Barcelona

I was in Barcelona in 2016 and was impressed with the entire experience.  It is very walkable. We stayed at the Hotel Continental Barcelona.

Don’t miss the Sagrada La Familia Basilica.  We have been to many churches in Europe and this is the most unique!

Transportation

To get from the ship to the city is not far with plenty of transportation options. Taxis are plentiful and very organized. It is not a free for all like you expect in America. When you see the taxi stop, you must get in line and they will point you to the next available taxi. It goes fairly quick and you don’t have to worry about hailing one. Prices are also fixed. Getting to or from somewhere like the base of La Rambla will be somewhere around 10 Euros.

 

 

The Blue Bus (T3 PortBus) is a shuttle that you can hop on as well to get dropped off at the base of La Rambla. It stops at each of the cruise terminals, and is 3 Euros for one way or 4 Euros for round trip. The bus is also wheelchair accessible. It will drop you off at the Christopher Columbus Monument which is a 1 minute walk to La Rambla. Check out their map for more information.

Advice on transportation to Monserrat Monastery: My goal is to explain exactly how we did this trip in May 2016

  • Go to the Catalunya Station on Las Ramblas: do down the entrance from LaRamblas or near Cafe Zurich- they will both get you there. Purchase a ticket for 10 trips. It is 9.95 Euros and can be used by multiple people (put it in the machine and hand it to the next person in your party). Insert the card arrow in, take out the top, doors open and walk thru!)
  • Find Metro Line #L1- walk a few short tunnels and turn left to find the train to Espanya. I was told L3 also will get you there but takes longer. Use your Metro ticket to access L1. Be sure you take the L1 that goes in the correct direction (towards the Hospital). Study the map to assure yourself.
  • Get on the L1 and go about 4 stops and exit train at the Espana Station. The Metro has a nice lighted sign over the doors of the train so that you can watch for your exit.
  • At the Espana station find the R5 Regional Train (FGC). It departs every hour at _:36. It may be sitting there early as Espana is the end of the line. At the Espana station there is a fine information center that will assist. You need to buy your Monserrat ticket at this station. You will sign signs that say in English: Easiest way to Montserrat.
  • Go to the yellow ticket area machines in Espana Station. press for English and buy the combination ticket. We pressed “return” so our ticket was a round trip. You need to decide if yu want the cable car or funicular. We chose the cable- no issues with it being scary. I do NOT recommend you get the TOT Monserrat which includes lunch. Ours said “Combinat Montserrat and was 19.20 Euro each (senior rate).
  • The train to Monserrat was on the right side. Be careful as some two steps and I saw a man fall onto an older woman when he left the train.
  • Your train ride is about one hour and if you take the cable car, you get off at the station that indicates “Aeri” . I believe the funicular stop Monistrol is the next one. Remember that if you choose the cable or funicular that you cannot take the other one back.
  • The train station has good signage and you walk to the cable car area. It takes 5 minutes to go up and is thrilling.
  • Once you arrive at the top of Montserrat, go to the info center to get oriented and find a map. There are a variety of restaurants and a cafeteria which were just fine.
  • If you are on your own, you may wonder what some of the lines are for. There is a long line to the right of the Cathredral which is a line to see the Black Madonna up close.

The train to go back was 10 minutes early! This time find the direction to Fondo. Just reverse your directions for the way back.

 

This is a modified review from Lavawalker.com:

Barcelona, Spain
The ship was docked overnight so we had the opportunity to spend the better part of two days in Barcelona. If you plan to stay in the city, the general wisdom is to spend the first day on a tour or HOHO bus and then take local transportation (metro and buses) to specific places you wish to explore in more detail on your second day.When visiting Barcelona, it’s important to know something about Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926), a very gifted architect with a unique modernistic/gothic/naturalist vision. Hint: you’ll think you’re walking into the world of Dr. Seuss. His collective works in Barcelona have been blessed as a UNESCO Heritage Centre. I recommend learning a little about Gaudí and his works before visiting.There is a small terminal building next to the pier where we docked. However the port entrance/exit into town is a long way off. Upon exiting you can either walk a long 30 minutes; buy a shuttle day-pass from Celebrity for €5; take the T3 (aka Cruise Bus, €3 one way / €4 roundtrip) to within a half block from the Christopher Columbus Monument (essentially ground zero for most directions); arrange a tour that will pick you up here; or jump in a taxi.

There are two different double-decker HOHO (Hop On / Hop Off) buses in Barcelona. One has two routes and the other has three. The price is about the same and the reviews are mixed on both. Previous visitors liked that they will take you past all the major sights with commentary in several languages and you can get on and off at will. They didn’t like that the commentary was pretty minimal and not well synched at times; and that the buses are hard to reboard due to massive crowds at some sights.

BARCELONA DAY 1: Barcelona Highlights Tour

I wanted something better than the HOHO experience so we booked a 4-hour semi-private “Barcelona Highlights Tour with Skip-the-line tickets at Park Guell” with Barcelona Day Tours online. There were 12 passengers in our van, plus a driver and a guide. Cost was €59 pp + €6 pp Park Guell tickets + tip.

Museum of Art
Quick note: our tour guide was late, though it was due to having been involved in a traffic accident on her way to the port. This got us off to a late start and caused some confusion as we weren’t really sure what our delay was. Give her credit for seeking other transportation to meet up with our van. Our group quickly forgave this unusual and unfortunate event. Thankfully our guide was not injured and was able to give us a very enthusiastic and informative tour.

Park Guell
We were picked up at the terminal building next to the ship, met up with our guide, and started our tour through the city. Our guide gave us historic context and explained sights as we passed them. We alternated between a driving tour and a walking tour. The walking portions included the exterior of La Sagrada Familia and two of Gaudí’s other famous buildings; about an hour touring Park Guell; and a visit to the National Museum of Art for a bathroom break and great views of the city. Following the tour about half of the passengers got off in town and the rest of us were returned to the ship. This was an excellent overview of the city and a fun first day.

Casa Mila
BARCELONA DAY 2: Sagrada Familia and Castell de Montjuic

If you’ve spent any time in Europe, you may have already gotten your fill of churches. They seem to be on every corner and many are truly spectacular. I’ve got news for you. Few are as breathtaking as Sagrada Familia. It’s a must-see.

The #1 tourist attraction in Barcelona is Sagrada Familia, a basilica unlike any other in the world. Designed by Antoni Gaudí, its a work still in progress. While the exterior is genuinely unique — my wife thinks it looks something like a sandcastle — it’s the interior that is jaw-dropping. Nothing really prepares you for the experience that awaits once you set foot inside.

We bought the “Basic” self-guided tour tickets (€15 pp) online at their official website for the 9:00 am entry time, which is when they open. All tickets are time-controled and they only let a set number of visitors in at 15-minute intervals. Miss your interval and you will be refused entry. However, once in, you can stay as long as you like. And they do have restrooms in the complex, but outside of the basilica on your way towards the museum, souvenir shop, and exit.

Sagrada Familia Interior
Note that you cannot upgrade your tickets upon arrival. So if you want an audioguide, a guided tour, and/or wish to climb the tower, you need to make this choice online and pay for it in advance. We bought our tickets online over a month in advance of our early May visit. No tickets were available on site the day we visited. It had sold out online. If you enjoy sightseeing without the crowds, I highly recommend you get tickets for 9:00 am.

Sagrada Familia Interior
We got off the ship at 7:30 am and shared a taxi with 2 other couples (€30 total / €5 pp) to Sagrada Familia. We arrived before 8:00 am and got a good look at many of the statues on the exterior prior to getting in line at street level for security which opened about 8:30 am. We queued a second time in the courtyard one floor above security.

If you prefer to take the metro, and the Cruise Bus is running, take the Cruise Bus to the Christopher Columbus statue. Then walk NW 2 blocks from the Christopher Columbus statue to the Drassanes Metro station. It’s located just the other side of the Comandància Naval de Barcelona building. Take the green L3 metro 1 stop to Paral-lel station, then change to the L2 Purple Metro and take it directly to the Sagrada Familia stop. The Sagrada Familia can be seen immediately upon exiting the metro.

Sagrada Familia Interior
At 9:00 am the Sagrada Familia doors opened and welcomed the first group of ticketholders. There is some massing just inside the door as you become enthralled at the grand beauty and begin capturing the first of over 400 pictures. Thank goodness for digital photography! The beautiful colored light you see in my photos is natural sunlight coming through stained glass windows. The colored glass and window placements were carefull conceived and orchestrated to provide a changing light show from sun up to sun down. No artificial colored lighting is used, and most of the pillars are actually white.

Sagrada Familia Ceiling
We spent close to 2 hours exploring the basilica, watching the lighting change as time passed, and visiting the museum displays below the church. The church was practically empty for the first 15 minutes, but got fuller every succeeding quarter-hour. There were maybe 100 visitors when we arrived and few thousand (inside and out) when we left about 10:45 am.

Our next stop was Castell de Montjuic, a fortress with roots dating to 1640. It sits atop a 567-foot hill overlooking the port with panoramic views of the city. But first we had to get there. A metro station sits on a corner across the street from Sagrada Familia. We purchased a Metro T-10 pass which allows 10 rides for €10.20. Everyone in your party can use the same pass until its used up. This is the only place on our entire trip where our credit card didn’t work. We used coins.

The metro couldn’t be easier! Simply take the purple L2 metro to Paral-lel and get off at the end of the line. For reassurance, a list of stations can be found above every other door on the metro. Stations that have already passed are lit up. It’s easy to see which stations are coming up and confirm the direction you are heading.

Upon arrival at Paral-lel, follow signs and board the Funicular. No additional fare required. Do not leave the station. The funicular is a 2-minute steeply angled mountain train that will take you to the Funicular du Montjuic station. From here you can walk (free; over 30-minutes uphill), get in line for the Montjuic Cable Car ride (€12.70 roundtrip/€8.40 one way; less than 5-minutes), or take the Red 150 Bus (use your T-10 pass; 10-minutes) to Castell de Montjuic.

Montjuic Funicular Station
The cable car is located on top of the Funicular du Montjuic station, while the bus stop is on the same side of the road as you exit the funicular (out the exit, slightly to your left). As my wife is afraid of heights, we opted for the bus — and also saved €25.

Castell de Montjuic Entrance
Castell de Montjuic (€5, free 1st Sundays) is open 10:00 am to 8:00 pm from March 1 to October 31. We missed the opportunity to take the 90-minute english tour (€5) which runs daily at 11:00 am with an additional tour on weekends on holidays at 4:00 pm. The tour has access to “off-limits” places such as the watchtower and the cistern.

Castell de Montjuic Flag
It’s an impressively sturdy-looking castle with lots of good photo opportunities, including the ships in port and panoramas of the city. They also have a few small exhibits. The old weapons display, suspended in air behind glass, was by far my favorite. The fortress itself is a bit of a letdown as there are no underground passages to explore. However, the views are still worth the visit.

We returned the way we came. Red 150 bus (T10 pass) to the Funicular (T10 pass) back down to Paral-lel station. Located the green L3 line and took it one stop to Drassanes. Walked two blocks to the Christopher Columbus statue. (Can’t miss it). Then another block South (towards the ship) and where we found the Cruise Buses lined up (€3 one way, if you didn’t get a roundtrip ticket earlier). Tell the driver which ship you’re on and he’ll make sure you get off at the correct terminal.


Cartagena, Spain
The port is in town, next to the marina, and doesn’t require any transportation from the ship. This was a good port to sleep in since nothing opens until 10:00 am. Still, we were in the mostly vacant city by 8:30 am since it’s nice to explore unimpeded by crowds. Siesta is generally from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm during the heat of the day. Shops then re-open until 10:00 or 11:00 pm.

Cartagena Port Panorama
We exited the ship, walked though the port security gate and found ourselves on a wide walkway splitting a marina in two. We wondered around town, taking exterior pictures of interesting buildings, Parque Arqueológico Cerro del Molinete, and a few other parks while we waited for the Castillo de la Concepción to open at 10:00 am.

Cartagena Parque Arqueológico Cerro del Molinete
From the port walkway, walk to the first street and turn right (don’t go up the stairs). Turn left at the next street you come to and walk until you come across the Ascensor Panorámico (Panoramic Lift, €2 or €4,25 with admission to Castillo de la Concepción; climbing the lift is free). Walking to the narrow observation point as you exit the elevator to the right is a bit scary as the walkway moves a little with the wind.

Upon exiting the walkway to the left, you’ll find yourselves in Parque Torres which offers walking trails, wild peacocks, and good views of your ship in port, as well as Torres Park Auditorium, and Roman Amphitheatre beyond that; especially from the expansive Plaza Puerta del la Villa lookout.

The best views of the surrounding area are reserved for visitors to the rooftop of Castillo de la Concepción, aka Castillo de los Patos. Offering 360-degree views with picture boards that pinpoint the most interesting buildings and places, the rooftop can be reached via an interior ramp or turret stairwell. The castle has some interesting displays inside as well.

Cartagena Panorama
Exiting Plaza Puerta del la Villa via a stairway to the north, will take you to the Puerta del la Villa (“The Door of the Villa”). Walk through this short archway tunnel and down the ramp and you’ll find yourself overlooking the Roman Amphitheatre, a must-see site in Cartagena, and ruins of the Old Cathedral of Cartagena “Catedral de Santa María La Mayor” beyond.

Cartagena Roman Amphitheatre
You can get good pictures from several vantage points as you walk along the top of the amphitheater. If you wish to walk inside the amphitheater, tickets are available for €6 at the Museum (MVSEO) directly across the street from the distinctive Palace Hall of Cartagena on Plaza Ayuntamiento (about three blocks to your west).

Since the ship was so close and easily accessible, we headed back to the ship to drop off the light jackets we didn’t need, stayed for lunch, and then ventured out again. We set out to see a pair of museums, the National Museum of Underwater Archaeology and the Maritime Museum.

Cartagena Coins
National Museum of Underwater Archaeology (€3) is located on the marina, just 5 minutes from the ship. The Museum has a permanent exhibition in which the methodology of underwater archeology is discussed as a scientific discipline. Models, and actual recovered artifacts, help tell the story of over 2,500 years of navigational history. One highlight is a large display of coins from the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, a galleon that was sunk by the British navy in 1804. 594,000 gold and silver coins were among the items salvaged.

Cartagena Palm Tree
We walked along the marina to The Maritime Museum only to discover that it was closed that day. Now tired and enjoying stellar warm weather with nice cool breezes, we took a siesta under the shade of a Palm Tree in the Plaza de los Héroes park next to the Palace Hall clocktower.

Cartagena Heroes Monument
Rested and comfortable, we checked out the art statuary in the immediate area, then walked along the marina until we found an empty bench. We sat looking at the marina and decided to watch people go by until it was time to return to the ship. A huge futuristic silver sailing vessel caught our attention.

Cartagena Superyacht
We were looking at the world’s largest sailing ship, an 8-deck superyacht, 468-feet in length with ship masts nearing 300-feet high, owned by Russian billionaire Andrey Igorevich Melnichenko. (Note how it dwarfs the shipping cranes). Named the “A”, with a crew of 54, it was berthed in the harbor. The hull is made of steel and carbon fibre. Security is enhanced with bombproof glass and 40 CCTV cameras. In addition to the expected helipad and pool, it also features a 193-square foot glass underwater observation pod in the keel which is 1-foot thick.

Cartagena Columbus StatueCartagena Clumbus Statue

 

We found contrasts in two interpretations of the Christopher Columbus statues quite interesting. While the Columbus statue in Barcelona (at left) is pointing to the New World, the Columbus statue in Cartagena appears to be giving the finger.

Hints:
Barcelona – there are two shuttle buses, one run by the city and the other (more expensive) run by NCL that take passengers from the pier to downtown– be sure to take the cheaper bus to the Christopher Columbus monument at the end of Las Ramblas. We took a cab to the main Gaudi park – be sure to get there early as the timed tickets sell out to the most popular part of the park. We showed up later and walked through the part that’s free and open to the public – still worth visiting. Just walking up and down Las Ramblas is a great way to spend the day – be aware that pickpockets are rampant in Barcelona. We’ve never had a problem but diligence is important.