Sunday, December 16, 2012

Barcelona Cruise (Barcelona, Toulon, Palma de Mallorca) - Part I

Royal Caribbean cruise ship: Serenade of the Seas (docked in Barcelona)
Serenade of the Seas

Our 3rd cruise was with Royal Caribbean (RC) on their "Serenade of the Seas" ship (pic above). It was a 4-nights cruise starting and ending in Barcelona with intermediate ports of call in Toulon, France and Palma de Mallorca, Spain.
The ship had undergone a lot of renovation just before our cruise and looked in pristine condition. We have given a description of RC cruise ships and the facilities to expect on board in one of our previous posts. So rather than repeating them again, here is a link to the post for anyone interested: RC Cruise ship. A few pics of the ship's interior for your viewing pleasure:

Toulon, France

On the ferry to Toulon, France Port of Toulon, France

Our first port of call was in Toulon, France. It is basically a French naval base, so you can see lots of warships at the port. The city itself is like most French cities - narrow streets with lots of cafes. Two tips here which would be helpful to Indian tourists who are not based in Europe but say come directly from India:
  • It is much cheaper to buy souvenirs (gifts for families/friends) from the 1-Euro stores on the streets than from the souvenir shops at touristic spots. Don't worry as you do not need to speak French to buy from these stores as all the items have prices clearly marked on them and there is no bargaining. 
  • Coffee: We have often found people complaining about the coffee in the "famous" french cafes. As Indians, we are used to drinking coffee with milk and the Indian Espresso also refers to such a coffee. Unfortunately, the French default or Espresso is really strong (bitter) as it is usually made directly from coffee beans rather than filtered coffee as we get it in India. So to be on the safe side, ask for "Cafe au lait" (Coffee with milk) or most cafes usually nowadays also serve Cappuccino. 

Palma de Mallorca, Spain

The next port of call was in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. Palma de Mallorca is one of the Balearic Islands belonging to Spain. Often touted as the Spanish equivalent of (French) Côte d'Azur where the rich and famous head to during summer months, one can clearly see the strains of the current economic crisis with unfinished buildings everywhere. Moving on to more pleasant things, there is still a lot to see and explore on the island even if you go there during winter. Primary attractions include the Cathedral and Drach Caves.

Cathedral of Santa Maria

Cathedral of Santa Maria, Palma de Mallorca, Spain

Having seen many cathedrals in and around Europe, we would rate the Cathedral of Santa Maria in Palma as one of the most impressive (probably right after the Saint Peter Basilica in the Vatican). The entrance is very high so you have to really crane your neck to see the top. The cathedral interiors including the Rose Window is equally impressive.

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