Upon arrival at BCN, there is no customs & immigration to clear, just have your passport stamped, no questions asked ( kind of scary, they let anyone into the country )
We stayed 1 night PRE at the Radisson Barcelona airport.
There was no mention of an airport shuttle on their website or confirmation but upon arriving at the hotel, I overheard a conversation that the shuttle runs every 30 mins.
We took a taxi there. Driver said it would be minimum 20 euros ( a gouge, but what can you do ).
The check out time is 12 noon which means rooms aren't available until after that time.
They actually tell you 4 pm and highly recommend you taking their shuttle to La Rambla ( which we did ).
We walked around the Port Vell area which has a large shopping center. It's the only place open on Sundays in addition to the souvenir shops.
Then we walked along the seawall. They have bicycles to use for free. It's called BCING.
The HOHO bus is also very popular here but we didn't use it.
The next morning, we had breakfast at the hotel ( which you can include in your rate ). It's a buffet with hot & cold items.
Then at 11 am, we took their shuttle for 10 euros per person.
Arrived at the terminal at 11:30 am and were onboard by 11:45 am.
They have shopping in the cruise terminal.
You can also sign up for Specialty Dining Packages. 3 for $ 79 ( a good deal ).
Staterooms are available at 1:30 pm. Lifeboat drill is at 4:15 pm. No need to wear lifejackets.
The Master was Captain Gerry Larsson-Feddie and his officers are very interactive with the guests.
The 8% Spanish VAT is added to all purchases while the ship is within 12 miles of territorial Spanish waters and while calling in Spanish ports.
1st seating is 6:15 pm, 2nd seating is 8:45 pm, SELECT dining is 6:15 - 9:45 pm.
For fixed seating, you can enter the dining room up to 30 mins past your seating time.
For this cruise, Blu was open seating ( due to the long port days )
Topless sunbathing is available on deck 16.
Sep 06 - Villefranche (Nice), France
Tender tickets can be obtained from the Entertainment court, deck 4 from 8:30 am.
Last tender returning to the ship is at 7:15 pm.
We took an all day tour here to Nice, Grasse ( to a parfrumerie ), Cannes ( including lunch ) and a visit to Saint-Paul de Vence ( a village where the locals live ).
If you are staying onboard, there's activities throughout the day.
Sep 07 - Livorno ( Florence/Pisa ), Italy
They have a shuttle to city center - continuous service to Via Cogorano ( Piazza Grande ).
Journey time is approx 10 - 15 mins. Hours of operation 7:30 am to 6 pm. Cost of day pass ticket is $ 8 USD.
Shuttle to train station - one departure at 8:25 am and returning from the train station at 5 pm. $ 18 USD.
We took a private tour here to Florence and Pisa. At the Piazza Santa Croce, you could spend a lot of time & money buying leather goods. At the piazza where David's statue is and the Pont de Vecchio, there are throngs of people. Very easy to get separated from your group. In Pisa, there are lots of cute t-shirts & knock off Le Sportsac bags.
Tonight at dinner, I was actually falling asleep.
The Maitre'd every night says 'Please remind me of your stateroom number' which is highly annoying because AQ guests pay 10% more for their cruise. May be if he asked for our names, he could remember us. It's a smaller dining room. I expect the dining room staff to know my name by the 3rd night.
I had high expectations of Blu because several of my friends raved about how great it was.
Frankly, I didn't think the food was that great & the desserts weren't very imaginative.
We also ate at Tuscan Grille, Murano and Silk Harvest.
The food at TG was ok, Murano was good but I didn't like the waiter hovering in the corner, waiting for us to finish our food. Silk Harvest was the best value. The chef came out to speak with all the guests.
Between the 2 of us, we ordered 2 appies and 2 entrees. Then the waiter suggested to order one more entree, which we did. Then he suggested ordering one more entree. I said' I have a small appetite, that's enough ! " ( and it was more than enough )
Sep 08 - Civitavecchia ( Rome ), Italy
A free shuttle service runs from the ship to the gate entrance to Civitavecchia from 7 am to 6 pm every 20 - 25 mins. Walking to the port gate takes approx 30 mins. Taxis are available from the port gate only.
Here we did an all day tour to Trevi Fountain, Colosseum and St Peter's Basilica.
Beware of the cobblestones, they can be slippery.
I fell outside St Peters, hit my head on the sidewalk. Thankfully, no bleeding, broken bones or smashed glasses.
Sep 09 - at sea
Highlights - Galley tour, scrapbooking ( free )
Sep 10 - Naples, Italy
Here we did an all-day tour of Sorrento + Amalfi drive including lunch; very picturesque.
Sep 11 - Dubrovnik, Croatia
Highlight: Dancing with the Stripes Ballroom Dance Competition ( similar to Dancing with the Stars ).
You dance with the ship's officers. One of my friends came in 1st place & won a bottle of champagne.
Shuttle to Dubrovnik Old Town $ 12 USD to Pile Square ( entrance of Old Town ) from 7 am - 4 pm every 15 - 20mins. Travel time is 15 - 20 mins depending on traffic.
They will tell you to bring photo identification with you ashore. No one checks it.
The reason is that you cannot leave the country unless you have photo ID.
I overheard someone saying they brought their drivers license. But if you were detained, you wouldn't be able to board a plane with a drivers license. You'd need a passport.
Dubrovnik was really hot 84*F/29*C.
People were complaining about the heat. Of course, these people weren't wearing sunglasses, a hat or carrying an umbrella for shade or having any water to drink.
It's 630 steps to walk the wall.
You can also walk it inside to escape the heat.
Here we did an all-day tour of Dubrovnik with the Cable Car including lunch.
Great view of the city but nothing much else to do up there.
There is a restaurant. Had lunch at a restaurant by the sea.
Sep 12 - Venice, Italy ( overnight )
Sail in to Venice, a pretty sight. Don't miss this !
Highlight - Senior Officers vs Guests Poker Challenge
Shuttle boat to St Mark's Square $22 for a 1 day pass, $ 36 for a 2 day pass
Drop off point: St Mark's Square. Guests must be able to maneuver 2 sets of bridges to reach the main square. Guests who require wheelchair accessibility are asked to contact Guest Relations for transportation information.
Last boat from the drop off point going back to the ship is at 11:45 pm.
The gangway is open 24 hours while in Venice.
Alternative public transportation options are available from the pier.
The glass jewellery that you see onboard the ship is very expensive.
You can buy it here at much better prices. It's not available in St Mark's Square but in the side streets at actual stores, not kiosks.
Here we took the 'Secrets of Venice' tour. It is a walking tour with a refreshment break of coffee, juice, or water. Our tour guide ended the tour at the break but it was actually supposed to end at St Mark's Square. So be sure to speak up if they try to pull this on you. The tour was ok but the sound on the headsets kept breaking up. Maybe because we were walking in the side streets, there wasn't much reception ?
The shuttle point is in front of Londra Palace hotel, 2 bridges from St Mark's Square.
We stayed onboard the 2nd day in Venice. Ate in the Oceanview Cafe for lunch & diner and noticed that the same items are repeated at dinner.
Sep 14 - Kotor, Montenegro
Tender tickets are required to go ashore. Last tender from ashore leaves at 5:45 pm.
Here we took the Highlights of Kotor with Cuisine.
We drive all the way up the mountain on a single lane road with 25 hairpin turns.
The view is fantastic but the faint of heart should take the aisle seat.
At the refreshment stop, there are some beautiful hand-knitted items. A coat was only 30 euros.
For lunch, we stopped at Konak restaurant. This was the best meal ashore by far.
Slow-cooked beef brisket with wine/water, soup, salad and cake ( no time for coffee )
Then we visited Budvha and the Royal Family's residence. Very interesting.
Then onto Kotor and the walled city.
Sep 15 - at sea
Highlights - Officers vs Guests Pool Volleyball Challenge, Hot Glass Auction, Celebrity Showtime 'Solstice, the Show' ( fabulous, better than Cirque du Soleil, you cannot sit in the seats covered with an X ), Brunch at Sea
Sep 16 - at sea
For anyone with dietary needs eg vegan, gluten free etc; the onus is on the guest to review the menu with the Assistant Maitre'd the day before. My vegan friends said they cruised with Celebrity 3 years ago & there was a vegan menu. Now it's no longer available so they couldn't be vegans on this cruise. They had to be vegetarian.
No disembarkation talk. It's on the tv on channel 2.
Luggage needs to be outside your stateroom by 11 pm.
If you have prepaid gratuities, it's automatically distributed; they no longer have vouchers for you to give.
If you purchased any alcohol, it has to be packed in your checked luggage.
For Canadians, once you arrive in Canada; if you have a connecting flight, you have to retrieve your luggage, transfer the alcohol to your checked luggage before dropping it off for the connecting flight. Otherwise, when you go through domestic security screening, the alcohol will be confiscated ( due to the no liquids rule ). Saw this happen to my friends. They lost a bottle of limoncello.
Sep 17 - Barcelona, Spain
Breakfast: AquaSpa Cafe 7 - 8 am, Blu 6:30 - 8 am, Grand Epernay 6:30 - 8 am, Oceanview Cafe 6 - 8 am.
Arrival at 6 am. Express Walk Off at 6:30 am.
It's all very efficient. You walk down the gangway to the terminal where your luggage is going around on carousels. Walk outside to shuttles or taxis ( lots of taxis )
The cruise line shuttle is $ 30 USD per person. A taxi is approx 34 euros to the airport.
At the airport, if you have already done online check in, there is a separate counter at the end for bag drop off only. Then, go through security screening, passport control ( they just stamp your passport ) and to the gate. They don't make boarding announcements, so pay attention to the boarding time.
For Air Canada, we had to walk down a flight of stairs to take a bus out to the tarmac.
Air Canada has gotten really cheap now. You get one meal and one snack ( eg lg muffin with no substance or a wrap with a hard crust ).