OCEANIA REGATTA TRIP REPORT Barcelona to Dover July 5-19, 2003 Jim and Pam Murphy   There are a few things that I would like to mention before sharing my daily journal. I write this for personal reasons - it is something that I include in the photo album that I make for each of our trips.   Jim and I chose the inaugural cruise of the new Oceania line since we were very loyal cruisers of the old, bankrupt Renaissance Cruise Line. Two of the Renaissance 'R' series of ships are now owned by Oceania - The R1 and the R2 are now the Regatta and the Insignia. We wanted to be part of the excitement of these ships being back on the seas thus choosing the inaugural sailing. We went into the cruise expecting the good along with the bad - a person would be a fool to book an inaugural if they are expecting perfection. With an inaugural, things are still a "work in progress" - for anyone wanting perfection (if such a thing is possible) - I would suggest waiting before booking a new cruise line - till it has had the time to work out all of the kinks.   In this report I tried to be fair and to include the good with the bad. Please keep in mind that these are my opinions and in many instances people may not agree with them. We were given questionnaires to fill out on at the end of the cruise - Jim filled out ours and I didn't agree with all of his opinions. Differing opinions are what makes the world go round!   I was introduced to Frank del Rio at the cocktail party held on board for the Yahoo group -- Frank was previously with Renaissance cruises -- he and Joe Watters (formerly of Crystal Cruises are the brains and talent behind the new Oceania line. Frank gave me his card and requested that I send him a copy of my trip report. So what is in here is being forwarded on to Frank -- some of the included information is for his benefit.   July 4 Friday Fly Philadelphia To Barcelona   It seems like we have been planning this cruise forever. We actually pre-booked the cruise before the reservation computers were even set up. Oceania is a new line and since this is the inaugural many little glitches need to be worked out. The first problem was that our documentation arrived only about a week before sailing. We requested to fly out of Philadelphia, our closest airport. When we received the tickets we were booked on a commuter flight from Philadelphia to JFK - this seems very silly to us since we could easily have driven directly to JFK. Since the documents arrived so late we decided to make no changes and leave well enough alone. Our price with Oceania included air at no additional charge - since not paying for it, why not take the commuter flight and save ourselves the drive?   We have a town car pick us up to take us to Philadelphia. Jim likes to arrive at the airport very early - I've learned that it keeps him calm to do it this way and I can wait at the airport as easily as I can wait for a flight at home. This is the Fourth of July and we figured that we would either hit very heavy traffic or no traffic at all. The latter is the case and we sail to the airport. The town car we ordered picks us up at 11:30 am for our 3:30 flight. Our driver is an ex NJ State Trooper and a really interesting man to talk to -- he told us many hair-raising stories of his years on the narcotic squad.   There is no line to check in and no question on the weight of our luggage - anyone who has read any of my past trip reports knows that I have not mastered the fine art of packing lightly and usually get "heavy" tags applied to the luggage. This time only one bag gets the "heavy" tag. Security is a breeze - the airport is close to empty - neither Jim nor I are searched which is a rare occurrence for Jim.   The flight to JFK is on a small Delta jet - we need to walk outside to board the plane - it is necessary to put our carry on luggage with the checked bags but we were able to get them as we get off of the plane at JFK. This flight is all of 20 minutes in the air - quick and painless. Jim and I have a window and aisle seat together - since the plane is not full, Jim is able to move across the aisle and have two seats for himself and I now also have two for myself.   Upon arrival at JFK we need to take a bus from the plane to the terminal. Jim and I arrive at the boarding gate where we meet many of the people that I have been corresponding with for months on the Yahoo message boards. Laura, one of the moderator's of the board is on our flight. Many have sent photos to post on the board pre cruise. I printed the photos out before leaving home so that I will be able to recognize people. I see a young man who looks very much like Laura's husband John. Then when I see Laura with him, I am fairly certain that this is actually Laura. So out comes my page of photos and as I am looking - Laura is doing the same thing - looking at me and comparing the photo she has printed out. We have a good laugh over this one.   Some of the people on our flight are: Laura and John from CA Randy and Luanne from CA Bill and Linda from Cape Cod Lee and Bill from Pittsburgh Kathy and Bill from Pittsburgh Carol and Earl from CA Jan and Jim from CA   Everyone is very nice and I have a feeling that this is going to be a fun cruise. Our waiting time seems to fly since we are all busy yakking, getting to know each other.   We board the plane and are on our way to Barcelona. At 5:55. We once again luck out. Jim and I have a window and aisle seat - he gets to move to the center section with three seats to himself and I now once again have the two for myself -- a very comfortable and smooth flight. The film shown is one that I haven't seen - "How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days" - cute and light.   July 5 Saturday Arrive Barcelona Board Ship   We arrive in Barcelona at 7:00am and are greeted by Oceania Representatives -- the transfer goes like clockwork. We were originally told that we would be taken to a hospitality suite until it was time to board the ship. To our delight we find that we are being taken right to the ship. The first thing we see upon our arrival at the ship is a woman (who turns out to be Jan Fishbein) standing on the balcony in her bathrobe waving to us all. I know that this is Jan from Carol and Earl who know her. Jan is a travel agent that booked many on this cruise. She is a very close friend of Frank del Rio who is the President of Oceania. Jan and her husband Stu were on the pre inaugural cruise (sort of a shakedown cruise for the owners and their family and friends). We have about an hour wait in the terminal to board the ship. There is a bar and coffee but for these you need to have Euros and many of us haven't had chance to change our money yet. But the time flies as we are still talking a mile a minute, getting to know each other. Jan quickly gets dressed and comes to join us. I have known Jan and many of the other fellow cruisers from the days of the old Renaissance boards - but have never met any of them in person.   Registration is quick and easy and extremely well set up. What a pleasure to be back on a small ship where there are none of those very long lines to contend with. There is no photographer set up to take those dreaded "Welcome Aboard Photos", as you can well imagine they usually aren't the best after flying all night! Think we have arrived too early since we later see him out there shooting away!   We are next taken to the Horizon Lounge since the rooms are not yet ready - but I am impressed that they get us on board as quickly as possible. We are told that there was a group of Spanish travel agents on board that spent the night on the ship. They are now preparing the rooms for us. Horizon Lounge is set up with a continental breakfast. The pastries are delicious, think we may be in for some wonderful food on this cruise.   This is the first encounter with the crew and they couldn't be nicer. We learn from them that the pre inaugural cruise was being referred to as the "Cruise from Hell" -- many of the guests were extremely rude to the crew and had them jumping through hoops.   We are sitting with Laura, John, Randy and Luanne - both couples are younger than we are but are a whole lot of fun. With time on our hands, Jim soon becomes the butt of our jokes. I just can't help myself telling them about a previous cruise in Barcelona when Jim was acting like the tour guide during our pre cruise stay in the city - we had previously been to Barcelona so Jim was more than willing to share all his knowledge with many of the other passengers that were in Barcelona for the first time. There was just one slight problem -- he was giving out all of the wrong information. He showed them a street that he said was Las Ramblas and went on and on about what a great place it was - this street wasn't even close to Las Ramblas - he pointed out our ship in the harbor - you guessed it - not even the line we were sailing on. There is just something about Jim that makes him sound like he is an authority on things - people will follow him rather than the tour guide - what a big mistake that is! Randy absolutely loved hearing this bit of information on Jim and little did I know just how much he enjoyed hearing it.   I pick up a shore excursion form and the first thing we do is to sign up for the tours we want to take. I have a few disappointments -- the times certain tours are offered doesn't work out for us to be able to take all those we had wanted. I ask at the shore excursion desk if the shore excursion crew has been on all of these tours and they haven't. I personally think that they should experience them all so that when a question is asked they have first hand knowledge of the answer. Perhaps in time they will take them. I think that it would be a great asset for Oceania to have the staff familiar with each tour, even if it means flying them in to the port ahead of time. I have never been on a cruise line where this is done but think it would be something that could set Oceania above the others. There is nothing more frustrating than asking how much free time you will have and no one knows.   This is the first cruise that we have taken that doesn't have a video of the different ports, of the shore excursions and the shopping. Believe these videos of the ports and shore excursions are made by a company called Sea Video in CA. I find these very helpful in choosing my tours. I asked Greg (head of shore excursions) about it and he said that having Sea Video make these is very costly and with Oceania just starting out that they didn't want to invest this kind of money. I personally think it might be a wise investment to consider. The videos, once made, could actually be a money maker for the cruise line if they were available for sale when one books a particular cruise. I purchase travel videos for the different ports before a cruise and they run into hundreds of dollars because all the ports aren't on the same video. This would be one video that could be purchased for maybe $25 - $30 dollars that would include each port the cruise includes. It would be helpful to anyone trying to choose between the excursions offered and also for people wanting to do a port on their own. Jim and I choose our cruises because of the itinerary and reading the shore excursions helps us decide which ones to book. If someone is considering several cruises -- having the ability to purchase these videos would be beneficial in choosing the cruise that is best for the individual. I feel that this would be a wonderful marketing strategy for both selling cruises and also selling shore excursions. There are shore excursion talks held on board but these cover no more than what is in the printed information - if you can read, why bother attending -- I would like to see more extensive information given on each port, tour and the shopping in the port.   After waiting awhile, no one tells us if the rooms are ready. So one by one we go up to check our rooms - we have been given our keys and they are ready so we all clear out of Horizon. As we are heading to our rooms we meet Bob and Joyce from the message boards. This really is like old home week!   We go to our cabin, room 6086 - the last room on the port side - the balcony has a slanted wall on the one side which impairs vision a bit but it is fine and we are comfortable. We find all sorts of goodies waiting for us -- we booked through Shirley Binder and she had a lovely floral arrangement there for us and also a $50 ship board credit - such a thoughtful thing to do. For anyone lucky enough to receive one of these beautiful arrangements - you will need to sign the card and give it to the cabin stewardess for the flowers to be delivered. The arrangement has tiger lilies, roses, carnations, and daisies with pretty yellow filler -- it adds a lot of color and cheer to the room. There is also a gift from the cruise line for us - a wooden decorator box with an image on the Regatta to commemorate the Inaugural Cruise - another very nice gift.   You have no idea of what a thrill being back on this ship is for me. I have always loved these ships and was heartbroken when Renaissance went bankrupt. In my opinion, these are the prettiest ships on the seas, with a warm homey ambiance and the charm of the old days of luxury sailing. In my past trip reports, I have described these ships so in this report, I am mainly going to concentrate on the changes since the days of Renaissance. First of all, I noticed that the Horizon Lounge has new big accent pillows - they are very pretty and comfy (I later find out that Frank and Marcy del Rio personally picked out the fabric for them). The balconies have had teak decking added which looks lovely and is a definite upgrade. The Terrace Cafe has had new window blinds added which look great. We had heard that the balconies would have new furniture and not the same cheap plastic chairs from the Renaissance days. The same chairs are there but cushions have been added. When it is time to replace these, I would suggest getting chairs where the back reclines with cushions on them - even if they are only plastic they would be far more comfortable for snoozing out on the balcony - something to consider, Frank! Believe this is what we had on Silver Seas and they were great.   The beds look just wonderful - I am fighting not to jump right into it - but know that I have to stay awake to get onto European time as quickly as possible in order to enjoy the ports. The old bedspreads are gone and have been replaced with goose down pillows covered in very high quality sheets that feel like silk - they are a cream color with a self satin striping. The duvet has a cover that is the same sheeting but is in a pale blue self striping. What I am especially impressed with is that these duvet covers can be washed between passengers, making it a lot more sanitary. I always hated putting things on a bedspread that hadn't been cleaned between cruisers. Here Oceania has earned great big points with me! There is French milled soap that smells like oranges - love it. They also have the small bottles of shampoo, conditioner and bath gel for us. There are new bath towels and they are nice and thick - they are decent size but aren't bath sheets. I check out the room service menu and it has been expanded greatly from the old Renaissance days. They have a shrimp/prawn cocktail, smoked salmon, soups, salads, sandwiches, desserts and even hot entrees. Room service is available 24 hours a day. There was a lot of discussion about the hairdryers on the boards before the cruise. I have thick hair but it is short and the dryer works just fine for me. I know that Candice brought her own (she has thick long hair) and is glad that she did.   There is no refrigerator in the standard balcony room but they do keep the ice bucket filled for you.   There is dry cleaning and laundry service on board - if you have it out by 9am you will get it back the same day. There are also washers and dryers but not many are working. Where is that Maytag man when you need him?   We walk up on deck and the new teak furniture is just beautiful - so much richer looking. - adds a real elegance to the ship.   Find that we were given the wrong contact number for the ship before leaving. This could be a major problem if anyone had an emergency at home - this is one thing that Oceania needs to address ASAP.   It takes about two hours for the luggage to arrive. This is no problem for me since I always pack a few things in my carry on bag so that I can clean up when we arrive.   Once we are settled Jim decides to take a nap. I shower and change before heading to the terminal where the shops have opened. On my way, I meet Lee and Bill and they have a handicap room - she tells me that there is a tub in it which is hard for a handicapped person to get in and out of.   The terminal has very few shops; one has Majorica pearls, one has leather and one has Lladros. I purchase a couple of Majorica pearl rings as gifts. I'm not impressed by the leather shop and am not in the market for Lladros, although the shop seems to have a decent selection of the figurines. I meet Laura and John who are also browsing the shops -- Laura has a very pretty new outfit on, so I assume that she has also taken the time to freshen up.   I return to the room -- the bags have arrived, so it is time to unpack. A friend suggested packing clothing on hangars -- I tried it and it saves so much time unpacking. Thanks for the idea, Gundy, it was a good one. (After returning home, Candice gives me a further good idea for packing - she keeps the plastic bags on the garments and they don't wrinkle - so many smart friends!) Now that all the work is done it is time to relax on the balcony. By this time Jim is up and goes to the bar to get me a few cans of diet coke and a pina colada. Jim planned to bring the drink back to me himself, but the bar manager insists on having it delivered for him - a crew member walks back to the room with him carrying our drinks on a tray. This is our first indication that the service will be excellent. We order a cheese platter from room service which offers a very nice selection of cheeses. Now this is living - sitting on the balcony with a good book and a drink!   Where has the day gone? It is already time to get dressed for the evening - we are scheduled to meet the Yahoo group in the Martini bar at 6:00 (the group is expanding to include people who weren't on the boards). We meet Laura and John (today is their 17th wedding anniversary), Charles and Ann Bubeck (Charles is a moderator of the Yahoo board with Laura), Bob (Joyce didn't make it), Kathy and Bill, Jan and Jim, Carol and Earl, Jan and Stu. I order my first Cosmopolitan. Interestingly, we notice that different glasses are used to serve the Martinis than are used for the Cosmos.   From here we head for dinner. The service is slow but my filet mignon melts like butter in your mouth and it is a huge piece of meat. I order a dessert that is a chocolate filled cookie shell - delicious! The dinner is excellent. The service is extremely slow but at least we can't say that they are rushing us. It makes dinner an event! There is a string quartet that plays in the dining room -absolutely wonderful - this really adds a nice touch to dining. At one point they play "Flight of the Bumblebee" and I find myself eating fast - in time to the music!   After dinner we return to the room and by now I am exhausted and immediately fall asleep. Jim is still hanging in there and goes off the ship for an after dinner cigar. When he returns to the room, he wakes me up -- as he is hanging up his clothing the bar in the closet snaps and everything comes crashing down. He picks it all up and has it precariously perched hanging on the top shelf - with this arrangement the closet won't close. We now have a real bottleneck - it is necessary to close the closet in order to easily get out the door of the cabin and to get into the bathroom - maneuvering now is awkward to say the least!   July 6 Sunday Barcelona - Sail 5pm   I am up at 6am sitting on the balcony (you'll soon catch on that this is my favorite spot on the ship) - it's a beautiful day, nice breeze and not yet too hot. I slept some of last night but kept waking up at regular intervals - at around 2am, I was sitting on the balcony reading. The beds are just as comfy as they look. Love the pillows - they mold right to you. The mattress is extremely comfortable and the duvet is light and cuddly but not too terribly warm, like some can be. Oceania has a winner with these beds! They are the best! I tend to get warm very easily, so we have the air conditioning set as low as it can go - then have the sliding glass door open to hear the lapping of the water and feel the cool breeze coming in.   Breakfast is served at the Terrace Cafe, buffet style and also in the Grand Dining Room from 7:30 to 9:30 (10am on sea days) Jim and I eat in the dining room -- I order the French toast which is very good. I notice that they even have lamb chops on the menu.   We run into Jan and Jim who tell us that last night they had dinner at the Tapas Restaurant and it was wonderful.   Also spoke to people who took the Flamenco Tour last night and the opinion seems to be that it was okay but nothing special.   Before leaving for the day we tell Isabelle about our closet mishap last night -- she says that she will have it taken care of. Tell her that they can just leave our clothing on the bed and that I will hang it when we return.   We had hoped to take the ship's tour to Sitges (beach resort) this morning -- however, last night it was cancelled due to the fact that there weren't enough signed up. As an alternative they offer to put us on the Highlights of Barcelona tour or the Montserrat tour, but we have done both in the past - so make the decision to just go off on our own for a few hours. This is our third time in Barcelona so we have seen most of the tourist sights. Last night, inquired about taking a private van to Sitges with Barrie and Arnie (from CA) but when we were quoted $800, all agreed that nothing is worth that kind of money. Instead we join Barrie and Arnie on the shuttle to the Columbus Monument - the bus comes right to the port and it is $2 pp round trip. At the Columbus Monument we are able to catch the hop on hop off Barcelona bus tour -- believe it is $15 pp for one day and $19 pp for two days. Barrie and Arnie are a great couple and we have such a nice day with them. We actually discover that our two children and their two live very close to each other in CA - our two and one of theirs are in the entertainment industry - so we have lots in common. The top section of the tour bus is our choice of seating but by now it is getting hot and sunny.   The Columbus Monument, which was erected on the harbor-front of Barcelona on the occasion of the Universal Exhibition of 1888 is divided into three parts; the first being a circular structure, raised by four stairways (19 1/2 feet wide) and eight iron heraldic lions -- on the plinth are eight bronze bas-reliefs depicting the principal feats of Columbus (the originals were destroyed; the present ones are copies); the second part is the base of the column, consisting of an eight-sided polygon, four sides of which act as buttresses -- each side contains sculptures; the third part is formed by the column itself, Corinthian in style and rising 167 feet -- the capital boasts representations of Europe, Asia, Africa, and America -- all linked together; finally, over a princely crown and a hemisphere recalling the newly discovered part of the globe is a 25-foot-high bronze statue of Columbus himself by Rafael AttachE.   Blessed with rich and fertile soil, an excellent harbor, and a hardworking population, Barcelona has always prospered. At a time when Madrid was still a dusty and unknown Castilian backwater, Barcelona was a powerful, diverse capital; one influenced more by the Mediterranean empires that conquered it than by the cultures of the arid Iberian plains to the west. Carthage, Rome, and Charlemagne-era France each overran Catalonia, and each left an indelible mark on the region's nascent identity. The region of Catalonia is a nation within a nation. While part of Spain, it has its own semi-autonomous government. Catalan -- a Romance language akin to the Provencal of France -- is spoken everywhere, supplanting Castilian Spanish as the main language even on street signs. Catalonians are proud of their distinct culture and heritage; with their long seafaring tradition and centuries of trade, there is a strong connection between it and southern France. They have clung fiercely to their culture and language--both of which, earlier in this century, Franco systematically tried to eradicate. And Barcelona, the region's lodestar, has truly come into its own. In Barcelona itself, this regionalism is complemented by a strong socialist tradition - the city was a bastion of the Republican cause during the Civil War, holding out against Franco until January 1939, and remained the scene of protests and demonstrations throughout the dictatorship. It's a confident, progressive city, looking towards the rest of Europe for its inspiration and its innovations - the classic tourist images of Spain seem firmly out of place in Barcelona's bustling central boulevards and stylish modern streets. And style is what brings many visitors here, attracted by enthusiastic newspaper and magazine articles which make much of the outrageous architecture and user-friendly city design   Despite its allure, Barcelona grapples with problems common to many major cities: the increasing polarization of rich and poor, a rising tide of drug abuse, and an escalating crime rate, mostly in theft. But in reaction to a rash of negative publicity, city authorities have, with some degree of success, brought crime under control, at least within the tourist zones (things are much improved in this area - I saw no signs of a major problem on this visit as we have witnessed in the past).   A revitalized Barcelona eagerly prepared for and welcomed thousands of visitors as part of the 1992 Summer Olympic Games. When the Games had finished, the city was left with an entirely new harbor development containing the futuristic Olympic Village. And along with a construction program that touched every corner of the city, went the indisputable knowledge that these had been Barcelona's Olympics, and not Spain's - an important distinction to the Catalan people, who, bolstered by the gradual integration of immigrants from other parts of Spain, endow the city with a character distinct from Spain's other regional capitals. The action didn't end when the last medal was handed out. Barcelona turned its multimillion-dollar building projects into permanently expanded facilities for sports and tourism.   Much of Spain's more modern architecture feels like a rehash of its past. But Barcelona is a lively exception. As Europe leapt from the 19th century into the 20th, it celebrated a rising standard of living and nearly a century without a major war. Future revolutions were in their early, starry-eyed-dreamer stages. Impressionists came out of their studios to paint in the gardens, and Art Nouveau architects forced hard steel and concrete into softer organic shapes. Barcelona's answer to art nouveau was modernisme, and its genius was Antoni Gaudí. There's a pride in the city which is expressed in a remarkable cultural energy, seen most perfectly in the glorious modernista (Art Nouveau) architecture that studs the city's streets and avenues. Antoni Gaudí is the most famous of those who have left their mark on Barcelona in this way: his Sagrada Família church is rightly revered, but just as fascinating are the (literally) fantastic houses and apartment buildings that he and his contemporaries designed. In art, too, the city boasts a stupendous legacy, from important Romanesque and Gothic works to major galleries containing the life's work of the Catalan artists Joan Miró and Antoni Tàpies, and - perhaps the greatest draw of all - a representative collection of the work of Pablo Picasso.   Today is Sunday so many of the shops are closed. We drive past Port Vell, Montjuic, The Olympic Village, Poble Espangnol.   At St. Jaume Square there is the City Town Hall and across the Square, the Catalonian Seat of Government. Also in the old city stands Barcelona's cathedral as a celebrated example of Catalonian Gothic architecture. Except for the 19th-century west facade, the basilica was begun at the end of the 13th century and completed in the mid-15th century. The three naves, cleaned and illuminated, have splendid Gothic details. With its large bell towers, blending of medieval and Renaissance styles, beautiful cloister, high altar, side chapels, sculptured choir, and Gothic arches, it ranks as one of the most impressive cathedrals in Spain. Vaulted galleries in the cloister surround a garden of magnolias, medlars, and palm trees; the galleries are further enhanced by forged iron grilles. The historian Cirici called this the loveliest oasis in Barcelona. The cloister, illuminated on Saturdays and fiesta days, also contains a museum of medieval art. The most notable work displayed is the 15th-century La Pietat of BartolomE Bermejo.   The Bridge of Bishops joins the Cathedral with the Royal Palace -- the former palace of the counts of Barcelona. It later became the residence of the kings of Aragón -- hence, the name of its plaza (King's Square). It's believed that Columbus was received here by Isabella and Ferdinand when he returned from his first voyage to the New World. Here, some believe, the monarchs got their first look at a Native American. The Saló del Tinell, a banqueting hall with a wood-paneled ceiling held up by half a dozen arches, dates from the 14th century. Rising five stories above the hall is the Torre del Rei Martí, a series of porticoed galleries.   We get off the bus at the appointed place to change from the blue route to the red route. At this spot is a Corte de Ingles (large department store) where Barrie and I go in to check it out. My only purchase is some Clinique sun block to put on us while sitting on the top of the bus. We drive along Paseo de Gracia and pass Casa Battlo and Casa Mila both by Antoni Gaudi; we don't get off since we have limited time and have to make choices -- I have already visited these sites. Casa Batlló was designed by Gaudí in 1905. Using sensuous curves in iron and stone, the architect gave the facade a lavish baroque exuberance. The balconies have been compared to "sculpted waves." The upper part of the facade evokes animal forms, and delicate tiles are spread across the design--a polychromatic exterior extraordinaire.   Commonly called La Pedrera, Casa Milà is the most famous apartment-house complex in Spain. Antoni Gaudí's imagination went wild when planning its construction; he even included vegetable and fruit shapes in his sculptural designs. Controversial and much criticized upon its completion, today it stands as a classic example of modernista architecture. The entire building was restored in 1996. The ironwork around the balconies forms an intricate maze, and the main gate has windowpanes shaped like turtle shells. The rooftop, filled with phantasmagorical chimneys known in Spanish as espantabrujas (witch-scarers), affords a view of Gaudí's unfinished cathedral, La Sagrada Família. The Espai Gaudí (Gaudí Space) in the attic has an intriguing multimedia display of the works of this controversial artist.   We get off the bus at La Sagrada Família. Gaudí's incomplete masterpiece is one of the more idiosyncratic creations of Spain. Begun in 1882 and still incomplete at Gaudí's death in 1926, this incredible church--the Church of the Holy Family--is a bizarre wonder. The languid, amorphous structure embodies the essence of Gaudí's style, which some have described as art nouveau run rampant. Work continues on the structure, but without any sure idea of what Gaudí intended. Some say that the church will be completed by the mid-21st century. The crypt of the cathedral features a small museum of the architect's scale models. Photographs show the progress (or lack thereof) of construction on the building; there are even photos of Gaudí's funeral. This is the first time for Barrie to visit this site and she absolutely loves it.   In 1883 after a year of work had begun on a Neo-Gothic Church on the site - the task of completing it was given to Gaudi, who changed everything extemporizing as he went along. It became his life's work and he lived as a recluse on the site for 16 years - he is buried in the church's crypt. At his death only one tower of the Nativity façade had been completed.   Work resumed after the Spanish Civil War and several more have since been finished. Work continues today, financed by public subscription, without any sure idea of what Gaudí intended. Gaudi's original plans for the Church have been lost and only a few writings of his ideas remain. Computers are being used to try to recreate what Gaudi would have done. However, even Gaudi wasn't exactly sure of his plan -- he kept making changes as he went along.   The size alone is startling, with eight spires rising to over 100m. For Gaudí, these were metaphors for the Twelve Apostles. Each of the completed towers, representing the apostles, has Venetian Mosaics topping them -- there are spiral staircases in each with 400 steps, which allow access to the towers and upper galleries.   On the east wall of the structure is the Nativity façade designed by Gaudi -- the Western façade (Passion Façade) is also completed. A third southern façade is planned, which will be the Glory of Christ.   The Nativity façade, completed in 1904, has doorways that represent faith, hope and charity. Scenes from the Nativity and Christ's childhood are embellished with symbolism: The cypress tree at the pinnacle of the arch, symbolizes the Church or everlasting life and on it the white doves symbolize the congregation or the angels. It is finely detailed -- its surface is highly textured with curls and ripples so that it looks a bit like it has melted in places. There are also splashes of color used here and there, such as fruits that are colored. There are giant turtles that look as though they are carrying the church on their backs (just as they carry their own homes on their backs). Gaudi did most of the Nativity façade but after Gaudi's death a few of the center figures were done by a Japanese sculptor - they are whiter in color and flat -- they don't have the depth of expression of Gaudi's work.   In contrast, the Passion Façade is a bleak and controversial work with angular and often sinister figures. This façade was created by Barcelona born, Josep Maria Subirachs. Rather than follow Gaudi's plans he created an entirely new design. The Passion facade contrasts markedly with the Nativity façade --it is very simple, dominated by a crucified Christ. As a tribute to Gaudi, Subirachs placed a figure of Gaudi next to the two Roman Guards.   From a distance I find the Nativity façade the much more interesting and eye catching work. However, up close, one can't help but be mesmerized by the Passion façade - I could stand and look at it for hours - bizarre but so very mesmerizing. The two completed facades are so different that it is hard to believe that they are part of the same building. I personally love the Art Nouveau Architecture of Barcelona - each time you look at it there is something new to see.   The Glory Façade, currently under construction, is planned as the main entrance. The decoration will represent humankind gaining glory through redemption -- the virtues, sins, purgatory, sacraments, Last Judgment and Holy Trinity will be symbolized in stone.   The inside of the Temple is designed to look like a petrified forest of sycamore trees. The many columns represent the tree trunks. The nave side aisles, which are now completed, are sheltered by 98 foot high vaults supported on leaning columns. The windows are topped with sculptured baskets of fruit decorated with Venetian glass. The stained glass windows are at this time the only color in the interior of the church. However, in looking at the plans for the interior, it should be very colorful when completed.   The crypt where Gaudi is buried was built by the original architect Francese de Paula Villar I Lozano, in 1882 and is where services are held. At the apex of the central vault is a lovely sculpture of the Annunciation. The lower floor contains a small museum tracing the careers of the architects and the church's history.   Gaudi's original ambitions have been scaled down over the years but the design for the completion of the building remains impressive. Still to come is the central tower symbolizing Jesus, which will be circled by four large towers representing the Evangelists. Four towers (representing the four remaining apostles) on the Glory façade will match the four on the passion façade and Nativity façade. Next to the central tower will be one representing the Virgin Mary. An ambulatory, like an inside-out cloister will run round the outside of the building.   Jim and I have previously been to the Familia Sagrada -- on our last visit the tour was extremely in depth which definitely added to my appreciation of it on this visit.   Not to disappoint you, I do stop at the gift shop and find a couple of ceramic candle holders (with Gaudi designs), some Art Nouveau jewelry and some metal bookmarks with the designs of Gaudi -- all are for Christmas gifts.   We hop back onto the bus and our next stop is at Parc Guell. The bus drops us off at the bottom of the hill and it is quite a climb to get to the park. This is a wonderful urban park designed by Antoni Gaudi - it features peaceful greens, winding paths and lots of sculptures and mosaics designed by Gaudi himself. Antoni Gaudí designed Barcelona's Parc Guell as a playful "planned community" (before the people were ready). His colorful, curvy Parc Guell overlooking Barcelona was never intended as the park it is today -- Gaudí originally intended this garden to be a sixty-residence housing project-a kind of gated community. As a high-income housing development, it failed. A hundred years ago, Gaudí's shiny new Parc Guell was out in the sticks-too far from Barcelona's cultural scene -- it failed after just two homes were constructed. Considering that the city's wealthiest neighborhoods surround the park today, it seems Gaudí's gated community brainstorm was just a century ahead of its time. As the park that it has become, it is a true delight to visit. And like the Sagrada Família church in the distance, it offers us a fascinating peek into the eccentric personality of the architect and his times.   It is fun to imagine what might have been -- this gated community being filled with Barcelona's wealthy, stepping past fancy gatehouses, they'd walk by Gaudí's wrought iron gas lamps (his father was a blacksmith and he always enjoyed this medium). We climb the grand stairway past the ceramic dragon fountain (this is made of colorful mosaics and one of my favorite things here). At the top is the Hall of 100 Columns -- originally slated to be a produce market for the neighborhood's sixty mansions. These columns, each different (made from concrete and rebar, topped with colorful ceramic and studded with broken bottles and bric-a-brac), would have added to the market's vitality. We continue up, looking down along the playful "pathway of columns" that support a long arcade. At the top of the terrace, one can relax on a colorful bench (designed to fit the body ergonomically) to enjoy one of Barcelona's best views.   Not one to miss a shopping opportunity, I stop into the gift shop at the park - get a mouse pad for myself with a Gaudi design, pens with the Gaudi design as stocking stuffers and some postcards. At this point Jim and I have had it so grab a cab and head back to Las Ramblas for a stroll -- Barrie and Arnie stay to see more of the park. The cab drops us off at the one end of the long pedestrian boulevard and as always it is fun walk the length of it and people watch. Love the mimes that perform along the street - they appear like statues until they receive a few coins and then they come to life acting like robots - their makeup is wonderful and you can usually count on bright costuming. As I mentioned, it is Sunday and most of the shops are closed - does this stop me from finding one? Not a chance - find a shop called Paramita - this is a young person's shop with adorable little tee shirts and purses from a Granada designer. Find some wonderful things for my daughter here - colorful and unique and the prices are reasonable -- the designs are things of Spain done in an abstract colorful way. I also find a couple of the Toledo style pill boxes for friends.   We have a 20 minutes wait for the bus to take us back to the ship - we are hot and tired and can't wait to get back to cool off and relax. Our first stop is at the pool bar for a nice cold drink - for me it is a pina colada. Jim walks to the other side of the pool to get us some of the wonderful cheeseburgers at the grill. He is told that he can't get one unless sitting at a certain section of tables - we can't eat them at the table we are at, which is only a few feet further. There are no free tables in the designated section and when he asked where we were supposed to sit, there was no answer. We aren't even allowed to take them into the Terrace Cafe. The idea of table service is lovely but it doesn't work -- there aren't enough tables or waiters. There are two older ladies having a fit about this - they are very upset that they can't get a simple hot dog because there is no place to sit. This policy needs to be changed.   Since we can't eat we return to the room to order room service - we are less than happy. The minute we walk into the room we find that Isabelle has had our closet problem taken care of - not only is the rod fixed but all of our clothing is hanging on it - this was above and beyond what I expected. We call for room service only to be told that they have to personally come to the room to take our order by filling out a form. This seems like a total waste of the crew's time - much easier and faster to take it by phone. This is a policy that Oceania may want to think of revising - why is it necessary to have someone come physically to your cabin twice when once would suffice?   We don't get our lunch for several hours. This is because with the extra trip to the room we are now conflicting with the lifeboat drill. We accept this and understand that the crew has priorities. For the lifeboat drill we are taken to the Grand Dining room as a meeting spot. Sitting at our table we meet a very nice couple from Point Pleasant, NJ (not far from where we live). We talk to them through the whole cruise and I never get their names. At the table next to us are Randy and Luanne - they actually make the drill fun! The first thing we are asked to do is to form a line and proceed to the life boats by holding onto the tab of the life vest of the person in front of us. Big mistake - they don't know my Jim! He starts pulling on my tab and as I result I'm pulling on the tab of the Point Pleasant lady in front of me - so not only am I being choked in return I am choking her. Randy, Luanne, Laura and John find this extremely funny and this encouragement from the four of them just eggs Jim on further! Don't think that this is what Oceania had in mind for the drill!   After the lifeboat drill we receive a call from room service asking for our order - we had already ordered when they came to our room and took the order. A while later we receive another call to say they are preparing it. We do finally get our food but it is not what we ordered - there is a prawn cocktail and nothing more. Jim doesn't eat fish so it is mine and it is delicious. I'm now satisfied but Jim isn't! Guess that he will have to wait for dinner!   Yesterday I sent an outfit out to be pressed and it is returned today - very easy for me.   I find a note on our stateroom door from Faye and Gary from CA - these are people that I have been e-mailing with pre cruise. We have a mutual friend who electronically introduced us to each other before we left home. I'm looking forward to meeting them at the cocktail party that Oceania is giving for the members of the Yahoo board.   We sail at 5pm and Jim and I sit on the balcony to watch.   On the way to the party we meet a couple at the elevators - upon introducing ourselves we find that this is Faye and Gary - they are wonderful people and we go up to the party together.   The cocktail party is held in the Horizon Lounge. Hors d'oeuvres are being passed around butler style -- trays of wine and champagne are being passed -- there is an open bar making for a very nice party. However, the best part is meeting the rest of the people from the message boards. Those we meet are: Claudia and Al from CA Rose and Jim from Hawaii Nancy, Ed, David and Trudy Beatty from Iowa (I have met Nancy electronically - we were introduced by Shirley Binder pre cruise. Cami and Andy Doug and Sherry from Albany Rees and Chuck from NYC Candice and Tony from NYC Harvey and Deb from FL Marvin and Ruth Charles and Ann from FL Charles and Miep Marilyn and Tom Kathy and John from CA   Besides the above, the people that we met on the flight are also here and I'm probably forgetting many names. What a great group of people. Mandy, the photographer is taking many photos of the party and even a large group shot. Now the scoop on some of our new friends - Rose and Jim were recently married, Al is her father and Claudia her step-mother. Tomorrow they are having a wedding reception on board to celebrate their marriage. The Beattys are just great and we wind up spending a lot of time with them. Rees and Chuck are in a cabin two doors down from us and we see them in the hallways often - these guys are the best. Candice is wonderful and she makes me laugh - what a bundle of fun and energy. Tony is the quieter of the two but very enjoyable to be with. Harvey and Deb we don't actually get to know very well until later in the cruise. Cami and Andy are another really sweet couple - always a big smile and big hello. Marvin and Ruth seem very nice but we don't have the opportunity to spend a lot of time with them. Charles and Ann are terrific - Ann has quite a sense of humor and gives Jim a run for his money and Charles is a real gentleman. The other Charles is very nice as is Miep. On the boards Charles told us about how they lost his wife - he was talking about her paper work for the cruise. I told Faye about how he lost his wife and she took it literally thinking that his wife had passed away and that he had quickly replaced her. We finally got that one straightened out. Miep is very much alive and kicking! Kathy and Tom are brother and sister, and they are sure to let us know that she is the much younger sibling! Both are traveling with their spouses, John and Marilyn. This foursome is such fun to be around. I can see that Tom is going to be trouble! When Jim and I were in Spain several years ago, I bought castanets for my daughter (she was a dancer) - while buying them an old woman in the shop decided to show me how to use them while dancing the Flamenco - she was fantastic - she then told me to try it - well, my performance was less than polished and rather klutzy. As luck would have it a friend was right there to video my moment of shame. I mentioned this on the boards and it became a running joke that I would be performing the Flamenco at the cocktail party this evening. The only one who seems to have remembered is my good buddy, Tom! Only Tom has somehow embellished the story a slight bit - my klutzy performance has turned into my X rated video! I make it very clear to him, that NO, I will not be performing this evening - nor any other!   After the party we join the Beatty's for dinner. Ed is a retired attorney and Nancy is full of personality, they live in Iowa. David is an attorney and victims advocate and appeared on the Sally Jesse, Oprah, and Geraldo shows - do I need to say more - the conversation is fascinating. David testifies before Congress on victim's rights and lobbies in Washington. Trudy is an activist in related fields. Trudy and David were recently married and are traveling with David's parents - this is a honeymoon for them. They live in the Washington D.C. area. Between Trudy and David, the stories just flowed! As it turns out Trudy and I have a mutual friend and have lots to talk about. It is wonderful to see the parents and children get along and have as much fun as these four do together. Our conversation ranges from crime to films to books. David is on the Atkins diet and they cater to him very well - bringing him two huge steaks. The waiters are also wonderful to Nancy - she can not eat gluten and every night someone comes over and tells her what she can eat from the menu. Once again the service is very slow but we do find out that each person's dinner is cooked to order - and it shows in the quality of the food. My dinner for tonight is escargot, duck (not at all fatty), and a chocolate soufflE - all fabulous! We are still having dinner at 10pm, so miss tonight's show - a concert performed by Tian Jiang, an international piano virtuoso. I later hear that the show was wonderful. I quickly stop in to check out the shops on board - there are two boutiques; one is mainly jewelry and the other has logo items, some clothing, books and things like that. I think that the selection is a bit limited. However, I do see a couple of very pretty pieces of jewelry that I point out to Jim. I show Jim what I like and he sometimes buys them to put away for a future occasion.   Tonight, by mistake, we left the privacy sign on the door of our room so it isn't made up when we return. Won't make this mistake again since it is so nice to walk in and have the bed turned down for you.   Before bed, I spend some time sitting on the balcony enjoying the great breeze and reading - oh, how I love this.   July 7 Monday Palma de Mallorca, Spain 8am - 12am   We wake up to another beautiful sunny day. Sleeping was once again perfect with the door open, the sea breeze coming in and the water lapping - such relaxation!   Arriving in Palma by ship is an impressive sight, with the grand bulk of the cathedral towering above the old town and the remnants of the medieval walls. From the ship the whole town can be taken in with one glance.   I'm thrilled to find that we will be in port until midnight - it seems to me that we were originally scheduled for only a half day. Jim is less than thrilled that I am on my way down to the shore excursion desk to see if we can still get onto the Highlights of Palma tour this morning - he'd be just as happy to sleep in. I hate being in the ports and not seeing all that we can. He graciously does go along with my plan. I would have liked to do the Caves of Drach but there is a waiting list for this one. We have been to Palma before but haven't done the Highlights tour so this will be something new for us.   We leave at 8:15 for our tour and Maria is our guide. We start out with Laura, John, Ann and Charles. Somehow, Laura and John wind up on a different tour bus - we try to get onto their bus but are told there is no more room. - so the remaining four of us are together on another bus. There is also a very sweet little girl, Caroline, on the tour with her Mom - she is about 10 years old and from Istanbul. The mother speaks English but Caroline speaks very little. The bus is air conditioned but it doesn't seem to be working very well.   Floating in the blue waters of the Mediterranean off the eastern coast of Spain, the Balearic Islands have managed to maintain their integrity, identity and strong links with the past. Beyond the clubs and beaches are Gothic cathedrals, Stone Age ruins, small fishing villages, and endless olive groves and orange orchards. There are four islands: the biggest is Mallorca (Mallorca means largest - also spelled Majorca), followed by Menorca, Ibiza and tiny Formentera.   The island of Mallorca is the result of a convulsion in which Africa came near to Europe; the consequences were a series of folds in the Iberian Peninsula. The folds fell one on top of the other and created the Balearic Islands. Scientists trace Mallorca's human history to 4,000BC. The Mallorcan soldiers of the time were reported to be aggressive, and the island gained a reputation for harboring pirates who attacked Roman ships in the Mediterranean. In retaliation, Romans seized control of the island in 123 BC. Then, during the decline of the Roman Empire, Mallorca was attacked by Vandals and Byzantines. Over the years, the island was influenced by variety of civilizations, including the Greeks, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Arabs. At one point it was even an independent state and later, in 1343, became the Crown of Aragon.   In the architecture of the island, we see a variety of influences. The Romans, recognizing the strategic location of Mallorca, established a military post here. Later, the Moors put their stamp on the island and Palma grew into a major seaport. In 1229, Spain conquered the Moorish stronghold. Until the 16th century, when Spain began concentrating on the New World, Mallorca functioned as a major port of call between Europe and North Africa. More recently, in the 1960's, a boom in tourism and development shaped the island, as towers of steel and concrete sprung up along the coast. Despite the development, much of the island maintains its picturesque beauty. There are cozy villages tucked away in valleys all along Mallorca's coastlines, where visitors spend enchanted hours strolling along narrow, winding streets.   Although people who live in Mallorca usually speak Castilian Spanish (and those who cater to tourists speak a dizzying array of languages), the native tongue of the Balearic islands is Catalan, and the local dialect is Mallorqumn. This language, which the Balearic people made official after the death of Franco and the federalization of Spain, looks and sounds something like a mixture of Spanish and French.   In 1983 Palma became the capital of one of Spain's newly established autonomous regions, the Balearic Islands, and since then it's shed the dusty provincialism of yesteryear, developing into a go-ahead and cosmopolitan commercial hub of 325,000 people. Palma forms an important holiday resort and commercial port. Despite having become a modern, vibrant city, Palma has managed to retain its old town and its ancient culture and charm. Palma's airport handles millions of visitors each year and plays a major role in the Balearic's tourism industry.   Around half of Mallorca's population lives in the capital, Palma, and it's a buzzing, vibrant place. By day, you can explore the attractive old quarter crammed with cobbled lanes, tree-lined boulevards, Gothic churches and designer boutiques. Wandering through the expansive maze of twisting lanes in the old quarter, you seem to forget that you are on an island. With all the activity of the city it can be difficult to imagine that the city was once a devotional retreat for Fernando and Isabel. What remain of the old city walls add to the feeling that there's always something delightful and surprising to discover around the next corner. Once known as Medina Mayurka under the rule of the Umayyad in 903, Palma was one of the most important cities in Muslim Spain - although evidence of those times is scarce, with the Arab baths one of the few remaining examples of Moorish architecture.   Lack of water is a problem for Mallorca - today they convert sea water to supply the island. It is actually cheaper for inhabitants of the island to drink wine than to drink water.   Palma has a beautiful marina with some fabulous yachts docked there. One of the yachts belongs to the king of Norway (30 million euros) and another to the Arab Emirate. Sailing is one of the most important sports here -- children begin to sail at the age of seven or eight. There is a sailing Regatta held here that attracts more than 1000 participants.   The Jewish population remained in Mallorca and was not expelled like in the rest of Spain. This was not done for any altruistic reasons - the aristocracy needed the Jews in the community - so protected the Jews, by changing the Jewish names and giving them their own names. In order to be saved the Jews had to renounce their religion and had to eat bacon as a sign of this renunciation - they were actually called bacon (in Spanish). These Jews became Christians and assimilated into the community. But now after centuries they are beginning to return to Judaism.   We drive along the Main Boulevard which is very shady with a canopy of trees. Maria points out the statue of Ramon Llull, who is considered the Father of the Mallorcan Language. She also tells us that shoes are the best buy in Palma.   We tour Bellver Castle, built in 1309, the only castle in Spain that is totally circular in design. Bellver Castle, a strong symbol of the island, dominates everything. It is one of the finest examples of military architecture of the 14th and 15th centuries, although its circular golden stone structure gives it a strangely modern appearance.   The castle is surrounded by a forest containing palm trees, evergreens and bougainvillea. It sits on a hill and is surrounded by a moat which is totally dry - the castle is built of the local sandstone which is porous and absorbs the water. Bellver houses the principle museum and is often used for concerts.   Construction started in 1300 by the orders of James II, King of Mallorca. Stone for the castle came from the nearby mountains - the transportation of the stone was easier because of the experience gained in building the Cathedral previously. It took nine years to build the basic structure -- the ornamentation was finished more slowly. The work force consisted of seventy permanent artisans and a large number of the king's slaves as well as local women.   The building is circular in layout with three semicircular buttressed towers, and a single tower some seven meters from the body of the castle. The construction is arranged around a central courtyard. The first level is constructed using semicircular arches surmounted with flat roofs and the second, upper level has Gothic arches and ribbed gothic vaults.   The original doors of Bellver are still present. There is one large door which was used for a rider and his horse to enter - this was only used when the person entering was known. When the visitor was unknown a smaller door was used and the horse was left outside for security purposes.   The castle was built as a royal residence. In the late 14th century, John I and Violet of Aragon stayed there with their court for three months. The castle has also entertained other European royalty, such as Charles I of England, the Prince of Saboya, John of Austria, the Duke of Monpensier and the present British Monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, as well as members of the Spanish Royal family including the present monarchs King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia.   In 1717, the castle became a military prison. Between 1802 and 1808, Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos, Minister of the Treasury, Patronage and Justice in the reign of Carlos IV, was imprisoned in one of the rooms on the first floor. The castle also acted as a prison for numerous French officers and soldiers defeated in the Battle of Bailen -- there is graffiti on the walls, carved by French prisoners of war. The castle was also used to store powder of the Franco Army and was used for executions during the regime of Franco. Maria tells us that her grandfather and his generation want no part of the castle because of its history during Franco's rule. It is the younger generation that has a renewed interest in the castle.   In 1931, the Government gave the building and the woods to the Palma City Council. It has now been turned into the Palma History museum and houses the Desuig Collection of Classical Sculpture. One especially interesting piece of sculpture is of a lady reclining - however, it isn't a lady but a castrated man. The Vatican allowed this procedure, so that men could vocally hit the high musical notes. The Museum is an exploration of the history of Palma -- it contains Palma's museum of municipal history which traces the development of the city through its artifacts, with pottery from Talaiotic, Roman, Arab and Spanish periods.   Our next stop is to Palma's Cathedral, built on top of the island's main mosque by the King of Aragon, Jaume I, the Conqueror -- it took 500 years to complete. This gothic sandstone building dominates the city's waterfront.   The foundation of the Cathedral was closely liked to the conquest of the island by Jaume I, in 1229. Control of the Balearic Islands was essential to the interests of a kingdom by then intent on expansion into the Mediterranean area, not only because of the obvious importance of its ports of call on the maritime route to the East, but also because of the need to eliminate the danger of the Muslim pirates who used the archipelago as a base for their frequent attacks on the courts of Catalonia. From the very beginning it was Jaume's wish to raise a Cathedral in the islands capital and this is mentioned in the chronicles of the conquest. According to legend, Jaume's decision was due to a vow made to God during a violent storm which threatened to sink the Aragonese fleet. At the beginning, however, it seems that the only initiative in this respect was to consecrate the city's main mosque for Christian worship and to make a number of alterations and possibly certain additions to the building. The actual scope of these changes is unknown as no part of the present Cathedral is previous to the 14th century, except for the tower built on the site of the old minaret (which explains its different orientation vis-à-vis the Cathedral.) The origin of the present structure lies in the brief but brilliant period when Mallorca became an independent kingdom, after the death of Jaume I, who in his will ordered his dominions shared among his children bequeathing the Balearic archipelago and the Crown's Trans-Pyrenean territories to his youngest son, Jaume. Constantly under threat by the Aragonese sovereigns in their successive attempts at unification, the kingdom of Mallorca survived from 1276 until 1343, when Peter IV, the Ceremonious, annexed it definitively to his realm. By that time the old mosque converted into a church was being replaced by an airy Gothic structure, which though only just begun promised to be the beautiful building we know today.   The Cathedral, as it stands today, is the equal of almost any on the mainland - and a surprising one, too, with modernista interior features designed by Antoni Gaudí. The original foundation came with the Christian Reconquest of the city, and the site taken, in fulfillment of the vow by Jaume I. Essentially Gothic, wit

Regatta - Eastern Mediterranean

Regatta Cruise Review by PMu5803436

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Trip Details
OCEANIA REGATTA TRIP REPORT Barcelona to Dover July 5-19, 2003 Jim and Pam Murphy
 
There are a few things that I would like to mention before sharing my daily journal. I write this for personal reasons - it is something that I include in the photo album that I make for each of our trips.
 
Jim and I chose the inaugural cruise of the new Oceania line since we were very loyal cruisers of the old, bankrupt Renaissance Cruise Line. Two of the Renaissance 'R' series of ships are now owned by Oceania - The R1 and the R2 are now the Regatta and the Insignia. We wanted to be part of the excitement of these ships being back on the seas thus choosing the inaugural sailing. We went into the cruise expecting the good along with the bad - a person would be a fool to book an inaugural if they are expecting perfection. With an inaugural, things are still a "work in progress" - for anyone wanting perfection (if such a thing is possible) - I would suggest waiting before booking a new cruise line - till it has had the time to work out all of the kinks.
 
In this report I tried to be fair and to include the good with the bad. Please keep in mind that these are my opinions and in many instances people may not agree with them. We were given questionnaires to fill out on at the end of the cruise - Jim filled out ours and I didn't agree with all of his opinions. Differing opinions are what makes the world go round!
 
I was introduced to Frank del Rio at the cocktail party held on board for the Yahoo group -- Frank was previously with Renaissance cruises -- he and Joe Watters (formerly of Crystal Cruises are the brains and talent behind the new Oceania line. Frank gave me his card and requested that I send him a copy of my trip report. So what is in here is being forwarded on to Frank -- some of the included information is for his benefit.
 
July 4 Friday Fly Philadelphia To Barcelona
 
It seems like we have been planning this cruise forever. We actually pre-booked the cruise before the reservation computers were even set up. Oceania is a new line and since this is the inaugural many little glitches need to be worked out. The first problem was that our documentation arrived only about a week before sailing. We requested to fly out of Philadelphia, our closest airport. When we received the tickets we were booked on a commuter flight from Philadelphia to JFK - this seems very silly to us since we could easily have driven directly to JFK. Since the documents arrived so late we decided to make no changes and leave well enough alone. Our price with Oceania included air at no additional charge - since not paying for it, why not take the commuter flight and save ourselves the drive?
 
We have a town car pick us up to take us to Philadelphia. Jim likes to arrive at the airport very early - I've learned that it keeps him calm to do it this way and I can wait at the airport as easily as I can wait for a flight at home. This is the Fourth of July and we figured that we would either hit very heavy traffic or no traffic at all. The latter is the case and we sail to the airport. The town car we ordered picks us up at 11:30 am for our 3:30 flight. Our driver is an ex NJ State Trooper and a really interesting man to talk to -- he told us many hair-raising stories of his years on the narcotic squad.
 
There is no line to check in and no question on the weight of our luggage - anyone who has read any of my past trip reports knows that I have not mastered the fine art of packing lightly and usually get "heavy" tags applied to the luggage. This time only one bag gets the "heavy" tag. Security is a breeze - the airport is close to empty - neither Jim nor I are searched which is a rare occurrence for Jim.
 
The flight to JFK is on a small Delta jet - we need to walk outside to board the plane - it is necessary to put our carry on luggage with the checked bags but we were able to get them as we get off of the plane at JFK. This flight is all of 20 minutes in the air - quick and painless. Jim and I have a window and aisle seat together - since the plane is not full, Jim is able to move across the aisle and have two seats for himself and I now also have two for myself.
 
Upon arrival at JFK we need to take a bus from the plane to the terminal. Jim and I arrive at the boarding gate where we meet many of the people that I have been corresponding with for months on the Yahoo message boards. Laura, one of the moderator's of the board is on our flight. Many have sent photos to post on the board pre cruise. I printed the photos out before leaving home so that I will be able to recognize people. I see a young man who looks very much like Laura's husband John. Then when I see Laura with him, I am fairly certain that this is actually Laura. So out comes my page of photos and as I am looking - Laura is doing the same thing - looking at me and comparing the photo she has printed out. We have a good laugh over this one.
 
Some of the people on our flight are: Laura and John from CA Randy and Luanne from CA Bill and Linda from Cape Cod Lee and Bill from Pittsburgh Kathy and Bill from Pittsburgh Carol and Earl from CA Jan and Jim from CA
 
Everyone is very nice and I have a feeling that this is going to be a fun cruise. Our waiting time seems to fly since we are all busy yakking, getting to know each other.
 
We board the plane and are on our way to Barcelona. At 5:55. We once again luck out. Jim and I have a window and aisle seat - he gets to move to the center section with three seats to himself and I now once again have the two for myself -- a very comfortable and smooth flight. The film shown is one that I haven't seen - "How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days" - cute and light.
 
July 5 Saturday Arrive Barcelona Board Ship
 
We arrive in Barcelona at 7:00am and are greeted by Oceania Representatives -- the transfer goes like clockwork. We were originally told that we would be taken to a hospitality suite until it was time to board the ship. To our delight we find that we are being taken right to the ship. The first thing we see upon our arrival at the ship is a woman (who turns out to be Jan Fishbein) standing on the balcony in her bathrobe waving to us all. I know that this is Jan from Carol and Earl who know her. Jan is a travel agent that booked many on this cruise. She is a very close friend of Frank del Rio who is the President of Oceania. Jan and her husband Stu were on the pre inaugural cruise (sort of a shakedown cruise for the owners and their family and friends). We have about an hour wait in the terminal to board the ship. There is a bar and coffee but for these you need to have Euros and many of us haven't had chance to change our money yet. But the time flies as we are still talking a mile a minute, getting to know each other. Jan quickly gets dressed and comes to join us. I have known Jan and many of the other fellow cruisers from the days of the old Renaissance boards - but have never met any of them in person.
 
Registration is quick and easy and extremely well set up. What a pleasure to be back on a small ship where there are none of those very long lines to contend with. There is no photographer set up to take those dreaded "Welcome Aboard Photos", as you can well imagine they usually aren't the best after flying all night! Think we have arrived too early since we later see him out there shooting away!
 
We are next taken to the Horizon Lounge since the rooms are not yet ready - but I am impressed that they get us on board as quickly as possible. We are told that there was a group of Spanish travel agents on board that spent the night on the ship. They are now preparing the rooms for us. Horizon Lounge is set up with a continental breakfast. The pastries are delicious, think we may be in for some wonderful food on this cruise.
 
This is the first encounter with the crew and they couldn't be nicer. We learn from them that the pre inaugural cruise was being referred to as the "Cruise from Hell" -- many of the guests were extremely rude to the crew and had them jumping through hoops.
 
We are sitting with Laura, John, Randy and Luanne - both couples are younger than we are but are a whole lot of fun. With time on our hands, Jim soon becomes the butt of our jokes. I just can't help myself telling them about a previous cruise in Barcelona when Jim was acting like the tour guide during our pre cruise stay in the city - we had previously been to Barcelona so Jim was more than willing to share all his knowledge with many of the other passengers that were in Barcelona for the first time. There was just one slight problem -- he was giving out all of the wrong information. He showed them a street that he said was Las Ramblas and went on and on about what a great place it was - this street wasn't even close to Las Ramblas - he pointed out our ship in the harbor - you guessed it - not even the line we were sailing on. There is just something about Jim that makes him sound like he is an authority on things - people will follow him rather than the tour guide - what a big mistake that is! Randy absolutely loved hearing this bit of information on Jim and little did I know just how much he enjoyed hearing it.
 
I pick up a shore excursion form and the first thing we do is to sign up for the tours we want to take. I have a few disappointments -- the times certain tours are offered doesn't work out for us to be able to take all those we had wanted. I ask at the shore excursion desk if the shore excursion crew has been on all of these tours and they haven't. I personally think that they should experience them all so that when a question is asked they have first hand knowledge of the answer. Perhaps in time they will take them. I think that it would be a great asset for Oceania to have the staff familiar with each tour, even if it means flying them in to the port ahead of time. I have never been on a cruise line where this is done but think it would be something that could set Oceania above the others. There is nothing more frustrating than asking how much free time you will have and no one knows.
 
This is the first cruise that we have taken that doesn't have a video of the different ports, of the shore excursions and the shopping. Believe these videos of the ports and shore excursions are made by a company called Sea Video in CA. I find these very helpful in choosing my tours. I asked Greg (head of shore excursions) about it and he said that having Sea Video make these is very costly and with Oceania just starting out that they didn't want to invest this kind of money. I personally think it might be a wise investment to consider. The videos, once made, could actually be a money maker for the cruise line if they were available for sale when one books a particular cruise. I purchase travel videos for the different ports before a cruise and they run into hundreds of dollars because all the ports aren't on the same video. This would be one video that could be purchased for maybe $25 - $30 dollars that would include each port the cruise includes. It would be helpful to anyone trying to choose between the excursions offered and also for people wanting to do a port on their own. Jim and I choose our cruises because of the itinerary and reading the shore excursions helps us decide which ones to book. If someone is considering several cruises -- having the ability to purchase these videos would be beneficial in choosing the cruise that is best for the individual. I feel that this would be a wonderful marketing strategy for both selling cruises and also selling shore excursions. There are shore excursion talks held on board but these cover no more than what is in the printed information - if you can read, why bother attending -- I would like to see more extensive information given on each port, tour and the shopping in the port.
 
After waiting awhile, no one tells us if the rooms are ready. So one by one we go up to check our rooms - we have been given our keys and they are ready so we all clear out of Horizon. As we are heading to our rooms we meet Bob and Joyce from the message boards. This really is like old home week!
 
We go to our cabin, room 6086 - the last room on the port side - the balcony has a slanted wall on the one side which impairs vision a bit but it is fine and we are comfortable. We find all sorts of goodies waiting for us -- we booked through Shirley Binder and she had a lovely floral arrangement there for us and also a $50 ship board credit - such a thoughtful thing to do. For anyone lucky enough to receive one of these beautiful arrangements - you will need to sign the card and give it to the cabin stewardess for the flowers to be delivered. The arrangement has tiger lilies, roses, carnations, and daisies with pretty yellow filler -- it adds a lot of color and cheer to the room. There is also a gift from the cruise line for us - a wooden decorator box with an image on the Regatta to commemorate the Inaugural Cruise - another very nice gift.
 
You have no idea of what a thrill being back on this ship is for me. I have always loved these ships and was heartbroken when Renaissance went bankrupt. In my opinion, these are the prettiest ships on the seas, with a warm homey ambiance and the charm of the old days of luxury sailing. In my past trip reports, I have described these ships so in this report, I am mainly going to concentrate on the changes since the days of Renaissance. First of all, I noticed that the Horizon Lounge has new big accent pillows - they are very pretty and comfy (I later find out that Frank and Marcy del Rio personally picked out the fabric for them). The balconies have had teak decking added which looks lovely and is a definite upgrade. The Terrace Cafe has had new window blinds added which look great. We had heard that the balconies would have new furniture and not the same cheap plastic chairs from the Renaissance days. The same chairs are there but cushions have been added. When it is time to replace these, I would suggest getting chairs where the back reclines with cushions on them - even if they are only plastic they would be far more comfortable for snoozing out on the balcony - something to consider, Frank! Believe this is what we had on Silver Seas and they were great.
 
The beds look just wonderful - I am fighting not to jump right into it - but know that I have to stay awake to get onto European time as quickly as possible in order to enjoy the ports. The old bedspreads are gone and have been replaced with goose down pillows covered in very high quality sheets that feel like silk - they are a cream color with a self satin striping. The duvet has a cover that is the same sheeting but is in a pale blue self striping. What I am especially impressed with is that these duvet covers can be washed between passengers, making it a lot more sanitary. I always hated putting things on a bedspread that hadn't been cleaned between cruisers. Here Oceania has earned great big points with me! There is French milled soap that smells like oranges - love it. They also have the small bottles of shampoo, conditioner and bath gel for us. There are new bath towels and they are nice and thick - they are decent size but aren't bath sheets. I check out the room service menu and it has been expanded greatly from the old Renaissance days. They have a shrimp/prawn cocktail, smoked salmon, soups, salads, sandwiches, desserts and even hot entrees. Room service is available 24 hours a day. There was a lot of discussion about the hairdryers on the boards before the cruise. I have thick hair but it is short and the dryer works just fine for me. I know that Candice brought her own (she has thick long hair) and is glad that she did.
 
There is no refrigerator in the standard balcony room but they do keep the ice bucket filled for you.
 
There is dry cleaning and laundry service on board - if you have it out by 9am you will get it back the same day. There are also washers and dryers but not many are working. Where is that Maytag man when you need him?
 
We walk up on deck and the new teak furniture is just beautiful - so much richer looking. - adds a real elegance to the ship.
 
Find that we were given the wrong contact number for the ship before leaving. This could be a major problem if anyone had an emergency at home - this is one thing that Oceania needs to address ASAP.
 
It takes about two hours for the luggage to arrive. This is no problem for me since I always pack a few things in my carry on bag so that I can clean up when we arrive.
 
Once we are settled Jim decides to take a nap. I shower and change before heading to the terminal where the shops have opened. On my way, I meet Lee and Bill and they have a handicap room - she tells me that there is a tub in it which is hard for a handicapped person to get in and out of.
 
The terminal has very few shops; one has Majorica pearls, one has leather and one has Lladros. I purchase a couple of Majorica pearl rings as gifts. I'm not impressed by the leather shop and am not in the market for Lladros, although the shop seems to have a decent selection of the figurines. I meet Laura and John who are also browsing the shops -- Laura has a very pretty new outfit on, so I assume that she has also taken the time to freshen up.
 
I return to the room -- the bags have arrived, so it is time to unpack. A friend suggested packing clothing on hangars -- I tried it and it saves so much time unpacking. Thanks for the idea, Gundy, it was a good one. (After returning home, Candice gives me a further good idea for packing - she keeps the plastic bags on the garments and they don't wrinkle - so many smart friends!) Now that all the work is done it is time to relax on the balcony. By this time Jim is up and goes to the bar to get me a few cans of diet coke and a pina colada. Jim planned to bring the drink back to me himself, but the bar manager insists on having it delivered for him - a crew member walks back to the room with him carrying our drinks on a tray. This is our first indication that the service will be excellent. We order a cheese platter from room service which offers a very nice selection of cheeses. Now this is living - sitting on the balcony with a good book and a drink!
 
Where has the day gone? It is already time to get dressed for the evening - we are scheduled to meet the Yahoo group in the Martini bar at 6:00 (the group is expanding to include people who weren't on the boards). We meet Laura and John (today is their 17th wedding anniversary), Charles and Ann Bubeck (Charles is a moderator of the Yahoo board with Laura), Bob (Joyce didn't make it), Kathy and Bill, Jan and Jim, Carol and Earl, Jan and Stu. I order my first Cosmopolitan. Interestingly, we notice that different glasses are used to serve the Martinis than are used for the Cosmos.
 
From here we head for dinner. The service is slow but my filet mignon melts like butter in your mouth and it is a huge piece of meat. I order a dessert that is a chocolate filled cookie shell - delicious! The dinner is excellent. The service is extremely slow but at least we can't say that they are rushing us. It makes dinner an event! There is a string quartet that plays in the dining room -absolutely wonderful - this really adds a nice touch to dining. At one point they play "Flight of the Bumblebee" and I find myself eating fast - in time to the music!
 
After dinner we return to the room and by now I am exhausted and immediately fall asleep. Jim is still hanging in there and goes off the ship for an after dinner cigar. When he returns to the room, he wakes me up -- as he is hanging up his clothing the bar in the closet snaps and everything comes crashing down. He picks it all up and has it precariously perched hanging on the top shelf - with this arrangement the closet won't close. We now have a real bottleneck - it is necessary to close the closet in order to easily get out the door of the cabin and to get into the bathroom - maneuvering now is awkward to say the least!
 
July 6 Sunday Barcelona - Sail 5pm
 
I am up at 6am sitting on the balcony (you'll soon catch on that this is my favorite spot on the ship) - it's a beautiful day, nice breeze and not yet too hot. I slept some of last night but kept waking up at regular intervals - at around 2am, I was sitting on the balcony reading. The beds are just as comfy as they look. Love the pillows - they mold right to you. The mattress is extremely comfortable and the duvet is light and cuddly but not too terribly warm, like some can be. Oceania has a winner with these beds! They are the best! I tend to get warm very easily, so we have the air conditioning set as low as it can go - then have the sliding glass door open to hear the lapping of the water and feel the cool breeze coming in.
 
Breakfast is served at the Terrace Cafe, buffet style and also in the Grand Dining Room from 7:30 to 9:30 (10am on sea days) Jim and I eat in the dining room -- I order the French toast which is very good. I notice that they even have lamb chops on the menu.
 
We run into Jan and Jim who tell us that last night they had dinner at the Tapas Restaurant and it was wonderful.
 
Also spoke to people who took the Flamenco Tour last night and the opinion seems to be that it was okay but nothing special.
 
Before leaving for the day we tell Isabelle about our closet mishap last night -- she says that she will have it taken care of. Tell her that they can just leave our clothing on the bed and that I will hang it when we return.
 
We had hoped to take the ship's tour to Sitges (beach resort) this morning -- however, last night it was cancelled due to the fact that there weren't enough signed up. As an alternative they offer to put us on the Highlights of Barcelona tour or the Montserrat tour, but we have done both in the past - so make the decision to just go off on our own for a few hours. This is our third time in Barcelona so we have seen most of the tourist sights. Last night, inquired about taking a private van to Sitges with Barrie and Arnie (from CA) but when we were quoted $800, all agreed that nothing is worth that kind of money. Instead we join Barrie and Arnie on the shuttle to the Columbus Monument - the bus comes right to the port and it is $2 pp round trip. At the Columbus Monument we are able to catch the hop on hop off Barcelona bus tour -- believe it is $15 pp for one day and $19 pp for two days. Barrie and Arnie are a great couple and we have such a nice day with them. We actually discover that our two children and their two live very close to each other in CA - our two and one of theirs are in the entertainment industry - so we have lots in common. The top section of the tour bus is our choice of seating but by now it is getting hot and sunny.
 
The Columbus Monument, which was erected on the harbor-front of Barcelona on the occasion of the Universal Exhibition of 1888 is divided into three parts; the first being a circular structure, raised by four stairways (19 1/2 feet wide) and eight iron heraldic lions -- on the plinth are eight bronze bas-reliefs depicting the principal feats of Columbus (the originals were destroyed; the present ones are copies); the second part is the base of the column, consisting of an eight-sided polygon, four sides of which act as buttresses -- each side contains sculptures; the third part is formed by the column itself, Corinthian in style and rising 167 feet -- the capital boasts representations of Europe, Asia, Africa, and America -- all linked together; finally, over a princely crown and a hemisphere recalling the newly discovered part of the globe is a 25-foot-high bronze statue of Columbus himself by Rafael AttachE.
 
Blessed with rich and fertile soil, an excellent harbor, and a hardworking population, Barcelona has always prospered. At a time when Madrid was still a dusty and unknown Castilian backwater, Barcelona was a powerful, diverse capital; one influenced more by the Mediterranean empires that conquered it than by the cultures of the arid Iberian plains to the west. Carthage, Rome, and Charlemagne-era France each overran Catalonia, and each left an indelible mark on the region's nascent identity. The region of Catalonia is a nation within a nation. While part of Spain, it has its own semi-autonomous government. Catalan -- a Romance language akin to the Provencal of France -- is spoken everywhere, supplanting Castilian Spanish as the main language even on street signs. Catalonians are proud of their distinct culture and heritage; with their long seafaring tradition and centuries of trade, there is a strong connection between it and southern France. They have clung fiercely to their culture and language--both of which, earlier in this century, Franco systematically tried to eradicate. And Barcelona, the region's lodestar, has truly come into its own. In Barcelona itself, this regionalism is complemented by a strong socialist tradition - the city was a bastion of the Republican cause during the Civil War, holding out against Franco until January 1939, and remained the scene of protests and demonstrations throughout the dictatorship. It's a confident, progressive city, looking towards the rest of Europe for its inspiration and its innovations - the classic tourist images of Spain seem firmly out of place in Barcelona's bustling central boulevards and stylish modern streets. And style is what brings many visitors here, attracted by enthusiastic newspaper and magazine articles which make much of the outrageous architecture and user-friendly city design
 
Despite its allure, Barcelona grapples with problems common to many major cities: the increasing polarization of rich and poor, a rising tide of drug abuse, and an escalating crime rate, mostly in theft. But in reaction to a rash of negative publicity, city authorities have, with some degree of success, brought crime under control, at least within the tourist zones (things are much improved in this area - I saw no signs of a major problem on this visit as we have witnessed in the past).
 
A revitalized Barcelona eagerly prepared for and welcomed thousands of visitors as part of the 1992 Summer Olympic Games. When the Games had finished, the city was left with an entirely new harbor development containing the futuristic Olympic Village. And along with a construction program that touched every corner of the city, went the indisputable knowledge that these had been Barcelona's Olympics, and not Spain's - an important distinction to the Catalan people, who, bolstered by the gradual integration of immigrants from other parts of Spain, endow the city with a character distinct from Spain's other regional capitals. The action didn't end when the last medal was handed out. Barcelona turned its multimillion-dollar building projects into permanently expanded facilities for sports and tourism.
 
Much of Spain's more modern architecture feels like a rehash of its past. But Barcelona is a lively exception. As Europe leapt from the 19th century into the 20th, it celebrated a rising standard of living and nearly a century without a major war. Future revolutions were in their early, starry-eyed-dreamer stages. Impressionists came out of their studios to paint in the gardens, and Art Nouveau architects forced hard steel and concrete into softer organic shapes. Barcelona's answer to art nouveau was modernisme, and its genius was Antoni Gaudí. There's a pride in the city which is expressed in a remarkable cultural energy, seen most perfectly in the glorious modernista (Art Nouveau) architecture that studs the city's streets and avenues. Antoni Gaudí is the most famous of those who have left their mark on Barcelona in this way: his Sagrada Família church is rightly revered, but just as fascinating are the (literally) fantastic houses and apartment buildings that he and his contemporaries designed. In art, too, the city boasts a stupendous legacy, from important Romanesque and Gothic works to major galleries containing the life's work of the Catalan artists Joan Miró and Antoni Tàpies, and - perhaps the greatest draw of all - a representative collection of the work of Pablo Picasso.
 
Today is Sunday so many of the shops are closed. We drive past Port Vell, Montjuic, The Olympic Village, Poble Espangnol.
 
At St. Jaume Square there is the City Town Hall and across the Square, the Catalonian Seat of Government. Also in the old city stands Barcelona's cathedral as a celebrated example of Catalonian Gothic architecture. Except for the 19th-century west facade, the basilica was begun at the end of the 13th century and completed in the mid-15th century. The three naves, cleaned and illuminated, have splendid Gothic details. With its large bell towers, blending of medieval and Renaissance styles, beautiful cloister, high altar, side chapels, sculptured choir, and Gothic arches, it ranks as one of the most impressive cathedrals in Spain. Vaulted galleries in the cloister surround a garden of magnolias, medlars, and palm trees; the galleries are further enhanced by forged iron grilles. The historian Cirici called this the loveliest oasis in Barcelona. The cloister, illuminated on Saturdays and fiesta days, also contains a museum of medieval art. The most notable work displayed is the 15th-century La Pietat of BartolomE Bermejo.
 
The Bridge of Bishops joins the Cathedral with the Royal Palace -- the former palace of the counts of Barcelona. It later became the residence of the kings of Aragón -- hence, the name of its plaza (King's Square). It's believed that Columbus was received here by Isabella and Ferdinand when he returned from his first voyage to the New World. Here, some believe, the monarchs got their first look at a Native American. The Saló del Tinell, a banqueting hall with a wood-paneled ceiling held up by half a dozen arches, dates from the 14th century. Rising five stories above the hall is the Torre del Rei Martí, a series of porticoed galleries.
 
We get off the bus at the appointed place to change from the blue route to the red route. At this spot is a Corte de Ingles (large department store) where Barrie and I go in to check it out. My only purchase is some Clinique sun block to put on us while sitting on the top of the bus. We drive along Paseo de Gracia and pass Casa Battlo and Casa Mila both by Antoni Gaudi; we don't get off since we have limited time and have to make choices -- I have already visited these sites.
Casa Batlló was designed by Gaudí in 1905. Using sensuous curves in iron and stone, the architect gave the facade a lavish baroque exuberance. The balconies have been compared to "sculpted waves." The upper part of the facade evokes animal forms, and delicate tiles are spread across the design--a polychromatic exterior extraordinaire.
 
Commonly called La Pedrera, Casa Milà is the most famous apartment-house complex in Spain. Antoni Gaudí's imagination went wild when planning its construction; he even included vegetable and fruit shapes in his sculptural designs. Controversial and much criticized upon its completion, today it stands as a classic example of modernista architecture. The entire building was restored in 1996. The ironwork around the balconies forms an intricate maze, and the main gate has windowpanes shaped like turtle shells. The rooftop, filled with phantasmagorical chimneys known in Spanish as espantabrujas (witch-scarers), affords a view of Gaudí's unfinished cathedral, La Sagrada Família. The Espai Gaudí (Gaudí Space) in the attic has an intriguing multimedia display of the works of this controversial artist.
 
We get off the bus at La Sagrada Família. Gaudí's incomplete masterpiece is one of the more idiosyncratic creations of Spain. Begun in 1882 and still incomplete at Gaudí's death in 1926, this incredible church--the Church of the Holy Family--is a bizarre wonder. The languid, amorphous structure embodies the essence of Gaudí's style, which some have described as art nouveau run rampant. Work continues on the structure, but without any sure idea of what Gaudí intended. Some say that the church will be completed by the mid-21st century. The crypt of the cathedral features a small museum of the architect's scale models. Photographs show the progress (or lack thereof) of construction on the building; there are even photos of Gaudí's funeral. This is the first time for Barrie to visit this site and she absolutely loves it.
 
In 1883 after a year of work had begun on a Neo-Gothic Church on the site - the task of completing it was given to Gaudi, who changed everything extemporizing as he went along. It became his life's work and he lived as a recluse on the site for 16 years - he is buried in the church's crypt. At his death only one tower of the Nativity façade had been completed.
 
Work resumed after the Spanish Civil War and several more have since been finished. Work continues today, financed by public subscription, without any sure idea of what Gaudí intended. Gaudi's original plans for the Church have been lost and only a few writings of his ideas remain. Computers are being used to try to recreate what Gaudi would have done. However, even Gaudi wasn't exactly sure of his plan -- he kept making changes as he went along.
 
The size alone is startling, with eight spires rising to over 100m. For Gaudí, these were metaphors for the Twelve Apostles. Each of the completed towers, representing the apostles, has Venetian Mosaics topping them -- there are spiral staircases in each with 400 steps, which allow access to the towers and upper galleries.
 
On the east wall of the structure is the Nativity façade designed by Gaudi -- the Western façade (Passion Façade) is also completed. A third southern façade is planned, which will be the Glory of Christ.
 
The Nativity façade, completed in 1904, has doorways that represent faith, hope and charity. Scenes from the Nativity and Christ's childhood are embellished with symbolism: The cypress tree at the pinnacle of the arch, symbolizes the Church or everlasting life and on it the white doves symbolize the congregation or the angels. It is finely detailed -- its surface is highly textured with curls and ripples so that it looks a bit like it has melted in places. There are also splashes of color used here and there, such as fruits that are colored. There are giant turtles that look as though they are carrying the church on their backs (just as they carry their own homes on their backs). Gaudi did most of the Nativity façade but after Gaudi's death a few of the center figures were done by a Japanese sculptor - they are whiter in color and flat -- they don't have the depth of expression of Gaudi's work.
 
In contrast, the Passion Façade is a bleak and controversial work with angular and often sinister figures. This façade was created by Barcelona born, Josep Maria Subirachs. Rather than follow Gaudi's plans he created an entirely new design. The Passion facade contrasts markedly with the Nativity façade --it is very simple, dominated by a crucified Christ. As a tribute to Gaudi, Subirachs placed a figure of Gaudi next to the two Roman Guards.
 
From a distance I find the Nativity façade the much more interesting and eye catching work. However, up close, one can't help but be mesmerized by the Passion façade - I could stand and look at it for hours - bizarre but so very mesmerizing. The two completed facades are so different that it is hard to believe that they are part of the same building. I personally love the Art Nouveau Architecture of Barcelona - each time you look at it there is something new to see.
 
The Glory Façade, currently under construction, is planned as the main entrance. The decoration will represent humankind gaining glory through redemption -- the virtues, sins, purgatory, sacraments, Last Judgment and Holy Trinity will be symbolized in stone.
 
The inside of the Temple is designed to look like a petrified forest of sycamore trees. The many columns represent the tree trunks. The nave side aisles, which are now completed, are sheltered by 98 foot high vaults supported on leaning columns. The windows are topped with sculptured baskets of fruit decorated with Venetian glass. The stained glass windows are at this time the only color in the interior of the church. However, in looking at the plans for the interior, it should be very colorful when completed.
 
The crypt where Gaudi is buried was built by the original architect Francese de Paula Villar I Lozano, in 1882 and is where services are held. At the apex of the central vault is a lovely sculpture of the Annunciation. The lower floor contains a small museum tracing the careers of the architects and the church's history.
 
Gaudi's original ambitions have been scaled down over the years but the design for the completion of the building remains impressive. Still to come is the central tower symbolizing Jesus, which will be circled by four large towers representing the Evangelists. Four towers (representing the four remaining apostles) on the Glory façade will match the four on the passion façade and Nativity façade. Next to the central tower will be one representing the Virgin Mary. An ambulatory, like an inside-out cloister will run round the outside of the building.
 
Jim and I have previously been to the Familia Sagrada -- on our last visit the tour was extremely in depth which definitely added to my appreciation of it on this visit.
 
Not to disappoint you, I do stop at the gift shop and find a couple of ceramic candle holders (with Gaudi designs), some Art Nouveau jewelry and some metal bookmarks with the designs of Gaudi -- all are for Christmas gifts.
 
We hop back onto the bus and our next stop is at Parc Guell. The bus drops us off at the bottom of the hill and it is quite a climb to get to the park. This is a wonderful urban park designed by Antoni Gaudi - it features peaceful greens, winding paths and lots of sculptures and mosaics designed by Gaudi himself. Antoni Gaudí designed Barcelona's Parc Guell as a playful "planned community" (before the people were ready). His colorful, curvy Parc Guell overlooking Barcelona was never intended as the park it is today -- Gaudí originally intended this garden to be a sixty-residence housing project-a kind of gated community. As a high-income housing development, it failed. A hundred years ago, Gaudí's shiny new Parc Guell was out in the sticks-too far from Barcelona's cultural scene -- it failed after just two homes were constructed. Considering that the city's wealthiest neighborhoods surround the park today, it seems Gaudí's gated community brainstorm was just a century ahead of its time. As the park that it has become, it is a true delight to visit. And like the Sagrada Família church in the distance, it offers us a fascinating peek into the eccentric personality of the architect and his times.
 
It is fun to imagine what might have been -- this gated community being filled with Barcelona's wealthy, stepping past fancy gatehouses, they'd walk by Gaudí's wrought iron gas lamps (his father was a blacksmith and he always enjoyed this medium). We climb the grand stairway past the ceramic dragon fountain (this is made of colorful mosaics and one of my favorite things here). At the top is the Hall of 100 Columns -- originally slated to be a produce market for the neighborhood's sixty mansions. These columns, each different (made from concrete and rebar, topped with colorful ceramic and studded with broken bottles and bric-a-brac), would have added to the market's vitality. We continue up, looking down along the playful "pathway of columns" that support a long arcade. At the top of the terrace, one can relax on a colorful bench (designed to fit the body ergonomically) to enjoy one of Barcelona's best views.
 
Not one to miss a shopping opportunity, I stop into the gift shop at the park - get a mouse pad for myself with a Gaudi design, pens with the Gaudi design as stocking stuffers and some postcards. At this point Jim and I have had it so grab a cab and head back to Las Ramblas for a stroll -- Barrie and Arnie stay to see more of the park. The cab drops us off at the one end of the long pedestrian boulevard and as always it is fun walk the length of it and people watch. Love the mimes that perform along the street - they appear like statues until they receive a few coins and then they come to life acting like robots - their makeup is wonderful and you can usually count on bright costuming. As I mentioned, it is Sunday and most of the shops are closed - does this stop me from finding one? Not a chance - find a shop called Paramita - this is a young person's shop with adorable little tee shirts and purses from a Granada designer. Find some wonderful things for my daughter here - colorful and unique and the prices are reasonable -- the designs are things of Spain done in an abstract colorful way. I also find a couple of the Toledo style pill boxes for friends.
 
We have a 20 minutes wait for the bus to take us back to the ship - we are hot and tired and can't wait to get back to cool off and relax. Our first stop is at the pool bar for a nice cold drink - for me it is a pina colada. Jim walks to the other side of the pool to get us some of the wonderful cheeseburgers at the grill. He is told that he can't get one unless sitting at a certain section of tables - we can't eat them at the table we are at, which is only a few feet further. There are no free tables in the designated section and when he asked where we were supposed to sit, there was no answer. We aren't even allowed to take them into the Terrace Cafe. The idea of table service is lovely but it doesn't work -- there aren't enough tables or waiters. There are two older ladies having a fit about this - they are very upset that they can't get a simple hot dog because there is no place to sit. This policy needs to be changed.
 
Since we can't eat we return to the room to order room service - we are less than happy. The minute we walk into the room we find that Isabelle has had our closet problem taken care of - not only is the rod fixed but all of our clothing is hanging on it - this was above and beyond what I expected. We call for room service only to be told that they have to personally come to the room to take our order by filling out a form. This seems like a total waste of the crew's time - much easier and faster to take it by phone. This is a policy that Oceania may want to think of revising - why is it necessary to have someone come physically to your cabin twice when once would suffice?
 
We don't get our lunch for several hours. This is because with the extra trip to the room we are now conflicting with the lifeboat drill. We accept this and understand that the crew has priorities. For the lifeboat drill we are taken to the Grand Dining room as a meeting spot. Sitting at our table we meet a very nice couple from Point Pleasant, NJ (not far from where we live). We talk to them through the whole cruise and I never get their names. At the table next to us are Randy and Luanne - they actually make the drill fun! The first thing we are asked to do is to form a line and proceed to the life boats by holding onto the tab of the life vest of the person in front of us. Big mistake - they don't know my Jim! He starts pulling on my tab and as I result I'm pulling on the tab of the Point Pleasant lady in front of me - so not only am I being choked in return I am choking her. Randy, Luanne, Laura and John find this extremely funny and this encouragement from the four of them just eggs Jim on further! Don't think that this is what Oceania had in mind for the drill!
 
After the lifeboat drill we receive a call from room service asking for our order - we had already ordered when they came to our room and took the order. A while later we receive another call to say they are preparing it. We do finally get our food but it is not what we ordered - there is a prawn cocktail and nothing more. Jim doesn't eat fish so it is mine and it is delicious. I'm now satisfied but Jim isn't! Guess that he will have to wait for dinner!
 
Yesterday I sent an outfit out to be pressed and it is returned today - very easy for me.
 
I find a note on our stateroom door from Faye and Gary from CA - these are people that I have been e-mailing with pre cruise. We have a mutual friend who electronically introduced us to each other before we left home. I'm looking forward to meeting them at the cocktail party that Oceania is giving for the members of the Yahoo board.
 
We sail at 5pm and Jim and I sit on the balcony to watch.
 
On the way to the party we meet a couple at the elevators - upon introducing ourselves we find that this is Faye and Gary - they are wonderful people and we go up to the party together.
 
The cocktail party is held in the Horizon Lounge. Hors d'oeuvres are being passed around butler style -- trays of wine and champagne are being passed -- there is an open bar making for a very nice party. However, the best part is meeting the rest of the people from the message boards. Those we meet are: Claudia and Al from CA Rose and Jim from Hawaii Nancy, Ed, David and Trudy Beatty from Iowa (I have met Nancy electronically - we were introduced by Shirley Binder pre cruise. Cami and Andy Doug and Sherry from Albany Rees and Chuck from NYC Candice and Tony from NYC Harvey and Deb from FL Marvin and Ruth Charles and Ann from FL Charles and Miep Marilyn and Tom Kathy and John from CA
 
Besides the above, the people that we met on the flight are also here and I'm probably forgetting many names. What a great group of people. Mandy, the photographer is taking many photos of the party and even a large group shot. Now the scoop on some of our new friends - Rose and Jim were recently married, Al is her father and Claudia her step-mother. Tomorrow they are having a wedding reception on board to celebrate their marriage. The Beattys are just great and we wind up spending a lot of time with them. Rees and Chuck are in a cabin two doors down from us and we see them in the hallways often - these guys are the best. Candice is wonderful and she makes me laugh - what a bundle of fun and energy. Tony is the quieter of the two but very enjoyable to be with. Harvey and Deb we don't actually get to know very well until later in the cruise. Cami and Andy are another really sweet couple - always a big smile and big hello. Marvin and Ruth seem very nice but we don't have the opportunity to spend a lot of time with them. Charles and Ann are terrific - Ann has quite a sense of humor and gives Jim a run for his money and Charles is a real gentleman. The other Charles is very nice as is Miep. On the boards Charles told us about how they lost his wife - he was talking about her paper work for the cruise. I told Faye about how he lost his wife and she took it literally thinking that his wife had passed away and that he had quickly replaced her. We finally got that one straightened out. Miep is very much alive and kicking! Kathy and Tom are brother and sister, and they are sure to let us know that she is the much younger sibling! Both are traveling with their spouses, John and Marilyn. This foursome is such fun to be around. I can see that Tom is going to be trouble! When Jim and I were in Spain several years ago, I bought castanets for my daughter (she was a dancer) - while buying them an old woman in the shop decided to show me how to use them while dancing the Flamenco - she was fantastic - she then told me to try it - well, my performance was less than polished and rather klutzy. As luck would have it a friend was right there to video my moment of shame. I mentioned this on the boards and it became a running joke that I would be performing the Flamenco at the cocktail party this evening. The only one who seems to have remembered is my good buddy, Tom! Only Tom has somehow embellished the story a slight bit - my klutzy performance has turned into my X rated video! I make it very clear to him, that NO, I will not be performing this evening - nor any other!
 
After the party we join the Beatty's for dinner. Ed is a retired attorney and Nancy is full of personality, they live in Iowa. David is an attorney and victims advocate and appeared on the Sally Jesse, Oprah, and Geraldo shows - do I need to say more - the conversation is fascinating. David testifies before Congress on victim's rights and lobbies in Washington. Trudy is an activist in related fields. Trudy and David were recently married and are traveling with David's parents - this is a honeymoon for them. They live in the Washington D.C. area. Between Trudy and David, the stories just flowed! As it turns out Trudy and I have a mutual friend and have lots to talk about. It is wonderful to see the parents and children get along and have as much fun as these four do together. Our conversation ranges from crime to films to books. David is on the Atkins diet and they cater to him very well - bringing him two huge steaks. The waiters are also wonderful to Nancy - she can not eat gluten and every night someone comes over and tells her what she can eat from the menu. Once again the service is very slow but we do find out that each person's dinner is cooked to order - and it shows in the quality of the food. My dinner for tonight is escargot, duck (not at all fatty), and a chocolate soufflE - all fabulous! We are still having dinner at 10pm, so miss tonight's show - a concert performed by Tian Jiang, an international piano virtuoso. I later hear that the show was wonderful. I quickly stop in to check out the shops on board - there are two boutiques; one is mainly jewelry and the other has logo items, some clothing, books and things like that. I think that the selection is a bit limited. However, I do see a couple of very pretty pieces of jewelry that I point out to Jim. I show Jim what I like and he sometimes buys them to put away for a future occasion.
 
Tonight, by mistake, we left the privacy sign on the door of our room so it isn't made up when we return. Won't make this mistake again since it is so nice to walk in and have the bed turned down for you.
 
Before bed, I spend some time sitting on the balcony enjoying the great breeze and reading - oh, how I love this.
 
July 7 Monday Palma de Mallorca, Spain 8am - 12am
 
We wake up to another beautiful sunny day. Sleeping was once again perfect with the door open, the sea breeze coming in and the water lapping - such relaxation!
 
Arriving in Palma by ship is an impressive sight, with the grand bulk of the cathedral towering above the old town and the remnants of the medieval walls. From the ship the whole town can be taken in with one glance.
 
I'm thrilled to find that we will be in port until midnight - it seems to me that we were originally scheduled for only a half day. Jim is less than thrilled that I am on my way down to the shore excursion desk to see if we can still get onto the Highlights of Palma tour this morning - he'd be just as happy to sleep in. I hate being in the ports and not seeing all that we can. He graciously does go along with my plan. I would have liked to do the Caves of Drach but there is a waiting list for this one. We have been to Palma before but haven't done the Highlights tour so this will be something new for us.
 
We leave at 8:15 for our tour and Maria is our guide. We start out with Laura, John, Ann and Charles. Somehow, Laura and John wind up on a different tour bus - we try to get onto their bus but are told there is no more room. - so the remaining four of us are together on another bus. There is also a very sweet little girl, Caroline, on the tour with her Mom - she is about 10 years old and from Istanbul. The mother speaks English but Caroline speaks very little. The bus is air conditioned but it doesn't seem to be working very well.
 
Floating in the blue waters of the Mediterranean off the eastern coast of Spain, the Balearic Islands have managed to maintain their integrity, identity and strong links with the past. Beyond the clubs and beaches are Gothic cathedrals, Stone Age ruins, small fishing villages, and endless olive groves and orange orchards. There are four islands: the biggest is Mallorca (Mallorca means largest - also spelled Majorca), followed by Menorca, Ibiza and tiny Formentera.
 
The island of Mallorca is the result of a convulsion in which Africa came near to Europe; the consequences were a series of folds in the Iberian Peninsula. The folds fell one on top of the other and created the Balearic Islands.
Scientists trace Mallorca's human history to 4,000BC. The Mallorcan soldiers of the time were reported to be aggressive, and the island gained a reputation for harboring pirates who attacked Roman ships in the Mediterranean. In retaliation, Romans seized control of the island in 123 BC. Then, during the decline of the Roman Empire, Mallorca was attacked by Vandals and Byzantines. Over the years, the island was influenced by variety of civilizations, including the Greeks, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Arabs. At one point it was even an independent state and later, in 1343, became the Crown of Aragon.
 
In the architecture of the island, we see a variety of influences. The Romans, recognizing the strategic location of Mallorca, established a military post here. Later, the Moors put their stamp on the island and Palma grew into a major seaport. In 1229, Spain conquered the Moorish stronghold. Until the 16th century, when Spain began concentrating on the New World, Mallorca functioned as a major port of call between Europe and North Africa. More recently, in the 1960's, a boom in tourism and development shaped the island, as towers of steel and concrete sprung up along the coast. Despite the development, much of the island maintains its picturesque beauty. There are cozy villages tucked away in valleys all along Mallorca's coastlines, where visitors spend enchanted hours strolling along narrow, winding streets.
 
Although people who live in Mallorca usually speak Castilian Spanish (and those who cater to tourists speak a dizzying array of languages), the native tongue of the Balearic islands is Catalan, and the local dialect is Mallorqumn. This language, which the Balearic people made official after the death of Franco and the federalization of Spain, looks and sounds something like a mixture of Spanish and French.
 
In 1983 Palma became the capital of one of Spain's newly established autonomous regions, the Balearic Islands, and since then it's shed the dusty provincialism of yesteryear, developing into a go-ahead and cosmopolitan commercial hub of 325,000 people. Palma forms an important holiday resort and commercial port. Despite having become a modern, vibrant city, Palma has managed to retain its old town and its ancient culture and charm. Palma's airport handles millions of visitors each year and plays a major role in the Balearic's tourism industry.
 
Around half of Mallorca's population lives in the capital, Palma, and it's a buzzing, vibrant place. By day, you can explore the attractive old quarter crammed with cobbled lanes, tree-lined boulevards, Gothic churches and designer boutiques. Wandering through the expansive maze of twisting lanes in the old quarter, you seem to forget that you are on an island. With all the activity of the city it can be difficult to imagine that the city was once a devotional retreat for Fernando and Isabel. What remain of the old city walls add to the feeling that there's always something delightful and surprising to discover around the next corner. Once known as Medina Mayurka under the rule of the Umayyad in 903, Palma was one of the most important cities in Muslim Spain - although evidence of those times is scarce, with the Arab baths one of the few remaining examples of Moorish architecture.
 
Lack of water is a problem for Mallorca - today they convert sea water to supply the island. It is actually cheaper for inhabitants of the island to drink wine than to drink water.
 
Palma has a beautiful marina with some fabulous yachts docked there. One of the yachts belongs to the king of Norway (30 million euros) and another to the Arab Emirate. Sailing is one of the most important sports here -- children begin to sail at the age of seven or eight. There is a sailing Regatta held here that attracts more than 1000 participants.
 
The Jewish population remained in Mallorca and was not expelled like in the rest of Spain. This was not done for any altruistic reasons - the aristocracy needed the Jews in the community - so protected the Jews, by changing the Jewish names and giving them their own names. In order to be saved the Jews had to renounce their religion and had to eat bacon as a sign of this renunciation - they were actually called bacon (in Spanish). These Jews became Christians and assimilated into the community. But now after centuries they are beginning to return to Judaism.
 
We drive along the Main Boulevard which is very shady with a canopy of trees. Maria points out the statue of Ramon Llull, who is considered the Father of the Mallorcan Language. She also tells us that shoes are the best buy in Palma.
 
We tour Bellver Castle, built in 1309, the only castle in Spain that is totally circular in design. Bellver Castle, a strong symbol of the island, dominates everything. It is one of the finest examples of military architecture of the 14th and 15th centuries, although its circular golden stone structure gives it a strangely modern appearance.
 
The castle is surrounded by a forest containing palm trees, evergreens and bougainvillea. It sits on a hill and is surrounded by a moat which is totally dry - the castle is built of the local sandstone which is porous and absorbs the water. Bellver houses the principle museum and is often used for concerts.
 
Construction started in 1300 by the orders of James II, King of Mallorca. Stone for the castle came from the nearby mountains - the transportation of the stone was easier because of the experience gained in building the Cathedral previously. It took nine years to build the basic structure -- the ornamentation was finished more slowly. The work force consisted of seventy permanent artisans and a large number of the king's slaves as well as local women.
 
The building is circular in layout with three semicircular buttressed towers, and a single tower some seven meters from the body of the castle. The construction is arranged around a central courtyard. The first level is constructed using semicircular arches surmounted with flat roofs and the second, upper level has Gothic arches and ribbed gothic vaults.
 
The original doors of Bellver are still present. There is one large door which was used for a rider and his horse to enter - this was only used when the person entering was known. When the visitor was unknown a smaller door was used and the horse was left outside for security purposes.
 
The castle was built as a royal residence. In the late 14th century, John I and Violet of Aragon stayed there with their court for three months. The castle has also entertained other European royalty, such as Charles I of England, the Prince of Saboya, John of Austria, the Duke of Monpensier and the present British Monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, as well as members of the Spanish Royal family including the present monarchs King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia.
 
In 1717, the castle became a military prison. Between 1802 and 1808, Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos, Minister of the Treasury, Patronage and Justice in the reign of Carlos IV, was imprisoned in one of the rooms on the first floor. The castle also acted as a prison for numerous French officers and soldiers defeated in the Battle of Bailen -- there is graffiti on the walls, carved by French prisoners of war. The castle was also used to store powder of the Franco Army and was used for executions during the regime of Franco. Maria tells us that her grandfather and his generation want no part of the castle because of its history during Franco's rule. It is the younger generation that has a renewed interest in the castle.
 
In 1931, the Government gave the building and the woods to the Palma City Council. It has now been turned into the Palma History museum and houses the Desuig Collection of Classical Sculpture. One especially interesting piece of sculpture is of a lady reclining - however, it isn't a lady but a castrated man. The Vatican allowed this procedure, so that men could vocally hit the high musical notes. The Museum is an exploration of the history of Palma -- it contains Palma's museum of municipal history which traces the development of the city through its artifacts, with pottery from Talaiotic, Roman, Arab and Spanish periods.
 
Our next stop is to Palma's Cathedral, built on top of the island's main mosque by the King of Aragon, Jaume I, the Conqueror -- it took 500 years to complete. This gothic sandstone building dominates the city's waterfront.
 
The foundation of the Cathedral was closely liked to the conquest of the island by Jaume I, in 1229. Control of the Balearic Islands was essential to the interests of a kingdom by then intent on expansion into the Mediterranean area, not only because of the obvious importance of its ports of call on the maritime route to the East, but also because of the need to eliminate the danger of the Muslim pirates who used the archipelago as a base for their frequent attacks on the courts of Catalonia. From the very beginning it was Jaume's wish to raise a Cathedral in the islands capital and this is mentioned in the chronicles of the conquest. According to legend, Jaume's decision was due to a vow made to God during a violent storm which threatened to sink the Aragonese fleet. At the beginning, however, it seems that the only initiative in this respect was to consecrate the city's main mosque for Christian worship and to make a number of alterations and possibly certain additions to the building. The actual scope of these changes is unknown as no part of the present Cathedral is previous to the 14th century, except for the tower built on the site of the old minaret (which explains its different orientation vis-à-vis the Cathedral.) The origin of the present structure lies in the brief but brilliant period when Mallorca became an independent kingdom, after the death of Jaume I, who in his will ordered his dominions shared among his children bequeathing the Balearic archipelago and the Crown's Trans-Pyrenean territories to his youngest son, Jaume. Constantly under threat by the Aragonese sovereigns in their successive attempts at unification, the kingdom of Mallorca survived from 1276 until 1343, when Peter IV, the Ceremonious, annexed it definitively to his realm. By that time the old mosque converted into a church was being replaced by an airy Gothic structure, which though only just begun promised to be the beautiful building we know today.
 
The Cathedral, as it stands today, is the equal of almost any on the mainland - and a surprising one, too, with modernista interior features designed by Antoni Gaudí. The original foundation came with the Christian Reconquest of the city, and the site taken, in fulfillment of the vow by Jaume I. Essentially Gothic, wit
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