Pre Cruise: Our vacation began in Ft. Lauderdale where we stayed in a small, newly-built, Quality Suites hotel near the airport. If you're staying overnight prior to the cruise, you won't need a rental car. The hotel will pick you up at the airport and transport you to the cruise pier for free. You won't need a car rental, as you can walk to a few nearby restaurants. But if you plan to do shopping or site seeing, rent a car and enjoy everything that this city has to offer.
Embarkation: We boarded the Emerald Princess on Saturday around Noon time and the call for general boarding had commenced. Although we have Elite status, we were ushered into a long line which took about an hour for us to get on board. So we missed having lunch in the MDR which closes at 1pm. We didn't mind this so much because we had five days at sea before reaching our first port. We were not in a hurry. We chose this voyage because we wanted to experience ports that we had not previously visited. In Barcelona, all passengers were required to exit the ship for customs clearance. No luggage checks, just passport clearance. Passengers on a tour/excursion were required to take their passports with them for re-entry at the terminal. Those individuals who remained on board took their passport to the control officer. Quick & easy. Of course, some passengers didn't understand that the term "all passengers" applied to them, so the crew had to locate those individuals and usher them off the ship before the rest of us could return. We waited about 2 hours in the terminal before we noticed that everyone was already returning to the ship. I recommend that you take a tour of the city to avoid the wait time and enjoy a walking tour of Barcelona. The bus & metro service are super easy, the taxi service is reasonable, and the city is very pedestrian friendly. Las Ramblas is an area that should not be missed.
The Ship: The Emerald Princess emerged from dry dock just prior to our cruise. So much of the public areas were updated and polished. The most noticeable upgrade is the Market Fresh dining area. Other areas of the ship received fresh carpet and some areas were got a fresh coat of paint. We were pleased that the zumba classes were moved from the piazza area. Sports events, competitions, and musical celebrations can get pretty loud. We could clearly hear the dance music in the elevator on the Lido Deck (deck 15). We found several empty bar areas to use as a hideaway for reading, puzzles and light conversation. The destination lectures were fabulous. The expert advice offered during these sessions were invaluable. She had a wealth of knowledge, a great personality, and a direct focus on the important issues.
Our room was a balcony cabin with a door connecting to the adjoining cabin. We didn't request it and, going forward, I will avoid that option. Our neighbor was hard of hearing and his wife was insistent so their conversations competed with our TV volume. Our other neighbor was an early riser and didn't know that the cabin door and the balcony door could be closed gently. It wasn't a terrible condition, but after two weeks, it became annoying. Please remember that turning the balcony door handle downward will lock it. So if your cabin mate is reading on the balcony and you go downstairs for breakfast, he/she will be locked outside until you return. I often wonder if this is what happens when people disappear on cruise ships. To avoid the issue, leave the handle in a horizontal position. But during rough seas, turning the handle down will keep the door from sliding back & forth with the rocking of the ship.The refrigerator cabinet doesn't promote air circulation, so the wine and chocolates setting on top of the cabinet was heated beyond measure. We had to remind our room steward to leave the refrigerator cabinet door open so that the air would flow freely. The small refrigerator is adequate for the cruise, but it sets on the floor. It would be more easily accessed if it was raised to counter height. The beds are new and are touted as the best thing.... I was not impressed because I need a firm, solid support for a good night's rest. But the reaction from other passengers were mixed, but no bad comments. Medallion service is still not available on this ship, so we continued using our slide card for embarking & disembarking, drinks and room access. We don't do a lot of surfing or email communication, but since the cabin TV service has limited offers, we had planned to download or stream movies from the internet. That option vanished quickly as the internet was painfully slow. The TV can be paired with your media device to play music through the speakers, but the sound quality is not that great. We were glad that we remembered to pack headsets. You must remember to ask for bathrobes. In previous years the robes were automatically placed in the rooms for balcony, mini-suites, and suites. When they stopped putting them in the rooms, we didn't care because they were waaay too small for the big folks. But now I understand there is now a plush model that is available.
We had a rental car and visited various tourist sites in the city.
We loved the experience of visiting this old and exotic city. The sites in Casablanca were disappointing; there was a lot of walking on this tour and many of the older passengers had difficulty keeping up; the drive to Rabat was two hours long without a restroom and two hours on the return made for a long day.
Hop on and hop off was terrific.
The hop on hop off bus was terrific.
The hop on hop off bus tour was terrific.
The hop on hop off bus tour was great.