Mediterranean Cruise – Oceania Marina: Part I Rome to Gibraltar (Cadiz)

Saturday 1 June – Embarkation: Roger

We had a late relaxing start to the day. After sitting around chatting for a while, we took a stroll around the Fortezza Michelangelo and along the sea wall to Pier 12, where the Oceania cruise liner, Marina, was docked, having arrived early this morning and disembarked the passengers from the previous cruise.  We are joining Sylvia’s sister and husband Dave on this 12 day cruise.

At 238 m in length with a beam of 32m and a draught of 7.3 meters, this boat has a crew of 780 to cater for 1250 passengers. With 16 decks there is plenty of space: deck 5 houses reception, a theatre and a few other things; deck 6 is the Grand restaurant, bars and a casino; decks 7 to 11 are accommodation; decks 12 to 16 are all entertainment related with a pool, bars, restaurants, sports and more. It would be really interesting to have a look below beck 5 and see the inner workings and the ending that drives this floating holiday home.

The boarding process was very well organised and the crew very welcoming. First we headed to our evacuation assembly area on deck 5 where the life boats are for a safety brief. While the rooms were being cleaned we were directed to a restaurant on deck 12 for lunch. Here the selection of food was outstanding with large serveries, which staff stood behind and placed whatever one desired on one’s plate.

After lunch we caught up in our cabin and drank the bottle of complementary bubbles that had been left in the room. After a tour of the ship investigating lots of different places including a mini golf course near the bell on the top deck, lots of restaurants, spa area and swimming pool, we sat at the stern of the boat as we cleared the harbour and headed out into the ocean.

In the evening we headed to the Grand Dining Room where we enjoyed a rather delicious four-course meal. Next we headed to the theatre up the front of deck 5 for an introductory show with some not very good singers followed by a dance act which was a little better.

The day over we headed off to bed.

 

Sunday 2 June – Saint Tropez and Port Grimaud: Sylvia

I woke this morning after the best sleep I have had in a long time. The curtains here must completely block out the light. The room was cool and dark, the bed incredibly comfortable and the gentle rocking motion just topped it off.

We met Dave and Debbie up at the Terrace cafe and after a very leisurely breakfast we headed down to deck 5 and caught a tender into Saint Tropez. It is all very efficient with each lifeboat used as a tender taking about 150 passengers for the ±15 minute ride to the port.

We had decided to walk to ±8kms to Port Grimaud and wandered along, at times side a very busy roadway. Port Grimaud is a gorgeous seaside town with loads of little canals and marinas, and lots of colourfully painted buildings. Today being Sunday, there was a market happening as well. A great place to stroll, browse the shops, eat gelato (beautifully served up looking like an flower) and people watch.

After some time we bought tickets for the water shuttle back to Saint Tropez, and enjoyed some great drinks at a lovely little bar by the water before boarding a funny almost open at both ends boat. This only took us out to the end of the Port Grimaud marina, where we had to get off and get on a larger, more sea-worthy boat for the ±10 minute ride back to Saint Tropez.

After buying some more cigars for Roger, we wandered back to the tender area and headed back to the Marina.

Dave, Debbie and I enjoyed a light lunch while Roger enjoyed a cigar and a G&T. Roger and I then wandered around parts of the ship we hadn’t seen yesterday including an impressive library, barista coffee bar and lovely afternoon tea lounge, complete with strong quartet – will have to try that another day.

We had booked massages so headed up to the spa to enjoy some R&R, in a room with a fabulous sea view, before meeting Dave and Debbie back in the Grand Dining Room at 8pm. Unfortunately it was full so we ended up having dinner at the Terrace Cafe buffet upstairs. It was delicious, but as is often the case with a buffet, we probably ate too much.

We headed back to the main show area for a much better production this evening featuring music from the 50’s and 60’s before retiring for what will hopefully be another good night’s sleep.

 

Monday 3 June – Barcelona: Roger

We wandered down to the grand dining room for breakfast as the ship did a tricky 180 degree turn to berth at the dock.

A short while later, a taxi dropped us at the America’s Cup base, where lots of work is going on to improve the area before the races later this year.

Many statues on the buildings around here are wrapped in nets, maybe someone’s worried they might try to escape, or maybe they’re in poor repair and it’s to stop pieces breaking off and landing on passers by.

We headed up Las Ramblas, then into a local food market. They really know how to display goods in these places; from the meat to lollies the stands are all very attractive.

We wandered a bit further down the street and caught a taxi to the Sagrada Familia. I think the taxi driver may have been related to Gonzales as he spread through the narrow streets. Arriving at the church it was just as ugly as I remember from a visit 10 years ago. And what’s more it’s still not finished a state, as it has been since1882 when construction started. Gaudi, the architect, was hit by a tram in 1926 and died of his injuries. When we were here 10 years ago they told us it would be finished in 10 more years, now they are talking 2026, only 100 years after his death. To be fair, inside the main hall looks pretty much done with its spiral staircases at the southeast end along with an interesting looking spiral staircase and an elevator . Colourful stained glass windows are interesting and give lots of many spectacular colours on the stone as one looks around – too hard for me to describe so hopefully the photos will help tell the story. There is a Darth Vader character overlooking the main auditorium above a large Glory Door. This is a reproduction of the central door on the Glory Façade, the temple’s main façade, which tells the story of humanity and the paths to eternal happiness. The door, created by Josep M. Subirachs, features the text of the ‘Our Father’ in Catalan, surrounded by its central phrase in fifty different languages, as an expression of brotherhood between cultures.

Underneath the cathedral there is a museum to Gaudi, with the story of the many buildings he designed prior to this one, which at one stage when someone gave him a bunch of money he completely redesigned. There is also a picture of the stage the cathedral was at in 2018 and an artist’s impression of what it will be like if ever finished. Large construction cranes are, at present, just starting some new towers. Next we headed up an elevator in the Nativity Tower and then walked across a bridge with some good views across the city. Across the bridge we entered another tower for the 400-plus step journey down. Along the way, through various windows, we got to view of the fruits on top of towers; apparently Gaudi got a lot of inspiration from nature. The best part was the spiral staircase, with a well-worn stone hand rail on the inside.

Back on the ground we took a taxi back into the old town. We stopped in at a tapas restaurant, which just happened to be a Michelin star restaurant in the Ohla Hotel where we had stayed last year. After a rather delicious light lunch we wandered some more narrow streets with many stunningly displayed shop windows.

Back on the ship we enjoyed a high tea at the Horizons Lounge, where a guy played the piano as we ate cakes and drank tea and coffee.

Back in the room we watched the fuel bunker boat, that had been tied up on the starboard side all day, leaving with a pilot being dropped off and a tug on the front as it headed to tie up alongside the next cruise liner. I am always intrigued by the logistics that take place to keep a ship like this at sea.

We finished the day with a delicious meal at Jacques, one of four specialty restaurants and then watching a rather interesting comedy magician show.

 

Tuesday 4 June – At Sea: Sylvia

We had a very leisurely start to the day, meeting Debbie and Dave in the Terrace Cafe for a light breakfast at 9:30. After this, Debbie and I joined the line dancing group up on the 15th floor and had a bit of a giggle, while at the same time getting a bit of exercise. We then met up with the guys on the very top deck and played a round of putt putt golf. Unbelievably, after 18 holes we all ended up with the exact same one-over par score. This is despite me being 5 under par after the first 9!

We are cruising down the coast of Spain, probably some 20-or-so kms from the shore. So today has largely been one of rest.

Roger and I went to the fairly well equipped gym. Then, after a very light lunch in the Aquemar Terrace (this is the healthy restaurant on board), we spent some time sitting by, and even dipping into the swimming pool before meeting back with Debbie and Dave for some afternoon tea at 4pm, with an unfortunately too loud string quartet. This is definitely a pretty lazy existence, but certainly not an unpleasant one.

After another enjoyable dinner in the Grand Dining Room (we are certainly not lacking for food on this boat), we enjoyed a John Denver tribute show by Chris Bannister.

 

Wednesday 5 June – Gibraltar (Cadiz): Sylvia

We had sailed through the strait at Gibraltar at about 2am this morning. Despite some interest, I decided to prioritise sleep so missed seeing it. We docked at the ancient Spanish port of Cadiz this morning. This city has been continuously settled since the Phoenicians settled here in about 1800BC, making it one of Western Europe’s oldest cities. We had decided to visit Gibraltar and had arranged a driver for the day.

After a quick coffee and pastry in the Barrista coffee bar overlooking the pool deck, Roger and I disembarked just after 8, only to realise that I had my times wrong and our driver was not coming until 9. A quick phone call and he was very accommodating and came a little earlier. (Debbie and Dave had decided to do a ship excursion, cycling through some of the small villages and some forest in the area.)

We set off on the ~90-minute drive to Gibraltar, initially along the waterfront of Cadiz. Soon we were in the countryside. This looks like very productive land, gently rolling hills, well cropped with different grasses and lots of fields of beautiful sunflowers, as well as the odd cow farm and lots of windmills. Little villages are dotted about with almost all the buildings painted white, really standing out on the hills.

Continuing on we drove through more scrubby, mountainous areas with large bands of exposed rock in places. We passed through Algeciras, with its white houses and large refineries before turning off on the A34 to Gibraltar. It is easy to see why it is known as the rock – it is quite an imposing sight.

Arriving at the border, our driver gave us instructions on where to meet our guide on the other side and we wandered through the very easy passport control. We were picked up and whisked up to the upper rock, where we would spend most of our time.

Apparently Franco closed the border from 1969 to 1985. In order to visit one had to go via a ferry from Morocco. Now ±15,000 people cross the border from Spain everyday to work in Gibraltar.

This area has an interesting history. Tarik was one of the first settlers to arrive in 711. Originally from Morocco, he built the Moorish Castle that still forms the walls of the city today. Spain ruled the area from 1462 until 1704 and since then it has been in British control – more or less. John Lennon and Yoko Ono were married here in The Rock hotel.

Our first stop was the Pillars of Hercules. From this view point we could clearly see Morocco, some 24kms away, as well as Spain and Gibraltar, the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.

Next we stopped at St Michael’s Cave. This is a huge natural limestone cave. During WWII it was prepared, but never used, as an emergency hospital. It would have been a rather damp place for a hospital. Today it hosts a light show that plays every seven minutes. Rumour has it that if you go deep enough and far enough you will end up in Morocco.

Three hundred Barbary apes live on the rock. While rumour suggests they came from Morocco via the underground tunnel, it is much more likely that they swam across. Today, they are fed and vaccinated by the park staff and, while wild, are well habituated to humans. As we exited the cave we saw a female and male pair with a tiny ±2-day old baby.

We spent a bit of time on the skywalk, a small glass platform hanging off the side of the rock, giving excellent views. More Barbary apes hung around and a couple even climbed up and sat on me!

Our last stop on the tour was the Great Siege tunnel. This was built in the 1700’s, a time when many wars were fought between the British and the Spanish, sometimes with the help of the French. The tunnels were also used in WWII although their exact purpose is unclear. There were many more tunnels built during WWII as well, to house the 16,000 men stationed here, but lower in the rock and we didn’t get to see them. There are apparently 52 Kms of tunnels in Gibraltar, which only covers and area of 6.7 sq.kms.

Tour over, we had a light lunch in the main town area before wandering back across the border to meet our driver again for the return trip to our ship. This meant walking across the runway – must be the only place in the world you can do that.

Back on board we enjoyed a delicious steak meal in the Polo Grill specialty steak restaurant, followed by a show featuring several broadway show tunes. Tomorrow we hit Morocco…

2 thoughts on “Mediterranean Cruise – Oceania Marina: Part I Rome to Gibraltar (Cadiz)

  1. Jo-Anne Hitchcock says:

    Gibralter looks really interesting. Maybe the nets on the statues in Spain are to keep the birds off them?

  2. Rosie says:

    Thank you for another wonderful account and great photos. Brings back memories of our fabulous holiday in Spain, Gibraltar and Morocco. Your weather looks perfect, and you’re all looking great. Very impressed with the golf on board ship.

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