Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Cruise Day #6, Barcelona

We skipped breakfast and started the day early in Barcelona, taxing to Placa de Catalunya by 9 o’clock. To maximize sightseeing time, we decided last night to take the hop-on hop-off double-decker bus tour (“Bus Turistic”). It’s not a cheap option (about $30 per person), but it gets you around town to all of the major (and minor) locations on one of three routes. Two route take about 2 hours each (Blue and Red). The Green route takes only 40 minutes as it’s more of a beach shuttle. We focused on the Red route (highlighting architecture predominately) in the morning and completed the entire circuit by 11ish.

We then visited Barcelona’s cathedral in the Bari Gotic. The front façade was undergoing restoration. I’ve noticed that inevitably much of Europe always seems to be under scaffolding and/or obstructed by cranes. I suspect it’s because the upkeep of such aged structures is fairly significant; however, I still think Oliver Stone ought to consider one of his conspiracy theory movies on the subject. You never know: there might be something there. No matter, sans façade the cathedral was fine but largely forgettable. I was most impressed by the adjacent cloister and its resident swans.

We then strolled (and made a few wrong turns) through the Bari Gotic to reach the Museu Picasso. See what I mean about Picasso museums in Europe? For those of you playing the “at home game,” that’s a total of two Picasso museums in the first two ports that we’ve visited. And guess what? There’s another one within easy striking distance of tomorrow’s port too. Joking aside, we really enjoyed this museum. It provided a great insight into his formative years and early works. I came away impressed by his artistic virtuosity. Somewhat like Mozart, Picasso could be described as a child-prodigy. Overall, the collection is uneven and has large gaps. Yet, it has the very insightful early works, good representations of Picasso’s ceramics, an excellent collection of Picasso’s prints, and a few other highlights (most notably Las Meninas, 1957).

We finished the Picasso museum by a little after 2 o’clock. We walked back down through the Bari Gotic to the waterfront and made our way to the statue of Columbus. From there, we grabbed a taxi to take us back to the port. We returned a little earlier than needed because Libby was feeling a little under the weather and needed to visit the ship’s doctor. As I suspected, she was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection. I actually had antibiotics with us, but they weren’t the right kind for that type of infection. So, I’m glad that she paid on the onboard medical center a visit. Happily, the total cost of the visit amounted to $126 including physician consult (to confirm my diagnosis), urinalysis, and medication. I was shocked by the low price! In theory, this should be covered by either our medical insurance (doubtful) or supplemental travel insurance. No matter, at that cost, I’m not going to lose sleep over it one way or the other. After about six hours (now), she’s already feeling much better—so, I don’t think this is going to slow us down at all.

Tonight we attended a “sing along” (a la the Rocky Horror Picture Show) of the Sound of Music from 6-9ish. I’d never seen the complete movie before. It was ok (yeah, yeah – start throwing stuff at your screens), but I’ve never really been a fan of the movie-musical genre anyway. Libby had a good time (and fortunately possesses an equally good signing voice), and I enjoyed the experience too (in spite of myself).

The only downside to the movie time was that I basically ended up missing dinner at any of the casual (shorts ok in the evening) venues. Somewhat inexplicably, they sort of stop serving food around 9-9:30 in the main buffet. They offer “snacks” later (tonight starting at 10:00), but the selection is usually poor (and the quality is often not the highest either). It seems to get worse as the cruise goes on (earlier closing, less selection, lower quality). This leaves one in a bit of a pickle, no pun intended, if you don’t feel like sitting down to a more formal but good, multi-course meal. Ironically, those restaurants remain open later than the buffet. Indeed, this is how we ended up eating in the Alizar last night. I also learned that the main dining room menu is not available from room service during the dining hours (which is different than a number of other cruise lines, I believe… I don’t recall when/if/how NCL’s practices changed from prior cruises). In the process, I also discovered that room service isn’t always a viable option either as I was told I’d be waiting an hour plus to get a BLT sandwich delivered. After fuming for a while, I ended up just going to the Grand Pacific and eating dinner there. It was fine but this didn’t live up to my “freestyle” expectations. Fortunately, Libby had a decent late lunch upon returning to the ship. Given that, none of this was problematic for her.

Obviously, there are far worse torments in life than not having a desirable buffet available. But, I feel like I’d be remiss in my blogging escapade if I failed to point out the bad (or mildly annoying) along with the good. Indeed, this was a philosophical point Libby and I ruminated about while meandering through the Bari Gotic en route for the ship. For example, should we have mentioned her (then probable) UTI? It seemed to us that one thing that makes a blog good or successful is its genuine and honest reporting of facts and opinions. Therefore, we felt it important to record the vacation as it happened—not skipping over details. Besides, I found it reassuring to know that the medical care onboard was both prompt and cost-effective.

Good night all! Tomorrow we arrive in France!

P.S. I should mention that we really liked Barcelona and plan to return when we do some land-based travel in Spain in the future. And, given the overall wondeful experience so far on the Jade, we're likely to cruise back as well.


Dick said...

Ciao, I am happy to hear Libby is recovering and that you enjoyed Barcelona. I too liked it although it has been many years ago. It is on my list of "return visit" locations. I actually stayed in the Bari Gotic, but that is a story for another day. Take care, I am enjoying the blog.

Mom and Dad said...

Hi,there! Glad to hear Libby is better, and we hope the trend continues. We
relish your timely updates and look forward to each one. Nothing new here. . .well, that's not entirely true. . .we saw a very large inflatable tire yesterday at the corner of Waters and Benjamin in front of Kaufman's Tire Center. Yes,it was a very large tire. Naturally, we stopped to admire it for quite some time.