This was the fifth cruise for us - forty something experienced travelers. We have always found cruising to be the best way to see a lot and yet not have to think all that much! After all - it IS vacation! We've sailed previously on Carnival (Bahamas, Eastern & Western Caribbean) and Norwegian (Alaska). Both of us have been to Europe before, as well, but this was the first time for Italy, Spain and France.
We booked RCI because we have been hearing the "buzz' for years about their superior service and cuisine. Quite frankly, neither of us were very impressed....but actually comparatively disappointed, which I will describe in detail in a bit.
On a positive note, we simply fell in love with Barcelona. Since having previous nail biting experiences with delayed flights which almost made us miss our ship, we decided to go one day early and stay two days after the cruise. The airport was easy to navigate and we took the Aerobus for only four Euro each. We got off a couple of blocks from our hotel and managed our luggage quite easily. Thanks to the many good comments on the boards, we elected to stay at the Apsis Atrium Palace Hotel. The room was beautiful and modern. The hotel was within walking distance from La Rambla, but without the noise. The staff was wonderful! For the price, it was an excellent four star experience. If you find some time in Barcelona, don't miss La Rambla (but not on Sundays - a lot is closed!), La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi/Picasso works, and the waterfront. Thanks to the clean up it got for the Olympics, the city is in great shape. We also spent a beautiful day in Monserrat - unbelievable views, a stunning basilica, clean facilities, very cool cable cars and funiculars (trains that go pretty much straight up the mountainside), etc. We are NYC shopaholics, so we found many trendy boutiques and local craftsmen, as well as the usual pricey designer shops and street vendors. You can use the subway (Metro), bus system, and trains with the same multi-ride ticket. Taxis don't cruise, but your hotel will be happy to call one for you. We had our fill of paella, tapas, and sangria - trying out different spots each meal. We're also quiet infatuated with cafe con leche. We always felt safe and the locals treated us magnificently. I'm pretty decent at Spanish, but the language of the city is Catalan. No one seemed to mind or make too much fun of us when our sentences ended up a conglomeration of all the languages we had encountered. It was also great fun to be their on the night Spain won the Euro 2008 Cup in soccer. Such pride and celebration!! I would go back to Barcelona in a heartbeat and it is now my second favorite city of all I have visited.