol is a real bargain where I would pay $26.00 for a litre of Vodka in town, but only $13.00 on board (but remember, they won’t give it to you until the last day of the cruise. They would rather have you spend $13.00 a drink from their menu). Found out on this cruise that while we were visiting some countries there was little or no tax on the items we purchased. The second part of our cruise, which visited Euro countries there is an automatic 21% tax on everything. Plus, the ship is not allowed to sell duty free alcohol and there is an additional 10% tax on beverages.

Your cabin will be cleaned and re-stocked every time you leave it (or so it seems). The Cabin Stewards are great. They go out of their way to please you and try to understand what your needs and desires are. We got our stewards “trained” to leave us alone during the day (because Julieann usually likes to clean the room herself and we “nap” in the afternoons). During dinner time our steward would clean and re-stock our room, make the Room Animal for Julieann to play with (almost every cruise makes these now), make sure I have ice for my drinks and give us a copy of the ship’s daily “newsletter” which is a schedule of what will be going on tomorrow (I attached a copy of the five page newsletter to this posting). I’m also attaching a photo of two stewards we had this trip. Actually, Felix (the male) was our steward and Larry (the female) was assigned to adjacent rooms. Oh yeah, another “fact learned” --- We had a Filipino female night manager at a Vegas resort whose was named after Hershel Walker. I know, a female with a male’s name. Supposedly her mother liked Walker and named her daughter after him. On this cruise I got to meet beautiful “Larry” (in the photo) who was named by her mother after Larry Bird (Byrd?).

I can’t believe that I almost forgot the most important and enjoyable pastime, the nightly show. The show can consist of one, two or more singers, dancers, acrobats, magicians, comedians, etc. The “house/ship” standard singers and dancers, at least on this cruise, have done an absolutely fantastic job at entertaining us. We look forward to each performance, which they will have four or five out of the eleven day cruise. The rest of the nights are filled with other rotating performers such as the Spanish Dancers, magician, etc. We haven’t seen too many shows we didn’t like.

Another thing to remember – no cash is used on the ship. Everything you buy will be charged to your cabin and you will settle up at the end of the cruise. There is also a daily “service charge” (for us it was $13.50 a person, a day) which is supposed to be divided by the crew except for the beverage servers who get the automatic 15% added to every drink (including water) you purchase. You can always tip more if you’d like and I’ve only met one a-hole who complained during the entire cruise and had the service charge removed from his account. I know you aren’t “one of those”.

Last but not least – clothing. Very loose rules on the ship. As long as you are properly covered you’ll be o.k. Most cruise ships have one or two “formal” nights where guests are expected to wear a tux, suit, etc. This cruise was the first one that we have been on that did not have a Formal Night, but it didn’t stop some folks from dressing up. The ship encourages dressing up because someone will be taking photos of you --- from the time you first arrive at the ship, disembarking at every port, every time you are dressed up, etc. Since we’ve “been there, done that, got the photos (at around $20.00 each)” we don’t do that anymore, but don’t let that stop you. You should do it at least once just for the memories, but at $20.00 for each photo I’m done.

O.K. let’s begin our cruise with our first tour of Malta with the educational part. Malta, officially known as the Republic of Malta, is a Southern European island country consisting of an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. It lies 50 miles south of Italy and 207 miles north of Libya. (The very first thing that “hit” us was that the Maltese Language sounds very Arabic, not Italian as we expected). The country covers an area the size of Kansas City, Kansas, just over 122 square miles (316 km), with a population of just under 450,000, making it one of the world's smallest and most densely populated countries. The capital of Malta is Valletta, which is the smallest national capital in the European Union. Malta has one national language, which is Maltese, and English as an official language. This tiny island has 365 Catholic Churches, which equates to almost one church for every kilometer of the island. According to our guide, numerous families from other islands, Sicily and mainland Italy have direct ties to a specific Malta church so that’s why there is so many.

Malta's location has historically given it great strategic importance as a naval base, and a succession of powers, including the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Moors, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, Knights of St. John, French and British, have ruled the islands. During WWI Malta had over 121 hospitals to take care of the wounded and acquired the nickname of the “Hospital of the Mediterranean”. In WWII, Malta was bombed with over 11,000 bombs during the first few weeks of the war and acquired another nickname of the “Mediterranean Target”. Actually, and really hard to believe, but that’s what is published, Malta received more bombs during the war than London. Ike used Malta as a jumping off point in the invasion of Sicily. King George VI of the United Kingdom awarded the George Cross to Malta in 1942 for the country's bravery in the Second World War. The George Cross continues to appear on Malta's national flag.

Under the Malta Independence Act, passed by the British Parliament in 1964, Malta gained independence from the United Kingdom as an independent sovereign Commonwealth realm, officially known from 1964 to 1974 as the State of Malta, with Elizabeth II as its head of state. The country became a republic in 1974, and although no longer a Commonwealth realm, remains a member state of the Commonwealth of Nations. Malta was admitted to the United Nations in 1964 and to the European Union in 2004; in 2008, it became part of the Eurozone. Malta has a long Christian legacy and its Archdiocese of Malta is claimed to be an apostolic see because, according to Acts of the Apostles, St Paul was shipwrecked on "Melita", now widely taken to be Malta. Catholicism is the official religion in Malta.

Malta is a popular tourist destination with its warm climate, numerous recreational areas, and architectural and historical monuments, including three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum, Valletta, and seven Megalithic Temples, which are some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world. We took a tour of the island of Malta. The night before the tour I met a crew member purportedly from Malta that told me that the Maltese Dogs did NOT come from Malta. I don’t know how long she lived there, but all my research disagrees with her; the Maltese Dogs DID originate from Malta.

Almost ALL the housing on Malta is built from limestone. This stone turns colors from yellow, reddish and green so most of the buildings are one of these colors. Like other islands we have visited in the Mediterranean area, they have a problem with finding and keeping fresh water. Our tour consisted of (broken) temples thousands of year’s old and fairly new churches with the typical Catholic decorations.

The next day we fulfilled a family requirement. My Grandfather, whose family emigrated from Sicily, always said that you have to be Sicilian to be a real Italian. We got to visit Sicily a couple of years ago, but we were on the wrong side of the island to see Palermo. Got it right this time. Palermo is a city of Southern Italy, the capital of both the autonomous region of Sicily and the Metropolitan City of Palermo. The city is noted for its history, culture, architecture and gastronomy, playing an important role throughout much of its existence; it is over 2,700 years old. Palermo is located in the northwest of the island of Sicily, right by the Gulf of Palermo in the Tyrrhenian Sea.

The city was founded in 734 BC by the Phoenicians as Ziz ('flower'). Palermo then became a possession of Carthage, before becoming part of the Roman Republic, the Roman Empire and eventually part of the Byzantine Empire, for over a thousand years. The Greeks named the city Panormus meaning 'complete port'. From 831 to 1072 the city was under Arab rule during the Emirate of Sicily when the city first became a capital. The Arabs shifted the Greek name into Balarme, the root for Palermo's present-day name. Following the Norman re-conquest, Palermo became the capital of a new kingdom (from 1130 to 1816), the Kingdom of Sicily and the capital of the Holy Roman Empire under Frederick II Holy Roman Emperor and Conrad IV of Germany, King of the Romans. Eventually Sicily would be united with the Kingdom of Naples to form the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies until the Italian unification of 1860.

The population of Palermo urban area is estimated by Eurostat to be 855,285, while its metropolitan area is the fifth most populated in Italy with around 1.2 million people. The inhabitants are known as Palermitani or, poetically, panormiti. The languages spoken are Italian, Sicilian and the Palermitano dialect. Palermo is Sicily's cultural, economic and touristic capital. It is a city rich in history, culture, art, music and food. Numerous tourists are attracted to the city for its good Mediterranean weather, its renowned gastronomy and restaurants, its Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque churches, palaces and buildings, and its nightlife and music. Palermo is the main Sicilian industrial and commercial center: the main industrial sectors include tourism, services, commerce and agriculture. Palermo currently has an international airport and a significant underground economy. It is the main seat of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Arab-Norman Palermo and the Cathedral Churches of Cefalù and Monreale. The city is also going through careful redevelopment, preparing to become one of the major cities of the Euro-Mediterranean area.

Roman Catholicism is highly important in Palermitano culture. The Patron Saint of Palermo is Santa Rosalia whose Feast Day is celebrated on 15 July. The area attracts significant numbers of tourists each year and is widely known for its colorful fruit, vegetable and fish markets at the heart of Palermo.

We took the tour called “The Secrets of Palermo”, but I seriously doubt any “secrets” were divulged as the Mafia still runs things around here. We saw many of the “typical” Italian statues and buildings (all looking like they were built during Jesus’ time) and walked around some of the streets. We only saw two streets that I would feel comfortable driving down, but for some reason traffic was extremely light on those – even for a Saturday. The smaller (TINY) side streets were just the opposite; highly used and congested with a lot of shopping going on. A few streets were turned into “Markets” where you could buy mostly fresh fruit and vegetables, but also “Dollar Tree” stuff. We visited the Catacombs of the Capuchin Friars which hold a world record of over 8,000 mummies going back over 500 years and still dressed in their “Sunday Best”. These catacombs supposedly hold more mummies than any other area in the world. Photography (by the tourists) was not allowed, but there was no shortage of locals trying to sells us photos, post cards, books, etc.

The biggest “takeaway” we got from this visit is that Palermo is in the same unemployment crisis as all the other places in the Mediterranean – general unemployment is at 25% while the younger generation prefers to continue their schooling rather than fight the 40% unemployment.

The next two stops were for Rome, which was really the Port of Civitavecchia about a two hour drive from Rome and then Florence/Pisa, which was really the Port of Livorno (at least this port was close enough for tourists to visit these towns). Since we had already spent much time in these locations in years gone by, we just hung around the ship and relaxed. If you would like to see the photos from those past visits, please go to “110515-Italy” in our Travel Journal.

Next stop was Monte Carlo, Monaco. Monte Carlo officially refers to an administrative area of the Principality of Monaco, specifically the ward of Monte Carlo/Spélugues, where the Monte Carlo Casino is located. Informally the name also refers to a larger district, the Monte Carlo Quarter (corresponding to the former municipality of Monte Carlo), which besides Monte Carlo/Spélugues also includes the wards of La Rousse/Saint Roman, Larvotto/Bas Moulins, and Saint Michel. The permanent population of the ward of Monte Carlo is about 3,500, while that of the quarter is about 15,000. Monaco has four traditional quarters. From west to east they are: Fontvieille (the newest), Monaco-Ville (the oldest), La Condamine, and Monte Carlo.

Monte Carlo (literally "Mount Charles") is situated on a prominent escarpment at the base of the Maritime Alps along the French Riviera. Near the western end of the quarter is the world-famous Place du Casino, the gambling center which has made Monte Carlo "an international byword for the extravagant display and reckless dispersal of wealth". It is also the location of the Hotel de Paris, the Café de Paris, and the Salle Garnier (the casino theatre which is the home of the Opera de Monte-Carlo).

The eastern part of the quarter includes the community of Larvotto with Monaco's only public beach, as well as its new convention center (the Grimaldi Forum), and the Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort. At the quarter's eastern border, one crosses into the French town of Beausoleil (sometimes referred to as Monte-Carlo-Supérieur), and just 5 miles to its east is the western border of Italy. We actually stood in the tiny town of the old city of “Old Monaco” (built in 12th century) or AKA “The Rock” of Monaco, could look up and to the left to see France and right to see Italy.

We “had” to visit the casino and were lucky to tour it before 10:00 AM. At that time of the day we were allowed to take all the photos we wanted to, with the exception of a dealer teaching folks how to play. The casino is definitely plush, being built in the late 1800’s. When you see something that looks like marble it is actually Opal and when you see gold paint it is actually gold flakes. The various portraits hanging in every room were painted by one “master” or another and are worth a bunch of money. The chandlers were originally installed with candles. Young kids would work in the Casino just lowering, raising, lighting the candles or blowing them out. Also, if you pay attention to my photos, one shows a mirrored door that leads up to the ceiling where managers and/or other bosses could look down upon the players and watch for cheaters – all that without videos. Good eyesight, yeah? I think our photos speak more to the beauty of the Casino than we can write.

One thing for sure --- I don’t believe that poor people exist anywhere in this city/country. According to our guide, two of five residents are generally multi-millionaires, billions of dollars (or Euros) worth of boats are tied up in the port and I have never seen so many Ferraris in one place before. One of the ships that belong to the prince is four decks high and cost over $300,000,000 (I don’t think our cruise ship even cost that much). We were told that a building cost $30,000 for TEN SQUARE FEET. That means that I would have enough for a closet or bathroom (without a tub) to be built. On the semi-good side, Monte Carlo has NO income tax and the country has agreements with many other countries that their citizens that live here full or part-time also do not have to pay any income tax either here or at home. Before you start packing your bags, the USA is NOT one of those countries; They want your taxes no matter where you are. Oh yeah, residents are not allowed to play in the Casino. That’s why you must show your passport when entering.

According to our French Tour Guide, 7,000 people are permanent residents with another 18,000 part-time residents from other countries such as Germany, United Kingdom, the (rich) desert countries, Japan, China and, of course, the United States. Now, with that figure in mind (25,000) an additional 26,000 come in and out of the country every day to work. Pay here is supposedly as good as pay “back home”, but these folks get all kinds of additional bonuses here for “whatever” that evidently makes the trip worthwhile.

Also learned --- When we were visiting Malta we were told that it was the second smallest country in the world, with the Vatican being the smallest. Today’s guide, who was French so was automatically correct in all that she said, took offense to my question of Monaco “really” being the second smallest and was definite in her answer of “YES!” (she took offense at most of my questions, but she was French so I didn’t expect anything else). In this case, if her figures that claim Monaco only have 485 acres are correct, I’m guessing Monaco IS the second smallest country. IMO it is also one of the cleanest and well organized (traffic control) we’ve visited.

Today Julieann is visiting Marseille, France with a tour group. As I have my own definite feelings on France and anything claiming to be French, I thought it best that she travel with those who are more open minded so I stayed on the ship working on this journal. I just wish we had free Wi-Fi at this port (I’m trying my best to avoid the outrageous $1.00 a minute fee the ship charges). The nearest free Wi-Fi is 25 miles by bus to a McDonald’s in town. It figures; it’s France. We’ll be back in Spain tomorrow. Maybe better luck there.

Marseille also known as Marseilles in English, is a city on France's south coast and is the country's second largest city, after Paris, with a population of 852,516 in 2012 and an area of 93 square miles, the 3rd-largest metropolitan area in France after Paris and Lyon.

Known to the ancient Greeks and Romans as Massalia, Marseille was the most important trading centre in the region and the main commercial port of the French Republic. Marseille is now France's largest city on the Mediterranean coast and the largest port for commerce, freight and cruise ships. The city was European Capital of Culture, together with Košice, Slovakia, in 2013. It hosted the European Football Championship in 2016, and will be the European Capital of Sport in 2017. The city is home to several campuses of Aix-Marseille University and part of one of the largest metropolitan conurbations in France, the Metropolis of Aix-Marseille-Provence.

Today was a beautiful day for touring this island. We didn’t sign up for a regular tour, but instead grabbed a “Hop On Hop Off” bus and then did some walking on our own. Majorca or Mallorca is the largest island in the Balearic Islands archipelago, which are part of Spain and located in the Mediterranean. The name derives from Latin insula maior, "larger island"; later Maiorica, "the larger one" in comparison to Minorca, "the smaller one". The capital of the island, Palma, is also the capital of the autonomous community of the Balearic Islands. The Balearic Islands have been an autonomous region of Spain since 1983. Like the other Balearic Islands of Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera, the island is an extremely popular holiday destination, particularly for tourists from Germany and the United Kingdom. The international airport, Palma de Mallorca Airport, is one of the busiest in Spain; it was used by 23.1 million passengers in 2014.

A Nationalist stronghold at the start of the Spanish Civil War, Majorca was subjected to an amphibious landing, on August 16, 1936, aimed at driving the Nationalists from Majorca and reclaiming the island for the Republic. Although the Republicans heavily outnumbered their opponents and managed to push 7.5 miles inland, superior Nationalist air power, provided mainly by Fascist Italy as part of the Italian occupation of Majorca, forced the Republicans to retreat and to leave the island completely by September 12. Those events became known as the Battle of Majorca. Since the 1950s, the advent of mass tourism has transformed the island into a destination for foreign visitors and attracted many service workers from mainland Spain. The boom in tourism caused Palma to grow significantly.

Next stop was Valencia, the capital of the autonomous community of Valencia and the third largest city in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona with a population of around 1.5–1.6 million people. The Port of Valencia is the 5th busiest container port in Europe and the busiest container port on the Mediterranean Sea.

Valencia was founded as a Roman colony in 138 BC. The original Latin name of the city was Valentia, meaning "strength", or "valor", the city being named according to the Roman practice of recognizing the valor of former Roman soldiers after a war. The Roman historian Livy explains that the founding of Valentia in the 2nd century BC was due to the settling of the Roman soldiers who fought against an Iberian rebel, Viriatus. In 714 Moroccan and Arab Moors occupied the city, introducing their language, religion and customs; they implemented improved irrigation systems and the cultivation of new crops as well, being capital of the Taifa of Valencia. In 1238 the Christian king James I of Aragon re-conquered the city and divided the land among the nobles who helped him conquer it. He also created a new law for the city, the Furs of Valencia, which were extended to the rest of the Kingdom of Valencia. In the 18th century Philip V of Spain abolished the privileges as punishment to the kingdom of Valencia for aligning with the Habsburg side in the War of the Spanish Succession. Valencia was the capital of Spain when Joseph Bonaparte moved the Court there in the summer of 1812. It also served as capital between 1936 and 1937, during the Second Spanish Republic.

Today we returned to Barcelona. For the first time we opted to carry our bags ourselvesinstead of having porters take the bags down to the pier and then we fight with everyone else to find our own bags. It wasn’t much of a hassle, except for standing in line for a taxi. The ship had made arrangements (for $30 each) for those heading to the airport, but we were staying in Barcelona for a couple of days.

The ride and cost of getting to the hotel was a surprise. The cost was only $15, the ride was only ten minutes and even though check-in wasn’t “officially” started until 3PM the clerk was able to find us a room at 9AM. We dropped the bags in our room and headed out the door to spend the next five hours touring the city --- again. It was a very enjoyable way to kill some time with the exception of the nasty graffiti around all these beautiful historical buildings, statues, etc.

We catch the plane to LAX tomorrow and I received some other good news. When I originally bought the tickets I was given an option to bid on an upgrade to Business Class. The normal cost is around $6,000 each and I bid $900 for each of our seat. I guess it was a real slow day since I won the bid. At least we should be comfortable on the ride from Europe to LAX.

And this, our friends and relatives, closes out another “adventure” for us. We plan to be in Las Vegas from next week to the first part of June where we will then join our friends from my 1988 Korean tour for another cruise, this time around Alaska.

Thanks for traveling with us. More later…………….

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