Not long ago, we had the fortunate occasion to spend the day in Barcelona, Spain. We were traveling from Orlando, Florida and catching a cruise ship in Barcelona back to Florida. We've grown fond of Atlantic crossings in the last couple of years and found a great price on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship, the Epic.
The last time we were in Barcelona for just a day we were seeing it from the comfort of a cruise ship shore excursion and decided that if we ever returned, we'd make some time to explore it on our own.
This visit was again a short one, but we were determined to see a bit of the city in the short time we had. We left Orlando on a Thursday afternoon at about 3:00 PM. We flew on a red-eye through Philadelphia, Heathrow, and finally arrived at our hotel in Barcelona at about 8:30 in the evening on Friday. (read more...)
Over the years, we've made eleven cruises on various ships and cruise lines. From that experience we've always maintained that “we never met a cruise ship we didn't like”. We've been on Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Disney, and lately our last three cruises were on various Norwegian Cruise Line ships, the latest being the Norwegian Epic. The Epic is the largest ship we've sailed on, but it's a far cry from the best, at least in our estimation.
This last adventure was an Atlantic crossing. As you may know, many of the ships will switch from a European base to a Caribbean base throughout the year. They typically cruise the Mediterranean or Baltic in the summer, for example, then switch to the Caribbean in the winter. Cruise lines, of course, don't like to drive around in empty ships, so they sell crossings when these ships leave one market for another. This year we caught the Epic as it left Barcelona and made its way to Miami to begin the winter season in the Caribbean. (read more...)
We're a Holiday Inn Express kinda folk. We like to know what to expect when we book a hotel, and we like to have a good feeling for the value we're about to get for our money. It makes sense, then, that we were a little on the skeptical side when we booked our recent two night stay at the Hotel Continental in Barcelona, Spain.
We were flying in from Florida, planning to catch a ship in Barcelona for an Atlantic crossing voyage back to Florida and wanted to spend a day in Barcelona first, just looking the city over. We wanted to stay downtown somewhere and all the reviews suggested that the Hotel Continental might be a good choice.
When we landed at the airport in Barcelona, we were greeted by a driver that was previously booked and paid for. Our previous experience with folks in Barcelona was that not everyone spoke English, and we wanted to have an easy trip to the hotel after traveling all night. We were tired and severely jet lagged. The driver was a good call. He spoke absolutely no English, but already knew where he was taking us, so there was no problem getting to the hotel.
Our arrival on Las Rambles Street was at about 8:00 PM on a Friday night. The lights were just starting to come on and people were definitely out and about starting to enjoy their evening; a true lively and vibrant part of the city. (read more...)
It’s really unfair to judge a place by one day’s worth of sightseeing, especially from a controlled tour bus from a cruise ship. But Stockholm and its surrounding areas left us with the impression that we weren’t finished visiting this place. Not being particularly keen on hanging out in big cities, we were impressed with how clean and safe this city seemed to be. There were many places that appeared to be favorite hangouts of the locals and tourists alike, and the people, like most folks we met in and around the Baltic Sea, seemed to be generally friendly. (read more...)
Those of you who know us might know that we're not city folk in general. We'll go to a city and spend time occasionally, but we wouldn't pick a city as vacation destination. Having said that, it isn't a surprise that, while we were impressed with Helsinki, it wouldn't necessarily be a destination for a vacation to Finland. Rather, we would probably fly in and spend an afternoon seeing the sights; maybe have coffee and a pastry in a coffee shop somewhere and then make our way north to Lapland to see some reindeer. (read more...)
When cruising, there are places you visit that you're glad you're on a cruise and only have to spend one day seeing. It's either because it simply doesn't interest you or some other underlying reason. For us, we thought Estonia was going to be that kind of place. It was, in our view, something to do while we marked time waiting for the ship to get to a better port. As it turns out, Tallinn was one of the highlights of our cruise, so far. We thought Germany was the highlight, and to be truthful it was big on our list to come back and see more, but much to our surprise, Tallinn, Estonia was up there too. What we saw in our one day visiting the city left us craving more.
As you may know, Estonia was occupied and controlled by the Soviet Union until the USSR fell apart back in 1990-1991. Estonia declared its independence from the Soviets in 91 and started moving towards the west in terms of their economy and political alignment, today, they're part of NATO and the European Union. They're moving forward at full speed to develop their economy and secure their spot in the world. They're most popular industry is in IT (Information Technology). They are the birthplace of Skype, the well known VOIP (Voice Over IP) company. In fact, Skype more or less made the concept of VOIP popular and mainstream. (read more...)