Monday, June 23, 2008

Cruise Day #11, Rock of Gibraltar

We docked and were cleared as scheduled by noon. This was the first port where there was a substantial queue in trying to depart the ship. From the time of the captain’s announcement, it took about 30 minutes to get on land. Sadly, we witnessed a number of rather rude guests on the stairs – either trying to push their way down or making offensive comments at the aforementioned queue hoppers. While I don’t say this to offend anyone, the fact is that this cruise’s population really crosses a number of demographic and socio-economic strata, especially among the British passengers and perhaps somewhat less so among the Americans. Of course, Americans have “superstars” in all socio-economic classes that are good at making asses of themselves in public, particularly when overseas and things don’t work “right” as defined by their standards. Fortunately, this group was a multi-national “collation of the willing,” a regular United Nations of Morons. Three cheers for Anglo-American relations!

Thank goodness we haven’t had such queues in the other ports… I’d have abandoned the ship by now. Oddly (but ever so gratefully), we’ve not seen too much of this rabble while sailing. I can only surmise we frequent different venues or the same venues at different times, because I’m certain they’d have been noticed by us.

In any event, the disembarkation pretty much set the stage for Gibraltar itself.

We walked through town and then took a mini-bus tour to the “Top of the Rock.” The cost for the tour (including all admissions was 25 euros per person or less than half of ship’s excursion price). The lookout points would be great on a clear day. Unfortunately, our view of Africa was obscured by a haze (which is only now starting to clear). The apes were a lot of fun and the highlight of the tour for us. I have some wonderful pictures of them, including a few with one sitting on Libby’s head. St. Michael’s Cave is impressive (but only if you’ve never been to a cave before). The siege tunnels are pleasantly cool and mildly interesting. Unfortunately, I damn near knocked myself out on the low ceiling when rising up after taking a picture by one of the cannon stations... ouch! The area around the tunnel’s entrance provides a very good view of the runway (which is intersected by the roadway into Gibraltar and must be closed for arriving/departing flights) and the Spanish coastline beyond. Interestingly, a British Airways plane ingested a bird into its engine today while landing. So, it was sitting on the airfield waiting for an engineer to arrive from Malaga to inspect / repair the plane.

In our view, the downtown of Gibraltar generally lacks charm. It has a few highlights, including the picturesque Trafalgar Cemetery for many of sailors who died during the famous battle. Of course, Nelson is not buried here as his body was “preserved” (in liquor) and sent back to London. Nonetheless, today the downtown is mostly tarted up with souvenir shops and duty-free retailers (selling liquor and cigarettes on the cheap). Note: I will admit the liquor prices looked pretty good. Hmm… come to think of it, I wonder if Nelson’s barrel was duty-free? :-)

Overall, Gibraltar is fine. I had just hoped for something that was more evocative of the Age of Sail. I think Libby anticipated something more quaint and charming. Instead, what we found was a small town and peninsula that was overrun by tourists and cruisers (both the NCL Jade and Cunard QM2 were in port today) and that lacked what we’d expected.

In the end, I’m glad to have seen the Rock. But, I wouldn’t have to come back, and I’m fairly confident Libby would rather not (except maybe to visit the apes).

1 comment:

Mom and Dad said...

Now, that's what I'm talking about. . .an ape on Libby's head! I was rather in hopes that such a photogenic moment might transpire. We wish you continued happy travels, but, of course, you know we miss you. Much love to you both.