Friday, October 30, 2015

Day Four of My Great Viking Adventure Part 2. Aboard Viking Star at last!

First glimpse of The World's Best New Cruise Ship of 2015
         Day 4 dawned rainy and the roof top breakfast room at the Hotel Cram was filled with unhappy tourists.   I could not have cared less.  Because from the rooftop, I could see the funnel of the ship.  Boarding time was 11:00 am and it was all I could do to contain myself from racing down and waiting for embarkation to begin.  I barely restrained myself, packing up and finally getting into a taxi at the stroke of 11.  Off I went to Moll Addosat, the enormous cruise ship facility constructed to welcome up to 11 cruise liners in a day.  One day last summer, 56,000 passengers came and went from the port, the largest cruise ship stop in the Mediterranean and the fourth largest in the world. I am relieved to tell you that there was nowhere near that number of cruisers the day we arrived on board Viking Star.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Day Three of My Great Viking Adventure Part 2: Eating my way through Barcelona

My kind of town. Even the Medieval City pictured in this mosaic featured
food stalls outside the city walls.

Choose whatever Tapas you fancy.
Then count the toothpicks.
Five toothpicks at Sagardi rang up a tab of
14 Euros with a glass of Rioja.

La Boqueria is Barcelona's central
food market...
Barcelona is one of the most food-centric cities I’ve ever visited. Amazing pastry shops, candy stores, cafes and markets seem to be on every corner.  There are a staggering number of restaurants of every description and nationality.  And surprisingly, Barcelona is not an expensive place to eat. Lunch is a Catalan obsession and Prix Fixe menus of about 12 Euros abound.  And of course, there are Tapas and Tapas and more Tapas.  With a glass of Copa, Spain’s champagne, or Rioja, these morsels of food serve a purpose.   Spain still lives on its own schedule.  Even major business shuts down between 1:30 and 4:30 ostensibly so that workers can go home and partake of the main meal of the day.  But commuting times have made that a difficult thing to do.  So tapas are served at lunch and then later in the day to tide the populace over until their very late dinners.  Fortunately, you won’t be alone dining at, say, 8:00 pm, because Barcelona is such a huge tourist draw that hungry nationals from the rest of Europe and beyond will surround you. 

Day Two of My Great Viking Adventure Part 2: Where you going? Barcelona...

La Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudi's yet unfinished masterpiece.
This facade shows the Birth Of Christ
         For some reason, Security at Heathrow in London believes that traveling between Terminal 5, where 747s land and Terminal 3, which will take you onward to Europe, you have somehow managed to get your hands on bomb-making ingredients while transferring on their own carefully-guarded buses.  While a British cop informs you that all liquids will be confiscated, your hand luggage is once again screened, in a far more invasive way than it was in New York.  Dozens of passengers have containers of applesauce and hand sanitizers torn from their persons in an operation that wastes about 45 minutes time.
Fortunately BA 174 arrived forty minutes ahead of schedule so the indignity of having the staggering number of electronic devises re-inspected lost its sting and we took off for Barcelona on time.
        Barcelona, however was another matter altogether. Sunday is sacred to Spanish border control agents and so a limited number of them showed up to check the passports of literally thousands of arrivals.  If there was any consolation, it was that by the time I arrived at Hotel Cram, I was able to access my room immediately.  The Cram, despite it’s awful name, is a Small Luxury Hotel of the World whose members can count on upgrades and extras like a substantial and included breakfast.  And if you prepay, you even get a very good breakfast included. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Day One of My Great Adventure 2: Getting there is hardly any fun at all

British Airways Flight 174 JFK to LHR
The Cunard Line, whose ships have crossed the Atlantic since 1840, ran an Advertising campaign using the headline “Getting there is half the fun.” This was just as the first jets streaked across the Atlantic in hours instead of the 5 days Cunard's fastest Queens took to lumber across the ocean.  Very soon, a transatlantic ocean voyage was an oddity, relegated, even by Cunard, to a few times a year when ships were being repositioned from European summers to Caribbean winters.  Speed won out. Jets made a one-week European jaunt or a three day business trip a reality never possible by ship.  Today, with few exceptions, even ship aficionados are now forced to fly to their cruise’s starting point. And quite honestly, getting there is no fun at all. Take that back.  Business class and First class are perfectly lovely-- even if they cost every bit as much as 6 days on Cunard's flagship Queen Mary.  But Coach is a series of indignities starting at security and ending at baggage claim at your destination.