Day 2 - Bahia Agua Verde
Woke up this morning and made it to the 7 am stretch and WOW! The cove we are in today is just gorgeous! The weather also looked like it was going to cooperate both with sun and no wind. On the way to breakfast we saw that we had the morning Kayak and afternoon Burro which we knew was perfect since it is usually best to get out on the kayaks while there isn't any wind. We know from experience that wind tends to kick up more as the day goes on. After breakfast it was out to the aft deck to board the skiff to the beach. Our ship is stocked with kayaks and has a platform they use to launch kayaks in other locations but here in Baja they prefer to launch from the beach. The crew had already taken the kayaks over and had them ready on the beach for us. We grabbed our paddles and headed out. Our adventure guide for this one was Mike and he was also very excited about the lovely weather we had. We paddled around the coast and even out a rock formation a few hundred feet from the coast. Mike told us that the water all around that rock formation was very deep so many birds went there to fish and live on the rocks. The water close to the coast was very clear so that we could see things like fish, starfish, and other things on the bottom while kayaking. It was a great morning adventure and we all worked up a hunger for lunch. Back to the ship with a little time to shower and head to lunch. It was another great meal which was topped off by the most adorable and equally delicious dessert! Our pastry chef made macrons shaped like a cactus and filled with a sort of Mexican eggnog cream. All I could say was OH MY GOD!
After lunch it was time to head out for our Burro ride. The Romero family brings the burros over to the island every week just for UnCruise. Julio, the head of the family, takes a look at each guest and then pairs you with the right Burro for you. I guess he could tell I like to go fast because I got the Burro that wanted to pass everyone was we went up the first steep hill. The path was pretty narrow and he liked passing on the outside so I just tried to trust he knew what he was doing and wouldn't step too close to the edge. It was about an hour ride and we went over rocks and sand, up and down hills, and even through an oasis which was full of palm trees and freshwater. The family that brings the burros also had a little shop set up on the beach with some things they have made that were for sale. I always enjoy being able to buy something that was made by the locals when we travel so I picked up a pair of earrings and a necklace.
Since the weather was so nice we had the option to hang out on the beach a bit longer and could take out kayaks or paddleboard or head back to the ship. We chose to hang out for awhile. The crew brought over towels, chairs, snacks, and drinks as well so it was a great beach day! After enjoying the beach it was time to head back for Happy Hour and pick tomorrow's activities. We also also got a special treat and Julio joined us for happy hour and entertained us with a few songs. They were all in Spanish so I could only pick up a few parts but they all sounded like very sad songs to me. We enjoyed another very delicious meal but the chef which of course included another amazing dessert from Katie our pastry chef. For anyone that knows me or has traveled with me you will know I am a picky eater so I was a little worried about meals on a small ship. Even though there have only been 3 choices for lunch or dinner so far I have found something each time and you can also sort of customize the options if there is something you don't like. Being that we are on the sea I hve been opting for the fish most nights and they have been delicious!
Day 3 - Puerto Escondido
We were supposed to have adventures in the morning but due to wind they were cancelled so we instead went out whale watching and switched onshore adventures to the afternoon. We lucked out and quickly spotted a spout and Captain headed that way. After carefully watching and waiting it was identified as a Blue Whale, which is one of the biggest whales. We would watch the spout come up and then wait to see if the whale appeared too and most times the whale took a few breaths and then you would see the fluke (tail) as the whale dove and then wait 8 - 10 minutes to search for where he would come back up. While keeping track of the Blue Whale a pod of dolphins came over to play with us. They were bow riding and also playing in our wake. They really seem like kids that were swimming around and even showing off a little. It was so fun to watch them.
After some whale and dolphin watching it was time for lunch and while having lunch we pulled into the first actual dock we have seen since leaving La Paz. We are in Puerto Escondido which is a well protected harbor with mountains almost all around so it is also given the name The Waiting Room since many boats will wait out storms here. There were a few adventure options available today - a strenuous hike, snorkeling, a skiff ride, or you could just walk around the marina we were docked in. We opted for the skiff but it was windy and cloudy so a bit cold out on the water but we still saw some interesting things. We were happy to not do much this afternoon anyway since this was the first time since boarding that we were able to pick up a wi-fi signal. My travels are work for me so I really don't mind staying in touch while I travel but I hadn't been expecting to be without wi-fi so much on this trip. I used this time to check on emails and make sure all my clients were OK. Tomorrow we are headed to the Gray Whale Sanctuary which is one of the main reasons I chose this cruise at this time of year. The momma Gray whales come to this special bay to have their babies each year in late January and stay through early March.
After our sea day I was starting to feel like I might be getting a sore throat which did turn into a cold so I have been a bit tired and that is why I am behind on the blog. Since I go so behind you are getting the rest of the cruise all in this post.
Palma de Mallorca
Today's stop was one where I actually had pre-planned a shore excursion. I was partly thinking that all of our other stops up until then we were going to wing it so it was good to choose at least one stop and make advance plans. I read about the Caves of Drach and they sounded interesting and it wasn't something we could easily make our way to on our own. I booked our excursion with Project Expedition but the ship also offered a very similar one for a higher cost. Our tour was said to be 8 hours and the ship's only 4 and half hours so I thought we were getting a better deal. I think I was spoiled by our Colosseum tour and having such a small group and was hoping for the same this time but no such luck. This tour sent a small van to pick us up at the port and at first I thought this is great the tour won't be bigger than this maybe 20 passenger bus. Well that small bus took us to a place where other small buses met up so all guests from those could board a bigger regular motorcoach type bus. I thought oh well we probably ended up on a tour the same size as the ship's tour and I guess that is how this one could be cheaper. Then our guide started talking and we realized he would be saying everything in 4 languages all day. At first it was interesting but then I realized it meant we would have to hear a lot of talking all day. Our first stop was called an "authentic" Mallorca Pearl factory that was advertised as giving us an exclusive demonstration on how the pearls are made into jewelry. Well our bus pulled up to a run down looking outlet store it the middle of nowhere and I thought this cannot be right oh but it was. We were to spend the next 40 minutes at this place where the store and restaurant were not even open. I guess maybe this was more of a restroom break but the bathrooms were terrible - kind of what you would expect at a run down looking middle of no where shop I guess. OK so now I am seeing the advantage to the shorter ship excursion - no stop at this place. Then we board the bus and find out that some of the guests on the bus booked different tours so our first stop was to drop the guests off at a different cave for their excursion. OK so I guess I can deal with that but then I find out we are to spend the next 90 minutes at the nearby beach town - which I thought had sounded like a great part of the tour until we got there and realized it was off season for this small beach town so as you can guess not a lot to do. There was a triathlon going on which was about the only excitement. A few shops were open and a couple places to eat but nothing that really could take 90 minutes. There was a nice beach here so I can see in the summer it is probably a great stop on the tour where you could have time to swim and enjoy the beach but not this time of year. Finally 5 hours into the tour we get to the caves! They were impressive and the classical mini concert inside was wonderful. After having done this and comparing to the ship's version I think I would recommend the ship's tour in this case. By the time we got back to the ship it was almost time for the ship to leave so we didn't really get to explore the city itself. I was also feeling very rundown by that point so I was happy to get back on the ship anyway.
We could see the amazing cathedral from the back of the ship so we decided to eat dinner at the buffet and sit out on the back deck so we could watch as we left port. It was a little chilly but well worth it.
I was surprised to find out that our next stop of Valencia is the 3rd largest city in Spain. I guess I hear Valencia and I think oranges so I was kind of picturing a small countryside. I was way off. The city is so big and the port wasn't very close to the center so Azamara had shuttle buses for us at no charge. Valencia is a bustling city with a medieval past. From where the shuttle dropped us off we could easily walk over to the La Lonja which was the silk exchange was built in 1492 and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Right near there is the Central Market of Valencia which is one of the largest in Europe, covers more than 8,000 square metres. It is a gorgeous Valencian Art Nouveau style building. We wandered through the huge market which was mostly meat vendors.
We left the old city and headed for the new to see the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciencies (Museum of Arts and Science). The buildings here are very modern and eclectic. We wandered around them a bit and it was such a strange contrast to the section of town we visited first. We looked at the map and it seemed from where we were it was a closer walk to the port terminal than to the shuttle drop off point. We remembered the ship had also mentioned there was a shuttle that went from the ship to the terminal center so we figured we would just walk to the port and find that instead. When we got to the port terminal we realized how large and busy this port really is. I was very glad for that shuttle that went from the terminal to the ship because it was probably another 15 minutes walk. This was our shortest port stop with a departure of 6 pm, which was fine with me since I still wasn't feeling 100%. I am sure they also do that so that everyone has enough time to pack since this was also our last stop before the end of the cruise. The ship's finale was a large chocolate buffet that they set up in the atrium area. It was a sweet ending to a great cruise.
Since the ship ended in a different port than we had started in this was like another port day to me so I had booked us a hotel for a night in Barcelona before flying home. In the morning we disembarked in Barcelona which was a breeze. I have to say it was one of the easiest I have had. We were off the ship, bags in hand, and at the curb in a few minutes. We use Uber many times when we travel so didn't even think about it much when we saw it was an option in Barcelona we used it. What we didn't realize is that Spain seems to have a rocky relationship with Uber and that it just recently came back in March. We were not sure where to look for our driver as the app just said the meeting point. When we asked around no one working in the terminal area seemed to even have heard of Uber which we thought was odd. We did find our driver and he explained that many people in Spain, the taxis especially do not like Uber. On our way to the hotel he also explained how Uber was different in Spain and it isn't the driver's own business like it is in the US. The drivers all drive company cars and are required to work set hours.
We got to the hotel and of course since you have to get off the ship rather early we couldn't get to our room but they were happy to store all of our things while we explored. Like in Rome I chose a smaller boutique type hotel, Erik Vokel, in the heart of things. The rooms here were actually like apartments so they had a full kitchen and even a washer/dryer (which would have come in handy if the ship hadn't had free laundry). We could easily walk to a lot of sights and hotel staff kindly showed us on the map where to go and gave advice on how to get there. Since we only had a day (which I realize now was not even close to enough time) we wanted to squeeze in as much as we could. If I had to do it all over again I think I would have booked 2 nights in Barcelona. When I was booking everything I was thinking that most times after a long cruise I am really just ready to be home, however this is one of the few times where our cruise was a one way so without staying an extra day we would not have seen Barcelona at all. Also it was my birthday so I was looking forward to celebrating it in Barcelona! After all the walking we have been doing we knew we just didn't have the energy to see everything on foot so we weighed our options for seeing things via a vehicle. It was between biking (too much energy needed for me), the hop on hop off (which are usually good options) but then we decided on the more fun way of driving ourselves around the city in a small GO Car. We had seen them on TV and they looked like a similar idea to the electric car we rented in Norway that had a guided tour built in and told you things along the path. What we hadn't counted on was that Barcelona was very different from the small Norwegian town we had driven around in. Barcelona traffic was a bit hectic and at times it got a little dicey. We missed a few turns and didn't really do all of the set tour but we did a lot and saw the highlights including a stop at the beach where we actually parked the little car and got out. In the end it was a fun way to see the city in less than 3 hours. After that we wandered around exploring places like the Gothic Quarter (which dates back over 2000 years!) on our walk back to the hotel. We took a siesta and headed back out for a little more exploring. Barcelona really is a wonderful city and I definitely want to go back and spend more time there one day.
Our hotel didn't have a breakfast location like the one in Rome but they did deliver a cute breakfast basket to the room that had juice, milk, and some bread with stuff for toast and some pastry. I forgot to mention earlier that the rooms used Uber to get back to the airport (we did compare rates since some locals told us Uber was more expensive but we found that was not correct and Uber was actually cheaper than a taxi). Personally for me I like that I can use the app on my phone for Uber and I see where my driver is and then I can pay in the app so no need to worry if I have enough euro left.
We are flying American Airlines this trip, which is our first time using them for international. For the return flight I bought the Premium Economy which I wasn't sure what to expect since on the other airlines we pay for the extra comfort or whatever they call it and have not really been impressed. That is not the case with American. I really like the Premium Economy and to me it was similar to what you might get in first class on a shorter domestic flight. It was well worth the extra price we paid for it. Maybe one day I will be ready to splurge on the business class for international flights but for now I will be very happy with this. While we have a non-stop from Barcelona to Miami which is nice it technically isn't non-stop for us since we will have to get in a car and drive a few hours but I am OK with that for the savings and also not having the worry about a connecting flight.
We spent all day still in port and the weather was really bad. Some people opted to take excursions into Rome but since we had already seen plenty in Rome and the weather in the port area wasn't good we just stayed on the ship. It was very windy so it made sense to stay inside. We were just hanging out in the room when it got a little darker outside so I looked out and next thing I know we were moving. An announcement came on saying echo, echo, echo. I looked it up to see it pretty much meant high winds be prepared. In this case it meant our lines had broken and we were no longer tied to the dock. We were now floating out in the middle of the channel and spinning a little. My view did a 180 turn before tugs came to bring us safely back to dock. It was a bit crazy but quickly under control and the captain came on to say there was no damage and no one was hurt. Now that my view was of the dock I could see how much the wind had damaged the terminal. We were now tied up at the MSC cruise terminal, which was a little further down from where we were tied up before. Thankfully the MSC Meraviglia was able to leave port the day prior or we might have hit her. The port building itself had a few sunroof panels that come loose and some of the glass doors had blown open. The temporary metal gates were blown over and scattered around. It really looked as though a hurricane had blown through. A firetruck came later to take the pieces of the sunroof off. We were supposed to finally get out of port tonight but the captain came on around 10 pm to say sorry it is still not safe to leave so we will be staying overnight and hoping to push off in the morning. That also meant we were going to miss our second port of Bastia. It is bummer to miss these 2 quaint little ports but safety is more important. After seeing what the winds did in port I am very glad that we were not out in the open water for that. It sounds like tomorrow will be a sea day and we will arrive at our 3rd stop, Livorno (Florence/Pisa) a little early.
My next adventure is a 9 night Mediterranean cruise from Rome to Barcelona. I will be sailing on the Azamara Pursuit. You might not have heard of Azamara before but it is part of the Royal Caribbean family. Royal Caribbean has the mega ships with all the crazy extras that are super family friendly. The next level up in the Royal Caribbean family is Celebrity, which is a premium cruise line. Their ships are still pretty large but do not have all of the crazy things like bumper cars and ice rinks. Instead they are a little more refined and geared a little more towards adults. The next level up is Azamara which is a small ship/luxury cruise line. While it isn't adult only it does discourage families from sailing since they do not offer any children's activities onboard. Azamara has 3 ships at this time and I will be sailing on the newest addition to their fleet. The Pursuit isn't a brand new ship but instead one they purchased and did a multi-million dollar refurbishment to. The Pursuit just started sailing recently so she will still look like new when I get onboard. Azamara has ships that hold less than 1,000 guests which allows them to get into smaller ports. Azamara is also known for having more overnights in ports on all their itineraries. As a luxury small ship more is included in your upfront cruise fare.
Included for every guest:
- Beverages including soft drinks, bottled water, specialty coffee, and select spirits, beers, and wines.
- AzAmazing evenings (a complimentary event on most itineraries)
- Self service laundry
- Shuttle to and from port communities where available
Veranda Plus and Suites get even more amenities but as you can see you get a lot included with any room already.
Most smaller ship cruise lines will include more in their up-front cost which I really like. I also prefer the quieter more laid back feeling you get on a small ship. No crowds and no long lines to get off and on the ship. This will be my first Mediterranean cruise so I am really looking forward to each port! From Rome we will visit Olbia, Bastia, have an overnight in Florence, Monte Carlo, Palma de Mallorca, Valencia, and ending in Barcelona. Stay tuned for more on each stop. You can also follow me on instagram for more photos - coleentravel
Need a quote for traveling anywhere? Click here to start.