Disembarkation. This is always the worst (and saddest) day of a cruise. We typically are up late the night before trying to squeeze every last joyful moment from our trip. No exception this time around. The tough part is getting us up and out to breakfast by 8:15am and off the ship by 9am.
Our new friends from Holland were at breakfast this morning giving us a chance to swap email addresses and say our goodbyes.
We made our way off the ship, into the terminal, located our bags, and headed to the bus which would take us to our hotel, the AC Diplomatic.
The hotel was lovely – clean and quiet although when we got to our room we thought we had an electrical problem. We flipped every switch and couldn’t turn on any lights! A call to the front desk cleared things up. Just inside the door is a box to slide in our room key. Voila! Let there be light! What a great idea. Pulling the card when leaving the room turns out all of the lights. Brilliant.
We decided to spend the day walking La Rambla which started only a couple of blocks from our hotel. La Rambla is city block after city block of shopping, eateries, and incredible people-watching! The La Rambla itself is a very, very wide sidewalk flanked on both sides by street traffic and buildings with a variety of stores and restaurants at street-level. On La Rambla we encountered blocks of kiosks selling fresh flowers and plants, followed by blocks of kiosks selling small animals – really! We saw parakeets, bunnies, ducks, roosters, hedgehogs, ferrets, goldfish, turtles, hamsters, and more. What a show!
There were several blocks of kiosks selling jewelry, scarves, and other trinkets. And, of course, several blocks of outdoor eateries – tapas, paella, pizza, beer, sangria, and more! (We learned the drinking age in Barcelona is 18!)
About a block off La Rambla we discovered the Hard Rock Café Barcelona, and had to drop in for a snack and some shopping. We made our way back to the hotel for a nap. Eventually we wandered out again to find some dinner. We ended up at a little spot serving pasta and pizza. Delicious.
Back in our room, I tried to find something interesting on TV. Of course, there was only one channel in English (CNN) so I settled on a European gymnastics competition. I didn’t need to understand the talking to follow what was happening!
The next morning we were up at 5am to get organized, grab some breakfast (which was included in the price of our hotel stay), and be ready for our ride to the airport. Breakfast was delicious and had I known what the rest of our day would be like I would have savored it even more.
The ride to the Barcelona airport was short and smooth, and the weather was beautiful. The Barcelona airport, much like the city, appeared clean, bright, and well-kept. The “lay of land” however is different than US airports we’ve experienced. Rather than locating your air carrier (like Delta or United), you locate your actual flight number (like Delta 95). Each flight has its own check-in desk. Once we found ours, the line was short and moved quickly.
Next step was to go through security. We found this to be very similar to US airports although we were not required to remove our shoes. After the screening we had a choice, but didn’t realize it. We could choose to first wander a variety of duty-free shops and restaurants on the lower level of the airport or we could immediately “cross the border” with no return allowed and head directly to our gate. We chose the latter so we just sat and waited the two hours for our flight (reading and napping).
Our flight from Barcelona to New York’s JFK was long, but smooth and uneventful (as all flights should be). I wasn’t particularly tired so I ended up watching 3 movies! Movies and meals are included with Delta’s international flights. Nice. The food was even decent.
We landed at JFK pretty much on schedule. This airport was quite a contrast to Barcelona. Dingy, old, dirty, and very noisy. First step as we exit the plane, of course, is customs. Long, long, long line for US citizens. (The line for non-US residents might have been just as long, but it was hard to tell.) After the agent reviewed our passports, we were required to pick up our luggage. We waited and waited and finally our two bags tumbled down. I was a little worried we might not see them again.
Next step was to exit the area appropriately for a connecting flight. I know this sounds like it should be easy, but it was a bit confusing especially with hundreds of other folks trying to figure out the same thing while hauling around baggage. We finally got in the right line and waited again to check our bags, clear customs (with our completed form and passports), and go through security once again. This time we had to remove our shoes!
Whew. Now that we were finished with customs and checked in for the final leg of our journey we searched for our gate and grabbed a bite to eat. About this time the noise and dinginess started to get to me. We had several hours to wait for our 7:30pm flight so I just needed to get a grip and relax. About an hour before our scheduled departure, they announced a flight delay of two hours (9:30pm now) and a gate change. Delta did provide us with a $6 meal voucher.
More waiting and another delay (11:30pm now) and another gate change. More waiting and another delay (12:05am now). About this time we learned that we would receive $100 vouchers to use on future Delta travel. Nice, but we just wanted to get home.
About 12:30am we boarded our flight and headed for Portland. It was 5am local time when we finally crawled into our very own bed with our very own pillows and got to sleep! We figured we had been awake for 32 hours straight. Not exactly the smooth ending we had hoped for, but we were safe and sound and home! Good thing we have a few days recovery before we need to return to work!
Several days have passed allowing time to reflect on all that we’ve experienced. What an incredible journey! Michael and I still agree that the best part of the trip were all of the sea days. You need that time to thoroughly enjoy the Disney entertainment and service. All of the ports of call were top-notch and the tours were well done and professional.
Our favorite port came down to a tie between Gibraltar and Barcelona. If (when!) we take another Disney European cruise, we would definitely consider spending several more days in Barcelona.
For now though, we have wonderful memories to savor and looking forward to more Disney in June! After our son graduates from high school, we will take him and his friend to Walt Disney World to celebrate. Then, next January we’ll see you on the maiden voyage of the Disney Dream! Bon Voyage!
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