Transatlantic Cruise on the Celebrity Equinox
10/27/15 to 11/9/15
Due to the length of the review, it is in 5 parts to help with the download time. The links to the other pages are at the top of each page.
Page 1 - Pre-Cruise in Barcelona, Spain
Page 2 - Pre-Cruise continued; Embarkation and Ship
Page 3 - Ship Continued and Entertainment
Page 4 - Ports of Call: Valencia, Spain and Malaga, Spain
Page 5 - Ports of Call: Lanzarote, Canary Islands and Tenerife, Canary Islands
Ports of Call
Part of the appeal of this cruise was that we would be able to visit three new ports. Valencia was the first of these and one that was supposed to be quite lovely. Unfortunately, we would only be in port from 7:00 AM until 2:00 PM. That didn’t give us a lot of time to see everything we wanted to; but since we were using Spain Day Tours (www.spaindaytours.com) for our excursion, I knew that they would make sure that we saw the main highlights. We had a very capable tour guide named Teresa.
We also had a nice comfortable van with a speaker system, that allowed us to be able to hear information about where we were going, what we were seeing and the history of the area.
Our first stop was to the City of Arts and Sciences (http://www.cac.es/?languageId=1). These were not the type buildings one would expect to see in an old world Spanish city. As we approached the structures, we passed by a large pool with what appeared to be automobiles floating on the surface. Kind of cool looking.
We stopped to exit the van and get photos, as Teresa told us about these marvelous modern looking structures. I was so glad that we were experiencing gorgeous sunny weather for our day in Valencia. It really brought out the beauty of these buildings.
There are several futuristic looking buildings at the site. L'Hemisfèric is an IMAX cinema, planetarium and laserium. It was the first one constructed on the site and was completed in 1998.
The Palau de Les Arts is an opera house was the last building constructed, and was completed in 2005.
The Museu de les Ciències Príncep Felip is a science museum that was completed in 2000.
There is also an aquarium that was across the highway that we couldn’t get a good look at. We got back into the van and passed by lots of beautiful architecture.
We were dropped off in town to begin what would turn out to be an almost 2.5-hour walking tour. I had told Carol before I booked the tour that it would be mostly driving around town; and as such, she wouldn’t need her scooter. I felt terrible for her as the tour progressed; but was pleasantly surprised at how well she was doing. Her new knee allowed her to walk all over Valencia.
Our first stop on the walking tour was at the Ceramics Museum. It is housed in what was at one time a palace. What a gorgeous facade! It made me wish that we had time to visit the interior.
Valencia is such a lovely town to walk around. There is just so much to look at and take in.
Teresa then took us to the Valencia Central Market. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful market halls in Europe. It was similar to the Boqueria in Barcelona; but at a smaller scale. It also appeared much more organized with wider aisles. The foods looked quite delicious.
She gave us time to go to the restroom and/or purchase some snacks or souvenirs. We continued our walk through lovely streets lined with beautifully decorated buildings.
At one shop, Teresa pointed out an artist painting on a fan. He couldn’t resist to show us his work of art.
Our next stop was at the Valencia Cathedral. It is quite an old church, having been consecrated in 1238. The facade was nicely decorated.
I asked Teresa if we were going inside and she said that we weren’t and there was an admission fee to see the main attraction of the church, the Holy Grail. It is supposed to be the chalice used at the Last Supper. Apparently most historians believe that evidence shows that this is the most likely candidate to be the actual chalice. She said we could go into this side of the church to at least see some of the interior at no charge. There were some beautiful paintings and decorations; but we just didn’t have time to go to the other side of the church where we could see the chalice.
We continued our walk, thoroughly enjoying the sights of Valencia. There were just so many interesting things to look at.
Along the way Teresa stopped at a small shop for us to sample a bean called horchata or Tiger Nuts. We were given a handful to taste. They were quite good; but then she wanted us to sample a drink that is made from them. Now that was just outstanding.
When we stopped at a square, Teresa gave us some free time to use the restroom and buy souvenirs. There was a gorgeous fountain there.
As with many of the towns we would visit on this trip, there were many churches. I just love visiting churches and find it hard to pass one up. On this cruise, I had to, since there were just way too many. I thought that I had found another church to go into; but it was actually another entrance to the Valencia Cathedral.
I did get to visit the Basilica of the Virgin of the Helpless, which was right next to the cathedral. It was a gorgeous church; but since a service was in progress, I just took some quick photos.
At the end of our walk, we passed by one of the main entry gates into the old city. I had missed being able to get a photo when we passed one on the way into town, so I took these, even though it was a rushed shot.
On the way back to the ship, we passed by a bridge that had lovely flowers on both sides. Valencia was a lovely city that would be worth a longer visit.
When back on the ship, I was able to see the large modern port area.
We weren’t scheduled to arrive into the port of Malaga until 10:00 AM; but since we would be there until 7:00 PM, we would have time for a decent length excursion. The port area was rather industrial. There was a large Ferris wheel at one end of it.
The main attraction tourists go to from Malaga is the Alhambra Palace. It was originally built as a fortress in 889 AD. The ruins of it were renovated in 1333 by the Sultan of Grenada as his royal palace. I had booked a tour once again through Spain Day Tours (www.spaindaytours.com); but since there was lots of walking with many stairs, Carol had decided to take a ship tour so she would not hurt her new knee. It was the right decision, since we walked almost 6 miles with many steps to climb during the tour. Since it is around a 2-hour drive to Alhambra from Malaga, they used a bus to transfer the 29 people on the tour. We had a guide named Angel that told us about the history of the area and pointed out what we were seeing during the drive. The terrain was quite interesting looking. Angel pointed out that there were more olive trees in this area that anywhere else in the world. He said that there were 360,000 of them. They were everywhere. Apparently olive trees thrive in bad soil and it is one of the few crops that can grow in that part of Spain. They were everywhere.
When we arrived at Alhambra, we were broken into two groups with separate guides. Our guide was Carmen. She was very thorough and told us everything we would ever want to know about what we were seeing.
Everyone was given a headset so they could hear her as we walked around. It meant that we didn’t have to be right next to her to be able to hear what she was saying. As luck would have it, my device’s battery died not long into the tour. Fortunately, she had a spare. Unfortunately, the battery for the spare died within 15 minutes, so I had to be like Carmen’s shadow to hear what she was saying. It turned out OK, since my eyes were much more important on this tour than my ears. The palace grounds and manicured gardens were so gorgeous. Especially since we had been blessed with outstanding weather.
The clear skies and 68-degree temperature were just perfect. It was actually quite warm in the sun. Living in south Florida, I normally consider 68 as cool weather; but not in Spain. I was surprised to see a snow capped mountain in the distance.
The palace grounds are huge with many buildings that we could see in the distance. We would pass by some pretty buildings on the way to the main palace area. I liked the metal eagle rings on the side of one of them.
Just outside the main Moorish style palaces is the Palace of Charles V. It is quite different from the others we would see that day. When walking into the square building, you enter a large open circular area in the center. It was quite unexpected.
We then moved to the buildings we had been anxious to see, the Nasrid Palaces. This is the area that requires a ticket with an assigned time to enter. This prevents crowds from getting too large. The first section we came to was the Court of the Myrtles. The reflection of the building in the fountain is probably one of the most popular photo opps at Alhambra. The courtyard itself was our first glimpse of the incredible detailed carvings and the beautiful tile work we would see throughout the tour.
Close by is the largest enclosed room in Alhambra, the Salón de los Embajadores or Throne Room. The ornate wall and ceiling are amazing. But what is most noteworthy is that in that room Isabel and Ferdinand gave Christopher Columbus approval to discover the “new world”.
We would pass through several drop dead gorgeous rooms while gawking over the intricate detail, inscriptions and designs. It is truly an amazing palace.
Another room is the Hall of the Two Sisters. Some think it is the most beautiful and impressive of all the rooms in the Alhambra. The ceiling appears to be carved from a single piece of stone. The lighting is very challenging for photography in Alhambra, so the quality is not as good as I would like. The photos give an idea of the beauty; but only the human eye can see the real beauty while visiting Alhambra.
Just outside the hall is the Court of the Lions. Just a lovely area with the centerpiece being a fountain with twelve lions squirting out water.
There are 124 white marble columns around the courtyard. The beautiful intricate decorations and inscriptions are just amazing. Someone on our tour offered to take my photos, so I now have proof I was there.
We continued through other rooms and I wore out my finger taking so many photos. If I have too many for you in this review, I apologize. I want to be able to remember the glorious beauty of Alhambra; since I doubt I will ever be back.
After leaving the main palace area, we passed through some more lush gardens. In the distance Carmen pointed out the white summer palace.
Carmen gave us about 40 minutes of free time to go back to the gardens, shop, eat or just relax in the beautiful setting. I chose the latter. I so wished that Carol could have joined me on this tour, since it was a most unique and beautiful place. I knew that she would enjoy the many photos I took, which would hopefully be some consolation.
The drive back again took us through the pointed top mountains and never-ending olive tree groves.
It had been an awesome full day tour. We didn’t get back to the ship until just after 6:00 PM. I had to rush through security, run to the room and get ready for our first seating dinner, which also started at 6:00 PM. I was almost 20 minutes late and everyone had already ordered; but food hadn’t been served. I placed my order and then was able to relax and share the day’s adventures with Carol and our tablemates. What a wonderful day it had been.
There was still one more thing to do that day. The Captain had announced that we would be going through the Strait of Gibraltar at 10:45 PM that night. I had always wanted to see the Rock of Gibraltar; but didn’t think there would be much to see at that time of night. I always try to be early to whatever I do. That night was no exception. I arrived a half hour early to see what there was to try to take photos of. With it being so dark along with the ships movement, I wasn’t expecting to get any worthwhile photos; but hopefully I could see something. Sure enough, there wasn’t anything to see or take photos of. About 10:30 PM as we continued our slow progress to the Strait, people were saying they could see the Rock. What they were pointing at was a sole long mountain with clouds above it, not what the Rock looks like in the Prudential Insurance commercials. But it was the was Rock, just from a differernt angle. I had no idea it was so was shaped like that. Looking at my GPS, we weren’t even into the Strait yet. I found out that it isn’t at the point of Europe in the Strait; but a bit east of it. We also weren’t seeing the famous view; but this was interesting looking. It appeared to have an image of a face cut out of it. I was so glad I had my telephoto lens with me to take a photo of it. I took a whole bunch of them to get the one below.
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