Some may call it a “Busman’s Holiday,” I call it a Dream Vacation. Working in tourism, I have the opportunity to perform my job on many cruise ships. My friends and family picture me with a pina colada in hand, plugged into my ipod, lounging on a deck chair poolside. Those who travel with me know otherwise. Free time is rare. Most breakfasts and many lunches are taken in my stateroom as I am working out the logistics for the next event or shore excursion, writing poems or awards, or planning next year’s trips.
So, after much convincing, I finally got Barry to run away with me for two weeks on a transatlantic voyage from Barcelona to Miami. Every cruise line needs to get their ships from one part of the world to another for the start of the season in another destination. During late November and early December, the cruise lines move a good number of vessels from Europe to the Caribbean and South America for the warm weather months. The rates are amazing as they fill the ship with passengers who don’t mind the repositioning itineraries, filled with many days at sea. Our schedule included three ports in Spain including the island of Mallorca, Malaga and Tenerife in the Canary Islands. We were to have a day at sea in between each port, and then seven days from the Canary Islands to Miami.
One of our Amazing Journeys mantras is “everything is subject to change” and it certainly did. As we pulled away from Barcelona on our brand new ship, Celebrity Cruises’ Reflection, we were informed that the ship was performing slower than it should, and in order to get to Miami in two weeks time, we needed to cut out a port, Tenerife. So instead of the last seven days at sea, the new itinerary gave us nine straight days at sea!
On the Costa del Sol onboard our home for the next 9 days at sea. Next stop Miami.
We began in Barcelona on Sunday and enjoyed Palma de Mallorca, where we walked the narrow streets, drank sangria and tasted wonderful pastries made by hand at a traditional bakery. We had our first day at sea before arriving in Malaga. When we arrived there, we took a taxi to Puerto Banus and Marbella. I have wanted to see Marbella and after several visits to Spain, never quite got there, although I was close. I really loved Marbella, an Old Town with narrow streets, beautiful Spanish and Moorish architecture, painted tile street signs, wrought iron balconies, fountains and statues and more. I love walking around these streets – it is the real Europe. Beyond the Old Town, we walked along the boardwalk along the sea. The sun was shining and the day was a perfect 70ish degrees. We ate at a local bogeta (bar?) with olives, manchego cheese and bread, before heading back to Malaga and to our ship. You didn’t want to be late and miss this one – next stop – Miami, 3,927 miles away! Once onboard, the crew battened down the hatches for a long ride home – 9 straight sea days. Everyone seemed to head to the back of the ship as we pulled away to see the last bits of land before it became a distant “dot” left behind. We were all settling in to the idea that we would not see land again for 9 days.
Those onboard seem to all be seasoned cruisers and were looking forward to doing nothing more than drinking coffee, enjoying a good book, having some nice conversations, dancing a little, drinking a lot, exercising, eating and relaxing–whatever it is that makes a vacation a vacation. Many here have taken several transatlantic crossings and come back because a) it’s a great deal and b) they enjoy days at sea.
The Activities Staff is equipped with lots of programs and activities, great entertainment, lectures, art classes and more.
Barry signed up for the Egg Drop contest. He will be dropping eggs from Deck 7 to a target on Deck 3 in the Center Lobby and hoping they won’t break. To do this, he has to find “recycled” materials from around the ship in which to protect his eggs from breaking during the drop and landing.
Christening Celebrity Reflection before we head across the Atlantic on her way to Miami
For the first three days, it appeared we were never too far from land. Since leaving the Straits of Gibraltar a few days ago (I have totally lost track of time – all I know is that when it becomes December, I have to get off), we have sailed off the coast of Morocco, then the Canary Islands, then passing the Azores. Look them up on a map. There are so many islands everywhere! The weather in the North Atlantic was around 68 degrees…much warmer than we expected! It is here in the Atlantic that the Northern Currents meet the Southern currents. This is the very spot where hurricanes originate.
As I write this blog, it is now day five of nine sea days in a row. The Captain tells us today we are at our halfway point and in just two days we will be entering Caribbean waters. Each day the weather continues to get warmer with more sunny days. The pool is getting more and more crowded with passengers. Every two days we add another hour to our day by turning our clocks back before we go to sleep. No need to worry about adjusting to the time when we get home, we are adjusting one hour at a time.
When I travel with groups, I rarely get to see the onboard entertainment, including the acappella singers or guitarist, or piano player. Here, not only have I heard their music many times, I already know all of the songs! We are on a first name basis with the performers, the staff and even the Captain! We find the Captain sitting at the Café with passengers, enjoying coffee, laughing and talking. It’s a much more relaxed atmosphere.
The passengers onboard really get it. Don’t feel like dressing up for formal night? No problem, do as you please. No one here needs to be “entertained.” Most knew the program they were signing up for and are happy treating the ship as if they were in their own backyard, on a relaxing afternoon.
It’s not for everyone though. One couple told me they were going to put in an application to work onboard, so they would have something to do.
Most here are past passengers. Of the 2,950 passengers on this full sailing, 2,500 are past passengers. Of those, 1,400 are Elite Members of the Captain’s Club (frequent traveler program). These are those passengers with 10 cruises or more on Celebrity. Generally for these passengers, there is a club that is open from 5pm – 7pm with complimentary drinks and hors ‘d’oeuvres. Because there are so many of us and no onboard lounge is large enough, they give each of us three drink coupons each night to use at whatever bar we choose. Each night from 5 – 7pm every bar is packed with passengers and their free drink coupons.
Is a Transatlantic sailing or other repositioning cruise for you? Let us know! The price is right, that’s for sure. They are all two weeks in length, with a full week at sea and a full week of a “regular cruise itinerary” with port days and sea days. Generally you could get a cruise like this for about $50 pp per day, based on double occupancy (plus tax, gratuities and airfare). Really reasonable, right? But you have to love sea days and be comfortable with lots of down time. Still, with 15 bars, 10 restaurant choices, a fantastic exercise facility and spa, pools and jacuzzi’s, not to mention all of the entertainment, bars and restaurants…there is so much going on to pass the days away.
I have wanted to do this for a really long time and I’m so glad I did it. Still, with 4 straight sea days behind us and 5 more to go, it’s a long time at sea. WILSON!!!!
But honestly, we are loving it. As this is my 99th cruise, having had this experience, I can now finally call myself a true sailor!