We took a two week Spain and Transatlantic Cruise on Celebrity Equinox in November. We left home a few days early and spent three days in Madrid, then took the high speed train to Barcelona where we spent two more days before we boarded the Equinox. Madrid and Barcelona are both interesting cities with lots to see. We thought Spain was pretty easy to visit even thought we don't know much Spanish.
In Madrid we took the Airport Express bus from the airport to the train station and the metro from there to a stop a few blocks from our hotel, Francisco I. Everything went very smoothly even with bags. The location of the hotel was great, right on the pedestrian mall and the hotel was very nice. We visited the Royal Palace, The Prado Art Museum, and Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. The city is very easy to get around on foot. We went to Casa Patas for a Flamenco Show and had hot chocolate and Irish Coffee at San Gines. The food was great and we were able to get along with very minimal Spanish.
We took the Metro back to the train station and took the train to Barcelona. The train ride was smooth and very easy. We took the Metro from the train station to a stop near our hotel, NH Hoteles Barcelona Central. The hotel was very nice and in a great location. We did a fun Tapas Walking Tour the first evening and then spent the next day on Montjuic. We walked all the way up to the Castle. The views were amazing. We visited El Poble Espanol. There is an entrance fee to the village. I thought it was fun, but it is mostly shopping and restaurants. We walked to the Barcelonetta area and had very good sea food for dinner at Saluda del Mar. Then we went to a Flamenco concert at the Palau de Musica which was good. We wandered around the market and the Gothic quarter the next morning before we boarded the ship. We took a cab from the hotel to the port. We had been in Barcelona before so we did not go to Sagrada Familia.
Ship check in was easy. Our room wasn't ready until 1:00 so we had lunch at The Bistro on Five which wasn't crowded at all. All aboard was at 3:30 so we decided we didn't have time to go back into the city. Sail away was at 5:00. The Equinox is a beautiful ship. The public spaces are well maintained. The one thing that always bother us on the S Class ships is the scheduling of the dance bands in the foyer on Deck 3. Lots of people dance and the dance floor is very small with the steps from Deck 4 ending right on the dance floor. It just doesn't work! We were in Aqua Class which we liked a lot. The cabins are about the same as regular balcony cabins, but eating in Blu was a great experience. I think the food was better than the main dining room and probably a little healthier depending on what you ordered. The atmosphere was very nice: open seating at whatever time you liked and mostly tables for two. Breakfast in Blu was really good, too. Service was great except for the sommeliers. They seemed overwhelmed and we had trouble getting service and then problems getting more wine poured during dinner when the bottle was in an ice bucket away from our table. Red we poured for ourselves! Our cabin steward was great.
Shows and entertainment were pretty standard. One of the production shows is a Cirque type show. I like the regular production shows better. The Elton John tribute by Neil Lockwood was very good. Some of the musical groups were not as good as we have had in the past. The speaker on forensics who talked several times on the cruise was interesting. The other speakers who talked on culture and history and astronomy weren't quite as good.
Our first port was Cartagena where we wandered around on our own. Cartagena is small and we docked right in town. The city has a number of Roman Ruins that are all well signed and easy to find. We had lunch at a local bar. Our next port was Malaga where we participated in a private tour to the Alhambra in Granada. The Alhambra is beautiful and well worth the long bus ride. The next day we docked in Cadiz and did another private tour to Sevilla which is another beautiful city and again worth the bus ride. The next day was Lisbon which we did on our own. We used Rick Steve's book on Lisbon and wandered around the Alfama and Baixa areas. We had lunch and pastry in town and tried the cherry liqueur. It was fun, but not as memorable as Granada and Sevilla. We had a sea day and then stopped in Tenerife in the Canary Islands. We did a ship's tour for a half day into Teide National Park. It was a big bus, but it was pretty good. The volcanic area was interesting to see. The rest of the day we spent on our own in Tenerife having lunch and walking around. We were there on Sunday so it was pretty quiet, many shops were closed.
The next seven days were at sea. We kept very busy. The ship scheduled dance lessons, speakers, and lots of activities so we didn't get bored. Seven days of ship in a row were just too many for us. I wouldn't do that many sea days again. We had very good weather, fairly warm with a few showers and no high seas. Customs in Fort Lauderdale was really slow, almost an hour in line. We did a ship's excursion since we had a late flight. The bus tour was good, but the boat portion was pretty boring but better than sitting in the airport.