Arrived in Barcelona for 2 nights pre-cruise and was absolutely amazed at how beautiful & clean Barcelona is! We stayed at the Ayre Hotel Gran Via on Catalanes 322. Reasonably priced with a great breakfast buffet included in the price. Very clean hotel, conveniently located to jump on the Barcelona tour bus. This is a very convenient way to see the city at your own pace. We had dinner the first night at a wonderful tapas restaurant, CIUDAD CONDAL, that a friend who lives in Barcelona took us to. Highly recommend this fine restaurant. Patronized by many locals. Get there fairly early or you will have to wait to be seated. A lovely tapas meal, complete with wine and dessert, for under $30 per person. We boarded our ship, the Norwegian Jade, on the 5th of February. As stated in other reviews, it was decorated in a Hawaiian motif, but the ship was very nice and very clean. We had booked a balcony cabin and it was lovely. We met some great new friends on the cruise and they invited us to their penthouse suite (they had been upgraded). It was a real treat just to get a tour! If you can afford it (about $10,000 couple), this is definitely the way to go!
First ports of call were in Morocco (Casablanca and Agadir). Morocco was definitely the dirtiest place we visited, but also had alot of local flavor and was very colorful. I was happy to be there b/c I got to ride my 1st camel and also had never been to North Africa before. Next we went to Las Palmas, Grand Canary. We rented a car for the day with our new friends & had a lovely day exploring the island. We walked thru some quaint little towns, bought baguette sandwiches at a local shop & had a picnic with a lovely mountain view! The weather was sunny & cool, like a beautiful spring day! Magnolia & dogwood trees were in bloom everywhere & the mountains were so lush & green. Our next stop was Funchal in Madeira, Portugal. We took the "Best of Madeira" trip which was highly recommended by the cruise director. It was very nice and provided a nice itinerary of things to see and do. First we rode the cable car to Monte, which provides a gorgeous view of the island and coastline. Once there, we toured an historical church (very lovely) and then took the "basket ride." That was one of the highlights of our trip and we were very happy that we did it! The bus took us way up on the mountain but it was so foggy that we couldn't see anything. We could see the beginnings of some mudslides and were so sad to hear when we returned home, that there had indeed been mudslides there last weekend with 30 people dying. We finished our trip at the winery where we purchased some delicious Madeira wine. Our last port of call was Malaga, home to Picasso. Had a lovely day shopping. The main shopping street is CALLE MARQUES DE LARIOS. I particularly liked a shop called MASSIMO DUTTI. They have both a women's & a separate men's clothing store. Nice quality for a good price. We had lunch at Lepanto's, on this main shopping drag. Good food, wonderful pastries!!! You can eat outside or in. Outside is the most expensive, inside at a table less & at the bar, the least.
All in all, it was a fantastic vacation. Can't wait to book another!